Ani Ma’Amin: This is what I believe


Rabbi Horowitz

אני מאמין


Let’s start with first principles.

I believe in God. Specifically, I believe in the God who appeared to Moses in the form of the burning bush. Moses asks: “Who are you?” God says: “I am who I am.”

As a mystic, not much more can be said about God with this exception. God is not a He nor a She. God is genderless. Given my contrarian nature, I have taken to refer to God as She in no small part because doing so upsets some people. E.g.:

Kaddish: Prayer for the Dead


Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which She has created according to Her will.


One of my heroes is Edward R. Murrow. The great North-Carolina-born journalist instituted a series of radio programs ( which on NPR continue to this day) on what prominent people believe.



I am not prominent, but I am old (71j and am so dyed-in-the-wool Jewish that what I believe is equivalent at least in my own mind to what Judaism is or ought to be.

I can readily trace the conceit of my own rectitude to my mother who was an impressive woman and educator. Despite a lifetime of self-doubt, Mother never doubted that to be a proper Jew one must do what she insisted upon.

Here is my mom.


For me,  my belief in God is the least import aspect of being Jewish. I would argue it is irrelevant to what truly matters; namely, “If I am for myself alone, what good am I.”

One consequence of my going to Israel to fight in the Six Day War ( where I arrived at Lodd Airport on Day Four) was that despite the Israeli government’s understandable 1967 assertion (that the impending War was the 1948 War of Independence all over again) was my surprise upon being asked by the military official in charge of the airport,” Why are you here? “ My response (after kissing the tarmac and saying the requisite bracha):
“Whatever you want.”

Had it been 1948, I would have been handed a Stenn gun and sent to the Syrian front where the IDF troops scaling the Golan Heights suffered the worst deaths of the War.
Instead, being untrained naive and young, I was sent to a dairy farm in the South where I was badly needed to shovel the manure that had been built up while the farmer I had partially replaced was off in the Sinai reinventing tank warfare.
My Israeli experience as a migrant agricultural worker resulted in my becoming an agricultural policy expert ( of sorts):


Most recently, my “expertise” has resulted in my efforts to affirm Eli Weisel’s insistance that being a Jew ( surrounded as I had been  in the 1950s by tattooed survivors of the Holocaust) requires us as Jews to end genocide of whatever form; specifically in Yemen, the Mayanmar region of what used to be Burma, Venezuela ( most especially on the Western border in Colombia) the Sudan, and ….
Here is the book I am most eager to complete and publish:


Here is a relatively recent expression of what I regard as my primary life’s work:
Fortunately or unfortunately my rotten health ( which is to blame for my not being in shul yesterday) has required me to pay attention to a pressing reality(intervening in what I regard as my primary work).
For the past two  years, I have been suffering from one of the many consequences of radiation treatment that cured me of two of the three cancers I have survived and which resulted in my losing the ability to walk and stand 25 years ago.
The radiation has badly damaged my GI tract which has resulted in an inability to swallow, required that I relearn how to eat, and which most recently is manifesting itself in a severe cough. Last week, I was seen by the Digestive Diseases clinic at UPMC and with any luck I will receive surgery in June to put me on the road to recovery.
In February, by impulse or necessity, I moved to Williamsport after over 15 years in State College. Here I am receiving medical treatment unavailable in State College. And here, as a result of Larissa Simon’s efforts, that of Ohev Shalom and you, I have been rescued. Details available.
How I am able to write and write and write despite the failures of my body surprise me. The image that comes to mind is that my mind is in fifth gear; my body in second.
Clearly, it is time to stop this seemingly endless e-mail but I must first mention the following Yiddishkite issues of importance to me:
1. The revival of the Hebrew language. Eliezer ben Yehuda and Bialik,  Bialik, Bialik.
2. The understanding that the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh and Southern California makes clear that, as Jabotinsky expressed it,  in the Diaspora even the rocks are anti-Semitic.
3. The shameful way in which the elderly and disabled are treated in our society.
4. My reverence for the late Rabbi Heschel, Professor of Mysticism and Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary who marched with Dr. King as did I.
“Leaders of the protest, holding flags, from left Bishop James Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath.” Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, February 6, 1968. Published February 7, 1968. (Photo by Charles Del Vecchio/Washington Post/Getty Images)



Copyright  2019 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.


Channeling Jabotinsky [who died in 1940]: Covering the aftermath of Israel’s March 17th [2015] election

Coalition Updates posted religiously (always check the source for reliability):

Netanyahu endorsed by 61 MKs, set to assemble coalition

As President Reuven Rivlin enters second day of consultations with party representatives, Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon recommends Netanyahu as PM • “We accept the people’s decision. The people want Netanyahu to assemble the government,” Kahlon says. Posted March 23, 2015.

N.B. Israel Hayom is published by Sheldon Adelson.  “As of July 2014, Adelson was listed by Forbes as having a fortune of $36.4 billion, and as the 8th richest person in the world. Adelson is also a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, which has resulted in his gaining significant influence within the party.”


President Obama’s post-Israeli elections game-changing interview (1)

“Obama Details His Disappointment With Netanyahu,” the Huffington Post wrote in describing  Obama’s  first interview after the Israeli elections.

This link takes you directly to President Obama’s video interview.

330px-Arianna_Huffington_2012_ShankboneForbes Magazine listed Arianna Huffington as the 52nd most powerful woman in the worldAOL acquired The Huffington Post for$315 million and  appointed Huffington President and Editor-in-Chief.

Huffington reported:

“President Barack Obama is operating under the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the creation of a Palestinian state, despite the Israeli leader’s post-election efforts to recast himself as amenable to a two-state solution.

“‘We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” the president said in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday [March 20th].” (2)


How does the phrase “game changing” apply to this situation?

Macmillan Dictionary defines “game changing” as “completely changing the way that something is done, thought about, or made.” President Obama’s Friday interview made public his determination to completely change the nature of U.S. -Israeli-relations.

Doing so will have widespread implications. It is no exageration to say that what is at stake is whether Israel will be able to survive as an independent Jewish-controlled country. Period.

Given the nature of the Israeli parliamentary system it is unclear whether the March 2015 election will be significant. The purpose of this posting is to provide a comprehensive understanding not simply of one election and its results. ed himself into the Israeli election deliberatively trying to prevent  Benjamin Netanyahu from receiving the minimum of 61 votes in the Knesset required if Netanyahu continues to govern.

The U.S. provides Israel with three billion dollars annually for military and economic assistance.


1948 Behind the scenes friction within the Truman Administration regarding recognizing Israel

You can go directly to You Tube to view this rare footage of the Secretary of State George Marshall conferring with President Truman in 1948 regarding recognizing the State of Israel. Truman was eager to recognize, which he did. Marshall told Truman that if he recognized Israel, Marshall would not vote for Truman in the 1948 Presidential election. 

