Clifford Sobin’s New Book About Israel’s Northern Borders

Living in heaven, Coping with HellMy New Book, now available on Amazon and Kobo (soon on B&N): Living in Heaven, Coping with Hell: Israel’s Northern Borders—Where Zionism Triumphed, the Kibbutz is Evolving, and the Pioneering Spirit Prevails, delivers a vivid portrait of Israel’s haunting and unpredictability violent northern borders. Here, amid widespread tranquility, a pervasive hint of danger lingers within communities that dot Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria.

“You don’t know when it will blow, but you know it eventually will. It always does. And you know that when it does blow, it might kill you.”

Written in a conversational style, this compelling narrative answers why Israelis live in this dangerous region and illuminates the challenges they face. By intimately profiling many of its current residents and explaining how selected communities in the region took root, the book weaves forty interviews with historical fact to highlight the region’s heroic past and challenging future.

Recently, I received the following testimonial from award winning author and Writing Professor at the University of Victoria , David Leach:

Living in Heaven, Coping with Hell is a meticulously researched, deeply reported and compellingly written account of the unique challenges and remarkable resilience of the Jewish communities along Israel’s often precarious northern borders. Clifford Sobin seamlessly combines the big picture about the region’s history, politics, economics and culture with detailed profiles of individual Israelis who have built their homes and lives on the nation’s “periphery”.  The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the transformation of the legendary kibbutz movement or about this often misunderstood region of Israel in general.

David Leach, author of Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel

And another testimonial from Yuval Achouch Ph.D., a professor focusing on kibbutz industry and its transformation:

Living in Heaven, Coping with Hell may be read as a kind of anthropological work since Cliff Sobin describes so well the experience of living on Israel’s Northern border from the standpoint of its inhabitants. His enthusiasm is quite contagious and his erudition impressive. After more than thirty-five years living in Galilee, I have learned a lot about my own region due to this book. The author takes you for an exciting trip where history, present, landscapes and people intertwine. His talent for writing prevents you from putting the book down before you reach the end of each chapter.
—Yuval Achouch Ph.D., University Lecturer in Sociology at Western Galilee College and research fellow at the Institute for the Research on the Kibbutz and the Cooperative Idea, University of Haifa

Why I Support Kibbutz Hanita

On March 21, 1938, a convoy of fifty trucks and 500 men parked east of the Arab village of Bassa. The Haganah brought them together. They planned to build a tower and stockade Kibbutz, called Hanita, in the hills adjacent to the Lebanese border, only a few miles from the Mediterranean.

Kibbutz Hanita, May of 1938

The goal of the Tower and Stockade movement was to create “facts on the ground” on land already purchased by the Jewish National Fund. The movement knew that the British Mandate authorities would generally abide by Turkish Ottoman law still in effect that prohibited dismantling existing settlements – even if they were illegally created.  Thus, if they could construct a permanent structure, a new settlement would likely be born. That was important. A settlement in the region was necessary to stop Arabs in Lebanon from infiltrating into Palestine and creating havoc.

During the day, the 500 men worked hard but failed to complete the fence and tower. High wind, the steepness of the hill and the amount of equipment that needed transport from the roadway to the settlement site delayed them. That night, 400 men left. One hundred stayed behind to defend the day-old site. Included among them were Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon. On two adjacent hills, Arab irregulars massed. At midnight they started shooting. In little more than an hour, Arab fire succeeded in killing two Jewish defenders and injured several more. But the remainder survived and the Arabs withdrew into Lebanon.

Today, Kibbutz Hanita remains, standing proud and strong with seven hundred residents including two hundred children. Within its confines, there are two factories and agricultural fields. One of the factories makes contact lens and the other, which makes coatings for films and laminates, was recently purchased by Avery Dennison, an American corporation. The Kibbutz’s agriculture products include bananas, avocados, orchards and olives.

However – there is a problem, a need – and a solution.

The problem is security. The Kibbutz must spend much of its available discretionary funds on securing its perimeter and creating the ability to react to threats. The need is for its children. The solution is funding. I will discuss each in turn.

Security

The northern outer ring of the Kibbutz’s homes are on a ridgetop and lie within meters of the Lebanese border. Below is a heavy forested valley that in one spot snakes into the Kibbutz, resulting in a U-shaped penetration that creates a much longer perimeter than if the hill was straight.

