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Playing God: A Scientific Fable

David Topper

By DAVID TOPPER We know now that the universe began with a Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago.
But what about before that? How do we find out what happened then? There are no data to start with. No experimental information from which to begin. Nothing. Well, not ‘nothing’ nothing, for if that were so, there wouldn’t be a Big Bang. What do we do when we have no data?

Well, Einstein had a way of getting at such knowledge without real experiments: he called it (or maybe we later made up this term) a “thought experiment.” You see, it’s an experiment that you do in your mind. Of course, it helps if you have a mind like Einstein’s. But since he’s dead, you’ll have to rely on me – like it or not.
A good example is the first such experiment, which Einstein performed at age sixteen, and he speculated this way. He asked: “What would the world look like if I rode on a beam of light?” See what I mean by a thought experiment? Clearly this is impossible to do in reality. For one thing, nothing moves at the speed of light, neither when Einstein was a teenager nor now. But in the end, his theory of relativity came out of this idea, and he deduced that nothing can ever travel at light speed – except for light itself.

Now to my thought experiment about what happened before the Big Bang. First, don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing myself to Einstein. No way. It’s just that I’m using his method to try to penetrate what it was like before the Big Bang. What existed? Well that’s easy to see – in your mind, that is. Obviously, that was when God alone existed. Only God, all alone. Just God. Nothing else.
Hold it a sec: At this point I need to set up some parameters. Thought experiments work under idealized conditions, such as assuming no friction. For my experiment, the analogous assumption would be assuming no angels – or devils, which were just bad angels – only God alone. Frankly I don’t believe in either of those beings, unlike many people on this planet (come to think of it, probably most people), and contrary to much of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, an otherwise marvelous work of 17th century literature, but groundless in heavenly reality, I’m sorry to say. Which brings me back to long before the Big Bang – and God alone.
Really, think about it. God alone means that not only were there no angels and devils, but also that there was no universe – yes, no universe – indeed, no other existing entity or entities. This also means that there was no space or time. Only God was everywhere and God was everything.
What would that be like? How to know? Well, let’s be God? You know, we’ll play at being God. Okay? Now isn’t that the ultimate thought experiment? I’m game to play being God. Do you want to come along? If you’re afraid that maybe you’ll be struck by lightning, or something bad will happen to you – well, then, leave now. Right now. Here! Stop! No one’s making you read what I’m saying. Good bye.

Otherwise, here goes ….
Being God is not all it’s cracked up to be. Everything is the same all the – … time? No. What word do I use here, since there’s no time? Just an eternal present, like me, eternal, and being all of existence. That’s me. I am everything. And everything is me. But why do I even exist? Come to think of it, I don’t know. But I should; after all I’m God, and I should know everything. But I don’t know why I exist.
The worst part is that being God, believe it or not, is being bored. Because there is nothing else except me, there is nothing to break the routine. Me alone doing, … well, what actually do I do? I exist, I tell myself. I know that! The problem is that I need something else to break the tedium and give me something else to do, besides just exist. So, I should create something. But hold on, if I do that, I will no longer be everything. I would be creating another existence, a world, and this has never been done before (whatever “before” means). A world that will exist independently of my control – unless I wish to interfere now and then with a miracle or two or three. Ah, what to do?
Why hesitate, if I know the future? Well, here’s the rub. For this case I am having my future-sense turned off. I don’t want to know the future. Not knowing the consequences of my actions gives at least some levity and surprise to my otherwise torpid existence. So, to create, or not to create, a universe, that is the question.
So, God itself contemplated this God-changing act of God.

