Italians Abroad: A Voter’s Saga


It’s a beautiful sunny day here in London. One of those days that makes you feel hopeful about the future ahead. Yet my experience of voting for the Italian elections makes me all but hopeful for the future (and present) of my home country.

Preparation to vote for the current elections started back in August 2012.

I only discovered that I was supposed to enrol on the Registry of Italians abroad (AIRE) a few months ago, almost by accident. Since then, I have tried to understand what enrolment on the Registry implied for me and how I was supposed to it. I could not do it from here as I had to go to my hometown in Italy. I also came to realise that enrolment was not just an option to consider, but a legal obligation for any Italian citizen who has left the country for longer than 12 months (Law of 27 October 1988, n. 470). Needless to say, I was not aware of it (as many fellow Italians abroad).

Obviously, I quickly proceeded to rectify the situation, predicting an imminent election (an easy prediction to make, given the frequency of Italian elections). Of course, this implied attending to the Italian Registry Office in my home town Torino to obtain my birth certificate, in order to assemble my bundle of documents.

Anyway, fast forward…all documents were sent as required back in Autumn 2012. The website of the Italian Consulate warned me it could take up to five months for the procedure to be completed. When in December 2012 the elections were officially announced, I decided to have faith ‘in the system’ and I hoped things would sort themselves out magically. I should have known: this never happens if Italian bureaucracy is involved.

 

January 2013: still no sign of my documents confirming enrolment on the Registry of Italians abroad. I sent an email to the Italian Consulate expressing my concern given the impending elections. I received email confirmation both from the Italian Registry Office and from the Italian Consulate in London stating that my registration was confirmed. The format of the emails made it almost impossible to decipher the actual meaning but after   reading them carefully a number of times, I was (almost) sure that was the meaning of the emails! I also asked for reassurance that I’d be receiving the electoral votes on time and I was told I would.

11th February 2013: the website of the Italian Consulate stated that those who had not received their postal votes by 10th February should contact the consulate. Of course, mine was nowhere to be seen. I tried calling the ‘special line’ for the 2013 Elections within the opening hours (Mon-Fri 10 am-4 pm, i.e. when most people are busy at work)…always engaged. We emailed the ‘special email address’ dedicated to the 2013 Elections.

12th February 2013: unexpectedly, we receive a reply to our email. The rude reply stated that obviously we could not vote without the postal votes. Rather, since we did not appear on the Electoral Registry, they were still waiting for Clearance to send the papers to our London address. Clearance from whom? Why, if a month earlier we had been told everything was fine? Also, we were invited not to attend the Consulate (which would have obviously been a waste of time and would have required me to take time off from work).

14th February 2013: an email confirms Clearance has been obtained and the postal vote will be sent to us. Should we not receive them within 48 hours, we should go to the Consulate (guess what happened next…).

17th February 2013: still no sign of our postal votes…time to go to the Italian Consulate in Eaton Place. That is what a sunny Sunday is for, after all.

Upon arrival, we find the door suspiciously locked. We knock, and a man opens the door just enough to stick his head through and asks ‘Who are you?’

 ‘Italians’.

‘What do you want?’

 ‘We want to vote.’

‘Who’

My brother and I look at each other wondering if the question is ‘who are you voting for’.

No, there’s a misunderstanding. The question meant ‘who of you is here to vote?’

Answer: ‘both of us, that’s why we are here.’

‘Ok, come in.’ And the door magically opened. We walk in, there are a few people sitting quietly in the corner and a Carabiniere asks again ‘what do you want’. Same answer.

Next question ‘Are you enrolled on the Registry of Italians abroad?’. Answer: ‘Yes.’

Question: ‘Are you sure.’ Answer: ‘Yes.’

‘Ok, then. Fill in this form and give me your IDs.’

We do as asked, almost feeling guilty for having disturbed him on a quiet Sunday morning.

We hand over the forms, he takes them without saying a single word. Then indicates to go through. I ask: ‘Where’ and he reluctantly explains where to go.

We reach a waiting room which looks like a hospital’s waiting room, with about a dozen of people looking bored and confused. A lady whose name tag only indicates ‘Employee Number 12’ calls people and hands over documents to them without verifying anyone’s ID.

