“Egomania coupled with an inferiority complex”

Looking toward Lebanon from an archaeological site (I don't remember the name--that's my main problem with travel pics).

Looking toward Lebanon from an archaeological site (I don’t remember the name–that’s my main problem with travel pics).

There’s nothing egocentric about me? A certain organization I’m a part of speaks of “egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.” I think if that shoe fits, I ought to wear it.

Well, it does, and I have it on. Both feet.

In a week I’m off on a visit (my third) to Palestine. The group I’m going with is made up of Christians (I assume everyone in the group although I don’t know for sure) going with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

I have been to Sabeel’s headquarters before. Samia Khoury, a member of the Center, is an acquaintance (no, a friend) whom I discovered on the Internet several years ago and had a correspondence with long before we met in Jerusalem in 2008.

A couple who will be part of the visit to Sabeel are seasoned proponents of Liberation Theology as it applies to the Palestinians, as well as political support for the Palestinians. I have known them since 1985 when he was interim rector of Grace Church in Salem, MA, where I was music director.

The first time I was in Palestine I was with a delegation from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. An independent organization has been created from FOR with the purpose of leading delegations to Israel/Palestine, Interfaith Peace Builders. I count three of the people from that first trip, two of whom are now on the staff of IFPB, as friends and colleagues.

The second trip I took to Palestine was with a group mainly of members of Lutheran churches from the Dallas area. It was led by Ann Hafften, long-time advocate for peace in Palestine/Israel and member of the ELCA leadership devoted to that cause.

My first trip to Palestine was prompted in 2003 by my increasing puzzlement about the situation there as we Americans were told about it in the media. Somewhere in one of my blogs is the story of my meeting (and teaching) a Palestinian student at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston in 1987. He did more teaching of me than I of him. He told me first-hand the story of his and his family’s exile from their home. That was my first real knowledge of the “facts on the ground” in Palestine, and when we Americans began hearing the horrendous news about the First Intifada, I knew in my heart of hearts that we could not be hearing the whole truth―or even very much of it.

So I decided to go there and see for myself.

The rest, as far as my knowledge and involvement is concerned (shudder at the cliché), is history. I challenge anyone reading this to stand beside the Apartheid Wall―you don’t need to tell me I’m biased: someone has to be―in Jerusalem and not be shaken, moved, horrified, disgusted. I have no “right” word for my weeping that first day in 2003. And the wall wasn’t built yet at that particular place in Jerusalem. We stood overlooking the great miles-long gouge in the earth that would soon be the Wall.

There is nothing unbiased about my feeling, speaking, writing, acting on the situation of the Palestinian people.

On my first trip there, I had no expertise with the Internet. I came home with hundreds of pictures and no way to use them. The idea of posting online was a pipedream.

My second trip was different. These days I quite frequently post pictures I took then.

This visit will be different still. I will have both my smart phone and my iPad with me, and I will be blogging probably every day.
Here’s where my egocentricity comes in.

Where to post? Here on this blog that had its inception as a humorous look at growing old? I doubt there will be much humor to write about although I will have a good time, and I will be joyful in being with old friends.

No, the hookah did not make me hallucinate (I don't know how my friend managed this). A restaurant in Bethlehem.

No, the hookah did not make me hallucinate (I don’t know how my friend managed this). A restaurant in Bethlehem.

Should I post on the blog where every day I post news from and about Palestine, a digest of news accounts (and a poem by a Palestinian poet just because I can’t help myself)? That hardly seems sensible since my postings will be personal and immediate.

Or should I post on a blog I have kept for years, one that I have not used much since “Me senescent” began? It is much more about personal opinion and reaction to circumstances and events.

The name of the blog is my incorrect pidgin Latin (intended to be humorous, or at least tongue-in-cheek) for “I am not crazy.” Sumnonrabidus.

I’ve decided that all of you and the whole world (there’s my egomania) will want to read my personal account, so I will be blogging as “Sumnonrabidus” beginning a week from today. I am not crazy. Just a little wacky and opinionated.

