Thursday, November 29, 2007

Memories

Okay before I finish my last 2 posts about Racism and Antisemitism I would like share some of my favorite memories in film and song from my childhood and young adult life. The videos speak for themselves I have added some of their meaning to me.

Men Without Hats - Safety Dance


This song and video made no sense to me. At first when I was young, I thought the name of the song was either Save the Dance or It's Safe to Dance. I also didn't realize until recently that in the video there was an actual dance considered to be the Safety Dance. It isn't much of a dance, it is a pose that looks like an S.

The Great Space Coaster



I used to love the Great Space Coaster. I tried to make my own Space Coaster with note book paper. I actually was able to make it sturdy enough to seat a few action figures. The funny part about shows like this is that diversity meant 1 white guy, 1 black guy, and 1 white woman. I used to love Gary Gnu.

The Great Space Coaster - The Gary Gnu Show



Airplane - The Greatest Conversation Ever



Neil Young - Old Man



This song reminds me of my father Eliyahu Ever, may he rest in peace. As much as I never knew him I am told that in many ways I am just like him.

Def Jef and Etta Jame - Dropping Rhymes on Drums



Def Jeff was one of my favorites back in the day. Me and my friends used to do a lot of the dances in this video. I loved wearing the same type of overalls. All you needed was a different shirt and you had a whole new outfit.

Godzilla (Gojira) vs Gigan (GAIGAN)



Airplane - Jive Talk

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

I've Been Tagged?

Someone must be reading my mind because I was planning on putting up a no tagging until January sign on my blog. Yet, before I could even put it up Mes Deux Cents tagged me before I could declare myself unavailable for tagging. I will be completely up front I don't much care for the tagging thing. The first time I got tagged several months ago I had no idea what it meant so I ignored it.

So just because it is you Mes Deux Cents I will play along, but I am going to REALLY bend the rules and you can't stop me. lol

The rules are as follows; First I am to list 7 random and/ or weird facts about myself. Then I am to tag 7 other bloggers and let them know they have been tagged by telling them so in the comments of their blog. At the moment I don't have time to chase down 7 bloggers since I am trying to not blog as much right now. So that part will have to wait. Instead of posting 7 random/or weird facts about myself I am going to post 7 videos that express 7 weird/or random facts about myself. How these videos are a part of who I am you will just have to figure out from the various posts on my blog. How is that for bending the rules. na na!

1) Scrubs - Turk Does The Safety Dance



2) Grammar Rock Verb



3) Yemenite Jewish Atary Dance - Rosh Ayin, Israel




4) School House Rock - Electricity



5)Zap Mama - Abadou



6) GI Joe Cartoon Intro



7) Living Single - My Funny Valentine




Bonus: EPMD - You Gotz to Chill



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Friday, November 23, 2007

Racism and Antisemitism: The Good Guys and the Bad Guys

Sorry for the delay in getting this together, but as I mentioned before I have a lot I need to do now a days. In order to be shorter with these group of postings I am going to combine the Good Guys and the Bad Guys section.

The Good Guys

When considering racism or antisemitism it is first wise to consider who are those who are either the victims or the most likely to be victimized. In this post I will work to define the various groups who are the subjects of racism and antisemitism in order to analyze the characteristics that make them targets of racists and antisemitic agendas.

Racism

Often when racism comes up, in the American sense, it deals with African Americans. It is often context to those African Americans who have been in America for more than two generations, or who have ancestors who were enslaved during Americas Institutionalized Enslavement of transported Africans. African Americans who have a country of origin, or who live in closed off communities often experience racism in a different way.

In a previous post I defined the different African American ethnic groups that I know about. These African American ethnic groups are:
  1. African American Christians
  2. Gullahs/Geeches
  3. Black Seminoles
  4. Maghrebim, Sephardic Jews, Black Jews
  5. Hebrew Israelites and Black Hebrews
  6. Black Muslims
The detailed list can be found here. The affects of racism on each of these groups depends largely on how strong their social structures are. This can be understood based on whether these groups have the ability to either blend into the host society or if their physical characteristics make them easy targets for racism.

Antisemitism

In this sense antisemitism can be perpetrated by any ethnic group towards specifically people who are of Jewish descent or practice. Due to the fact that Jews, when not wearing traditional religious paraphernalia can blend into a host society that shares physical characteristics with them, makes antisemitism more related to lack of denial of one's Jewish ancestry. Those who deny and cover up their Jewish ancestry can at times hide themselves in the shadows of antisemites, but there are times when this would require suppressing one's true identity at the cost of one's morality.

Further to understand the various Jewish ethnic groups that exist in the world they are the following.

  1. Mizrahi Jews - Jews of Middle Eastern and Asian Descent. Israeli, Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebonese, Indian, etc.
  2. Sephardi Jews - Jews of Spanish and Northern African Descent. (I for example personally fall in this category) Local legends say that some Jews were in these areas around 600 BCE and before.
  3. Yemenite Jews - Jews of Yemenite descent. Local legends say the first Jews came to Yemen about 586 BCE.
  4. Askhenazi Jews - Jews of Eastern and Northern European descent. (Subdivisions - American Jews have been forming their own Israeli communities in many areas)
  5. Ethiopian Jews - Made up of Jews whose families were air lifted from Ethiopia.
  6. Indian Jews - 3 or 4 distinct Indian Ethnic groups. Bombay Jews, Cochin Jews, and Bene Menashe.
  7. Russian Jews - Jews from the former Soviet Union.
  8. Black Hebrews or Hebrew Israelites - There is a community of people who were formally African Americans who live in the desert in Dimona. Many of their views and religious traditions are different than what is practiced by most Jews. Yet they are Israeli.
  9. Samaritans - The Samaritans are not Jewish in the traditional sense. They prefer to be called Samaritan Israelites. They are made up of peoples who say that they come from the Northern Tribes of ancient Israel who were attacked by the Assyrians in about 700 BCE.
  10. Gerim - Various people who converted to Judaism. Normally these people mix in with any one of the above communities. Most Gerim have mixed into the Ashkenazi community. This may include SOME African Americans.

The Bad Guys: Anti-Semites and Racists

So we have dealt with the good guys and some of the basic reasons they are hated now here are some videos that show you the bad guys.