Well, we know what happened. God created the universe with a Big Bang. And, as such, God was not alone anymore. Now there was a universe to watch over. Of course, you are now probably thinking of God looking at us, with all our joys and sorrows. But, remember: we, as human beings on this little blue planet Earth, came much later than the Big Bang. So, the next question is: right after the Big Bang, what was this newly-created universe like? What was there for God to see?
First, a caveat. Before your mind rushes in the wrong direction: we are not going to bring up the drivel about the six days God made various earthly things, let alone Adam & Eve. That’s the mythology of Genesis. No, here we talk about what (within the speculative framework of present-day astronomy and cosmology) really happened.
The Big Bang universe began as a point of extremely hot, extremely dense matter that immediately doubled in size, again and again, expanding as it evolved, doubling again and again, cooling as it expanded, again and again, creating space and time as it expanded, again and again, cooling but still a dense mass, next consisting of protons and neutrons (and later other sub-atomic particles), colliding and forming the first elements – hydrogen, then helium, and so forth, again and again, expanding and cooling as it evolved. This kept up for about 400,000 years before stars and then galaxies began forming out of this chaos. And this means that for all this time that the universe was evolving, it was – and get this! – totally dark. Yes, completely dark. Pure black. Not much to see. Plus remember: now there was time (that is, the passage of time), so this 400,000-year period was a real thing for God to experience.

But there’s more! This relative darkness across the entire universe was still true for – and here’s another shocker! – the first billion (yes, I said billion) years. Even though the first stars and galaxies were now forming and evolving, they were still sparsely scattered throughout the universe, so that seeing it from the outside (if that makes any sense; I guess, a God’s sense) the entire universe was still fundamentally dark. Indeed, cosmologists call the first billion years of the universe the Dark Age. Of course, this is all a far cry from what we find in Genesis, but that’s beside the point.
Who knew about this Dark Age? Besides God that is? Actually, no one else, until recently. We’ve only realized this in my lifetime, as contemporary astronomy has discovered so much of this mind-blowing information. After the Dark Age, as the expansion continued, the universe finally lit up (“let there be light”) and it started overall to look much the way it does today. Incidentally, the new James Webb telescope, placed about a million miles from our Earth around the start of 2022, has [as I write this] just generated the first images. Eventually it will be able to penetrate back to the early universe around when those first stars and galaxies were forming – if all goes as planned.

Although this mental journey of mine began with the question of what it was like before the Big Bang, and we played at being God to find out, I feel I cannot stop here, until it gets to us – that is, we human beings on this little blue planet. So here goes.
About 4.5 billion years ago, a dense cloud of interstellar gas and dust started collapsing and was set spinning, due to a shock wave from a nearby supernova, and by the law of angular momentum, the more it collapsed, the faster it spun – and, as such, pieces of it were sent by centrifugal force into orbits around a central star. The pieces coalesced and cooled, forming planets and moons, as the star shrunk into the Sun that we have now. Incidentally, the size of our Sun/star tells us that it has a ‘lifespan’ of about 10 billion years. So, this means that our Solar System’s ‘life’ is about half over. Also, when it’s about 7.5 billion years old, the Sun will grow into a red giant and encompass the entire orbit of our earth, destroying everything. In the end, it will just shrink into a dead white dwarf, having used up all its hydrogen. But that’s in the far, far future (for us). So, back to the past.

Because of the special conditions on this third planet from the Sun, around 3.8 billion years ago life began, single-cell organisms, various viruses; and by 1.5 billion years ago early forms of plants and fungi and animals. And hence it went, or really it evolved. We know that around 65 million years ago the dinosaurs and other categories of plants and animals were wiped out in a mass extinction. This event was crucial for my story, for with those giant creatures gone, physical space opened up making room for the small mammals to emerge, evolve, and ultimately dominate the planet. And thus 6 million years ago humans diverged from chimpanzees and bonobos – eventually becoming homo sapiens as we know ourselves today.
Hence, we humans finally appear in our story, having avoided the Adam and Eve myth. But we still have a residual issue to deal with. Let me explain, for here things get tricky. We are talking about life being formed in the universe. But we only know of this one case of the evolution of life: namely, here on Earth, a planet in our solar system, near the edge of what we call the Milky Way galaxy, which is part of a cluster of galaxies that … well, you get the picture.

Of course, there may have been an evolution of life elsewhere in the universe, and there is much speculation today of this probably being true, due to the recent discovery of many planets out there that are circling around stars with conditions likely conducive to living things. But, despite the fact that lots of people believe that alien beings exist and that they have been and still are visiting us in their UFOs, the scientific reality is that we on Earth are the only known case of life in the universe. And hence the only example where we can again continue playing God.
We have the story of God’s creation as told in Genesis. But what would a God who created the Big Bang say?
Well, you see: I did create a universe! I guess it was kind of on a lark, but here it is anyway. And time, as noted, began. The passage of time. And space too. Of course, your smart guy Einstein spoke of space-time, but that’s a story for another time. Although, by the way: he was right!