My opinions, as anyone who reads this blog knows, include my agnosticism bordering on atheism. Being with a group of Christian Liberation Theologians for ten days may be as much a challenge as getting to and through Ben Gurion Airport alone (I have never left the country for any reason—ten times now—by myself). But I assume I can trust that the hotel taxi will be at the airport to fetch me to Jerusalem. And I assume that there is a place for me in a religious atmosphere. At least I can focus on the “liberation” part of the discussion and the experience.

Watch Sumnonrabidus beginning November 3.

The Fearless Bedouin, 2008.

The Fearless Bedouin, 2008.

“. . . any recent attempts on your part To save our fellow-citizens from themselves. . .” (Carl Dennis). An open letter to my friends—all 47 of you.

The Sea of Galilee in the Occupied Territories of Palestine

The Sea of Galilee in the Occupied Territories of Palestine

Dear Friends,
If you’re anything like me—social scientists say anyone who knows me in the flesh and I are apt to be pretty much alike—

. . . Homophily—the tendency for similar individuals to associate with one another—is a widespread and well-documented social phenomenon. . . individuals who are similar with regard to race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, education, occupation, social class, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs are more likely to associate with one another than would be expected by chance. . . . (Curry, Oliver, and Robin Dunbar. “Do Birds Of A Feather Flock Together?” Human Nature 24.3 (2013): 336-347.)

Homophily. If you know me F2F, we have that going on, and if you’re reading this, we could. We have in common the level of education and class that allows us the belief that the Internet is a way to communicate. I would hope individuals whose “race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, education, [etc.]” are different from mine are reading this, but I doubt it.

You are almost certainly white, more-or-less middle-aged, more-or-less middle class, educated, kind, generous, and sensitive. You hate murder and killing (even if you—unlike most of my friends—like guns).

One of my doctors told me yesterday I have a way of putting people at ease, a charming if off-the-wall sense of humor. She said she’d bet most people who meet me like me. Our conversation centered on the amount of Prozac I might be required to take every day. I want to get “by” not “high.”

The truth is, I want much more than getting by.

I think I can say this to almost anyone reading this: It’s time for us to get off our comfortable keisters and do something to make the world a better place. Getting by is not enough.

In 2008 I had the privilege of meeting a remarkable woman who has had the courage and determination to make a difference for the better in the unbelievably difficult situation into which she was thrust in at the age of 15, and in which she has lived since then. We had an online connection and friendship well before we were able to meet in person, and we have remained friends since then. That amazes me, and that she counts me as a friend humbles me.

Hope, at the Church of the Heptagon on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories of Palestine

Hope, at the Church of the Heptagon on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories of Palestine

In 1948 Samia became a citizen of a nation that does not yet exist, a prisoner in her own land, a “freedom fighter,” an advocate for the right of her people to determine for themselves not only the government under which they live, but the future existence of their culture for her children’s children.

From April 18, 1775, to September 3, 1783, terrorists shot canons and muskets and set booby traps to terrorize the nice British soldiers in places like Massachusetts who wanted only to occupy and own 13 little countries along the Atlantic coast of North America. The British soldiers were protecting the privileges of the most modern democracy in Europe. Ultimately, the owners of the land were the King and Parliament of Britain. Taxes and other privileges of governance belonged to them. That included lining the coffers of the religious establishment of Britain, the Church of England. Colonists were allowed to practice their own religion, but they all paid taxes for the support of the Church of England.
We know how the eight years of terrorism turned out. The terrorists won, and the forced support of the King, the Parliament, and the Church of England ended.

A few days ago a friend sent me an email. He is younger than middle-age, (at least) middle-class, highly educated and way above average in intelligence. I think the world of him. He’s one of those younger people an old geezer like me counts on to carry on the highest ideals of our society. He’s probably surprised at the depth of my fondness for him. His email said, in part,

. . . [the “Holy Land”] is full of total assholes. Of course there are more than a few Palestinians who think like terrorists and regret only that their rockets aren’t enough to reduce Jerusalem to a smoldering rubble full of bodies. Of course there are Israelis who have long since forgotten the humanity of their neighbors, who arrived as a stateless nation and then callously created a stateless nation of men, women, and children who deserve self-determination and an international media that is not determined to choose sides. I trust you are much more educated about all this than I am. Animosity is a powerful thing, though, more powerful than media coverage, and I regret to say that there is probably no new perspective that will make the Holy Land a place of peace.