Surprisingly, after only 20 minutes, she calls our names. We say ‘it’s us!’. Same story: no documents asked and our envelopes containing the postal votes are given to us. She says ‘make sure you vote correctly otherwise your vote won’t count.’ And I reply ‘how do I vote correcly’. Again, with a very annoyed expression, she reluctantly explains how to vote correctly. She reminds me ‘the vote is secret’ (as if I didn’t know). I thank her, she says nothing and disappears behind a door.

 

I express my vote, feeling like I am living in one of Kafka’s books. I cannot seal the envelope containing my vote as it doesn’t stick. I tell the “carabiniere” and he says ‘it’s OK as it is’. I complain and I also tell him that I am worried that, if the Consulate had sent my postal vote as promised three days ago, where is that vote going to go? He tells me that I can either send it back or destroy myself. I make the observation that, actually, that would make it very easy for anyone to vote twice – not that I’d want to do it. He replies that obviously that is not my intention, but that if I destroy it, it will not happen. I again ask ‘how can he guarantee that I or anyone else will destroy it’ and I realise that at this stage, he is making me feel like I am the one trying to cheat and not the one trying to ensure no one else does.

I then ask what to do with my vote. He points at a transparent, large plastic box which is in the waiting room between the chairs. There are people sitting all around it and it is not locked. It can easily be opened by anyone. I throw my vote in the box feeling like I’ve just thrown it in the bin and I leave the Italian Consulate not at all certain that my vote will ever reach its destination.

 

 

 

The Unspoken Consequences of the Crisis


Here we are, in the festive season, rushing to buy presents and to organise family gatherings. It appears that we have been longing for this time of the year, when we finally take a break from work and enjoy the warmth of our fireplaces with our dearest. Most blogs are posting about lovely snowfalls and romantic white landscape.

Yet, in today’s online edition of the European Observer, one of the main headlines reports on an unspoken issue: the mental health consequences of the financial crisis in Europe.  In a short video, we are told how suicide rates are on the rise and the human rights expert Gabor Petri, from Mental Health Europe, describes how citizens are being affected.

I do not intend to spoil the festive mood, however I want to spare a moment to look at the reality of things around us.

Are we all really that happy?

Let’s face it: there are many families who can’t reach the end of the month, let alone buy Christmas presents and spend money on luxiurious family dinners. No one might want to think about it or admit it, but the tension in the financial markets has entered our homes. Clearly, there are different levels of ‘crisis’. I am no expert in the field, but economic hardship has historically been associated with deep changes in society, such as rise in crime rates, family break-ups or mental health issues. This crisis is not exempt from such unfortunate and undesired consequences.

Young people often don’t see the point in carrying on with their studies, since obtaining a degree no longer guarantees or increases chances of employment. In Italy, young generations are supported by the old, retired generation. The cycle of life seems to have turned around and it is upsetting the balance of society, by harming our mental health and stability. The old are helping the young, and the young feel they are not ‘useful’ to society or themselves. However, also the old are affected: we know that higher and higher numbers of old people who have no longer the means to sustain themselves and see their pension benefits cut on a daily basis. They find themselves old, alone and poor with younger generations unable to help them.

According to the European Observer statistics in today’s article “Mental health problems on the rise during financial crisis”, almost 1 in 10 Europeans is affected by mental health issues. These issues are not blatant and tend to be an ‘unspoken’ problem. People are scared of mental health issues yet many are affected by them, unknowingly. When presenting for the first time a European Commission paper on Mental Health issues in Europe (17 October 2011), the European Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, stated:

“I can think of no other disease that would remain so low profile if such a high percentage of the population were struck by it. Mental health has been swept under the carpet for too long.”
 
Whether we like it, or not, perhaps this is a good time of the year to think about some of these serious unspoken consequences of the financial crisis and stop sweeping them under the carpet as some merely old-fashioned taboo.

What Berlusconi’s Resignation Really Means


Saturday 12th November 2011, 9.42 pm: a date and time which I will never forget.

To a non-Italian, this might appear an overstatement. But, trust me, it is not. I will remember this date not as Berlusconi’s resignation, but as Italy’s comeback to political discourse.

As an Italian Londoner, I am confronted on a daily basis with questions on Italy’s economic crisis and – ultimately – Berlusconi’s stay in power for so long. To my surprise, most people I have spoken to (from all over the world) seem to find Berlusconi a very amusing character, someone who has smartly albeit wrongly drawn attention on himself by conducting a brave sexual life.  I feel enraged when I hear this. Italians (note: those who DID not vote for him) have been enduring far more than a comedian’s act based on excessive sexual actions. The reasons why us, enraged and outraged Italians (the ‘indignati’ movement – ‘indignati’ meaning ‘outraged’), have been long campaigning for Berlusconi to step down bear much deeper roots.