Zionist time line critical for obtaining a bird’s eye perspective to current events

  1. The Balfour declaration {2 November 1917}. / From the time I was eight, my father read out loud to me the Balfour Declaration (which was a letter). My friends’ fathers played catch—tossing the regulation softball back and forth. I read the Balfour Declaration aloud with my father. Reading the Balfour Declaration was a joyous experience because my father cared deeply about it and I loved my father.
  2. Significance of the Zion Mule Corps
  3. Profile of Ben Gurion
  4. Profile of Jabotinsky
  5. Arab riots in the 1920s
  6. Ben Gurion’s cooperation with the British to arrest or shoot to kill Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister of Israel
  7. 1948 War of Independence
  8. Altalena Incident
  9. 1967 Six Day War

Camp David accords

  1. Begin forcibly removes Jewish settlers in accordance with Israeli-Egyptian negotiation terms
  2. Assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin
  3. Netanyahu hosting a televised explicit video showing him committing adultery
  4. Demographic breakdown of Israeli citizens
  5. Maps of Israel including King David’s borders, Jabotinsky’s


,רק כּח

1948-1967, and 1967 to present


 Imagine my coming across a  letter in my late father’s files from Thomas Jefferson expressing gratitude for assistance in the American Revolution. This 1935 letter is the moral equivalent



Consider the obituary I wrote when my father Isadore Solkoff died

Obituary notice

ISADORE SOLKOFF, 1902-1989, Friend of Jabotinsky, Briscoe, and other early Zionist leaders




My father's obituary continues:

UNION, NEW JERSEY, January 15, 1989: Isadore Solkoff was buried at the Temple B’nai Abraham Cemetery.

In an Orthodox Jewish service officiated by Rabbi Phillip Goldberg of the United Hebrew Community of New York, the mourners were reminded of Solkoff ‘s work in introducing Vladimir Jabotinsky and Robert Briscoe to the Jewish Community of New York City.

Theodore Hertzl founder of The Zionist Movement

Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement which created Israel ://
My father's obituary continues:

“Vladimir Jabotinksy (1880-1940)   was an early Zionist leader who is buried in Jerusalem next to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.

“Jabotinsky was an extremely controversial figure. He was also a brilliant orator, capable of delivering his speeches in several languages, including English and Hebrew, which as an adult he learned to speak fluently because he believed that every Zionist should speak Hebrew.

“Although he died  in 1940, he predicted the Holocaust, advocating relief measures so Jews could be sent to Palestine . He also advocated strict military training for Jews and a series of summer camps for youth around the world were opened for that purpose. One of those camps was located in suburban New York.”

At the cemetery , in keeping with Jewish custom, I picked up a handful of dirt and threw it on my father’s casket. My elder daughter Joanna, who was five years old asked whether she could follow my example. I held her while she grabbed a handful from a pile nearby and threw it on the casket.

We returned from the cemetery to the home of my Uncle Lou, who had died eight years earlier. Uncle Lou , while the youngest of the siblings, had held the family together with the help of his wife Aunt Ida.

By the time I was born, my father was in a state of grief. For decades he had followed his beloved leader Jabotinsky in their attempts to warn of the coming Holocaust. Others did not believe the Holocaust was coming. My father believed. He spent much of his adult life working to avert the disaster he could not stop.

When I was born, he included me in the mourning. When Isadore died, I was 37 years old and had become a follower of Jabotinsky in the tradition my father taught me. I had found among his papers which were my papers an advertisement Ben Hecht published on February 16, 1943.  The ad, which appeared on the back cover of first section of The New York Times, read:

70,000 JEWS

Aunt Ida gave me a shot glass with schnapps. I said the appropriate blessing. Family and friends filled up their glasses, raised them high and said the blessing.

Then, I delivered a eulogy to my father. My eulogy consisted of my reading:

““Roumania is tired of killing Jews. It has killed one hundred thousand of them in two years. Roumania will now give Jews away practically for nothing.”

[See: See:}



J’accuse, Netanyahu. J’accuse

Boiled down to basics, Netanyahu is the leader of the political party Jabotinsky founded. When Jabotinsky died in 1940, Menachem Begin took over the leadership. A political gemological chart will chart the leadership to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has failed to keep to the true Zionist path Jabotinsky founded. The party Netanyahu now leads should expel him from its midst. This posting is written from the perspective of a 67 year old man whose father taught him Jabotinsky from childhood.

Israel has reached the proverbial crossroads. Sometime soon, the future of Israel is arriving  at the point where either Israel will survive or it will be too late. Elections come and go. It is difficult to predict precisely when the point of no return arrives.

This posting, clearly a work in progress, provides details on the issues. Perhaps, Tzipi Livni (see below), whose ties to the movement Jabotinsky followed, could form a government this time around. Livni has the potential to be a great prime minister.

Whatever Israel’s future brings, Netanyahu should be ousted from public service. It should not be Obama who throws him out. It should be Netanyahu’s own party. Fortune smiled on the Zionist Movement when Jabotinsky was a Zionist leader in truly troubled times. Now the inspiration Jabotinsky still provides should be incorporated in new leadership.

So long, Bibi. Coming soon after I get some sleep,  reports on the status of the coalition building process. Clearly, I could produce a lot of words on the subject, but nothing much is actually happening.


The Altalena Affair


The Altalena Affair was a violent confrontation that took place in June 1948 between the newly created Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun (also known as IZL), one of the Jewish paramilitary groups that were in the process of merging to form the IDF. The confrontation involved a cargo ship, Altalena, captained by Monroe Fein and led by senior IZL commander Eliyahu Lankin, which had been loaded with weapons and fighters by the independent Irgun but arrived during the murky period of the Irgun’s absorption into the IDF.

This silent video tells the story of the “Altalena Incident”–the classification term for the event


Solkoff arranged for Jabotinsky to speak to a packed crowd at Town Hall in New York City and Solkoff produced a film of Jabotinsky observing military exercises of Jewish youth, later shown at Jewish synagogues in the New York City area.

Solkoff arranged a secret, private meeting between Jabotinsky and Lou is Brandeis (1856-1941) then a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Brandeis took pride in his influential role in the American Jewish community. The meeting did not go well. It took place at Brandeis’ Washington home. Jabotinsky gave Brandeis a warning about the American Jewish community’s ind ifference to the plight of Jewish European refugees. Later Jabotinsky reported to Solkoff the warning he gave Brandeis . “Your accomodationist stance with the British will result in millions of unnecessary Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazis. ” Jabotinsky continued, “The blood of those Jews will be on your hands too and that of the rest of the American Jewish community. It will be on your hands even though you do not directly commit the murders .”

Jabotinsky was the founder of the Zionist political party now running the state of Israel. Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister of Israel, was a follower of Jabotinsky. Former Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin had been an aide to Jabot insky. When Jabotinsky d ied in 1940, Begin inherited Jabotinsky’s movement. Solkoff supported Begin in his efforts to obtain arms into Palestine . Then in 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the War of Independence took place,

Who won the Israeli election?

No one won.

Isaac_Herzog_(12675983573) (2)

Did Isaac Herzog Leader,  Zionist Union Party really lose when he received 24 votes?


Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Leader of the LIKUD party really win when he received 30 votes?


The complexities of coalition building where a majority of 61 votes in the 120 vote Kennest is required to govern.

However, if the next candidate (the current presumed winner is Netanyahu) becomes prime minister with only 61 votes, the government will be a weak one.

All that would be required to pass a resolution expressing no confidence in the next prime minister then Israel would be back in the position it is today.