Above I gave a real historical example of the accomplishments of a bunch of terrorists. Here’s a make-believe example. Suppose the United Nations, urged on by the United States, declared that Mexico—because it had the first claim on Texas—would be given a swath of Texas from the Rio Grande up to and including Dallas. The Mexican army moved into Dallas, declared the people of Mexican descent and the “illegal” alien Mexicans who were already here to be the rightful owners of everything from the Myerson to the Frito Lay headquarters and all of Dallas County. They began pillaging everything in sight, ripping off the economy, not letting those of us who thought we owned property here vote, and, in fact, throwing us out of our homes—especially the ones in Southlake, University Park, and Preston Hollow—and took over the entire downtown and Galleria areas.

Would you and I, the rightful owners and residents of Dallas, be justified in fighting back? If we did, would we be terrorists who want “to reduce Dallas to a smoldering rubble full of bodies?” What recourse would we have, especially if the United States was giving the Mexican government $3,000,000,000 a year to keep us in our places?

Freedom fighters?
Exactly what would you call us?
I’d like to hear your thoughts.

The best to you,

“Thanksgiving Letter from Harry,” Carl Dennis, 1939

I guess I have to begin by admitting
I’m thankful today I don’t reside in a country
My country has chosen to liberate,
That Bridgeport’s my home, not Baghdad.
Thankful my chances are good, when I leave
For the Super Duper, that I’ll be returning.
And I’m thankful my TV set is still broken.
No point in wasting energy feeling shame
For the havoc inflicted on others in my name
When I need all the strength I can muster
To teach my eighth-grade class in the low-rent district.
There, at least, I don’t feel powerless.
There my choices can make some difference.

This month I’d like to believe I’ve widened
My students’ choice of vocation, though the odds
My history lessons on working the land
Will inspire any of them to farm
Are almost as small as the odds
One will become a monk or nun
Trained in the Buddhist practice
We studied last month in the unit on India.
The point is to get them suspecting the world
They know firsthand isn’t the only world.

As for the calling of soldier, if it comes up in class,
It’s not because I feel obliged to include it,
As you, as a writer, may feel obliged.
A student may happen to introduce it,
As a girl did yesterday when she read her essay
About her older brother, Ramon,
Listed as “missing in action” three years ago,
And about her dad, who won’t agree with her mom
And the social worker on how small the odds are
That Ramon’s alive, a prisoner in the mountains.

I didn’t allow the discussion that followed
More time than I allowed for the other essays.
And I wouldn’t take sides: not with the group
That thought the father, having grieved enough,
Ought to move on to the life still left him;
Not with the group that was glad he hadn’t made do
With the next-to-nothing the world’s provided,
That instead he’s invested his trust in a story
That saves the world from shameful failure.

Let me know of any recent attempts on your part
To save our fellow-citizens from themselves.
In the meantime, if you want to borrow Ramon
For a narrative of your own, remember that any scene
Where he appears under guard in a mountain village
Should be confined to the realm of longing. There
His captors may leave him when they move on.
There his wounds may be healed,
His health restored. A total recovery
Except for a lingering fog of forgetfulness
A father dreams he can burn away.

Carl Dennis describes the writing of this poem.

Garden,  Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories, Palestine

Garden, Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Sea of Galilee, Occupied Territories, Palestine

A Christmas Greeting from Jerusalem

(My friend Samia Khoury from Jerusalem sent her greeting by email this morning.)

palestine-apartheid-wall-23One of the well-known Christmas songs “I’ll be home for Christmas” which my generation remembers for being first recorded by Bing Crosby in the forties, was on the program of the Christmas concert we attended at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies – Brigham Young University.

As I listened to the beautiful tenor singing it, I could not help but think of all those who won’t be able to make it home for Christmas, by no choice of their own. And that is when the song becomes so meaningful when you think of the many soldiers serving on foreign land, the refugees, the prisoners, and the many young Palestinians who have been denied their right to come home or be united with their families because of absurd laws under a military occupation.
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank in the West Bank city of Bethlehem
So I hope all of you who are gathering with your families for Christmas, will indeed feel grateful for this blessing without having to worry about check points or denied entry.

Have a joyful Christmas and best wishes for peace and good health throughout the New Year.