Video of Iraqi Soldiers and US Soldiers




Russian Neo-Nazis Training


Notice how many of the themes of these videos is that these groups are training and preparing. The question then becomes what are both Jews and African Americans doing to be able to defend themselves against a group of foes who are hiding in the shadows and preparing?

In my next post I will go into more detail about all of the issues mentioned in this post.

You can read Part 4, and Part 3to get the first posts I did on this topic.‎ Read Entire Post!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Starting Point: Racism and Antisemitism

When dealing with topics like this I always have a hard time with a starting point. So what I want to do is give a preamble of sorts. Based on how some of my opinions may be perceived I need state the following.
  1. I admit that I have some opinions that may not be shared by a majority of people.
  2. I admit that I have some opinions that represent my experiences in life and may not be practical for every person.
  3. I admit that there are many popular views and opinions that I don't buy into for myself or my family.
  4. I admit that I can not possible express every idea in writing or explain how I feel so that every person can understand it.
  5. I admit that I have lived in a lot of different cultural environments and I draw upon all of those experiences in my writing.
  6. I admit that some of my theories may be debatable, but I 100% believe that my conclusions are correct.
Now that I admit to those things, I am not afraid to say that I have have some views about life that has caused some people to call me a sellout. An old man at a Passover Seder once told me I sounded like an antisemite because when he asked me why so many Israelis are dodging mandatory military service I told him because it is easy to be in America and complain about the Middle East, but it is another thing to actually move there and do something about. (I actually think he wasn't listening to what I was saying, because he interrupted me several times and he kept asking me probing question. He did have a hearing aide and it may not have been working.)

So you have warned so to speak, so after reading what I am going to post you may feel like this.


I am going to deal with this issue in the following four subjects.
  1. The Good Guys: Jews, Africans, African Americans: This will be a discussion of who the good guys by detailing how they can be identified in modern times.
  2. The Bad Guys: This will be a general and detailed look at some of the racists and antisemites I have run into.
  3. A Racist Ideology Meets and Antisemitic Concept: This will be my analysis of the racists ideologies and antisemitic concepts that I have come into contact with.
  4. The Good Fight: This will be a description of the methods of fighting racism, racists, antisemitism, and antisemites. This will be made up of things I learned from my family, my Rabbis, and all of my teachers over the years.
  5. Common Ground: This will be my outlook on what Jews, Africans, and African Americans all have in common in the fight against racists and antisemites and how it is so important for all sides to have dialog concerning our problems and disagreements.
I will do my best to not be so long winded, as you all know I can be. Yet, this is a complex matter for me so I will have to be detailed. For those of you who are new to my blog, lets say if you noticed it within the last 2 months, you may need to read a few of my earlier posts to understand my background and how my opinions were formed. The following posts are good starting points.

Self Image Past

Self Image Present

Self Image Future


Comparisons: African Americans, Jews and Asians Business Support

You can read Part 4, Part 3, and Part 2 to get the first posts I did on this topic.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Going Forward: Racism and Antisemitism

After A Week of Positive Blogging I began to consider what was next for my blog. I would have to say that the two biggest events on my blog were A Week of Positive Blogging, and Why Do Men Cheat. So how does one top that in terms of subject matter and still remain true to the purpose of my blog and that is Wisdom and Ethics?

News out of America concerning both Jews and African Americans quickly provided me with a way to go. For those who don't know there has been a rise in both racism in America against African Americans and world-wide an increase in antisemitism against Jews. Add that to the various things that have been happening in places like Darfur, etc.

So for a few months, still on a limiting blogging basis I would like to tackle these issues from my perspective. I do this because of the advice of a rabbi in New York. During the time when I prayed at Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, I would often talk with Rabbi Isaac Sassoon. Rabbi Sassoon was from England, but he comes from the famed Sassoon family that spanned Jewish communities in North Africa, England, Iran, and India. I have known many members of the Sassoon family when I lived in New York, but Rabbi Sassoon was the one I was closest to.

Often Rabbi Sassoon would tell me that since I was a Jew of mixed ancestry I should try to do things to try breach the rift that sometimes exists between Jews and African Americans. This was something that was a difficult sale on my part since I think there are some huge misunderstands that exists with various African American ethnic groups and even in various Jewish communities as well. A prime example of this is how some African Americans think that Jews are out to destroy or control the African American community. There are some Hereidi Jews who are prejudice against some African Americans. These people on either side are by no means the majority, but some of it stems from a lack of knowledge about the other side.

This reality is sad in light of the fact that the same groups who hate and want to destroy African Americans are also out to destroy Jews. Lets do a quick run down.
  • Skin-Heads - Hate Africans, African-Americans, and Jews
  • Neo-Nazis - Hate Africans, African-Americans, and Jews
  • Racists - Hate Africans, African American, and sometimes Jews
  • Antisemites - Hate Jews, and sometimes hate Africans and African Americans
I personally believe that there is an agenda at hand, which may explain why there has been a rise in both racism and antisemitism. I believe that both Jews and African Americans have the same enemies. These enemies are planning and plotting, and many of them are keeping this below the radder screen. Yet, they are doing things in the shadows to both groups.

Have you wondered why there has been a recent increase in nooses showing up in places in America? Have you wondered why there has also been an increase in swastikas in America. Have you wondered why certain parts of Africa have been under assault by groups who connect themselves to outside cultures? Have you wondered how there could be Neo-Nazi cells in Israel? I have been keeping track of these things and some of the groups involved and I believe that there is a pattern.

So for the next few posts I will do what Rabbi Sassoon suggested I should do. I will try to be a bridge of understanding between the African American culture, and Jewish cultures that I have come into contact with in my life. There are things that both sides can learn from each other, and there is also a need for us to realize that we have the same enemies.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 7: The Affects of Positive Blogging on Me




So this is the last day of A Week of Positive Blogging. I posted this last synopsis late because of the Sabbath here in Israel, and also because I wanted to take time to reflect on the week. It has been a week that seems to have lasted an eternity, in a good way. Did anyone else feel like this week was joyfully long? I did and I bask in its glory. I feel motivated and inspired and here is why.