It started with the Big Bang. And you know what happened then, as this universe evolved from that point of almost infinite density to the universe as it is now, 13.8 billion years later. Quite an achievement wasn’t it? Worthy of all the praise that humans like to shower upon me with their prayers, starting with the Psalms.
So, my universe was quite an accomplishment. And I was not bored during that early Dark Age, because I could see into that dark space and watch as stars were forming, and as they clustered together into galaxies of various sizes and shapes. With my future-sense turned off, it was a marvelous show for me to watch. It kept me constantly occupied, and never bored.
Nevertheless, it was difficult realizing that this universe had taken something from me, out of me, away from me – for I no longer was, as before time began, all that was. Now there was this other entity – and growing, constantly taking up more space – well really creating space as it went.

Now that the universe is here, in existence, what will happen to it? Your cosmologists today have three scenarios as to what will happen as the evolution of the universe continues. One: it expands faster and faster forever, with everything dying in the process. Two: the expansion eventually slows down, but that takes forever, and again everything dies in the meantime. Three: the expansion finally stops and the process reverses, such that it returns to the Big Bang, and then (probably) it starts all over again. This is a cyclic universe. To be honest (can God be anything but honest?), I peeked into the future to see which one of the three is going to happen, but I’m not telling you now. Let your future scientists find this out as they probe deeper into my creation.
Death, of various kinds, was built into the system. If I didn’t like what I saw I could do away with it as quickly as I made it. Strange perhaps, but I was exceedingly upset at the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. They were interesting to watch, and seemed to be having a good time on your planet. Of course, there was lots of violence and fighting – after all, they were dinosaurs.

Frankly, the violence and death prepared me for you humans later on. The extensive warfare between human groups, on and on. No one ever seemingly living in peace. Of course, I should have been prepared for this with the heavenly battles between the good angels and the bad angels. But it still bothered me deeply. On Earth, the animals mainly kill for food. Actually, some don’t, and I see that your scientists are now discovering some of these sadistic animals. But you humans kill for the most trivial reasons. So, yes, many times I thought of …well just taking the lot of you out of your misery. Wiping out all that I made. Incidentally, that Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis is nothing compared with what I saw, and still see. But I’m leaving you alone, along with the rest of the universe.

Wait a minute. What are you doing, talking about angels? I thought we both knew that there were no angels. A fantasy of humans. Have you been reading Milton or something?
I read everything. And I like Milton, and how he portrays Satan and others.
Yes, of course you read everything. What am I thinking? But angels are a myth, so why perpetuate a falsehood?
You are saying this, not me.
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. You must be teasing me? I know that God cannot tell a lie. But it looks like God can tease.
Why is this angel/devil thing so important to you?
Oh, so you’re going to turn this around against me. I’m not going there. You and I both know there are no angels, of any types. That’s why you created the universe. And I’ll just leave it there. I’m done. You may have the final words – as long as you don’t mention angels.
You must remember this: the universe is just an experiment; an experiment is just a query – all done to alleviate my ennui, purging my melancholy and gloom. However, in time, it was replaced by rage and pain, shock and despair at how you humans behave. What did I make, I ask myself? The few righteous on your planet feel the same way. The Rabbis (who incidentally believe in dybbuks) say my job was incomplete and you humans have to complete it – to perfect it. They are right.
So, I tell you: do as the Rabbis say. Get off your buns and change the world.
The experiment continues.
Praise the Lord!
You broke the deal. I’m not going to bite at that dybbuk thing. Who knew that God would pull my leg? Pushing boundaries, coming close to, but not quite, telling a lie. What a jokester. Who knew?
Praise the Lord!