There would be another election with election results reported again just as they were  two days ago. Again there would be a frantic rush to find parties winning to be in coalition. At some point, one hopes because Israel requires stability as critical decisions are made which will determine ultimately whether can survive as an independent Jewish country,

Whatever happens in Israel’s Balkan-style politics, the real issue on the table is whether the country of Israel will continue to exist.

This posting is now evolving and will contain the following information:

  • Details about the process of securing a coalition
  • Description of each of the minor parties that are being wooed right now as I keyboard today’s post
  • Relevant history helpful in analyzing Israel’s political direction from the philosopher George Santayana’s perspective: One who neglects to learn the lessons of  history will be forced to repeat them. 
  • Relevant history will begin with the Dreyfus trial when anti-Semitism had taken over the government of France, Theodore Herzel’s formation of the Zionist, Movement, revival of the Hebrew language, the outcome of World War I where British victory meant the Britain would replace Turkey and turn Israel (at the time Palestine and not Israel was the name used for the land the British controlled), plus detailed descriptions of the many different maps of Israel from the Biblical Israel under King David when its territory was the largest ever including Jordan and Syria. Included would be the  map of a significantly smaller Israel in 1948 when the country became independent.
  • I will be comparing the 1948 Independence Day map with today’s map which includes land occupied as a result of the Six Day War of 1967.
  • In depth analysis of the relevance of the two fathers of modern Israel, David Ben Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky. The two men  served jointly as co-captains of the Zionist Mule Corps. Creation of the Corps was a significant event by itself. The distinct differences between the politics of each  founding father also brought decades of animosity between the two men.  Ben Gurion helped the British  in its efforts to arrest or shoot to kill on sight the leader of Jabotinsky’s party.


Meawhile, I will speculate on the chances of a “dark horse” female party leader emerging as the next prime minister.

A narrow 61 votes majority means any two members of the Knesset could become emotional about controversial policy. Israeli politics are my favorite brand of politics, far more intricate with cliff hangers appearing regularly and lasting indefinitely or just long enough to form another cliff hanger.

Could Tzipi Livni emerge (from weeks of coalition building failure) as Israel’s next Prime Minister or as prime minister in a government which follows the next vote of No Confidence?]

Tzipi Livni is the Previous Leader,  Zionist Union Party. From March 2013 to December 2014, Livni served as Israel’s Justice Minister.


Meanwhile, bitter fighting in Washington D.C. over whether Republicans or Israel loving  Democrats becomes more bizarre each passing day.

Plus, fighting among President Obama, Republican Congressional leaders, and Israel-loving Democrats are distracting. There are serious issues raised by this critical junction in Israel’s political crisis–critical issues such as whether can preserve its future as an independent self-governing country as the homeland of the Jewish people.

What is at stake here is whether Israel can continue to survive as an independent Jewish state.

If this election process goes south or if the coalition is so shaky it receives an early no confidence vote clarity…

What is taking place is a clear power struggle. .I find it unsettling Netanyahu may continue to rule.

I condemn Netanyahu’s passionate insistence the U.S. should not negotiate with Iran to find a solution to the nuclear missile crisis. Going from the specific to the general, I believe Bibi is a war monger.

 What is required to WIN?

Definition of win: Win means the candidate becomes Prime Minister. To become prime minister one must have at least a 61 vote majority in the 120 member Knesset.

Netanyahu has 30 votes.

To obtain the additional 31 votes candidates must ask leaders of Israeli’s insanely high number of political parties.

Leaders of some of the parties Netanyahu needed to govern are real slime bags.

Netanyahu has a history of tolerating virtually anything to win including having to work with slime bags on a regular basis. Speculation is that Netanyahu may take “the high road” and ask his opponent Herzog to become a member of his government.

Short term: There is currently and urgently taking place a hunt for Israeli’s minority parties to form a coalition government. These parties are referred to as “king makers.” Courting these parties is not an easy task. “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

Long term: Beyond the vote counting and the news reports on just how complex Israel’s democratic government really is, there is a critical issue regarding Israel’s future.

Theodor Herzl founder of The Zionist Movement

Will Israel as a Jewish state continue to survive?

Netanyahu’s answer is hard-line especially regarding territory. Netanyahu has successfully fought efforts to return land won during the 1967 Six Day War.

A large group in the significant but  becoming less powerful sector of the electorate is secular Jews.


Israel was created despite opposition from the Orthodox community.

Until 1948 creation of Israel, a large percentage of the orthodox community did not believe in Theodor Hertzel’s Zionist Movement to create a secular Jewish State under British-controlled until 1948.

Orthodox rabbis said Zionism was blasphemy and creation of a Jewish State should await return of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Especially since the 1973 War, the U.S.Orthodox community has become strong supporters of Israel. The are sending themselves, their children, and their grandchildren to defend Israeli territory with machine guns carried on a daily basis.

Given the large birthrate among the religious, the demographic makeup of Israel is changing.

Simply put: There are three equally large blocks of voters who determine Israel’s future:

  • One third Israeli citizens are Arab.
  • One third of Israeli citizens are militantly religious.
  • One third of Israeli citizens are secular and laid back about religious practice and who created and built the State of Israel. They have already lost the power to govern Israel.

The future of Israel as an independent state requires a peaceful solution to the terror, bus bombs, hard-line Palestinians who pose a serious threat.

Last night, Netanyahu announced he opposed a two state solution, namely creation of a Palestinian State on some of the land Israel currently occupies.

I support a two state solution. It is not simply Israel’s fault the Palestinian crisis exists. Arab states such as Saudia Arabia, where Palestinian workers are poorly treated, have used the Palestinian problem to obtain global sympathy for the Palestinian Cause.

Whoever is to blame, if Israel does not fix the problem, it will not exist. Peace is the only way Israel can survive. Talking about peace in the context of the violence currently taking place, including building of nuclear facilities in Iran, seems naive.

Nevertheless, there are a substantial number of Israeli citizens who are working intensely to give peace a chance. I believe peace is the only option available to secure Israel’s future. This blog is written with my  distinct bias. Bias of mine.


From Israeli’s oldest and highly respected newspaper Haeretz, which means “the land,” comes this ebulient prediction:

LIVE BLOG: Herzog congratulates Netanyahu, refuses to say whether he’ll join coalition

Final results: Netanyahu’s Likud scores decisive victory in Israeli election, set to win 30 Knesset seats, Zionist Union gets 24 • Netanyahu calls for ‘strong’ government to safeguard security, welfare • Meretz leader Zehava Galon resigns in wake of election results.

By | Mar. 18, 2015 | 11:15 AM |


From this morning’s White House briefing on President Barack Obama’s reaction to the Israeli elections,  the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route to Cleveland, OH, 3/18/15 aboard Air Force One  answered the following:

Did the President speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu after the election?


“The President at this point has not telephoned Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I can tell you that earlier today that Secretary of State John Kerry did telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu to congratulate him on the Israeli elections.  The President, in the days ahead, in the coming days, I anticipate will also call Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the same thing.

“Just as a relevant piece of recent historical context is that there have been two Israeli elections during the Obama administration.  In both situations, in the aftermath of both elections, the President did not telephone Prime Minister Netanyahu until he’d already been directed by the Israeli President to begin the process of forming a coalition government.