As I mentioned before, this week was inspired by a post by one of the people involved Mes Deux Cents. In her post Self Fulfilling Prophecy about a month ago concerning Bill Cosby's recent book she pointed out that maybe one of the problems of the world is that people always are talking about the negatives and never the positives that take place. So this sparked an idea. What if for a day I could convince people to blog about positive things? Yet, one day was really not enough so how about a week?

As I came up with the idea and developed the themes for each day two bloggers jumped on board immediately, Mes Deux Cents and Bohemian Hippie Chick. At the time I knew that I wanted this to spread, but I wasn't sure how far it would. Then all of sudden there was interest from Herve Kabla from France. He established a Facebook Group for the week and got a number of French speakers and readers on board. From there you all know what the affects have been, just read the list of bloggers that I know were involved.

I remember being amazed at how international this became. I live here in Israel, Here Kabla is in France, Mes Deux Cents, Bohemian Hippie Chick and others live in America. Diva lives in Japan, and there are several people who took part who are from Nigeria. There was even someone I noticed that I think is in the Philippines.

I hope that something that I have written has inspired you all and given you a glimpse of what it has been like to be me in the world that live in, and in my home here in Israel. I in turn have learned about you and your world, and I know that there are positive people who I can name in many different cities in the world. I was going to list the blogs that inspired me the most, but every blog I read inspired me in a different way. So instead all the blogs I know of that took part will continued to be listed on the right side of my blog. I saw blogs about a person who was influenced by a parent. There were several blogs by people who are teachers. There were extremely means of using $30 Million in 3 months to change the world. Several people told stories of their help to the homeless and how it in turned helped them.

I walk away from this believing that each of our posts have the ability to inspire and galvanize people. With the invention of the blog we now have the power to spark a revolution in how people see each other, and how we see ourselves. Maybe if we can inspire hope that will spread we can spark something in our readers. Now imagine if every blogger who took part in A Week of Positive Blogging were given $30 Million as was the Day 5 posting to change the world in 3 months with it. All of us have different ways we would go about it and it. Each of would hit a different area of need in the world. Now take away the $30 Million and imagine that each of us that took part in this week could inspire hope, give examples, etc. The possibilities are then infinite.

Some of us who took part are Jewish, some Christians, some Muslims, some Buddhist, and some none of the above or other. Yet, a simple act of blogging about positive things brought us together. We may not agree with each others day to day decisions, politics, or ethics but we all agreed that blogging about the positive parts of our lives was important enough to write when we could have been doing something else. We also chose to expand our horizons to blogs that we may never have even visited had it not been for this week. Even those who blogged for just one day blogged for the week, and for a lifetime in my eyes. Even those who did not directly blog for the week, but promoted it did a lot of work in my eyes.

I have been so excited and moved by this week that I wish I was able to get all of you who took part in the same room together. I would love to see the conversations, debates, discussions, and friendships that would start up by us simply talking and having coffee, tea, or dinner together. Maybe that is a future development that I could work on if I had $30 Million.

In the end I am proud to have met all of you who have taken part. I made a huge effort to read every blog that took part that I knew of. If I haven't seen your blog yet or commented I plan on doing that in the next two months as I try find the results of this. I have learned a lot from all of you. I am man enough to say that many of you have posted things that made me laugh, cry tears of joy, think, consider, smile, but most of all what I have read gives me hope. I walk away from A Week of Positive Blogging knowing, by YOUR example, that I can do something to change the world. I am a changed man based on this week. All of you have given me strength to do greater things with my blog and my life. At the same time this clip from the 1981 Excalibur has something to say about remembering our experience in this week and not forgetting the bonds created by it.



There has been some interest in doing this more often. All I can at the moment is we will see. It is definitely a concept that doesn't rest on me alone, and can be taken on by anyone willing to lead it up the next time there is a need. This started out of a need due to racism, anti-antisemitism, war, hatred, misunderstand, and lack of hope. The need for hope is paramount in this day and time we have the ability to help people find it.

For now, I need to spend the next few months taking care of some things at home and in my personal life. So for a few months my blogging will be less. Yet, I am moved by all of you to take what I learned from you beyond my blog out into the highways and by-ways of Israel. I live in a part of the world that needs hope, prayer, and faith. I live in a part of the world where war is only to breaths away, but everyday there is spiritual awakening that starting to take place bit by bit. So this week has strengthened my resolve to transform my home and my people.

So did A Week of Positive Blogging change the world? Who knows maybe in some way it did, but what we do with it in our blogs and outside of our blogs from this point forward could be the determining factor.



The following are a list of all of my postings during A Week of Positive Blogging.

Day 1: Israel My Favorite Place in Pictures


Day 2: Two Heroes Who Saved My Life


Day 3: West Papua Delegation Donates Gold for Holy Temple


Day 3: The Black Eyed Peas in Jerusalem


Day 4: $30 Million to Change the World


Day 5: So Who Have You Helped?


Day 6:Before I Breath My Last Breath


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 6: Before I Breath My Last Breath

This day of A Week of Positive Blogging is one that has a lot of interest to me. It deals with, if I were on my deathbed and I have the ability to pass on some words of wisdom to the next generation what would I say.

I have considered this kind of scenario for the last few years since I am at the mid-life point if you will. In my family we don't have mid-life crises, for the most part. Many of us have mid-life awakenings. Everyone dies, and I want my life as well as my passing to have meaning. I want to be able to rest my soul knowing that the fear of heaven was upon me, but also that I left something to those who would continue when I am gone.

Since my grandfathers were all passed away before I was born, and my father passed away when I was three I have dreamed of being able to die on my deathbed after giving my last words to family, friends, and children. Especially to the children I wish to convey to them these thoughts. Whether they are mine or not, Jewish or not, living in Israel or not, this is what I would pass onto anyone willing to listen.

^-^Bee beep^-^Bee beep^-^Bee beep

Ehav Ever's Last Words for the Future Generations

"Gather around me children, because I feel like my time draws near. I can feel my breath drawing shorter and shorter, and time is slipping away. I want to give you something besides the physical possessions that each one of you inherited from me. I want to give you a gift that I wished I had received before my father had passed away. It is a simple gift of words to remember as you go about your life, and for you to remember all the days.

