On Feb. 3, a few minutes after three Palestinians who lived in Jenin murdered a young Israeli police officer who was19-yearsold, and also seriously injured two more, the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas hosted in his office, in Ramallah, a delegation of families of those who in the last four months have killed 34 Israelis—mostly civilians—and have left hundreds of wounded people from babies to seniors, in tens of terrorist attacks.
Abbas had no shame to deliver to world media a short video showing how he hosted the families of the terrorists. Very close to Abbas it was possible to watch Jabel Mukaber, father of Baha Alyan, who murdered three Israeli civilians inside a bus in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem, four months ago.
During the meeting, Abbas underlined that the sons of those who were visiting him are “martyrs.”
Not far from there, in Gaza, Husam Badran, speaker of the terrorist organization Hamas, said publicly that the attack on Feb. 3, “Has been a blessing action in the ‘holy intifada’, and that the terrorists have had a lot of ‘courage’.” He also added that “the attack with knives and guns made by our ‘rebels’ show that our people want the intifada to move on.”
But the rest of Latin America, or runs behind the hate speech of the Venezuelan government (followed with strength by Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador) or stay in ambiguity (Caribbean) or stay “neutral” (Chile and Peru).
Brazil, the largest power in the region is confronting Israel in several fields. The controversy of the nomination of the Israeli ambassador in Brazil has frozen political relations but not the economic ones. But the political relations influence fully in Brazilian speeches, which follow the Palestinian stand and are not clear with the Quartet demand of both sides sitting at the peace table and starting a dialogue.
With Latin America divided in its opinions; with Europe close to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Abbas and Hamas feel encouraged. Terrorists are “martyrs,” their families receive money as compensation; and murderers are glorified in streets and squares.
There is no possible or viable dialogue when both sides are so far from one another. But if the Security Council would be serious with its obligations, and the Quartet would be real and executive, Abbas could not be praising terrorism.
But if a member of the Quartet believes that terrorism can be justified due to “frustrations,” the only step in the path of peace is the step backwards. Nothing on earth can justify terrorism. There is no “good” or “bad” terrorism. There is terrorism. Period. And the U.N. must be serious in this regard, because with such statements, not only are terrorists encouraged to go on, but countries, like many Latin Ameican ones, fall in deep confusion and finally endorse what they should never endorse: terror.
Is there any member of the Security Council who really believe that in a democracy like Israel, people and government can stay still forever, while terrorists kill its citizens in the streets every day? No country in the world would accept it.
Why Israel? What is the U.N. waiting for? To wake up one morning and accuse Israel of “disproportionate use of force,” as it has happened each time Israel has defended its citizens?
When the government and people of Israel will say enough of terror, Israel will pay again the price of permanent international hostility. But those who are going to suffer much more, will be the Palestinians, which are victims of their own so called leaders and of the most used exchange coin of today´s world: international indifference.
Elizabeth Swados is among the long line of Jewish writers and musicians whose innovations radically impacted the course of the American musical during the last 100 years. She emerged as a fully developed talent while still attending Bennington College, winning acclaim in the early 1970s for her collaborations with the group of eminent playwrights, directors and producers associated with the East Village’s legendary experimental theater, LaMaMa. Her creativity spawned a number of brilliantly conceived and original musical theater works, in which she drew on a wide range of literary sources ranging from the sonnets of Sylvia Plath, to the disjointed monologues of the street people with whom she connected, to passages from the bible and other sacred books, as well as her own prose and poetry.
Swados, who was 64 when she died last month, was influenced by both the world of theater and the world around her. The religious rituals she witnessed during her visits to Asia and Africa, the acrobatic dances which figured so prominently in the street theater that flourished in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as subversive art forms like graffiti painting became the basis of her own style and efforts to generate a form of theater that would be both relevant and life changing for those who were exposed to it, regardless of their background or economic condition. Education, and the interactive participation of those children and adolescent with whom she worked, was a very important aspect of her work, which changed many lives for the better.
Although she was not an observant Jew, she honored Jewish traditions through her desire to improve the condition of the poor and marginalized, and to raise the consciousness of her audience about mental illness, which had certainly affected her own life, through the suffering and ultimately, the suicides of her schizophrenic mother and brother. With a nod to the concept of tikun olam, she observed, “My version of being an observant Jew is to try to bring good to other people, and to work hard and to argue over justice.”
She treated Old Testament themes in many works, including “Jonah,” for which both actors and audience felt immersed in a space that suggested the belly of the whale. She also created a circus-like interpretation of “The Story of Job,” as well as the Passover oratorio, “Haggadah,” and the musical setting of her own poems, the song cycle “Bible Women.” Tackling race, prejudice and anti-Semitism, Swados cast the young residents of Covenant House shelter, and other teens for her Off Broadway musical, “The Hating Pot,” seen by thousands of students during its tour in the New York schools. Publishing several volumes of memoirs, Swados wrote novels including, “Walking the Dog” to be published this summer. A revival of “Runaways” will soon be produced at Manhattan’s City Center.
Today, another generation of gifted composers and lyricists has taken up Swados’ mantle, and are elevating music theater to a new level. Stacey Luftig, a lyricist and recent winner of the Kleban prize for promising music theater writers, has written “My Heart is the Drum,” focusing on a young African woman’s quest for an education, to premiere this year at New York’s Village Theatre. “Unknown Soldier,” a story about World War I, with book and lyrics by another prize recipient, Daniel Goldstein, with music by Michael Friedman, was in repertory last summer at the Williamstown Theater Festival.
B'nai B'rith International Deputy Director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Eric Fusfield discusses the 75th anniversary of the Iasi Pogrom in Romania and how his family was directly affected.