Back to the Roots of the Problem

These roots go back to the beginning of Berlusconi’s career, when he emerged as a self-made business man through allegedly illicit financial transactions. Over the years, he has been involved in a high number of court proceedings leading him to enter into politics to pursue the goal of achieving political immunity from legal suits against him. Ever since he’s been in politics, he’s built up a caste of people to form his party, the PDL – Party of Freedom, resembling rather a mafia-entourage rather than a selection of politicians committed to an ideology or a cause. The party’s members have as a minimum common denominator the involvement in judicial proceedings, in the media and business empire led by the Berlusconi family and the party life-style culminating in the so well-known ‘Bunga Bugas’. So, as it is clear from this picture, the sexual aspect of Berlusconi’s political ‘peformance’ represents only one face of his role in Italy’s political landscape.

The reality is that Italy is sinking not only because Berlusconi has destroyed Italy’s reputation abroad with his extravagant life-style, but – first and foremost – because all he’s done for the past years in power has been implementing laws to protect his personal interests and those of his carefully selected entourage. These laws, the so-called ‘ad personam’ laws, have been attacking the judiciary and have destroyed the public sector. All social classes in Italy have been attacked directly or indirectly by himself or by members of his government. Teachers have been insulted by one of the Ministers, Mr Brunetta. Judges have repeatedly been target as ‘manipulators of the law’, ‘red gowns’ acting on behalf of evil Communists. Universities have been systematically seen their research funds withdrawn accompanied by attacks against the university barons who suck money from the State to maintain the status quo and prevent political freedom in Italy.

Some commentators have suggested that Italy has been experiencing a sort of ‘silent dictatorship’. The Government and Berlusconi, backed up by lines and lines of supporters, have reduced the freedom of speech in a country where anyone opposing the Government’s policies (i.e. the ‘ad personam’ laws) has been accused of siding with the Communists, of acting against the country’s interest. All this has eventually led to the death of political discourse.  All Italy’s been discussing for years has been how to get rid of Berlusconi and – on the other side – how to get rid of Berlusconi’s opponents. The real problems of the country – unemployment, lack of funding in the education and health sectors, the massive bureaucratic problems in the judiciary, the high rates of tax evasion (only to mention some) – have been not only ignored but denied. Italy’s own government (and opposition) lost track of the real world and locked themselves up in a useless debate.

We’ve seen a dramatic impact of Italy’s political deadlock on immigrants from the Northern-African region arriving in Lampedusa (https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/desperation-in-lampedusa/). Italy showed its inability to tackle the situation due to the absolute absence of policy and political discourse on immigration which went beyond mere right-wing extremist statements on expelling all foreigners regardless of their circumstances.

Europe’s Blindness

Why has Europe not seen the relationship between these dramatic facts and Berlusconi’s government? Why has it taken so long for the world to notice that Italy was rapidly sinking? The answer lies once again in economic interest.

I participated in anti-Berlusconi demonstrations and saw crowds and crowds of people feeling the same way as I did (and still do): outraged, “indignati”. I was so surprised that there had been such a little coverage, that I emailed photos of the demonstrations to many newspapers. I published a few of my photos of these demonstrations on my blog back in February 2011: https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/italy-says-no-to-berlusconis-brothel/

The Economist published several articles denouncing the situation in Italy, one of which clearly outlined and predicted the present catastrophe – https://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/the-man-who-screwed-an-entire-country-the-economist/.

What Next?

Now what? Berlusconi’s resignation is important but it is not the last act of his performance. Roberto Saviano – one of Italy’s most famous writers who is currently living under protection in a secret location to avoid mafia’s reprisals – has published an article on The Guardian commenting on the future ahead (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/11/silvio-berlusconi-own-interests-italy?newsfeed=true).

The defeat of Berlusconi is not yet the defeat of his entourage and of the political attitude promoted by them. These are going to be the next steps and thy will require all Italians – as well as Europeans – not to forget about Berlusconi’s conduct. I would not like to see him being re-elected a few months or a year down the line, when he will claim that the new government has failed to solve the crisis. Re-opening political discourse after a long ‘dogmatic sleep’, to say it in Kantian terms, will mean facing open scars and making tough choices to mend them.