“So I’m not suggesting that the President will wait until that direction has been handed down this time.  I’m merely pointing out that in previous situations the President has not telephoned the Israeli Prime Minister on the day after the elections.  But I do anticipate that the President will call Prime Minister Netanyahu in the coming days.”


Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senators are criticizing President Obama for not calling Nitanyahu for winning the election.  Powerful Republican senators, such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for winning the Republican nominationin2016, told Roll Call, a publication read by Washington insiders,

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is joining a slew of Republican lawmakers who criticized President Obama for not congratulating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his party’s victory in this week’s parliamentary elections.

“He’s showing more respect for Iran than he is for the prime minister of Israel, and that’s a terrible precedent that he’s set,” Rubio said late Wednesday on Fox News’s “Hannity,” while also slamming the White House’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.



Isaac Herzog, who received a few votes less than Netanyahu) is defiant.

Each candidate is now actively scrambling to assemble a collation from Israel’s many fractious and influential minor parties.

English: The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel, on Independence Day. Taken from the south, from The Israel Museum. עברית: הכנסת Date24 April 2007

The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel, on Independence Day. Taken from the south, from The Israel Museum.
עברית: הכנסת
Date 24 April 2007


Isaac Herzog Leader of the newly formed Zionist Union Party

Wikipedia on Issac Herzog:

Isaac Herzog (Hebrew: יצחק “בוז׳י” הרצוג‎).

Yitzhak Herzog; born 22 September 1960, nicknamed “Bougie”, is an Israeli politician and lawyer.

Since 2003, Herzog has been a member of the Knesset and has held various ministerial posts, including Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2007–11).

He is chairman of the Labor Party and has been the opposition leader in the outgoing 19th Knesset. He contested the 2015 legislative election as head of the Zionist Union joint electoral list of Labour and Hatnuah.


My conclusion:

Neither of the two leaders has the 61 votes required to form a government.

One tally showed  28 seats for Netanyahu, over 27 seats for Isaac Herzog.

To be Prime Minister you have to have a secure 61 vote majority in the 120 seat parliament known by its Hebrew word The Knesset.

28 votes is not 61 votes.

Right now, the choice over whether Netanyahu or Herzog will be Prime Minister depends on the ability of either man to form a coalition.


About Me

I shoveled manure during the Six Day War

It was 1967.

I was 19.

I had just arrived in Paris en route to Israel early on a Tuesday morning  Day 2 Six Day War.

My step father had connected me with the Paris Jewish Agency,  mobbed with volunteers.

My father, an ardent Zionist especially during the 1930s and 40s, hated the Jewish Agency because it had collaborated with the British to keep Jews out of Palestine.

At the Agency, I was told it would be a long war. I should be patient and wait in Paris. I booked a cheap hotel. Bought every English language newspaper I could find.

My experience with British-based newspapers was limited. An item said someone was forming a Lincoln brigade, similar to the Spanish Civil War, in Cyprus. I booked a ticket to Cyprus for the following day Wednesday.

Unable to sleep, I walked through the city of Paris from 10 PM until after dawn. I said Bon Jour to everyone I passed and everyone replied friendly happy at what they were doing.

By morning, well-breakfasted, I had the feeling I had seen everything. I boarded the plane Wednesday morning flying down the coast of Italy and over to Athens.

The plane circled the Parthenon several times. So clear was the water I could see fishing lines down to the bottom of the Mediterranean.

The plane landed in Athens where I awaited a connection to Cyprus.

It was Wednesday evening.

At the airline desk, I learned there was a flight scheduled to Lodde airport later that evening.

By then, I had made friends with a graduate student and his wife who told me in detail about the Greek coup.

When I left the Paris-Athens plane, I was holding a notebook with the word Columbia on the cover. The graduate student, hoping to meet someone else, instantly identified my college with his and he and his wife helped me with arrangements.

The airline clerk cashed in the Cyprus ticket. As it would turn out, there was no Lincoln Brigade in Cyprus.

For a few dollars more I was waitlisted on a plane to Israel. I had $20 left in my pocket.

My new friends took me to their apartment where I slept until the phone rang informing that I had a seat on the plane.

Saul Bellow, covering the War for Newsday, stood next to me and we talked. A glamorous Life photographer also boarded the plane. He was replacing a colleague killed in the Sinai when his half track hit a land mine.

The windows on the plane were sealed shut just before daylight. My fellow passengers and I heard the sound of aircraft, but did not know whether they were friendly or not.

Ours was the first commercial plane to land at the airport. The runway was full of army tents and mounted guns.

We were greeted like heroes. It was day four of the Six Day War.



 Kfar Warburg

Wikipedia on Kfar Warburg:

Kfar Warburg (Hebrew: כְּפַר וַרְבּוּרְג, lit. Warburg Village) is a large moshav in central Israel. Located near Kiryat Malakhi with 98 farms covering an area of 6,000 dunams, it falls under the jurisdiction of Be’er Tuvia Regional Council. In 2006 it had a population of 873.

The moshav was founded on 31 October 1939 by members of the “Menachem” organisation. It was named after Felix M. Warburg, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in the United States and a founder of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.[1]

Notable residents include Yigal Hurvitz, a former Minister of Finance who is buried in the moshav.

During Netanyahu’s lengthy time in office, Netanyahu maintained power with a coalition of small political parties . Some of these parties, especially their leaders, are slimy. Netanyahu has been able to stay so long in office because of his willingness to make allegiances with very unsavory characters.


Prime Minister Netanyahu


Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu ( בנימין “ביבי” נתניהו ); born 21 October 1949) is the current Prime Minister of Israel.

He also currently serves as a member of the Knesset, Chairman of the Likud party and Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs.

Born in Tel Aviv to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the establishment of the state.

Netanyahu joined the Israel Defense Forces during the Six-Day War in 1967 and became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. He took part in many missions, including Operation Inferno (1968), Operation Gift (1968) and Operation Isotope (1972), during which he was shot in the shoulder.

He fought on the front lines in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal, and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory.

He was wounded in combat twice. He achieved the rank of captain before being discharged. Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, as a member of the Likud party, and was Prime Minister from June 1996 to July 1999. He moved from the political arena to the private sector after being defeated in the 1999 election for Prime Minister by Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu returned to politics in 2002 as Foreign Affairs Minister (2002–2003) and Finance Minister (2003–2005) in Ariel Sharon’s governments, but he departed the government over disagreements regarding the Gaza disengagement plan. He retook the Likud leadership in December 2005, after Sharon left to form a new party, Kadima.

In the 2006 election, Likud did poorly, winning 12 seats. In December 2006, Netanyahu became the official Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset and Chairman of Likud. In 2007, he retained the Likud leadership by beating Moshe Feiglin in party elections.

Following the 2009 parliamentary election, in which Likud placed second and right-wing parties won a majority, Netanyahu formed a coalition government. After the victory in the 2013 elections, he became the second person to be elected to the position of Prime Minister for a third term, after Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion.

In 2012, Netanyahu was listed 23rd on the Forbes magazine’s list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.” In 2014, he was ranked third on the list of the “Most Influential Jews in the World” by The Jerusalem Post. He had been ranked first on the list in 2012 and 2010.