Hanita on Both Sides with Lebanon in the Valley Below

In 2002, members of Islamic Jihad penetrated the border and killed six Israelis at nearby Matzuva Junction. Two were a mother and teenage daughter from Hanita. Since then, Hezbollah has threatened to overrun a border Kibbutz in any future confrontation with Israel. Through its proxy, the Lebanese army, not too long ago Hezbollah built an observation tower on an hill adjacent to Hanita that overlooks the homes and children of the Kibbutz. One can only imagine what Kibbutz members felt like to wake up one day and see the tower on a previously barren ridge line that provided a sight line for terrorists, bent on  their destruction, directly into the Kibbutz

Fortunately, the IDF is not oblivious to the threat. In March of 2017, using bulldozers, they carved out a cliff from what once was lush vegetation on upward sloping terrain. The IDF’s hope was to make it more difficult for intruders to scale the heights and enter Hanita. Furthermore, there is a fence with sensors and a security road that is patrolled by the IDF. But, those measures alone do not seem sufficient to stop a determined enemy. In fact, just a few paces from those defensive measures, on April 20, 2017, Hezbollah gave a field tour to journalists and mocked those defenses. The danger Hezbollah presents is further expressed in an article by Sarit Zehavi, CEO of ALMA. Thus, the Kibbutz must employ its own defensive measures as well.

But that costs money.

The Children

Some two hundred children live in Hanita. All of them require educational and/or supervisory support. The children’s programs involve the following age groups:

  • Eighty kids ages 0-6 in Kindergarten or toddler day-care
  • Seventy-two kids ages 6-12 that require after-school programs
  • Fifty teenagers ages 12-17 that require after-school programs

Unfortunately, after touring the facilities it is clear that they are in dire need of upgrade. After my meeting with Orly Gavishi-Sotto, the Business Director of the Kibbutz, she identified two primary needs:

  1. Finish the playground that is only half done; and
  2. Upgrade the two buildings used by the children.

Hanita Children’s Area

To that I would add an inexpensive third, provide more modern toys, games and educational products for the teachers to use with the children.

The Funding Required

A significant difference can be made for a relatively modest sum. For approximately $35,000, the playground can be completed. For another $65,000 the buildings can be

Hanita Children’s Buidling

upgraded. And for only a few thousand dollars more, the children’s toys and educational materials could be modernized.

Hanita Children’s Outdoor Play Area

Shortly, I hope to have a link created through Galila – the Northen Galilee Development Foundation, through which any donations you care to make will be directly funneled to Kibbutz Hanita. Galila is a foundation whose purpose is to support “selected, priority needs of the borderline communities who live in a security-threatened region.” It has 501(c)3 status that makes all donations tax deductible. Until then, you can contact me through this page to express your interest and to ask me any questions that you may have.

Why Do I Feel it is Important to Support Hanita?

The purpose of Hanita today is the same as it was in 1938—to hold ground. Seven hundred hardy souls are willing to brave the dangers presented by Hezbollah. True they call it home and that in itself stands for much.

But my reasons are much more.

The moment Israelis stop living along the border regions, Israel shrinks. And then even worse, new border regions are then created that begin at the next town or village back from the border. Those towns and villages will then feel endangered and consider moving away. Thus, once the process of retreating from the “border” begins there is no stopping it. That is Hezbollah’s goal. Therefore, not only do the residents of Hanita need help to preserve their way of life, Israel needs help to preserve Hanita.

I strongly believe that ensuring the normality of life and the well-being of the children of the kibbutz will go a long way towards keeping Hanita strong and vibrant.  I personally visited the kibbutz in October of 2017. I saw the condition of the children’s’ facilities. I walked the path along the fence Lebanon. I witnessed the children’s play area within rifle shot of a Lebanese/Hezbollah outpost. And I saw the potential the kibbutz has. It is located in a beautiful region that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea a few kilometers away and it is within only a handful of miles from Nahariya, where there are beautiful beaches.

Almost eighty years ago the Kibbutz was created amidst much uncertainty and danger. That uncertainty and danger still exists today.

Orly on the left and Sarit on the Right

But as opposed to eighty years ago, so much as been built and there is so much to be proud of. Orly Gavishi-Sotto’s confidence and spirit impressed me. I have contributed my resources to help Kibbutz Hanita.

I hope you will too.

Security Freeze Information

Recently, I signed up for Equifax’s Trusted ID Premier. Unfortunately, that alone does not do an adequate job of protecting you from the recent data breach. What it does do for only one year is:

  • 3-bureau credit report monitoring
  • Copies of your Equifax credit report
  • Ability to lock and unlock your Equifax credit file [To this day I cannot understand the difference between a freeze and a lock]
  • Social security number monitoring [This is on the dark web but is likely to be spotty at best]
  • $1 million identity theft insurance

Equifax also has announced that it will roll out a new program by January 31, 2018 that may make the freeze option permanent as well as other things.

Meanwhile, however, as pointed out by my friend Howie, you remain exposed with the other reporting agencies. Therefore, I have provided a list below of the other credit reporting agencies and their phone numbers/web sites. I just locked my credit on all of those sites (as well as my wife’s). In total, it took about ten minutes for all of them together. I advise that you do it to!

 

Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze2

Innovis 1-800-540-2505
https://www.innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze

Chexsystems   1-800.887.7652
https://www.chexsystems.com/web/chexsystems/consumerdebit/page/securityfreeze

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 http://forward.com/scribe/375527/how-should-you-teach-children-about-the-holocaust-one-story-at-a-time/?attribution=blog-article-listing-2-headline

 

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…]

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…]