 

It is clear that hard times are over, but harder times are to come if Italy wants to have any hope of building on its ruins.

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The Man who Screwed an Entire Country [The Economist]


Silvio Berlusconi’s record

The man who screwed an entire country

The Berlusconi era will haunt Italy for years to come

Jun 9th 2011 | from the print edition [The Economist]

SILVIO BERLUSCONI has a lot to smile about. In his 74 years, he has created a media empire that made him Italy’s richest man. He has dominated politics since 1994 and is now Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since Mussolini. He has survived countless forecasts of his imminent departure. Yet despite his personal successes, he has been a disaster as a national leader—in three ways.

Two of them are well known. The first is the lurid saga of his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties, one of which has led to the unedifying spectacle of a prime minister being put on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with a minor. The Rubygate trial has besmirched not just Mr Berlusconi, but also his country.

However shameful the sexual scandal has been, its impact on Mr Berlusconi’s performance as a politician has been limited, so this newspaper has largely ignored it. We have, however, long protested about his second failing: his financial shenanigans. Over the years, he has been tried more than a dozen times for fraud, false accounting or bribery. His defenders claim that he has never been convicted, but this is untrue. Several cases have seen convictions, only for them to be set aside because the convoluted proceedings led to trials being timed out by a statute of limitations—at least twice because Mr Berlusconi himself changed the law. That was why this newspaper argued in April 2001 that he was unfit to lead Italy.

We have seen no reason to change that verdict. But it is now clear that neither the dodgy sex nor the dubious business history should be the main reason for Italians looking back on Mr Berlusconi as a disastrous, even malign, failure. Worst by far has been a third defect: his total disregard for the economic condition of his country. Perhaps because of the distraction of his legal tangles, he has failed in almost nine years as prime minister to remedy or even really to acknowledge Italy’s grave economic weaknesses. As a result, he will leave behind him a country in dire straits.

A chronic disease, not an acute one

That grim conclusion might surprise students of the euro crisis. Thanks to the tight fiscal policy of Mr Berlusconi’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, Italy has so far escaped the markets’ wrath. Ireland, not Italy, is the I in the PIGS (with Portugal, Greece and Spain). Italy avoided a housing bubble; its banks did not go bust. Employment held up: the unemployment rate is 8%, compared with over 20% in Spain. The budget deficit in 2011 will be 4% of GDP, against 6% in France.

Yet these reassuring numbers are deceptive. Italy’s economic illness is not the acute sort, but a chronic disease that slowly gnaws away at vitality. When Europe’s economies shrink, Italy’s shrinks more; when they grow, it grows less. As our special report in this week’s issue points out, only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy in the decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell. Lack of growth means that, despite Mr Tremonti, the public debt is still 120% of GDP, the rich world’s third-biggest. This is all the more worrying given the rapid ageing of Italy’s population.

Low average unemployment disguises some sharp variations. A quarter of young people—far more in parts of the depressed south—are jobless. The female-participation rate in the workforce is 46%, the lowest in western Europe. A mix of low productivity and high wages is eroding competitiveness: whereas productivity rose by a fifth in America and a tenth in Britain in the decade to 2010, in Italy it fell by 5%. Italy comes 80th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” index, below Belarus and Mongolia, and 48th in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings, behind Indonesia and Barbados.

The Bank of Italy’s outgoing governor, Mario Draghi, spelt things out recently in a hard-hitting farewell speech (before taking the reins at the European Central Bank). He insisted that the economy desperately needs big structural reforms. He pinpointed stagnant productivity and attacked government policies that “fail to encourage, and often hamper, [Italy’s] development”, such as delays in the civil-justice system, poor universities, a lack of competition in public and private services, a two-tier labour market with protected insiders and exposed outsiders, and too few big firms.

All these things are beginning to affect Italy’s justly acclaimed quality of life. Infrastructure is getting shabbier. Public services are stretched. The environment is suffering. Real incomes are at best stagnant. Ambitious young Italians are quitting their country in droves, leaving power in the hands of an elderly and out-of-touch elite. Few Europeans despise their pampered politicians as much as Italians do.