 More of my election results analysis

Right now, Netanyahu is thinking of a High Road coalition which would include his opponent Herzog in Netanyahu’s Government. This would bring such a coalition would come close to obtaining the remaining Knesset votes.

My current thinking about Netanyahu’s likelihood to survive as prime  minister is that he won’t. He has always been the kind of wily guy who would do anything to stay in power. During one particularly ugly leadership fight, Netanyahu’s opponent blackmailed Netanyahu.

The opponent had an explicit video of Netanyahu having sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife.

“Adultery” became a trendy word during that period.

Netanyahu reacted by appearing on television and displaying the video of his adultery while Netanyahu’s wife was photographed watching .

Netanyahu said he cared too much about Israel’s future to be blackmailed.

Netanyahu won the leadership fight. He will do anything to win.

“Fifteen years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in a dramatic television appearance to an extramarital affair. It was at the height of elections for the Likud leadership, and Netanyahu accused his opponents (alluding to David Levy) of intent to blackmail him by releasing footage of him and his lover. This strange spectacle became a fiasco that haunts the Likud leader to this day.”


Media Coverage

From Tuesday’s New York Times at 11:04 PM in State College PA–the same time as New York City: 

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger, Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union, appeared to win about the same number of seats in Parliament on Tuesday, according to Israeli news media and exit polls.”

In Jerusalem  It was 6 hours ahead of New York, it was already tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 5:10 AM .


(CNN)Preliminary exit poll estimates released by Israel’s three major broadcasters late Tuesday show an election too close to call.

Millions of Israelis cast their votes to determine their country’s next Prime Minister and the makeup of its parliament.

Channel 2 Israel reports the Likud party, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has a slight lead over the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog — 28 seats, over 27 seats. Channels 10 and 1 show the two tied with 27 seats each.

The incumbent claimed victory ahead of a final count.

“Against all odds, we achieved this huge victory,” Netanyahu told his cheering supporters. “Now we should form a strong and stable government that will be able to take care of the security, safety and welfare of each and every citizen of Israel.”

The Zionist Union responded by saying in a statement that the Likud party “keeps misleading.”

“The rightist bloc has shrunk. Everything is possible until the real results are in, when we can know which parties passed the electoral threshold and which government we can form. All the spins and statements are premature,” it read.

Official results are not expected to be published until next week, and the process of building coalitions could take much longer.

++++litical parties of the 120 remembers of The Knesset

Due to the low election threshold (currently 3.25%, but historically only 1%), a typical Knesset has a large number of factions represented;

  • five parties have at least 10 seats in the current Knesset.
  • Combined with the nationwide party-list system, it is all but impossible for one party to win a majority government.
  • No party has ever won a majority of seats in an election, the most being 56 won by the Alignment in the 1969 elections.
  • The Alignment had briefly held a majority of seats before the election after being formed by an alliance of two other parties.
  • As a result, all Israeli governments have been coalitions between two or more parties, though only three parties (or their antecedents) have ever led governments.

Parties with Knesset seats

The following parties are represented following the 2013 elections:

Party      Leader   Seats     Ideology

Likud      Binyamin Netanyahu       20           right-wing, nationalist

Yesh Atid             Yair Lapid            19           centrist, secular

Labor Party         Isaac Herzog       15           social democratic, Zionist

The Jewish Home             Naftali Bennett  12           right-wing, Orthodox, settler rights

Shas       Aryeh Deri           11           Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox

Yisrael Beiteinu  Avigdor Lieberman           11           right-wing, Zionist,[1] nationalist[2]

United Torah Judaism      Yaakov Litzman  7             Ashkenazi[2] ultra-Orthodox[1]

Hatnuah               Tzipi Livni             6             centrist[1]

Meretz  Zahava Gal-On   6             secular, left-wing,[1][2] environmentalist,[1]

advocates withdrawal from the West Bank[1]

United Arab List-Ta’al      Ibrahim Sarsur    4             Arab interests[1]

Hadash  Mohammad Barakeh       4             socialist, minority interests[1]

Balad     Jamal Zahalka     3             left-wing, Arab nationalist[1]

Kadima  Shaul Mofaz        2             centrist, Zionist[1]


Netanyahu’s party set to win 29 votes, Zionist Union gets 24; Netanyahu calls for ‘strong’ government to safeguard security, welfare • ‘Kingmaker’ Kahlon says doesn’t rule anyone out.Add Media

TO Uunderstand Israeli politics, you must know about the TWO Founding fathers of Israel David Ben Gurion and Vlademir Jabotinsky who served together in the Zion Mule Corps during World War I. They hated each other. My father’s single most important achievement in my father’s life was his relationship with Jabotinsky. My younger daughter is named after Jabotinsky in memory of my father.

David Ben Gurion the most famous of Israel’s two political fathers.


Edward R. Murrow interviewee Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on Feb 3, 1956 at Sde Boker kibbutz as part of Murrow’s ‘I Can Hear It Now’ series.

All audio was taken from the Columbia Masterworks Label ML 5109, that featured the complete unabridged interview on the release. An edited version of the interview with Ben-Gurion appeared on CBS TV’s ‘See It Now’ on March 6, 1956.

This interview clearly had audio issues, and wind interference is noticeable. All attempts to remove vinyl crackles, and audio enhancement have been made to the recording.




  1. 1  The Huffington Post [“Posted: Updated: before lengthy background necessary for understating the issues involved:

President Harry S Truman’s 1947 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

President Harry S Truman and the ever-present Bess. Photograph courtesy Harry S Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
President Harry S Truman and the ever-present Bess.
Photograph courtesy Harry S Truman Library, Independence, Missouri

Yes, it would be helpful to know why I am forever celebrating Thanksgiving.  Don't you think?

When I was born Harry Truman was President of the United States. Here is President Truman’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation for 1947  [official proclamation number 2756.] 

President Harry S Truman‘s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation when I was less than two months old

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
Older than our nation itself is the hallowed custom of resting from our labors for one day at harvest time and of dedicating that day to expressions of gratitude to Almighty God for the many blessings which He has heaped upon us. Now, as the cycle of the year nears completion, it is fitting that we should lift up our hearts again in special prayers.



Controversies over the issuance of President Proclamations and indeed over the celebration of Thanksgiving itself are not unusual. Wikipedia has a lengthy section where Native American groups and historians criticize Thanksgiving as a mythological Massachusetts celebration of harmony between Native Americans and European settlers. The celebrations were then followed by the genocide of Native Americans.

[5. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was criticized for proclaiming Thanksgiving so late in the month of November of 1933. The Depression was at its worst and he was trying to stimulate Christmas shopping. In 2013, President Obama was criticized for not mentioning God in his Thanksgiving proclamation. In 2014, he was criticized for only  mentioning God once. Other presidents have been criticized by atheist groups for mentioning God at all.

[6. For me, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It has always meant for me criticism of the killing of Native Americans and concern for the poor and hungry who have not had the opportunity to enjoy our country’s abundance. I was raised by a single mother who was raised by a single mother. For my mother Miriam, who adored President Franklin Roosevelt, Thanksgiving meant the president’s effort to use the holiday to integrate immigrant groups into our country’s social fabric. For me it represents an understanding that on this special day regardless of our personal, political, and social views, the United States is one country under God committed to a concept of government best summed up by the late Governor of New York Alfred Smith who said, “The only cure for the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.” This year I read the Bill of Rights in celebration of Thanksgiving.