When I was young I walked through the hallways of many phases, and I made many changes. All in search of a purpose to my life and destiny. Many of those choices where bad choices and I often lost good opportunities due to my lack of vision. That was until one day when I sat at my lowest point in life because there was a big empty nothingness that was my life.

Seek out the God of our ancestors, and chase your dreams. He will guide you and bless you when you do his will. Even when difficult times come, and they will come. He will give you the ability to think clearly, act swiftly, and defend what is right. Yet, you must study His Torah (5 Books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Writings for there is much truth in them and they are your foundation for living. For as it says, "Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, in the path of the sinners he does not stand and in the dwellings of the scoffers he does not sit. Because in the Torah of God he he desires, on the Torah of God he will meditate on day and night." Tehillim (Psalms) 1:1-2

Young boys, seek out a wife in your youth. Spy out those girls who are modest, kind, and strong. Test her spiritual standing, and if she is well with God draw her near to you with love. Wait for those things that married people do in their proper time. When you do find the woman for you, treat her like your friend, treat her like your wife, treat her like you sister, but most of all treat her like your queen. Marry her and be romantic and there will many who will praise you for it. Be true to her and do not be tempted by others, because if the Torah requires you to leave your mother father to cleave to your wife then so much more should you abandon those things that would stand in the way of your marriage. Live by the Torah (The Ways of God) like our father Abraham did. Our tradition teaches us that Abraham was kind to strangers giving them food, water, and shelter if they passed by his way. He also taught men of the ways of God and when he died it says that many from the land came and mourned for him. Seek out God as he did.

Young girls, ignore the images that society paints of how women are to dress act and talk. Guide your ways by Mishle (Proverbs) 31:10-31, and dedicate yourself to be an Eshet Chayil i.e. a Woman of Valor. Spend your days learning from those women who are successful in life, spirit, and love. Latch onto those women who are setting examples for the world, and who are loved by their husbands and children. Study the ways of Rebbecca for when Isaac was mourning over the death of his mother Sara, the Torah says that Rebbecca comforted him. (Deut. 24:67) You could be the standard bearers of a new generation of women who inspire the youth to love. For as we Jews say, it is your father who teaches you how to live by the Torah (Ways of God), but it is your mother who teaches you have to love the ways of Torah (The Ways of God). Look at Abraham's wife Sarah for it is said that when she died the kings of the Middle East came to honor her because her reputation as a modest and prophetic woman was known. Seek out God as she did.

I have taught you all from what I received from my family, from the Rabbis, and from my personal study. I have also taught you how to defend yourself by passing on to you the Jewish martial arts I learned called Abir. I taught it to you because I remember being weak in my youth and I remember how I was bullied for being different. I grew up with a fear of standing up when the times arose and I feared acting when it was required. It was my hope that you didn't grow up with that fear, so that if the time came you could defend yourself against the enemies of humanity and truth. For as it says in a movie that once I saw "If you dedicate yourself to an ideal if you become more than a man/woman and if they can't stop you then you can become something else entirely. You can become a legend." That is why I never taught you how to fight without the balance of the path of God being far from it. Stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, defend those who can't defend themselves. Seek to bring people back from the darkest depths of despair by acts of kindness and mercy.

Choose your words wisely because as it says, "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous will feed many, but the fools will die of a lack of sense. Mishle (Proverbs) 10:20 - 21. Your words alone can mean life or death, encouragement or debasement, comfort or hurt. Seek out only those things that will help you speak well when it is needed, and to speak against those things that are wrong. Be a source of light to those who seek assistance, advice, and counsel. Learn how to have an understanding ear, and a strong shoulder. The world is full of hurt, pain, and disdain and there are many who internally and externally are crying out. Be there for them, because it is your duty to God and to your people.

I wish that my father had the chance to give me these kinds of words before he died. Before he died his life was filled with hurt, pain, and loneliness due to his experience in the Vietnam war and on Thanksgiving in 1978 he shot himself. I did not know how he died for years, and when I learned of the story it broke my heart. It broke my heart that he suffered alone with his pain and sorrow and I wished I would have been old enough to save his life and convince him to live. When I lost him I grew up with a deep wound that never fully healed. I longed to have him see me grow up, and in my older years tell me he loved me and he was proud of me. I lived with the pain of knowing that I would never know what it was like to have your father in your life.

This was my pain to bear, but seeing each of you grow up and become the young men and women you have become has healed that pain. Not just for me, but maybe for the soul of my father. Dedicate your lives to being shining examples to the world of who we were and what we stood for. Do not loose site of our faith and our traditions. I have given you all that I have and now you must make your own way with it and do better than me. You must in your own way surpass of us who came before you. I know that with the help of God you can make your own hopes and dreams come true. If you do that then my father's tragic death and my life of hurt due to it would have not been in vain. I overcame my pain so that all of you grow up with a chance to be stronger than any of my generation ever was. Do right by our memory.

I will leave this life with that for you to consider all the days of your life and one request. In 2007 I moved to Israel to return home, and to do something to help our people live up to our destiny. Living here has been my love and life, even when things were in their darkest and our enemies surrounded us. God brought us through and I would not trade my life here for the world.

The Judean Desert near the Dead Sea

I beg of you to bury me in the desert near Jerusalem as close of possible to the Har Ha-Zittim (The Mount of Olives) so that when the days of righteousness come to the earth in the World to Come I can be in the right spot for it.

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem

That is all I have left, for my day is done, the night has come, and my breath...........my breath is no more."

___________________Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep

It is my hope that before I breath my last I would be able to do what I was not able to receive. To give inspiration to the young who are willing to listen to an old man's last words. I hope by the hand of God that I will have lived my life to deserve such an oppotunity before I breath my last.
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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 5: So Who Have You Helped?

So now it is Day 5 of A Week of Positive Blogging. This day concerns things that I have done to help others or to save their lives. Much of what I write in this regard deals with me learning that sometimes when you help others, even without knowing it, you are helping yourself.

I grew up with a number of self-esteem issues. Due in part to being picked on, and also because for many years I did not feel like I had a purpose in life. Putting my self esteem issues to rest has been a long and hard fought war that in some respects is still being fought. The growth I do have in this area came by way of people who were a part of my life and cared for me and showed me how to care for others. It also came with people thanking me for being myself and doing things to help them.

