September 19, 2016

In Gaza: Young scholar-leaders doing well while doing good

I am so proud of my good friend Msallam Mohammed AbuKhalil, a medical student in Gaza. Listen to him and his fabulous fellow young leaders — working against all odds contributing their massive talents and dedication to healing and empowering communities, locally and globally.

Msallam reports:

My second video participation for the Social Good Summit 2016: Connecting Today, Creating Tomorrow with other former and current students including engineers and doctors-in-making. Everybody has shared their personal vision about what they hope to become as potential leaders in their fields and how they see themselves as global citizens connecting with the outside world in this age of huge technological advances. 

September 04, 2016

London: Ismaili Center

Posing with Nymeth at the London Ismaili Center

The calligraphy conveys the Quran's opening phrase in Arabic, "Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate"). Muslims recite it on beginning a task to receive the Creator’s strength and blessing, among other reasons. The phrase faces the entrance to this religious, social, and cultural meeting place for the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in the United Kingdom. Nymeth Ali guided me through the center, pointing out examples of the relationship between the architecture and design details and the traditions, symbols, history and values of her faith community. For example, the building exterior materials and colors are compatible with surrounding buildings while the interior features traditional Islamic colors — whites, light grays, and blues.

In our rapid-fire give-and-take Q&A, my new friend helped me understand more of Islam and its ethics, and of Muslim peoples and their values, among them humility, charity, and hospitality. And, I endeavored to answer her wide-ranging questions on aspects of Judaism and Jewish people. Together, we traveled the globe across centuries till and including our own lives, roots, passages, and journeys. Thank you, Ryan Makhani, for the introduction! You hinted, “I have a feeling you both will have some incredible conversations.” You did not exaggerate!

September 01, 2016

London Tate Britain: Sketching Mr. Turner

It was Valerie's idea to sketch a J.M.W. Turner masterpiece

Tate Britain’s Clore Gallery houses the world’s largest collection of works by J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), the master landscape and seascape painter of light. On my visit to the Gallery, I came upon Valerie. Unselfconscious and focused, the nine -year-old was studying a single Turner creation, pausing intermittently to paint, scrawl, and scribble using colored pencils to render her own.

Visitors engage with Turner's masterpieces

While Turner, at the end of his life, became increasingly eccentric and isolated, he never stopped loving children. How delightful to meet Miss Valerie sketching one of Mr. Turner’s masterpieces.

The finished sketch

J.M.W. Turner will become the first artist to appear on a British banknote following a nationwide vote to chose a deceased cultural figure to be the face of the new £20 note. The note will feature Turner’s 1799 self-portrait and The Fighting Temeraire, his tribute to the ship that played a key role in Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

August 30, 2016

London: Burqa and bra strap tranquility

Hyde Park Serpentine Lake
A Muslim woman wearing a burqa and a Jewish woman whose bra strap is showing. Easy, chill, gracious London.

August 28, 2016

London: Holland Park Kyoto Garden

Kidane, me, Zeeko

This formerly private playground estate now for the 99% features a stunning Japanese garden with a waterfall and koi fish pond encircled by leaping squirrels, strutting peacocks, Pokemon addicts, and a rule-breaking peacock feeder. Zeeko (in the photo, right) approached the offender and spoke gently while pointing to signs: Please do not feed the animals.

While Zeeko is staff, he did not press the non-stopping offender, and I soon understood the reason. I asked why the shabby peacock feathers (mating season ended) and whether the eggs hatched (no, local wolves dine on them). And then, not recognizing his accent, from where did he immigrate. A few sentences, a brief Q&A, a lifted shirtsleeve and pant leg exposing a scarred leg and arm. Suddenly, Zeeko's first-person testimony and physical evidence supplanted grotesque reports and images of civil war, torture, and dismemberment in Sierra Leone.

When Zeeko recently visited his homeland, he met the madman whose machete dug into his arm; and, about to sever it, was suddenly called away. When the madman asked forgiveness, Zeeko replied, I have left behind the past and what you did. But the ones you killed, how will you ask their forgiveness?