[7. Yes, I do plan to publish at least one more presidential proclamation, the one issued in November 1960 by President Dwight David Eisenhower shortly after President John Kennedy was elected president. My mother, for whom saving money was not easy, flew up that year from Florida to Brooklyn, New York to celebrate with my grandmother Celia Schneider who lived in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. After the meal, we turned on the television (for my generation a new medium) and watched the Edward R. Murrow broadcast Harvest of Shame.

[8. “This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame. It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth.

“These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed.

“We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials.

“We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth.”

[9 Watching the Morrow “Harvest of Shame” broadcast from my grandmother’s Brooklyn piano bench marked one of the most influential events of my life. In the 1970s, when I was in my 20s, I worked on a newsletter in Washington D.C. on the problems of migrant agricultural workers–workers described in the Morrow broadcast focusing on Belle Glade, Florida, but also visiting the home base and migrant streams  and farm-worker bases in  the West, the Midwest, and South. 

[10. In no small part, the misery Morrow broadcast has converted from rural to urban misery. In 1960, when Edward R. Murrow was broadcasting to an affluent nation , farm workers themselves were in the midst of massive migrations out of rural areas and to large cities such as Detroit. One black tenant  farmer in Arkansas told me the migration hit so quickly chickens were left unfed so eager were tenant farmers for the chance at prosperity in Detroit. My friend Phillip Moery, whose family owns a rice farm in Wynne, Arkansas told me of talk in the 1950s and 60s at the family dinner table as rural workers disappeared in mass to Detroit.

11. One reason for the migration was the rapidly developing mechanization of farming, including pesticides and genetically engineered food products replacing the need for labor. (In Belle Glade, Florida, for example, I saw a radish harvester with 16 arms scoop up, bag, and seal bags of radishes once picked by hand.) A second reason for the migration was the need for assembly line workers in cities such as Detroit who received good pay and benefits for work that did not require substantial education. 

12)The decline of the Detroit automobile industry, its refusal to innovate during times of massive prosperity was followed by massive unemployment, petroleum price increases, and Japanese and German competition. Detroit is emerging from the largest bankruptcy in the history of U.S. which at one point threatened to sell off the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Art (including a Van Gough self-portrait)

vanPhoto provided courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

and a combination of massive infusions of funds and savvy concerned citizens will result in a new smaller less powerful city whose future will not be linked to the automobile industry. As a columnist for e-architect, I have been worrying about how to tell the story of Detroit, the most significant U.S. story for architects and builders in the world. My first column on Detroit was entitled, Is Detroit Dying? My current conclusion is there will be a prosperous section of Detroit, a city which has gone from a population  1.4 million to less than 700,000. Yet Detroit will retain large section of aging urban poor; namely, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the rural poor Edward R. Murrow described in 1960. This demographic, many of whom are aging without adequate social services, experienced an all too brief period of prosperity. They live trapped in an African-American downtown ghetto with no place to go. The local public schools are among the worst in the nation.  The ability of the young to obtain job skills is questionable at best even, as I expect, Detroit’s economy will improve. The decline of Detroit, as with the decline of so many U.S. population centers, is a consequence of the hubris of the generation who parented the Baby Boomers. These veterans believed winning World War II was enough, convinced we ruled the world, and too proud or insouciant to invest in our domestic future . Our future as a country depends on our ability to learn from the mistakes of the past most significantly the sad lack of understanding that without a decent educational system geared to all age groups in our population our ability to solve our country’s problems will fail. I am an optimist, but I also believe in the power of prayer after providing infrastructure and resources to achieve badly needed productivity.

13) My view is for Detroit itself and the other Detroit’s in America every day is Thanksgiving–appreciation for the abundance we still possess, recognition of our dependence of global workers and their innovation (an American tradition) and a renewed understanding of the work required to alleviate suffering. My special pleading is to alleviate the suffering of the aging Baby Boomers like me, caught in an economic bind because we had to support our parents and our children,  were unable to reserve money for retirement and are losing our teeth because adequate dental care is not available. My generation, based on money spent, is the best educated in U.S history. We are not the problem. We are the solution. 


May our thanksgiving this year be tempered by humility, by sympathy for those who lack abundance, and by compassion for those in want. As we express appreciation in prayer for our munificent gifts, may we remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive; and may we manifest our remembrance of that precept by generously sharing our bounty with needy people of other nations.

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, invite the attention of all citizens to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day; I proclaim Thursday, November 27, 1947, as a day of national thanksgiving; and I call upon the people of the United States of every faith to consecrate that day to thoughts of gratitude, acts of devotion, and a firm resolve to assist in the efforts being made by religious groups and other bodies to aid the undernourished, the sick, the aged, and all sufferers in war-devastated lands.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this 10th day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-second.


By the President:

Secretary of State.

Citation: Harry S. Truman: “Proclamation 2756 – Thanksgiving Day, 1947,” November 10, 1947. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.


“In recent years the question of whether to use a period after the ‘S’ in Harry S. Truman’s name has become a subject of controversy, especially among editors. The evidence provided by Mr. Truman’s own practice argues strongly for the use of the period. While, as many people do, Mr. Truman often ran the letters in his signature together in a single stroke, the archives of the Harry S. Truman Library have numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Mr. Truman’s lifetime where his use of a period after the ‘S’ is very obvious.

“Mr. Truman apparently initiated the ‘period’ controversy in 1962 when, perhaps in jest, he told newspapermen that the period should be omitted. In explanation he said that the ‘S’ did not stand for any name but was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. He was later heard to say that the use of the period dated after 1962 as well as before.

“Several widely recognized style manuals provide guidance in favor of using the period. According to The Chicago Manual of Style all initials given with a name should ‘for convenience and consistency’ be followed by a period even if they are not abbreviations of names. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual states that the period should be used after the ‘S’ in Harry S. Truman’s name.

“Most published works using the name Harry S. Truman employ the period. Authors choosing to omit the period in their texts must still use it when citing the names of organizations that employ the period in their legal titles (e.g. Harry S. Truman Library) thus seeming to contradict themselves. Authoritative publications produced by the Government Printing Office consistently use the period in Mr. Truman’s name, notably the Department of State’s documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, the Department of the Army’s United States Army in World War II and two major publications of the Office of the Federal Register, Public Papers of the President – Harry S. Truman and theUnited States Government Organization Manual. 


Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania, 1941, Marjory Collins, photographer for Farm Security Administration. - Photo by Marjory Collins. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress}. During the 1930s and 1940s some of the greatest photographs were taken for USDA's Farm Security Administration.Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania, 1941, Marjory Collins, photographer for Farm Security Administration. – Photo by Marjory Collins. Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress}. During the 1930s and 1940s some of the greatest photographs were taken for USDA’s Farm Security Administration.

