Four Books I Finished in July

The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency – Authored by Chris Whipple

Few books I have read were more timely. Reading this book, and searching my memories of past administrations, makes clear that among the many reasons that the Presidency of Donald Trump is cratering is that he seemingly refused to take on a strong and independent Chief of Staff that will say what he thinks rather than what the boss wants to hear. Perhaps now General Kelly will. For sure, he should read this book.

The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas – Authored by Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon.

In March, I had occasion to hear Grant Rumley speak. I knew then that when his book would be published I would immediately purchase it. I was not disappointed. The story of Abbas is the enigma of the last twenty years. Israel could be ready to make the difficult concessions to make peace, but has never had a willing Palestinian partner that would mirror those difficult concessions. This highly readable book makes that fact glaringly clear.

Secret Soldier: The Six Day War…:Golan Heights…Entebbe… – Authored by Colonel Muki Betser with Robert Rosenberg

This is a remarkable story about Colonel Betser’s life in the IDF where he was one of Israel’s foremost Special Forces soldiers. He gives the reader an eyewitness perspective as to what it was like. I highly recommend this book even if humble-pie is not exactly the writer’s forte’. But then again, he has nothing to be humble about, he was a true hero!

Camino Island – Authored by John Grisham

Alright, I admit it. Every once in a while, I need some escapism fiction. My yearning for that reaches a crescendo when Grisham publishes a new book. Reading his stuff is like it used to be to eat at Houston’s, never great but always very good and exactly what I expected.

Seven Books Cliff Sobin Finished Reading in June

Struggling Over Israel’s Soul – Authored by Elazar Stern

This is an outstanding and fascinating memoir about how retired General Stern remained true to his orthodox beliefs with carrying out his leadership responsibilities in the IDF.

Israel’s Critical Requirements for Defensible Borders – Edited by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

An important contribution to understanding Israel’s fundamental security needs in any future negotiations.

Encounters of Fate: Heartbreak and Hope – Authored by David Yair

A rather hokey, but engaging, historical fiction that spans multiple decades beginning with the Holocaust. I can’t say it is a great book, but I was not able to put it down.

For heaven’s Sake: Squadron 101 and the Yom Kippur War – Authored by Aviram Barkai

This book honors those that fought in the skies to save Israel’s soldiers and civilians on the ground. I can’t recommend it enough.

A History of Scotland – Authored by Neil Oliver

While in Scotland for 2 weeks I started reading this book. All though it gets repetitive at times, that is not the author’s fault, it is more the tragic nature of Scottish history. I wish I had read it before I arrived in Scotland because it would have made a great trip even better.

An America Sickness – Authored by Elizabeth Rosenthal

This book has forever changed my views concerning the health care debate. Written by a New York Times reporter who is also a physician, it details the egregious problems that exist in each component of the medical industry in America.

How to Market a Book – Authored by Joanna Penn

A surprisingly good book on the subject.

My First Time Speaking About the Holocaust

Recently, I was approved by Scribe (an affiliate website of Forward). Check out my first article which describes how I became a Holocaust speaker at


Cost of Self-Publishing a Book with Many Pages

I will admit, when I first embarked on my book project, The Pivotal years: Israel and the Arab World 1966 – 1977. The Pivotal YearsI did not anticipate it would turn into an almost 1400 page project that would take several years to finish. Nor did I realize how much a new, self-publisher like myself needed to learn in order to make a manuscript available in print and eBook format. But now that I have published a kindle version that combines Volume One and Volume Two and a print version for Volume One (Volume Two will be available on-line in May), I thought some might be interested in the economics of this endeavor. So, I will break it down for you into four parts:

  • Cost of preparing the manuscript
  • Royalties for Kindle
  • Royalties for print publication
  • Final thoughts

Cost of Manuscript Production

[Read more…]

Footnotes for the Pivotal Years: Israel and the Arab World 1966-1977

Chapter 1  [Read more…]

Eating Crow and Putting My Country First

Those that know me are well aware that although certain aspects of Trump intrigued me, I felt that the existential risks of a Trump presidency outweighed the potential benefit. However, that discussion is over. Donald Trump will be my president and yours. He is deserving of my support unless he proves otherwise (as was President Obama for whom I voted in 2008 but could no longer do so in 2012). And, most importantly, as is true for any incoming President, he is deserving of America’s support.