Finding Purpose

One of the best examples of a boost to my self-esteem came during my years at Prairie View A&M University doing community service. It was in that time that I felt the most joy in helping others and even with the difficulties that I was experiencing I felt a great deal of joy in tutoring math at the Upward Bound program at the University of Houston - Downtown. When I was a tutor in the Upward Bound program teaching math to high school students, between the years of 1994 to 1998, I did it initially only for the community service merits that I could receive from it. Yet, as time went on it became more to me, it was a way for me to help others and I began to really care for the students I taught. I hated it whenever I missed a tutoring session, and I didn’t know what to do after a day of tutoring was complete. What is Upward Bound you ask?

Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in their pre-college performance and ultimately in their higher education pursuits. Upward Bound serves: high school students from low-income families; high school students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree; and low-income, first-generation military veterans who are preparing to enter postsecondary education. The goal of Upward Bound is to increase the rate at which participants complete secondary education and enroll in and graduate from institutions of postsecondary education. Upward Bound projects provide academic instruction in mathematics, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, and foreign languages. Tutoring, counseling, mentoring, cultural enrichment, and work-study programs also are supported. (source)

It was not just the tutoring of math that brought so much joy to my life back then, but also the personal interaction with the students I taught. In between tutoring I would talk to my students about faith issues, life, and the need for early scholastic advancement. I would do all of this in my normal comedic manner and often made my points while being able to make the students laugh. During the time I was an Upward Bound tutor I enjoyed the varieties of high school kids that I taught. I enjoyed all of the kids who came to learn, especially my group of Latino kids. I enjoyed how studious they were and how eager they were to learn. I would always laugh at how respectful they were since they called me “Mr.” all of the time. I would often remind them that I was not that much older than them and they didn’t have to call me mister. They of course would say okay and then call me “Mr.” again.

There were also a group of African American girls that would always make me laugh with their lingo. They had some of the funniest expressions and slang I had heard of. It was not like the whole Ebonics thing, but was simply their way of being funny with each other. There was also a group of African American boys that were really great to teach. During lunch I would gather both groups together and I would talk to them about life, in particular my own struggles with being a moral and studious person. This included my own failures and victories during my time in high school and in college.

When it came to issues of God and faith I did not change my stance in order to be politically correct. I often spoke to my students about the importance of faith and coming close to God in their youth. I related to them my experiences with God that began when I was a child and came to a critical point when I was 17 years old. I also worked hard at encouraging them to not have sex before they married because of the psychology that goes along with it and the spiritual ramifications of it. I would often cover this subject more for the sake for the young girls because it was my belief that if I could get them straight morally then the guys who are seeking morality would follow suit. I would also talk to guys and tell them to start checking out the good girls while they were young. Not just for temporary dating and such, but look for girls that may have the qualities that are good for marriage. I believed fully the Jewish adage that a man should seek out his wife in his youth. I would often point out the good girls to the guys in the hope that they would not make the mistake I made in waiting so long to do this. I also had the ability to be up front about religious matters since I was a volunteer tutor, which gave me a sort of freedom in these matters that the paid workers of Upward Bound did not have. It was also my hope that I could make up for the various mistakes I had made in the past, when I did not live by a code of morality. If could inspire these young men and women to live moral lives, maybe I could balance the scales. Maybe, I could make up for not doing more earlier in life to help people.

When I was tutoring at Upward Bound I felt more alive than I had for most of my life. I felt like I had a purpose, and I felt like I had a home. I felt like I was making up for years of bad decisions and hurting people during my youth. I felt like I had chance to really change the world by showing up every weekend and working with those kids. It felt as if I had finally found my life’s purpose and I thanked God for the opportunity all the time. My week was not complete if I was not able to go to Upward Bound and work with those kids. On the weekends where there was no Upward Bound I often felt empty. Because Prairie View A&M University was about 1 hour and 20 minutes away I would have to wake up early to go, but I delighted in this even though my roommates thought I was crazy for waking up at 5:00 a.m.

During the week I looked forward to the weekends when I could tutor and joke around with the kids that I taught. I loved to talk to them about how college works and what things they should do to prepare themselves. I loved the feeling I got when I had conversations with the men and women who worked at Upward Bound. They were a group of men and women who toiled daily with the responsibility of trying to be a light to a generation of kids, many of whom grew up in dark environments.

Yet, as time went on I wondered if I was really making a difference. As time went on I began to work with students who didn’t take me seriously when I was trying to help them with their studies. There was some students I stayed away from because they had really bad attitudes. One student once threatened me and I told him out right that he was lucky he hadn’t met me several years earlier or I would have had to set him straight. Another student would always look at me with disdain, while another would make jokes about with me with her friends. It got to the point where I made a decision to only work with those students who wanted the help.

I was also spending a lot of time on the weekends working with this program, but was I really having an affect? All of the other tutors would start out strong at the beginning of the semester and then stop coming after about a month. Even when I tried to get the fraternities and sororities on campus involved it was the same response. Was I working with a lost cause?

I began to question what I was doing spending so much time at Upward Bound at the expense of my own social life, which due to my involvement was non-existent. This along with other things going on in my life made me feel like this scene from Spiderman 2. In this scene Peter Parker is dealing with his powers starting to not work, as well as the pressures of his own life. How can a person try to be a hero when things aren’t working out in their own life? What about our own dreams and desires? Do we put those aside in order to do what is right in life?

The Return and the Encouragement

It was during this time of self-questioning that I was helping with an Upward Bound fund raiser that the students put together. I was working at a table with one of the young women that I had taught since I began working with the program 3 years earlier. We sat there talking as we collected money and during a quiet moment she told me something that really put things in perspective for me. She said:

“You know I really want to say thank you. I remember when you first came to this program and began to tutor us and how you came with a group of people from your college. Yet, as time went on all the others stopped coming, but you would always come back. You would sit with us and joke around with us and you talked to us about God. You also told us how it was better for us to not have sex and to wait until we were married. You would encourage both the boys and the girls to keep their eyes on the good in life, and you would always make us laugh. The thing is that you don’t have to be here and you don’t get paid to do this. I just want you to know that I really appreciate what you are doing for us.”