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Features

The Fraught Future of Jewish Studies

By Henry Srebrnik Between 1969, when the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) was founded by forty-seven scholars in Boston, and now, the field of Jewish studies has enjoyed a meteoric expansion. The association, as David Biale, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis, has noted in the winter 2024 issue of the Jewish Review of Books (JRB), it has some 1,800 members, and programs or individual positions exist at virtually every major North American university.
Benefiting from the postwar diminishment of antisemitism and the assimilation of Jews to American society, the scholarly study of the Jews found homes in university departments such as history, religious studies, and comparative literature.
Could that golden age have come to an end on October 7, 2023? “The sudden explosion of anti-Israelism, with its close cousin, antisemitism, has rendered the position of Jewish studies precarious.” It is too soon to know for sure, he states, “but it is hard to avoid the suspicion that something fundamental shifted on that Black Sabbath and its aftermath, not only in Israel but here in America.”
Jewish Studies programs at American (and Canadian) universities, with seed money provided by Jewish philanthropists, sprang up after the 1967 Six-Day War. And at first its faculty were “pro-Israel.” But Jewish communities never had control of these programs. And as the initial cohort of academics retired, their replacements were different – because the hiring process was, of course, largely in the hands of non-Jewish faculty in the humanities. So the successful candidates were more in line with the new zeitgeist of “interrogating” the “Zionist narrative” and giving prominence to non- or anti-Zionist perspectives among American Jews.
This was inevitable. Even the AJS has moved in this direction. (I am a member and have given papers at AJS conferences.) These programs and departments are, in the final analysis, at best “neutral” and agnostic on the Middle East and Israel.
Daniel B. Schwartz is a professor of history and Judaic studies at George Washington University in Washington, DC. In that same issue of the JRB, he recounted that on Oct. 9, a statement from the Executive Committee of the AJS arrived in his inbox. The heading of the email read simply, “Statement from the AJS Executive Committee.”
The statement was about the events of the previous weekend, but the email’s content-free subject line turned out to be symptomatic of what followed. “The members of the AJS Executive Committee,” it said, “express deep sorrow for the loss of life and destruction caused by the horrific violence in Israel over the weekend. We send comfort to our members there and our members with families and friends in the region who are suffering.” In a statement by the AJS, why word “Jews” was nowhere to be found.
“That we have come to the point where the AJS has to resort to such anodyne language,” he asserted, “is truly mind-boggling to me, and frankly shameful.” Why did the half-dozen distinguished scholars who form the Executive Committee of the AJS “feel obligated to obfuscate about the terrible events to which they were ostensibly responding?”
No wonder then, as Mikhal Dekel, Professor of English and the director of the Rifkind Center for the Humanities and Arts at the City College of New York, remarked, “For some of my Jewish colleagues, Israel and Israelis have crossed a threshold to become objects of hatred and disgust that mountains of intellectualized and reasoned essays cannot conceal. These emotions were on display on the very day of October 7, even before a single Israeli soldier entered Gaza.” Decades of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and other anti-Israel activism “around me hadn’t prepared me for that.”
Certainly the place of Jewish and Israeli-related courses in the wider world of the humanities will decline dramatically, as “anti-Zionism” takes hold across higher education. For example, Cary Nelson, Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told us in the February issue of Fathom, a British publication, that “after nearly two decades of trying, the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting finally succeeded in putting this academic group on record opposing Israel.”
The MLA represents about twenty thousand North American literature and foreign language faculty and graduate students. “This time they were riding a wave of anti-Zionist hostility that has swept the academy since Hamas wantonly slaughtered over 1,200 Israelis and foreign visitors in the largest antisemitic murder spree since the Holocaust.”
Nelson reported that at one MLA meeting, “when a member from Haifa referenced Hamas’s sexual violence there was reportedly audible hissing among the anti-Zionist members attending. Was it unacceptable to impugn the character of Hamas terrorists? Were some MLA members on board with Hamas denials?”
A recent trend has seen Jewish academics in Jewish Studies programs at universities like Berkely, Brown, Dartmouth, Emory, Harvard and elsewhere publish widely noticed books that are, at best, “non-Zionist” and in fact sympathetic to the naqba narrative of Arab-Jewish relations during and after the formation of Israel. But why should we be surprised? They are embedded in institutions where the “woke” Diversity-Equity-Inclusion ideology now prevails.
The new book by historian Geoffrey Levin, assistant professor of Middle Eastern and Jewish studies at Emory University in Atlanta, “Our Palestine Question: Israel and American Jewish Dissent, 1948-1978,” is one such work. He writes sympathetically about an early, formative era before American Jewish institutions had unequivocally embraced Zionism.
“The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto” by Daniel Boyarin, the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, aims to drive a wedge between the “nation” and the “state,” and “recover a robust sense of nationalism that does not involve sovereignty.”
“The Necessity of Exile: Essays from a Distance” by Shaul Magid, the Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth, calls for “recentering” Judaism over nationalism and “challenges us to consider the price of diminishing or even erasing the exilic character of Jewish life.”
Derek Penslar, an historian at Harvard, last year published “Zionism: An Emotional State,” which described the situation in the West Bank as apartheid, even though over 90 per cent of Palestinians there are governed not by Israel but by the Palestinian Authority. The point of calling Israel an apartheid regime is to suggest that it must go the way of white-led South Africa.
They are among a spate of books dealing with the history of Jewish dissent over Israel and Zionism, including “The Threshold of Dissent: A History of American Jewish Critics of Zionism” by Marjorie N. Feld, and “Unsettled: American Jews and the Movement for Justice in Palestine” by Oren Kroll-Zeldin.
A cold khamsim is blowing across Jewish Studies in academia.
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, PEI.
 