Below the proclamation is a myth-breaking explanation from President Truman’s official library on the use of the period after President Truman’s middle name. At least one of my readers will take umbrage at the use of the period in the proclamation: library documentation may prove satisfactory. Nevertheless, President Truman has only himself to blame: “Mr. Truman apparently initiated the ‘period’ controversy in 1962 when, perhaps in jest, he told newspaper men that the period should be omitted. In explanation he said that the ‘S’ did not stand for any name but was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers,”]


Relevant material copyrighted by Joel Solkoff, 2014. All rights reserved.


November, 2014 Motto

Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow

“This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame. It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth.

“These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed.

“We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials.

“We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth.”

Edward R. Murrow “Harvest of Shame”

Note: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Edward R. Murrow has been my hero since childhood.

I sat on my grandmother’s piano bench in Brooklyn, New York Thanksgiving Day, 1960 when this broadcast changed my perspective and my life.

I do not want to make promises I cannot keep.

I do want to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with joy and meaning with loved ones and with drums.

I want to celebrate the idea that in my own way I can help spread this day of satisfaction and appreciation.


December motto plus optional isolation

CanceroustumorsurroundingrightkidneyDr. Jeniffer Simon, a caring and experienced urologist, Geissinger Medical Center, State College PA showed me on her computer this image–a cancerous tumor surrounding my right kidney, referring me to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Unless you have surgery quickly, you will be dead in 10 years.” The date: April 5, 2013, 4 P.M. We hugged; I cried.

The order of this posting (typically presented in a hodgepodge of disorder):

  1. Motto
  2. Paraplegia and the recollection of previous cancers
  3. The last part of cancer therapy
  4. Optional isolation
  5. Joanna’s wedding
  6. This I believe


Make haste slowly is the motto.

Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: "Make haste slowly."
Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: “Make haste slowly.”

I first came across this seemingly contradictory expression when trying to learn Latin: Festina lente.

Unless one is in a situation such as mine, Make haste slowly appears to make no sense.

Speed and slow are opposites.

The last part of cancer therapy

My situation comes at the end of a difficult time.

The time began in April when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and reached medical optimism after I left my home in State College, PA where the expertise to save my life did not exist.

This is my first "step" in getting to New York.
My first “step” in getting to New York.

I was referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City—a five hour car ride away. On August 8th, Dr. Paul Russo removed the cancerous tumor, saved my right kidney, and essentially prevented me from dying of kidney cancer. It was a gift of 10 years.


In The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine, Philo Vance—almost certainly the most obnoxious snob in the history of detective literature—is helping his friend the district attorney solve a difficult murder. The district attorney says, “’Well, well! So the case is settled! Now if you’ll but indicate which is the guilty one, I’ll arrest him at once, and return to my other duties.’”

“’You’re always in such haste,’ Vance lamented. “Why leap and run? The wisdom of the world’s philosophers is against it. Festina lente, says Caesar; or, as Rufus has it, Festinatio tarde est. And the Koran says quite frankly that haste is of the Devil. Shakespeare was constantly lamenting speed. ‘He tires that spurs too fast betimes.’”

Still from the 1929 film version of The Canary Murder Case
Still from the 1929 film version, The Canary Murder Case

Vance, whose name in 1927 became synonymous with private detective, goes on to quote Moliere, Chaucer and the Bible on the subject.

My energy level is sufficiently low and my acuity high enough I understand Vance’s point without citing the additional paragraph.


For the past 20 years, I have been a paraplegic unable even slowly “to leap and run.” Paradoxically, in high school I received a letter sweater for running 2 ½ miles regularly during cross-country competitions. My best record was clocked running two miles in less than 12 minutes, hardly the Olympics, but good enough for Cheltenham High School  in Wyncotte, PA.

Yes, I would like to leap and run. There are a lot of things I would like to do that I cannot.

What I want to do is live life to the full and in the process make a contribution along the path I have committed myself.

I certainly have done a lot of living in the past 20 years as a paraplegic. In one of my three trips across the United States from sea to shining sea, I took my battery-powered scooter and drove it around the rim of the Grand Canyon.

In California, I watched my elder daughter Joanna train a horse to jump a fence. As I watched, the horse did something amazing. After going over the fence for the first time, the horse did a double-take, shaking its head as if to say, “I do not believe I did that.” Joanna’s smile of accomplishment…

In Santa Cruz, one glorious day, Amelia my younger daughter and I boarded a ship and watched whales frolicking.


Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan

For a while, I chose the Isadora Duncan School of Dance rather than rehabilitation–both dance and physical rehabilitation have become an essential part of my doxology.

The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College's Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.
The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College’s Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.

In the Silicon Valley, I wrote a technical manual for KLA-Tancor on inspecting silicon wafers for defects. Often, I scrubbed down, putting on a white gown and hat; wheeling into the clean room where my readers would be using the documentation.

The recollection of previous cancers

After radiation treatment for cancer, I fathered my two children, published three books, and loved and was loved in return.

The experience of having cancer twice, first at age 28 then at 42—treatment which burned my spine and made me unable to walk certainly slowed me down. It did not stop me. Nor has the experience of having cancer for the third time at age 65 stopped me.


“The Roman historian Suetonius… tells that Augustus… thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favorite sayings of his were: ‘More haste, less speed’; ‘Better a safe commander than a bold’; and ‘That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.'”

Wikipedia continues, “Gold coins were minted for Augustus which bore the image of a crab and a butterfly, which was considered to be emblematic of the adage. Other pairings used to illustrate the adage include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and, especially, a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a tortoise with a sail upon its back.”


Frequently, I suspect I have not learned from experience.

The same mistakes seem to repeat themselves in predictable order. This is most often the case with loss of energy. So often have I felt my body filled with power and enthusiasm that when the power disappears and getting out of bed becomes a chore, a dark cloud seems to hang over me.

The cloud is not there now.

Recovery from surgery has surprised me by its slow pace.

When I returned from New York in August, the combination of weakness and pain made me grateful to be alone.


One consequence of my receiving a cancer diagnosis in April of this year is that the telling provoked waves of  affection and attention not merely from those close to home.

A woman whom I had loved intensely in 1972 ( not seen or heard from since) read here on this site an optimistic account of my situation and responded with an e-mail followed by phone calls. We talked about the children we did not have together, the life we did not share, and the strangely odd and encouraging fact that affection untended continues despite the reality that it had its origins so long ago.

Friends appeared with whom I had lost contact for decades. My expectations of how good people could be to me were vastly exceeded by reality. I have emerged from surgery with the feeling of being cherished. Nothing I can say or do can ever repay my gratitude. You know who you are and yet you do not truly appreciate how much you have graced my heart.

Often I feel words used to describe me are wrong, just wrong. I do not think of myself as “brave” or “courageous” or a “fighter.” When I think of myself, which I do often, I try to stop—meditate and in my own fashion pray that the ego will dissolve and I will just continue, pursue the path.

Optional isolation

Late in August, back at my apartment, alone, feeling that strange happiness that comes when intense pain disappears, whoever I am is comfortable to me. By nature I am impatient. By nature, I am persistent. Then, the phrase make haste slowly serves as a comfort. I will do what I need to do when the time comes. I will be grateful for energy and understanding when I cannot do what needs to be done. If the sky falls and I do not have the strength to stop it, the sky falls. Such is life.

Joanna’s wedding

Before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend  Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.
Three months before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.