Eppur si muove

When this newspaper first denounced Mr Berlusconi, many Italian businesspeople replied that only his roguish, entrepreneurial chutzpah offered any chance to modernise the economy. Nobody claims that now. Instead they offer the excuse that the fault is not his; it is their unreformable country’s.

Yet the notion that change is impossible is not just defeatist but also wrong. In the mid-1990s successive Italian governments, desperate not to be left out of the euro, pushed through some impressive reforms. Even Mr Berlusconi has occasionally managed to pass some liberalising measures in between battling the courts: back in 2003 the Biagi labour-market law cut red tape at the bottom, boosting employment, and many economists have praised Italy’s pension reforms. He might have done much more had he used his vast power and popularity to do something other than protect his own interests. Entrepreneurial Italy will pay dearly for his pleasures.

And if Mr Berlusconi’s successors are as negligent as he is? The euro crisis is forcing Greece, Portugal and Spain to push through huge reforms in the teeth of popular protest. In the short term, this will hurt; in the long term, it should give the peripheral economies new zip. Some are also likely to cut their debt burden by restructuring. An unreformed and stagnant Italy, with a public debt stuck at over 120% of GDP, would then find itself exposed as the biggest backmarker in the euro. The culprit? Mr Berlusconi, who will no doubt be smiling still.

from the print edition | Leaders

http://www.economist.com/node/18805327?story_id=18805327&CFID=172274374&CFTOKEN=18162879

Reactions to Bin Laden’s death on Yom Ha Shoah


Today is Yom HaShoah (יום השואה) the Holocaust Remembrance Day, or, as many prefer to call it, the Shoah Remembrance Day (to see why you should call it Shoah and not Holocaust, read here). In Israel, sirens sound for two minutes all over the country and everyone ceases their activities no matter what they are doing, where and why in order to pay tribute to the memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million other victims killed during the Shoah.

Here are some pictures of Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, which I took in August 2010. The pictures are all in black and white, because photographs cannot convey the emotions experienced during the visit to Yad Vashem: the total absence of colours is an attempt to crystallize this moment of mourning and recollection.

The triangle is the shape of the building hosting Yad Vashem. This picture shows the part visible externally, while the rest of the building continues below ground level. The triangle represents half of the Star of David (Maghen David) as a sign of mourning for the death of millions of Jews. While 6 million of Jews died during the Shoah, the names of only 3 millions of them have been identified to date and are listed inside Yad Vashem.

Below, some pictures of people’s reactions after visiting Yad Vashem. A feeling that, from my own experience, I can describe as a painful feeling of suffocation both caused by the thoughts about the number of victims and the atrocities they suffered, and, at the same time, the terribly dry heat that seems to be like a physical way to remind us about the weight and importance of that place.

On this year’s Yom Ha Shoah, the killing of Osama Bin Laden has been announced by the U.S. President Obama. Some part of the world (the U.S. in particular) is rejoicing, while others (to mention one example, Hamas) are mourning his death.

I believe both reactions to be wrong and non-sensical. No one should ever celebrate anyone’s death, even when it is the enemy’s death (whatever “enemy” might mean, I will not discuss this issue here): it would mean putting oneself on the same play-field as the “enemy” one is claiming to have fought.

At the same time, rejoicing of Bin Laden’s death seems to be both naive and counter-provocative: does anyone seriously believe this to be the end of the international threat of terrorism? I wish it were, but I very strongly doubt so. Rejoicing of his death could even bear serious consequences to security which should be carefully weighed out by people standing in the streets…and here I come to comment the second and opposite reaction to Bin Laden’s death: mourning.

Isn’t it ironic that, on Yom Ha Shoah, Hamas and Iran are mourning Bin Laden’s death declaring he was the only “Arab holy warrior” and condemning “Zionist terror”? This is only to prove that we must continue being aware of the dangers to international security and we mustn’t put our guards down now believing “everything is over”.

Perhaps, one should consider more seriously some of the more moderate views coming from Egypt, where Issam al-Aryan of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood responded to Bin Laden’s death by stating that “it’s time the world understood that there is no connection between violence and Islam” and now calling on the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.

As for myself, I am still slightly bewildered by the news of Bin Laden’s death and I don’t really feel like this event equips me with any additional information allowing me to comment on the world’s future of war or peace. Maybe this is because, in fact, absolutely nothing will change after Bin Laden’s death.

How do you feel about the news of Bin Laden’s death?

Do you think this news has overshadowed the importance of Yom Ha Shoah?