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Features

A Positive Outlook for Communities as the Canadian iGaming Industry Prepares for a Banner Year

Since the implementation of Bill C-227, the Gaming Control Act in 2021, Canada’s online gambling scene has undergone a dramatic transformation. Legalization has unlocked heaps of previously untapped potential and paved the way for a banner year for the Canadian iGaming industry. This June, the Canadian Gambling Summit for 2024 promises an optimistic journey through the exciting prospects unfolding for players, operators, and the Canadian economy as a whole.

The Growth of Canadian iGaming has Sparked Optimism

Gone are the days of ambiguity and uncertainty; a clear legal framework has provided a healthy foundation for stability and growth. This newfound confidence has unlocked the immense potential of the Canadian iGaming market, attracting established operators and nurturing innovative local talent.

Players have already been enjoying the arrival of a regulated environment, which offers enhanced security and responsible gaming measures. Large numbers of gamblers can now play at a casino online for real money that operates on Canadian soil, much to the benefit of the local economy.

Many of the best-rated platforms available today allow Canadian players to engage with sites that offer a wide range of modern payment methods, reliable games and lucrative bonuses with exceptionally efficient payout speeds. The introduction of new features on these sites also gives players peace of mind that their safety is being prioritized.

The positive momentum continues to build as Canadian operators prepare for the Canadian Gambling Summit, which will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto from the 18th to the 20th of June, 2024. Anticipation for the event has created ripples of excitement throughout the local industry and bolstered a shared belief that 2024 will be a landmark year for the industry as a whole.

When Industries Thrive, Communities Flourish: Exploring the Positive Impacts of Financial Success

A healthy industry isn’t just good for its bottom line; it can be a powerful mechanism for positive change within local economies and communities. When any local industry experiences a period of financial growth and stability, the ripples of its success extend far beyond boardrooms and factories. These benefits reach individuals and families and can uplift the very fabric of local life. Here’s how the thriving iGaming industry is already benefiting many communities in and around Canada:

Job Creation and Increased Spending

When industries are able to grow and expand, this success often translates into more employment opportunities, higher wages and improved job security for residents. This increased income can then lead to greater spending power which boosts a range of local businesses like restaurants, shops, service providers and entertainment venues. This creates a virtuous cycle, as local businesses benefiting from increased consumer spending can themselves hire more employees, further strengthening the local economy.

Infrastructure Development and Public Services

A financially secure industry often means increased tax revenue for local governments. This influx allows for investments in vital infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, public transportation and, perhaps most importantly, schools. Additionally, it strengthens funding for essential public services such as healthcare, emergency response and social programs, leading to a higher quality of life for all Canadian residents.

Community Investment and Philanthropy

Many successful industries will often choose to reinvest in the communities that support them. Recently, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg stated that the surplus money they currently hold will be used in various ways that will ultimately benefit local communities in some way. Often, community investments will go beyond financial support and foster a lasting sense of pride, collaboration and shared success between an industry and its community.