Needless to say this caught me off guard since I didn’t think I was really doing anything special.

Once I was sitting in the Upward Office and I was reading a new copy of the Hebrew Bible I had just bought. One of the students came up to me and asked me what I reading. I told him it was the Bible, but in the original Hebrew. He got really exciting and he wanted see it. He was so cyked and he asked me where he could get one, and where he could learn Hebrew. I told him, and then about week later he came to me and said he could not find one, but that he was going to search around town for one.

Years later, after I moved to California, I made a trip to Prairie View A&M University and I bumped into several students from Upward Bound who told me that they decided to attend Prairie View A&M University because of my influence on them. I was amazed to see two kids that had given me the most problems when I tutored. One young man I figured would never even make it out of high school because of his attitude. When I saw him at Prairie View his attitude was completely different and he had mellowed out. He greeted me and told me that he was going into engineering like I had done. Several years earlier I just knew that this kid would fail in life because of his confrontational attitude. Now he was kind, respectful, and thankful. Several years earlier he also would snicker at me and look at me as if he wanted to bury me alive, and now he was a completely different young man.

The Change In Me

I don’t see myself as anyone special, even though part of me that I have been working on for years, wanted to try and act like I am. Yet, seeing these kids succeed put so many parts of my life into perspective and helped me to gain something. Seeing them taking the lessons that I tried hard to give them and making a good life out of them made me feel like more of a man. It put more swagger in my stride and I felt like going to the highest mountain to wave my hands in victory.

Maybe this is what is meant by the expression that when you help others you are really helping yourself. I felt like Peter Parker at the end of this this scene from Spiderman 2. Before this scene the woman he loves, Mary Jane Watkins, learns that he is Spiderman and he tells her because of him being Spiderman and the risks involved in such they can’t be together. She was set to marry another man, even though she loved Peter Parker, and she leaves to find Peter. Her words to him in his time of loneliness and despair about being Spiderman and also being alone in his responsibility, is what many of us men need to hear when we trying to do what is right in the face of our own personal despair.

After I graduated from college and left Texas for California I was never able to find that same kind of experience that I had with the Upward Bound at the University of Houston Downtown. I tried in the various places I traveled to but I could never find the same type of program. For one reason or another the day had set on that part of my life and I felt a bit shaken by it. I came to care for those kids like they were the younger brothers and sisters that I never had. Yet, the sands of time slipped through my fingers and those days are gone. I still miss that time of my life and I still desire to have that joy in my life of teaching. The joy of making kids learn and laugh, as well as bringing them back from the brink of despair. Yet, it is now up to me now that I live in Israel to find something that I can do to recapture that part of myself that seeks to do something that changes the world.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 4: $30 Million to Change the World

So it is day 4 of A Week of Positive Blogging. This day's theme concerns the question of, "If I had 3 months to spend $30 Million to change the world what would I do?" I have to admit that I have thought about this question for about a year now. I once considered it when I played the lottory back in the states. I always saw myself being one of those guys who would win the lottery and then disappear. One day you see me on TV with a full beard dark shades, fake eyebrows, etc. the works. Then right after the press conference I would be on the next flight to some place where no one even knows what a lottery is.

Yet, for me having millions of dollars would be somewhat pointless. Once I have enough to eat with, have clothing, housing, and money to be able to pass on to any descendants, I may one day have, that would leave a large amount of money for me to do nothing with. Thus there have been a recent strinig of lottery winners who have either blown all of their winnings or they are very sad people. I believe this is because of trying to go out and help the less fortunate they are only thinking of short term needs which involves the accumulation of stuff. Yet, maybe if they were out helping people in desperate need they would find the joy that I think exists within all humans when we help people.

Two things in part inspired this Week of Positive Blogging, especially this particular day of blogging.

Pay It Forward - Assignment To Save The World


Brewster's Million's - None of The Above


So if I had $30 Million in which to change the world in 3 months this is what I would do. I call this one.............

Operation Pay It Forward


Strategy 1: Saving the youth

I would quite my job and make sure that all of my bills and such are paid for the next 3 months. Since I live in Israel I would start here. I would rent a motercyle and ride around the country trying to find people who are in dire need. I am not particarely talking about people with their hands out, but I also would have no problem with the regular charity there. What I would seek are people who are trying to stay afloat while trying to keep a certain level of morality. I would want to test their morality in some way, and also test their intentions. I would then work out some way to fix their particular misfortune and put them in a position where they never have to fall short again.

For example, here in Israel there is a problem with Ethiopian Jews whose children sometimes don't have the money to buy school supplies or lunches. I would try to find families in this situation who have children who are trying hard, but they just need these kind of obstacles taken out of the way in order for them to be able ot excell. So enter me, the unknown stranger who has volunteered to be a janitor at the school in order to find families in need. All of a sudden that janitor shows up at their door with several thousand dollors to cover the child all the way through college. My only requests would be:

1) Don't mention to anyone who gave them the money.
2) They must promise to use the money towards the future of the child.
3) They must in return help someone else in need.

Then I would dissapear never to be seen by that family again. I may secretly check up on them and if needed provide them with additional funding, but it is up to them to do what is right now that the road block to their child's success is taken away. I would repeat this process in Africa next, and then I would make my way to America. Race for me is not an issue and it is not important to me. What I am looking for is people who have hope, but are in a hopeless situation. Those who are on the edge of just making it and are praying for something that can get them over the edge. Since I am a beleiver that some situations can only be solved by working with the young, I would spend most of my effort there. I would spend about $7 Million doing this, while investing $ 3 Million in a continued effort.

Strategy 2: Saving those who are on the verge of death

My next goal would be to help people who are in a life or death situation. I would use some of the money to try to get people for example out of the Sudan. I am not sure how I would exactly do this, but I would than likely have to hire some mercenaries to go in and get families out. I would then have to pay people off to get them to a country where I can support them. In order to make this a continous process I would take about $ 10 Million and put into investments that have a good and steady return over a 5 year period. I would then try to use the interest to save seveal families per year. Where I would try to relocate them depends. I would not want to take them from a bad situatioin to a situation where they can't eventually do for themselves. That is why I would more than likely have to impress upon then the need to build community structures.

