Monday, October 31, 2011

Reflections



This is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in my life. 

You’ve probably noticed I’m now in New York.  

Jaron from the future will soon be announcing his next step.

But first, Jaron from the present feels the need to properly bid farewell to Jaron of the past, and to thank him for getting me to the place I’m at right now.

At the tender age of 31, I feel so fortunate to have had such an abundance of experience, and to still be alive to tell my tales.  Over the past decade, I’ve travelled to more than 60 countries and every world continent. I have witnessed four Middle East wars, one Intifadah, three revolutions, five elections, two unilateral withdrawals, countless skirmishes, protests, violent incidents, and one Arab Spring. I have snuck across two borders, been detained by secret police and regular police, survived close brushes with gun fire, Qassam rockets, Katyusha rockets, bombs, tear gas, smoke grenades, rocks, stones, bricks, and angry mobs. I survived one kidnapping attempt, a bad case of Delhi belly, and a sinking boat in Lesotho.  

I kissed the ground three times.  

First, the grimy black and white checkerboard tile in a Beijing KFC after a semi-legal reporting trip to North Korea.  
Then, a jagged asphalt road outside Kirkuk after a horrific car accident in Kurdistan. 
 Finally, I smooched the soft sands on a Jaffa beach after a close encounter with a Katyusha rocket in Northern Israel.

People often ask me why I go to such places, and I can honestly say that I don't really know. But if I had to guess, I'd say that I'm on a constant search for the standard deviation from the norm. I am inspired by people who think differently, break cycles, and act with kindness towards strange Western journalists who show up in their war zones.

I will never forget the old Kurdish man who bought me a piping hot chicken spinach stew when I was hungry, wounded and broke.  Or the young Egyptian teenager who screamed and defended me until he was hoarse when the police tried to detain me.  Or the gentle, sweet natured Nepali lady who had never seen a Westerner before,  but still let me sleep on her porch when I knocked in the middle of a starry Himalayan night.

None of these people owed me a thing, or stood to benefit, yet they extended a hand.

This happened over and over again in Israel and Palestine, which was my home for much of the past decade. The amazing thing for a nomad like me, is that it actually felt like home. It was a difficult choice to leave, but I felt that I had unturned all the stones that I needed to uncover there. The conflict continues, unfortunately, but I hope my stories there helped people see the conflict with greater depth and understanding.  

I will really miss wiping warm, freshly baked pita into a bowl of hummus, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, all sprinkled with zaatar.

I will also miss the pioneering spirit, the complete lack of social space, and the phenomenal array of colorful curse words.


But it is the wonderful people I met that I will miss the most.


Yes, there is no shortage of bigots and extremists in that tiny area of the world. But there are also some of the most amazing, intelligent, and cool people I've ever met.  I always thought to myself what a shame it was that my Israeli and Palestinian friends would probably never get a chance to meet each other.  Besides the loss of life, it is the loss of human potential for synergy that is the greatest tragedy of the conflict.  


Despite it all, I have not lost hope that one day Israelis and Palestinians will rise up and change the course of their tumultuous histories.


To my friends and loved ones in the Middle East and all over the world, I will miss you all ! 


Please give me a shout when you’re in the Big Apple !


As for my new chapter, I promise to fill you in real soon.  

What I can tell you is that I will be reconnecting to my original mission when I got into this business: 

To find and tell previously untold stories that will provoke change.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Voices from Occupy Wall Street II

Here are the next 6, and the Official Occupy Wall Street Bluegrass Band.




























Voices from Occupy Wall Street

I thought it would be interesting to hear the voices of the Occupy Wall Street Protesters, without any editorializing.  So I went to Zuccotti Park without any story in mind, and basically recorded my first 12 random interactions, interviews, and scenes.  For the most part, I left the interviews as they were, raw and unedited. Here are the first 6:


































Thursday, October 27, 2011

5 Steps to Revolution

My Aug.18th blog post seems pretty prescient in light of what's happening now. Read what I wrote one month before the Wall Street was occupied. While I'm certainly no Nostradamus, I have been wondering "where the outrage is" for a long, long time. Actually, it's been almost exactly 11 years. My political conscience woke up in the year 2000 when a presidential election was likely stolen in my hometown. The funny thing is that I actually voted for Bush that year. Now, a decade into two horrific wars, I'm glad to see people on Wall Street, and on Main Street, America, fighting to eradicate our political system of corporate cronies.

 Having witnessed a semi-successful revolution in Egypt, there are 5 things that must happen here for any real change to happen.

 1. We need to define a singular, simple, and common cause. In Egypt, it was getting rid of a corrupt Mubarak regime. What is that common cause here?

 2. We need to reach critical mass.  The message must be broad enough to appeal to a larger section of society. This can't just be a hippy thing.

 3. We need to risk life, limb, and freedom for the cause. Self explanatory. We must believe wholeheartedly in the cause. The police must eventually switch sides and join the people.

 4. We need the military to support the cause. Soldiers are simultaneously our greatest heroes and the greatest victims of the last decade's flawed policies. They need to get behind the protests.

 5. We need to figure out concrete positive steps for how to implement that change on the day after. (This was not done in Egypt, and is the final, necessary step of successful Revolution)



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