Going to Joanna’s wedding in October appears now on the second day of December a miraculous event. Weeks before I boarded the plane, I did not believe the energy would return. I persisted. Giving away my elder daughter on a farm in Mebane, North Carolina produced euphoria that brought me through and carried me home on Delta Airlines.

Amelia was my caregiver at  the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.
Amelia (right) was my caregiver at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.

At the wedding it was a delight seeing Amelia again in North Carolina a seeming aeon away from New York , saying goodbye before she returned to Spain for her third extended trip.

I loved:

  • Watching my sister Sarah Leah Schmerler dance without inhibition after the intensity of being together at the hospital in New York


  • Revisiting my 12 year-old only nephew Asher Simonson with his unexpected moments of humor
  • Seeing his father Robert Simonson who had lugged my mobility devices around the Island of Manhattan
  • My son-in-law Jade Phillips and his firefighting colleagues who, when the festivities were over and the bonfire burned out, literally picked up my exhausted body and flung me into the passenger side of a truck


Then fatigue. Delight in being alone. Concern I would not finish the work I must finish. Optional isolation. Appearing outside my apartment only occasionally. Seeing as few people as possible. Avoiding crowds, large gatherings, and familiar places where I have been surrounded by affection.

Periodically, I receive calls, visits, e-mails and reports of those who ask with affection and concern “Where’s Joel?”


Life continues.

A dear friend becomes sick. Miles and often even a few blocks I do not have the energy to travel keep me from being where I would otherwise like to be.

I sit in my apartment and wait. A rush of energy and I find myself writing, as I am writing now, without stop, expressing while leaving dishes unwashed, my bed unmade, not yet able to complete rigorous academic writing—not quite able to pull together a large project.

Instead, I follow whim. I have been making You Tube videos—going off to a computer in the patient company of an expert in iMovie editing software, collapsing, returning, making slow steady progress as bills pile up, consistently refusing to think about the money I do not have and the energy I do not have to obtain it.

I have been reading Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms, his introduction tracing the psalms’ origins back to the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago, reciting his clear translation, going to the Hebrew, recalling my mother never left the house without a small Hebrew copy of Psalms in her pocketbook, dipping into David Halberstam writing about Elvis Presley, reading a paragraph here and there about architecture, engineering, virtual reality—not doing much for long, but doing and then in fatigue watching by choice vapid Netflix videos for hours.

The last part of cancer therapy

I hope to encourage others like me who are recovering to recognize our temporary limitations and persevere.

Most do not recognize the difficulties involved in recovering from cancer after the disease is gone but the energy has not returned.

[To be inserted here observations about suicide attempts by survivors. This issue I discuss in my book Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer available on this site].

While researching, I came across a footnote in a medical journal article. A young man with the most dangerous stage of Hodgkin’s disease had killed himself after being cured. The autopsy revealed no cancer was present in his body.

Surviving while still recovering can be a hard time unless one is willing to believe in the future. Henry David Thoreau should be an encouragement to those us living in situations such as the one I am now in. Thoreau wrote, “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.”

My life seems to have been lived on the principle that best way to get from here to there is NOT to go in a straight line.

I have been watching You Tubes of Edward R. Murrow, my hero. This one caught my fancy yesterday at 2 in the morning.

This I believe

I believe:

  1. I am alive for a purpose.
  2. The attempt to achieve the purpose, which I choose to call my path in homage to Laozi, serves not only its own end but to unite all that is sacred to me; namely, my children (of course) who are adults and have lives of their own; my sister Sarah and my family, my friends who are family; my love for women (a woman were the right woman in my bed); the need to care for myself, be independent in body and mind, be a good citizen who embraces not only my country but my mother Earth, and the need to be the human being I strive to be who believes in the spirit that gives us life.

Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way, gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way (The Path), gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.

3. My chosen path is to help the elderly and disabled achieve their potential.

4. Along that path is the virtue of technology which makes it possible for me to go seamlessly from my bed to my kitchen out the door and into the world on scooters like the kind that my dear friend Al Thieme of Amigo Mobility invented which he refers to as Power Operated Vehicle scooters or POV scooters to distinguish them from toys. The technology mobility path includes power chairs and equipment being developed at an astonishingly rapid pace. The consequence of this technology is I do not think of myself as one whose disability prevents me from living life to the full. For individuals with hearing and visual disabilities technology has developed to the point where, for example, an individual blind from birth can drive an automobile specially equipped with laser scanning of the road;  the automobile provides the driver computer-voice simulated operated instructions.

Thank you Wired Magazine:
Thank you Wired Magazine

Totally blind drivers have passed tests on intentionally difficult driving courses. I believe in my lifetime the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will issue drivers licenses to individuals who are totally blind but who have proven their ability to drive sophisticated vehicles such as the ones already produced by the Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory.

Amigo manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia's college graduation.
Amigo Mobility manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia’s college graduation.

5. My path is focused on what the architectural, engineering, and construction community refer to as the built environment. See, for example, my biographical information and published work for e-architect:

6. To rebuild the environment, the promise of virtual reality is real. Virtual reality is a promise my 30 year-old mentor Sonali Kumar introduced to me as I worked with her as a research assistant at Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department to complete her doctoral dissertation entitled: Experience-based design review of healthcare facilities using interactive virtual prototypes. 


Sonali apologized when she used me as the model for this avatar. “I am sorry I put so much gray in your hair. You do have a lot of gray in your hair.”

Fashion aside, one of my contributions to Sonali’s animated three-dimensional model of an independent-living-aging-in-place home was the suggestion she replace the original bathtub with a roll in shower. As a paraplegic for whom being clean is vital, I have all too often been trapped in a bathtub–on one occasion it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get out of the tub finally using my arms to push me out, pulling my legs after me as I landed onto a dirty bathroom floor.

7. Experienced-based design is essential. Experienced-based design is one of a number of academic terms meaning the best way to design an environment is to ask the person who will use it. The example that comes most readily to mind is an article I read about a new hospital in the Philadelphia area. The article complemented the hospital administration for asking patients at the previous facility what changes they would suggest making to the design of the new building to make the hospital more patient-friendly. The patients suggested making it easier to get from bed to bathroom by making the bathroom closer to the bed. The article praised the administration for the reduction in falls as a consequence. [I know. My instant reaction to that was Daaaaaaaaaaaahh.] Asking does matter. Ask experts like me, for example, or my neighbors at Addison Court (an independent living apartment building for the elderly and disabled) whom I arranged to view Sonali’s model wearing 3-D glasses at Dr. John Messner’s Immersive Construction Lab for Construction industry. The consequence is we have the experience to instruct the design of the environment around us so that it is more efficient. The result is not merely an exercise in odd-sounding academic words such as case studies, scenarios, and activities of daily living (ADL); it is also a good idea.


8. Self reliance should be encouraged. Shown here

[Note: Think of I believe in points 8, 9, and beyond as Coming Attractions.]

9. Knowing when to ask for help.

Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.
Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.

To be continued.

Meanwhile, here is Edward R. Murrow  interviewing then former President of the United States Harry S Truman on what Truman believes.

President Truman is followed by a bad video of an Alan Jackson song. I like the theme. I like the song.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.