A Letter to the Egyptian People (Source: Shalom Hartman Institute)


A Letter to the Egyptian People   (13/02/2011)

By DONNIEL HARTMAN

Dear Neighbor:

We, your neighbors, have been speaking a lot about you these last few weeks. As the status quo in your country to which we have become accustomed has changed, some of us expressed concern, others hope, and still others, admiration. Each view has its pundits, whose reading of the “facts” (your reality) seemed somehow to always fit into their pre-existing worldview.

The truth is that we don’t know. We don’t know, first and foremost, who you are. You see, for the last 30 years it seems, we never got a chance to talk. We spoke with your leaders, but as you so aptly proved, they don’t speak for you anymore, if they ever did.

We got used to and comfortable with the existing state of affairs and learned how to adapt and work with it in ways that would fit our own national interests and aspirations. We all must now come to terms with the fact that it is not only about us, but about you. We must begin a new conversation with you, a partner that has declared loud and clear that your voice – the voice of the people – must and will be heard.

First, let me start then with a hello. As neighbors, we have had a long relationship, filled with many different memories. I remember as a young teenager the feelings of fear that you aroused when in 1973 your armies crossed the Suez Canal and my country’s very existence was in doubt. I remember the awesome beauty of the Sinai desert as a soldier in the tank corps when it was still under Israel’s control and the strategic comfort it provided. I remember falling head over heels in love with your President Anwar Sadat, when he came to Israel. I remember the hope that he brought to our country, a hope which inspired us to recognize that our future security could not and should not be based solely on the strength of our army and the impenetrability of our borders, but on the stability of our peaceful relations with our neighbors.

For nearly 35 years now, we have lived in peace with each other. Our children have not died at each other’s hands. It hasn’t been the warmest peace, but as we say in the Jewish tradition, “dayenu.” It was enough. We Israelis, while always aspiring for more, deeply valued it nonetheless. Where do we go from here?

One of the old adages posits that democracies rarely go to war with each other. This is so, it is argued, because when the people who actually have to pay the price of war get to choose, they will invariably choose resolution over conflict. They will choose their children’s lives over national pride and ideology.

It is here that the Middle East has often proven this wrong. It seems that in our neighborhood at times, our children are our least valued commodity. The two of us, however, who have enjoyed the fruits that peace has given to our children are also a Middle Eastern phenomenon, and must become the rule instead of the exception.

Democracies rarely go to war, however, for yet another reason. A democracy is not simply the rule of the majority, but rather the rule of the majority that preserves the inalienable rights of its minorities. It is a system of government which believes that all humans are endowed with certain basic rights and freedoms which both empower them to govern themselves and which frees them from the potential tyranny of that same government. Democracies rarely go to war not simply because they want to preserve the lives of their citizens but because they respect the inherent freedoms of all humans, citizen and non-citizen alike. When one respects one’s own rights to be free, it often leads one to respect one’s neighbor’s rights to the same freedoms as well.

I pray that this will be one of the outcomes of your democratic revolution. I hope that our two peoples living in vibrant democracies will find new ways to reach out to each other and respect each other. That does not mean that we always have to agree. It is possible and even likely that there are policies which each one of us is pursuing, either externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.

We have a critical choice ahead of us. The change in the status quo can cause us to revert to the old and mutually destructive patterns. I hope we do not need to relive the experiences of our grandparents and parents in order to learn yet again that war is not a solution. I pray that we will use the change in the status quo as a catalyst to move us forward. Status quos are comfortable, but they can also lead to stagnation. Our neighborhood is one in which there is still much pain and hatred. We, the two of us, have a unique opportunity to change the rules of the game, to speak, engage, challenge, and even push each other to find a new and vibrant status quo.

I know you are going to be busy over the next number of months and we are not your primary concern. I am nevertheless writing to you to again say, hello, and that we look forward to speaking with you soon. Until then, we wish that your transition to freedom be a peaceful and beneficial one to all your citizens and that your freedom be a blessing to you, and to the whole world. Amen.

Note: This article has struck a nerve both in Egypt and in Israel. [At the link] below you can find dozens of comments from Egyptians, a first for the Institute. Also, an Israeli newspaper [Haaretz] has featured this virtual dialogue in a special feature article.

Source: http://hartman.org.il/Opinion_C_View_Eng.asp?Article_Id=629