Strategy 3: Community building

I am a firm believer that many of the problems that some groups face in the world is from a lack of strong communinty structure. In this vien I would start working with synagogues first from the Yemenite Jewish communities to try and get them more stable in their communities and able to inspire the young Yemenite Jews not to abandon their religious heritage. This would include helping rabbis who have ideas on how to inspire the youth, but because of finances they have no way to implement programs. My requirement here would be that they in return have to work with children to educate them on their history and they would have to spend time talking with children about the past. My next step would be to spend about $5 Million getting like minded people to build communities. I would spend this money to try and convince them to move to the same areas with people who share similar ideals. This may require moving people from one part of their country or the world to another part. I would then hire people to work short time with interested people to teach them what it means to be a community.

I would also set aside a few million to be invested in this area to try and create some sort of media outlet that would create positive programming for matters of African, African American, and Jewish interest. I would try to create cartoons, documentaries, etc. about matters concerning Africans, African Americans, and Jews that are normally never covered. Because of the fact that VAST areas of history, fiction, and non-fiction that concerns these groups NEVER show up in the current media I would use some of the money, through investments, to create the mediums and to work on getting them into circulation. My first hope would be to hire film makers, for example, to go to Africa and do documentaries and such (history channel and discovery channel) of the history of ancient and modern African kingdoms and governments. I would do documentaries about areas of African American history that could be used year round and not just in February. I would also do films about the Jews of Yemen, Morocco, Ethiopia, Algeria, and the Jews that once existed in Mali and Senegal.

As a part of this I would go to Mali and have the books there translated. There are hundreds of libraries in Mali that have over 700,000 books in Arabic on history and other topics about West Africa. These are histories that go back beyond the 15th Cent. yet very few people know of them. I have two book from one of the collections that deals with the Jews that once lived in Timbuktu and all over Mali and Senegal.

Strategy 4: Random acts of kindness

I would earmark about $ 5 Million for doing random acts of kindness. Things like $1,000 tip to a waitress or waiter at a resturant who rendered good service. Maybe something like going to hospitals and finding out if there is someone who can't pay for an operation and then paying for it, once again disappearing when people begin to ask who paid for this. Other thoughts that cross my mind would be to pay for college student's tuition while they are line to pay. I would even buy pets for nursing homes and children in hospitals.

Accomplishments

It is doubtful that throwing money at a problem will be the solution. My goal would be to set a dramaitc example, so that when the legend of an unknown man going around pulling people back from the brink spreads it would in turn shake some people out of apathy. Just maybe someone hearing the story, would themselves be moved to do something, no matter how small to help someone. Maybe it would cause some of the rich to see it and consider taking more dramatic steps to help people. Maybe, it would spark a legend that people would try to themselves emulate. Just maybe, one person who was helped will be able to pull themselves up out of the mud and the mire and build a brighter future.



Yet, even without $30 Million I can do some of what I mentioned above. Sometimes the real life saver is the person who is willing to listen to a person's problems. Sometimes the real life saver is the person who is willing to put aside their own hopes in life in order to help others. Sometimes the real life saver is the person who comes through with that last $100 when someone is trying to pay their rent or stay in school. Sometimes the real life saver is the one who sees their fellow man or woman broken and beaten, and they simply extend their hand and say, "Hey, I am here for you. Take my hand."


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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 3: The Black Eyed Peas in Jerusalem

Yet another post for day 3 of A Week of Positive Blogging.

Day 3: The Black Eyed Peas in Jerusalem

Original Article Here

R&B The biggest international music event EVER in Jerusalem was held on September 9th 2007. The Black Eyed Peas, Arrested Development and The Commitments will all be performing live!

Jerusalem Rocks! brought together musicians from all over the world in support of peace and unity. Jerusalem has hundreds of thousands of students and youth, numerous universities and a total population of 725,000. The city, its population and industry strive to show the world that Jerusalem is dedicated to peace and, more, is a growing center of today’s culture and business. However, Jerusalem has not hosted a mega international musical event in many years. Jerusalem Rocks! spoke to all these issues. It was not only a gift to Jerusalem; it was a statement to the world.

Black Eyed Peas Live in Israel - 2006


Black Eyed Peas Live in Israel - 2007




Black Eyed Peas and the Commitments rock the walls of Jerusalem
By Jessica Steinberg, Contributing Writer
Original Article Here

Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie might have been knocked off the Egged bus billboards advertising the group's show at the Jerusalem Rocks! Festival because of her immodest dress, but the crowd enthusiastically welcomed her on Sunday night.

"I heard that in the advertising for this event, they cut me out of the picture, maybe because I wear stuff like this," she said, pointing to her cropped top that showed off her well-toned abdomen. "I hope I didn't offend anybody, I just like to look a little glamorous."

That she did, even when she was at the Western Wall stuffing a note in one of the cracks -- "I'm not gonna tell you what I wrote"; floating in the Dead Sea on Saturday, where she "exfoliated"; and in church in the Old City on Sunday. But beyond looking glamorous, belting out tunes with the Black Eyed Peas and prancing across the stage, Fergie and the rest of the band, including front man will.i.am, and band members apl.de.ap and Taboo, wanted to make it clear how much they love Israel.

"We're missing the MTV Awards for this because we feel it's a very important ‘cause ... this is the Holy Land," said Fergie, who took the award for Female Artist of the Year in absentia.

"I love Is-ra-el," will.i.am sang to the tune of "Hotel California." "I'm moving to Israel, I'm in paradise."

It was the Black Eyed Peas' second concert in Israel, having performed in Tel Aviv last summer. But it was their first time performing in Jerusalem, where they headlined Jerusalem Rocks! a nonprofit international music festival celebrating peace and unity.

The Sept. 9 festival opened with Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nachash and Palestinian hip-hop band D.A.M. performing together, followed by Ireland's The Commitments and then Arrested Development, a progressive hip-hop act known for early 1990s hits like "Tennessee" and "People Everyday."

The Black Eyed Peas and Arrested Development were enthusiastic about Jerusalem Rocks! from the start, said producer Carmi Wurtman, who has created several music festivals in Israel, including the One Shekel Festival, which brings 20,000 people from poor communities to see Israeli performers for the price of just one shekel.