Education and Skills Development

Recognizing the need for a skilled workforce to sustain its success, a thriving industry will generally partner with educational institutions to develop targeted training programs and internships. This gives local residents the skills and qualifications needed to secure future jobs within the industry, closing the skills gap and creating a pipeline of talent for future growth.

Attracting New Businesses and Talent

The positive buzz surrounding a successful industry can attract new businesses and talent to the area. This diversification is likely to strengthen the local economy and spark new innovation. In addition, increased numbers of skilled professionals raises the overall talent pool for other industries, greatly benefiting all businesses in the local area.

Since the implementation of Bill C-227, the Gaming Control Act in 2021, Canada’s online gambling scene has undergone a dramatic transformation. Legalization has unlocked heaps of previously untapped potential and paved the way for a banner year for the Canadian iGaming industry. This June, the Canadian Gambling Summit for 2024 promises an optimistic journey through the exciting prospects unfolding for players, operators, and the Canadian economy as a whole.

The Growth of Canadian iGaming has Sparked Optimism

Gone are the days of ambiguity and uncertainty; a clear legal framework has provided a healthy foundation for stability and growth. This newfound confidence has unlocked the immense potential of the Canadian iGaming market, attracting established operators and nurturing innovative local talent.

Players have already been enjoying the arrival of a regulated environment, which offers enhanced security and responsible gaming measures. Large numbers of gamblers can now play at a casino online for real money that operates on Canadian soil, much to the benefit of the local economy.

Many of the best-rated platforms available today allow Canadian players to engage with sites that offer a wide range of modern payment methods, reliable games and lucrative bonuses with exceptionally efficient payout speeds. The introduction of new features on these sites also gives players peace of mind that their safety is being prioritized.

The positive momentum continues to build as Canadian operators prepare for the Canadian Gambling Summit, which will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto from the 18th to the 20th of June, 2024. Anticipation for the event has created ripples of excitement throughout the local industry and bolstered a shared belief that 2024 will be a landmark year for the industry as a whole.

When Industries Thrive, Communities Flourish: Exploring the Positive Impacts of Financial Success

A healthy industry isn’t just good for its bottom line; it can be a powerful mechanism for positive change within local economies and communities. When any local industry experiences a period of financial growth and stability, the ripples of its success extend far beyond boardrooms and factories. These benefits reach individuals and families and can uplift the very fabric of local life. Here’s how the thriving iGaming industry is already benefiting many communities in and around Canada:

Job Creation and Increased Spending

When industries are able to grow and expand, this success often translates into more employment opportunities, higher wages and improved job security for residents. This increased income can then lead to greater spending power which boosts a range of local businesses like restaurants, shops, service providers and entertainment venues. This creates a virtuous cycle, as local businesses benefiting from increased consumer spending can themselves hire more employees, further strengthening the local economy.

Infrastructure Development and Public Services

A financially secure industry often means increased tax revenue for local governments. This influx allows for investments in vital infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, public transportation and, perhaps most importantly, schools. Additionally, it strengthens funding for essential public services such as healthcare, emergency response and social programs, leading to a higher quality of life for all Canadian residents.

Community Investment and Philanthropy

Many successful industries will often choose to reinvest in the communities that support them. Recently, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg stated that the surplus money they currently hold will be used in various ways that will ultimately benefit local communities in some way. Often, community investments will go beyond financial support and foster a lasting sense of pride, collaboration and shared success between an industry and its community.

Education and Skills Development

Recognizing the need for a skilled workforce to sustain its success, a thriving industry will generally partner with educational institutions to develop targeted training programs and internships. This gives local residents the skills and qualifications needed to secure future jobs within the industry, closing the skills gap and creating a pipeline of talent for future growth.

Attracting New Businesses and Talent

The positive buzz surrounding a successful industry can attract new businesses and talent to the area. This diversification is likely to strengthen the local economy and spark new innovation. In addition, increased numbers of skilled professionals raises the overall talent pool for other industries, greatly benefiting all businesses in the local area.

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Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

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