Nor has President-elect Trump done anything since the election that would disqualify him from receiving that support. Sure he has made some choices for Cabinet and other positions that I am unhappy with. Sure I wish his tweets would be more reflective. But equally surely, he has made some choices that I consider acceptable or even excellent. And, his positions on certain issues, especially Israel, are much more representative of my own.

Clearly our new president will be a departure from the norm. Where that departure will lead us remains to be seen. However, there is value in questioning every aspect of how are government has operated and there is some promise that Trump’s approach will lead to something better. Am I still worried? For sure. But I am also determined to not stand in the way of positive change. I refuse to let my fears manifest in obstructiveness and close-mindedness that would harm rather than help. I also refuse to discount the reasons Trump was elected. They are, and were, valid and entitled to respect, no less so than the concerns that drove those who voted for Clinton.

I say this because before politics and party I am an American. I choose always to lean towards thinking the cup is half full rather than half empty. I choose to favor compromise with, and respect for, the views of others. My goal is for our country to move forward. It cannot do so unless the discourse that divides us becomes less powerful than the democratic values that bind us. That is our obligation to our fellow citizens, our children, and to future generations.

So, for now, place me in the hopeful and optimistic camp. I would like nothing more than experiencing the taste of eating crow turn pleasurable.

Holocaust Remembrance

Last week, through a fortuitous set of circumstances, I was honored with the opportunity to address seven different groups of students at five schools in Jackson Hole over a twenty-six hour period regarding the Holocaust. In total I spoke to 650 students and then gave an eighth talk to adults at a pot lFullSizeRender (1)uck dinner at the Jackson Hole Jewish Community Center. Of the 650 kids, I would estimate 95% of them were not Jewish.

Although the topic was my mother’s story of survival against all odds in the midst of the Nazis, the themes I spoke of had universal application: Courage, love, and sheer will power in the face of evil. As such, and at the request of teachers and those that asked me to speak, I weaved in how evil works, bullying, the difficulty of moving to a foreign land where you do not speak the language (for those students that may have arrived in the U.S. illegally), and personal responsibility. Through the use of power point slides I showed my mom’s journey, the face of evil, and my four final messages:

  • Never Give In when you are scared
  • Never Give Up when you think you can go no further
  • Never Again should any of us permit evil to flourish
  • Never Forget those that suffered in the Holocaust

The Impact on Me

To say it was transforming for me would be a vast understatement. I believe that all but five of the 650 kids were ages 13 through 17. I addressed the five younger ones separately in a somewhat watered down format. I can say with certainty that not one of those 650 kids mind’s wandered. Not one of them gave me anything other than their full attention. Not one of them failed to move me with their penetrating eyes, emotion, and focus.

Afterwards, some asked questions in the group settings and others privately. All of the questions were excellent. Two of the questions that continue to haunt me were:

  • Do I think people are born evil?
  • Do I think people are becoming de-sensitized to the holocaust?

In addition, one student, after interviewing me, said that she was experiencing a personal crisis and that after thinking about my mother’s story and my message of Never Give Up she was confident that she could handle her problems. And then, when a clearly challenged young man mustered the courage to ask me in a difficult to understand manner, “was there a fight,” I answered him as best I could and then told him it was a great question in front of the 200 other kids. Seeing his face light up taught me the power of acknowledgement and respect.

My Realization

The epiphany that came from doing this was that unless I and others like me make an effort to tell this story, the story and the lessons to be learned from it will certainly be lost to those that are not Jewish and even to many that are. If that happens all of us will be at risk again, and not just Jews, but all of humanity.

I am now determined to play a role in preventing that.

Going Forward

That twenty-six hour period completed a triad that  point towards my future path in life. Those three legs consist of writing Israeli history, political activism through AIPAC, and now adding my voice to others regarding the memory of the Holocaust and my mother’s story. It is these three things that I hope will fulfill me, honor my mom, and help shape our future.

Soon, I will place video clips of those talks for you to review. If you think those conversations worthwhile, and you would like me to speak to the group of your choice, I am available to relay my mother’s story to students or adults, no matter how large or how small the gathering, anywhere, and without charge other than for travel expenses if not in the Washington, D.C., New York, or Jackson Hole area. I just encourage you to ask. It would be an honor.