Last week the mid-Atlantic region experienced a storm so bad it qualified as a blizzard. It even got a weather service name and a twitter hashtag (#snowzilla). As with every big snow, the region’s roads were impassable and cities became paralyzed. For those in the Midwest and New England, the pre-storm shopping hysteria, the weeklong school closings, the government closings have made Washington, Baltimore and other cities an object of ridicule, and frankly we see your point. We get it. When St. Paul gets this much snow they call the storm “just another Tuesday.”
So our snow removal has been painfully slow. The blizzard conditions started late Friday, Jan. 22 and ended on Sunday, Jan. 24, but my own street didn’t see the shadow of a plow until late Monday, Jan. 25, and our street is barely passable. Friends have been posting and tweeting appalling pictures of impassable streets and sidewalks for days. Nearby, major roads are often plowed, but are down from three lanes to two. And everyone complains: why didn’t they plow ALL the lanes? And that’s where things get interesting.
Often they haven’t plowed all the lanes because if they did they would have to shove that last lane’s snow right up onto the sidewalk, making pedestrian travel difficult, dangerous or downright impossible. And who travels on the sidewalks after a snowstorm? Kids (which is why schools are closed when your street is already clear), people with disabilities and many elderly and low-income people who don’t have or use cars.
While we all seem fairly aware of the roads being critical to our everyday city and community life, it’s easy to forget the role sidewalks play until they are covered by a 6 foot snow pile left by a plow. Sidewalks are a critical part of the transportation infrastructure, especially for low-income people and people with disabilities and mobility impairments, categories that include millions of older adults.
This even helps to keep snow removal in mind in long term urban planning (like making sure there is space between the sidewalk and the road for that snow to get shoved). The issue is on the table in many communities, including mine. In Montgomery County, Maryland (where I live), the county almost got a pedestrian friendly plan that would have increased the county’s obligation to remove snow from pedestrian pathways, but it was never signed by a county executive. Montgomery County also has an advisory committee that recently did a pedestrian “walk about” tour of the area and developed more pedestrian friendly guidelines that you can read about here.
Other groups including disability groups have developed excellent resources, like Easter Seals’ Project Action, where I found a guide on pedestrian/disability friendly snow removal policies and planning.
The federal government has money (called Section 5310) allocated to efforts on disability transportation, including pedestrians. While I would like to say that includes a resource listing the right phone numbers to call for every city or county when you see an impediment to pedestrian travel or a mobility challenge, it doesn’t mean that. We do have regional contacts and state contacts listed together and the National Center for Mobility Management, and that gets you off to a good start. You can find other related resources on their main page. The Federal emphasis on transportation planning for people with mobility challenges has produced some excellent planning tools and raised awareness about best practices.
So how are we doing at actually implementing pedestrian/aging/disability friendly transportation plans? Not great. It has been clear during this week’s “snowzilla” how much tension remains between the need to plow roads and the need to maintain sidewalks. And the sidewalks often lose. We’ve seen pedestrian access to public transportation (Metro) limited because the parking lot’s snow got dumped on the sidewalks leading to the stations. In my neighborhood—already a hot spot for pedestrians being struck by cars—bus stops have been obliterated, the bus shelters are half filled with snow and often there is nowhere for riders to stand but in the slick, snow-banked roadways. So far no pedestrians have been injured in my neighborhood, but I am frankly almost as surprised as I am relieved.
But advocates know it takes more than having information about how best to do things to get them actually done. I guess we all know that.
So what do we do? Three things come to mind. First, do your part. Shovel your sidewalk as soon as you can after a storm. It’s required by law most places, and is neighborly. If you can’t shovel, ask a neighbor to help. If you can, shovel for the neighbor you know can’t. Local governments often need to do more to make sure that commercial and public areas (where no homeowner is responsible) are also plowed. In good weather, don’t block sidewalk access with a vehicle, trash can, etc., especially the curb cuts designed to let wheelchairs ease from sidewalk to street. As a driver remember that pedestrians have rights, and are easy to injure. Remember that not all pedestrians are STANDING, and some may be seated and harder to see. Be aware.
Second, if you see something wrong, tell someone. If the sidewalk is blocked, report it. If stores plowed snow into the handicapped spots, tweet about it. If you see people walking on a snowy roadway because there is no sidewalk to be found, call your city or county.
And third, after you figure out how to report these problems, think about getting more involved. Ask how you can become part of an advisory committee on transportation issues. Transportation planning is a big deal for most states and municipalities, and advocates for the elderly and disabled have made it a particular point to make sure those concerns are part of all planning, whether it’s public transportation, new road designs or services especially for the disabled. And there is plenty of information available about how planning can be done to accommodate the needs of people with mobility challenges—and how to keep the snow from trapping them at home or making them unsafe when they are out.
Last year we participated in the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, and the final report calls for more planning and coordination on transportation issues. Cities, states and the federal government are always planning transportation initiatives, from maintaining what exists to expanding mass transit and building new highways. All that planning needs to take into account the needs of people with mobility challenges. It was great to hear last year about the $2.5 million allocated for a plan to launch the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center at the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will “provide technical assistance to improve the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve the needs of people with disabilities, seniors, and caregivers.”
But the kind of planning—and frankly pressure—required to make sure seniors, the disabled and pedestrians are not left out of the future of our roads and bridges requires us to get involved. There are so many issues at play, and so many future consequences of today’s decisions, that we have to make sure we represent these issues at the table. If you want to learn more about volunteering your insights, start at the National Center for Disability Management. Or call a disability rights group. Or call us—we’ll help you find the right access point for wherever you live.
Even those of us who don’t have any mobility challenges (yet) are sometimes pedestrians. It can be complicated to sort out how to support growth and safety, roads and sidewalks.
And, if you see a sidewalk covered in a snow mountain made by a snow plow, take a picture and send it to us.
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