"We knew we had to get a headliner, and once we had the Black Eyed Peas on board, everything else began to trickle down," he said. "I've been listening to Arrested Development for a long time, and they always had a positive message. And that's how Hadag Nachash fit in, because they have a strong Jerusalem message."

The Commitments followed. Given their Dublin background and experience of the Irish conflict, it made sense to invite them to a peace festival in Israel. The lineup originally included more Israeli bands, but the festival changed venues at the last minute from Teddy Stadium to Sultan's Pool, and was shortened by an hour, Wurtman explained. The estimated 6,000- to 7,000-person crowd would have seemed too small for Teddy Stadium, so the show was moved to the outdoor venue Sultan's Pool, adjacent to the walls of the Old City.

"We would have been happier if there were more people," Wurtman said. "Then again, this was more of a park festival than a sit-down festival. We learned a lot from this experience."

While the festival was a nonprofit event, co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation, Digital Israel, festival co-founder Jeff Pulver and several other donors, Wurtman said that there was "consumer confusion on this project." Ticket prices were first set at NIS 390 ($95) per ticket, which ended up being too high for most Jerusalemites. Prices were later lowered to NIS 200 ($50) per ticket, but even then the tickets never sold out.

Still, said Jacob Ner-David, one of the festival co-founders, the festival was a success in helping change Jerusalem's image and bringing together international artists to Jerusalem.

"Revival of the dead is not an easy thing," he quipped, referring to the many years since Jerusalem has hosted any kind of rock concert or festival. "We're a lot smarter now."

The members of Arrested Development came to Jerusalem four days before the concert, spending time touring as well as experiencing a traditional Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner at the home of Ner-David. On Saturday night, they, along with members of the Black Eyed Peas, were hosted in East Jerusalem, where they smoked water pipes, ate grilled meat -- the local specialty -- and heard local rappers as well as loud players.
"The artists all had a great time; they said it was the single best experience they ever had," Wurtman said. "They got Jerusalem hospitality."
As Arrested Development co-founder Speech put it, "This is the single best experience we've ever had on the road. Performing in Israel has been the fulfilling of a dream." Read Entire Post!

Day 3: West Papua Delegation Donates Gold For Holy Temple

So now we are at Day 3 of A Week of Positive Blogging. This day deals with something positive that has happened where you live in the last 3 months. Living in Israel we are used to being the center of bad news for the outside world. There are many who know of the wars, the terrorism, the failed negotiations, etc. but most people don't know about the good and even amazing things happening here all the time. There are many positive things of a spiritual nature that take place here all the time, but are never reported on by Western media. I am going to try and put up several posts today of positive news in Israel.

West Papua Delegation Donates Gold For Holy Temple
by Ezra HaLevi


(IsraelNN.com) On Wednesday, the last day of the Sukkot festival, a 34-person delegation from West Papua presented a large amount of gold to be used in the building of the Holy Temple.

The delegation, including representatives of the nation’s government, explained that they study the Bible regularly and recently came upon a verse in Zecharia (6:16) reading “And the distant ones will come and build the Temple of G-d.” They discussed the passage among themselves and decided that their faith obligates them to fulfill the verse.

Artist rendition of Israelites heading to the Temple in Jerusalem

West Papua, located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, is rich in gold mines, so the delegation thought it natural to donate gold for the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple will be built in the place where the First and Second Temples once stood – on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The group heard of the Temple Institute in Israel, which deals with advancing the building of the Temple, and on Hoshana Raba the delegation arrived at the Institute's headquarters in Jerusalem’s Old City and presented the gold to Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, a founder of the institute, and Yehuda Glick, its director.

Figure 1: The delegation from West Papua presents the gold for the Holy Temple to Rabbi Yehuda Glick, director of the Temple Institute on Hoshana Raba.

The group presented a kilogram of gold and a large sum of money. They requested that the gold be used to construct vessels for the temple and the funds be used by the institute for any purpose it sees fit. The institute has a fund set aside for exclusive use in the actual construction of the temple, as well as funds for building the vessels and engaging in educational projects.

Rabbi Ariel said the episode was emotional as it constituted the fulfillment of the words of the prophets that nations will come from afar to help build the House of G-d in Jerusalem. “There is no doubt that this is a sign that the rest of our prophets’ prophecies will soon be fulfilled as well.”

Delegation members said that although this is their first contribution for the temple, it will certainly not be their last. “They said that in Papua there are fine trees that they hope to one day bring aboard a ship to Israel in order to be used in the building of the Holy Temple.”

The Temple Institute was established twenty years ago, and deals with research and education about the Holy Temple. The institute has published dozens of books and has prepared more than 70 of the gold, silver and copper vessels needed for Temple service.

Just two weeks ago, the institute completed a large “King David’s Lyre.” Its craftsmen are working now on the golden headpiece worn by the high priest.

Some of the vessels prepared by the institute for use in the Temple include the golden menorah (candelabra), the show-bread table, the golden altar, Levite musical instruments and priestly clothes. The vessels are on display at the institute's headquarters on the Old City’s Misgav Ladach street.

Artist Drawing of the Jerusalem Temple Built By Solomon

In order to understand the Biblical and spiritual issues revolving around the Jewish Temple that once stood in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount the Temple Institute of Jerusalem is a good resource. The Temple Mount has always been the holiest site in Judaism and is it is currently surrounded in a lot of political strife, but I have hope that one day it will be a place of prayer for all nations as Solomon asked from God.

"Halleluyah. Praise G-d in His sanctuary; Praise Him in the firmament of His power." Psalms 150:1

"Thus all the work that king Solomon wrought in the house of the L-rd was finished. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated, the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, and put them in the treasuries of the house of the L-rd." Kings I 7:51

"And, behold, I purpose to build a house for the name of the L-rd my G-d, as the L-rd spoke unto my father David... " Kings I 5:19

Artist depiction of King Solomon praying to God during the dedication of the 1st Temple

"I have surely built thee a house of habitation, A place for Thee to dwell forever." Kings I 8:13

Jerusalem is the light of the world... and who is the light of Jerusalem? The Holy One (i.e. God), blessed be He." Bereshit Rabbah 59:8

"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy." Psalms 137:5-6
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