I also would appreciate it if you would forward a link to this blog article to any you think would appreciate receiving it and comment on my blogsite regarding your thoughts concerning Holocaust Remembrance.

Cliff Sobin

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Plato, Trump, the Press, and the Essence of Democracy

It is exceedingly rare that any political commentary keeps me up thinking about it. However, Andrew Sullivan’s Democracies end – when they are too democratic. – And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny [author’s capitalization and punctuation not mine] has succeeded in doing that. He starts with Plato and ends with a comparison of modern times to Sinclair Lewis’ book, “It Can’t Happen Here.” In between he touches on:

• How democracy grows, stabilizes, and then become unstable;
• The impact of “media democracy” in the 21st century;
• The nature of mass movements; and
• The isolation and mobilization of a white middle class that feels increasingly under attack.

And, woven throughout, is the Trump phenomena and a frank discussion concerning his likelihood of winning the White House and an assessment of whether his excesses can be checked if he does.

Whether you agree with Sullivan or not, and there are plenty on the internet already stridently stating why he is wrong, this article is a must read. By investing the ten to fifteen minutes it will take for you to blaze through it you will encounter an argument coherently laid out and powerfully expressed. After I did so I found my mind frequently wandering back to the points Sullivan raised that undeniably need to be addressed in future years. For even if Trump does not win the White House, many of the fault lines Sullivan reveals are likely to haunt us for years to come.

America has problems in need of solutions. Reading Sullivan’s haunting piece is a necessary pre-requisite to understanding the present and fixing the future.

Trump Unveiled

As repugnant as the David Duke issue is, I fear too much focus will be given to Trump’s incomprehensible response when asked on Sunday if he would disavow Duke and the KKK. The discourse seems more on whether Trump’s answer was an isolated political miscalculation as opposed to a reflection of something deeper and darker. For me, despite all of the evidence piling up before, the debate Thursday unveiled who he is, a thug that relishes bludgeoning opposition. Whether that makes Trump more akin to Putin or Hitler is a macabre thought that sickens me to even contemplate. However, one thing is clear: No person or minority that opposes or even questions him is safe; whether Black, Latino, Jew, or other. And also what is awful is that his rhetoric, whether believed by him or as a result of political calculation, will inflame the baser elements of our society.

Last Thursday through Saturday has been an eye opener; the Duke/KKK issue is just another stop on Trump’s journey towards destroying what makes America great. “Making America great again” requires all of us to be outspoken on this issue with those that waiver, it is not enough to just preach to the choir. Nor should those that desperately do not want to see Clinton in office flinch from their duty to save America from tyranny stemming from the politics of hatred. Whether democrat or republican, many share the view, including me, that the last eight years has seen a failure of governance. Even more fear that the next four years will see more of the same. But what we all should recognize is that what we most can’t afford is a failure of society. That is the danger Trump brings to our nation. That is the danger, no matter our political philosophy, we must all vigorously oppose.


Morality Versus Dignity

His head was supported by a thin pillow on a narrow hospital bed.  A distinct pungent odor permeated the air.  Rapid breathing was accompanied by a background rattle.  His lips glistened from remnants of Vaseline swabbed over them to slow the inevitable drying and cracking from air whistling by.  Thin grey hair liberally covered his scalp. His face and neck were pasty and creased.  His eyes were closed.  A thin institutional blanket covered both arms mottled with bruising and pooled blood.  Death was stalking the ninety-two year old man. The struggle was nearing an end.

The nurse leaned over the bed and spoke to him in reassuring tones.  She listened intently to his tortured gasps while her hand softly caressed his shoulder.  Her focus was to ease his suffering.  Her face was twisted with concern.  She placed a syringe in the corner of his mouth and slowly pushed the plunger a third of the way down.  A small amount of solution dripped out.  He reflexively swallowed it.  It was morphine.  His inhalation eased within a few minutes. It was seven P.M.  The curtain’s fall was postponed – for hours or perhaps days.

He was profoundly debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s begins by robbing a human being of their independence and then their dignity.  Over time, victims lose their sense of the world and their place in it. Near the end, motor skills atrophy and mental function ceases. [Read more…]