"Home for Christmas" in Bethlehem.

“Home for Christmas” in Bethlehem.


Children of Rawdat El-Zuhur

Children of Rawdat El-Zuhur

Dear Friends in the USA:
“As Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, He wept for it.” (Luke 19:41)

He would most likely cry again seeing what is happening to the soul of the city, with such a brutal military occupation. But despite all the obstacles and the harsh measures, as well as the ongoing onslaught on the city and its Holy Places, RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR SCHOOL (“Garden of Flowers”), remains a haven for Palestinian children. It continues to struggle in order to provide a meaningful life and quality education to the children of Jerusalem so that they will not lose hope in humanity as they continue to feel abandoned during those challenging times.
12937lrgPlease join the special circle of friends who are helping RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR carry on its torch so as to make a difference to the lives of those children under such circumstances. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And in no time you will all be celebrating Christmas, freely and without any barriers, but with joyful carols, gifts and family gatherings. Would you, in this spirit of joy and giving, consider making a special gift this year to RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR? You can make it in honor of somebody special in your life, or in memory of a dear person.
rawdatfeatured2012The Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have kindly agreed to process your gifts to RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR. You can make your donations tax free to the following address indicating that the gift is for RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR and also requesting that Rawdat El-Zuhur is notified of your gift and its amount:

Dr. Peter E. Makari, Ph.D., Executive, Middle East and Europe
Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
700 Prospect Ave., #718, Cleveland, Ohio 44115 USA

To donate online or by phone: https://donate.globalministries.org/onlinegiving
Click on “Middle East and Europe” in the “designation” pull-down menu. Then in the “project/partner” box enter: RAWDAT EL-ZUHUR School, East Jerusalem.

With best wishes,
Samia Nasir Khoury retired in 2003 after serving for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She continues to serve as treasurer of the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine.

A special guest message

(Note: From my friend Samia Khoury in Jerusalem. About Samia: http://samiakhoury.wordpress.com/about/ )

On Wednesday, November 19, 2014 3:57 AM, Samia Khoury <samiaorama@_______> wrote:

Reflecting on today’s events

November 18, 2014

Jerusalem, 2008

Jerusalem, 2008

It did not start with the kidnapping of the three young settlers which Israel claims to be the reason for retaliation on all fronts. It did not start with the occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967. It has been an ongoing dispossession ever since 1948 even after the Palestine National Council recognized Israel on 78% of historic Palestine in 1988. The onslaught on  East Jerusalem has been going on with a clear agenda that  Jerusalem is the united eternal capital of Israel, with a plan to build the Temple to replace El-Haram El-Sharif.

Ironically Har Nof where the events of today took place is originally a Palestinian suburb adjacent to Deir Yaseen where the infamous massacre of the Palestinians took place in April 1948. That was the spark that  terrorized the Palestinian residents of West Jerusalem that led to their exodus.

Yes indeed it is brutal and completely unacceptable to attack worshipers in their place of worship, as was the attack of settler doctor, Baruch Goldstein, on Muslim worshipers during the month of Ramadan at the Hebron Mosque in February 1994. Twenty-nine Palestinian were killed and 125 wounded at the time. The epitaph on Goldstein’s tombstone called him a martyr with clean hands and a pure heart.

As much as I believe in non-violent resistance, it is very sad to realize that the futility of the negotiations and the  failure of the peace process, on top of Israeli provocations, are all leading  the Palestinian population of Jerusalem to desperation as they feel  completely abandoned. While the International community continues to claim the annexation of Jerusalem as illegal and so are  the settlements, and the demolishing of homes, no action has been taken  to reverse the realities that Israel continues to create on the ground. The young people of Jerusalem cannot sit still any more, simply watching and resisting peacefully while their holiest site El-Haram El-Sharif is being coveted and taken over while the world is watching. The more desperate those young people become, the more violence will prevail. We continue to hope for some wisdom to prevail and a definite resolve on behalf of the international community to put an end to Israel’s impunity and spare both people further suffering.

Watch this and then you will understand why so much violence  is encompassing Jerusalem.

(See more about Samia at Ann Hafften’s blog.)

Fleeing from Deir Yassin, April 9, 1948

Fleeing from Deir Yaseen, April 9, 1948