"My Friend Came To Me with Sadness In His Eyes"

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It wasn’t about Bangladesh or Somalia but Palestine

 

by Eileen Fleming

 

Part 1:
August 2, 2011: Thanks to George and Friends with hope for Somalia

“My Friend Came to me with sadness in his eyes” but it wasn’t about Bangladesh or Somalia but Palestine

Forty years ago, on the first day of August, George Harrison and Friends and fans got together for two shows at Madison Square Garden, New York City and blew the roof off at The Concert for Bangladesh.

Everyone checked their egos at the door and in harmonious rocking solidarity with George, Ringo, Clapton, Dylan, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar and more raised awareness and funds that were- and still are- being dispersed through UNICEF.

Today, 11 million people in and around Somalia are currently at risk of starvation amidst the worst drought to hit the nation in a generation.





The Concert for Bangladesh continues to help refugees, the hungry and homeless.

The George Harrison fund for UNICEF supports lifesaving assistance to children caught in humanitarian emergencies, not just in Bangladesh, but all countries in crisis where children are at risk.

The Concert for Bangladesh ended as George sang:

My friend came to me, with sadness in his eyes
He told me that he wanted help
Before his country dies

Such a great disaster – I don’t understand
But it sure looks like a mess
I’ve never known such distress
Now please don’t turn away,

Now it may seem so far from where we all are
It’s something we can’t neglect
It’s something I can’t neglect.

In 2003, I met a man from Palestine with sadness in his eyes.

While listening to his stories of being a 1948 refugee from the Galilee who made his way to the USA and into a Top Secret position in the Defense Industry during the Cold War, we became friends and he inspired my first book:  KEEP HOPE ALIVE


“The formula is simple and it’s reduced to four words every kid in the world knows: Tell me a story. It’s that easy.”-Don Hewitt

 

Excerpted from Chapter 4: BROTHER HAROLD

Jake and Harold had finished filling seven deer feeders scattered throughout their privately-held four thousand acres of wetland an hour east of Orlando, on the outskirts of the rural town of Christmas. The two men were in partnership with a group of professional businessmen, who had purchased the undeveloped acreage as an investment. Jake, Harold, and a few other partners also used the property as a hunting preserve.

While riding in a dilapidated camouflaged Jeep on the way back to camp, Harold yelled, “Hey, look! There are two deer in the clearing — nice fat does.” Jake cut the engine and the men sat in silence, watching the deer graze. Out of the thick palmettos, a twelve-point and a young buck with peach-fuzzed antlers appeared. The men watched in awe as the deer fed. When the majestic stag raised his eyes to the men and snorted, they all turned and bolted.

Further down the dirt road, Harold yelled once again, “Look, I think there is another herd way over there.”

Jake focused his cerulean eyes where Harold pointed and wryly retorted, “Harold, that’s a bunch of hogs!”

“Oh, guess my eyes aren’t what they use to be.” Harold pulled out a purple velveteen sack that enrobed his bottle of Crown Royal and asked, “Care for some sustenance, Jake?”

Jake shook his head as he lit a cigar and grabbed a Tab from the cooler at his side. “You know, Brother Harold, I cannot get my neighbor’s problem off my mind. It’s usually my patients that keep me awake. But all day, I keep seeing this poor guy’s face. He’s worried about his wife, and there is cause for concern. If that weren’t enough, he’s on this mission to help save the world. I’ve told you about all of that, remember?”

Harold snorted affirmatively, and Jake continued, “Dr. D. has more passion and commitment to social justice issues than anyone I have ever personally known. He is flying to Cairo Tuesday night, and I just told him his wife’s condition is unstable. For the past year, he has been working out a deal with the president of the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development in Kuwait. He did this while working fifty hours a week at Martin Marietta. He has this incredible vision of linking the twenty-two Arab countries via modern telecommunication systems. He rounded up nine Arab-Americans with advanced degrees and lucrative positions to quit their jobs, go back to their homeland, and help their people. This Dr. D. is an incredible person. He’s a Muslim, but he’s a better Christian than a lot of Christians I’ve known.”

“Yeah, man, I know exactly what you mean. But what I just don’t get is why those people over there keep fighting each other. If they are all so religious, why don’t they do what their religions teach and treat each other the way they want to be treated?”

Jake eased naturally into his other role of teacher and lecturer, and launched into a history lesson. “This modern conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews began around the turn of the twentieth century. The two groups have different religions; and do you understand that ‘Palestinian’ means Muslims, Christians, and Druze? The animosity towards Israel is not about religious differences, but about land. The UN divided the area known as Palestine into three parts in 1947: Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. This is a very small geographical area, about the size of Maryland.

“Imagine carving up the state of Maryland, forcing the folks out of their homes without paying them, and ripping up their deeds. It really is an unjust situation, and things are more out of hand all the time. This morning, when we were discussing if he should go or not, I had a sense of uneasiness that had nothing to do with doctoring. Something I can’t put my finger on, like a bad premonition — but now I am sounding like my wife!”

Brother Harold nodded and rubbed his protuberant abdomen before responding. “Well, you don’t have to be a psychic to know bad stuff will keep on happening over there. What’s the deal with the UN? Why can’t they maintain peace there?”

“Well, the United Nations was the body that carved up the borders, and that is what led to the 1948 war. In November of 1947, even though the Arab Nations disagreed with the boundary lines, the UN went ahead with their plan. You see, after the fall of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Britain had taken control of the land via a mandate whose time had run out. With Britain withdrawing from the area, the Jewish people flooded the region, claiming not just the territory given to them by the UN, but also places like Dr. D’s hometown. It was Palestinian territory, according to the UN. Come on, why should the Palestinians have to pay the price for the Nazi’s sins?

“Imagine the outrage, and you can understand why the Arab nations that surround the area formerly known as Palestine attacked the new state of Israel. That was the war of 1948. Since then, there have been two more wars, in ’56 and ’67, and I won’t be surprised when another happens. Understand, these attackers are being born and bred in the refugee camps. Imagine being young and healthy, and having no prospects or future. There is not much else to do but make babies. And they most certainly have been busy doing that. The Palestinians no longer have a nation, so they cannot get passports to migrate elsewhere.

“The group known as Fedayeen, which means ‘self-sacrificer,’ was born in the despair of the refugee camps. These men have given up hope of returning to their homes, which mostly have been torn down and rebuilt by the Israelis now. These Fedayeen do not only sacrifice themselves; they kill innocent people. They are homicide bombers! This naturally causes retaliation, which sets into place the continuing cycle of violence and destruction.”

“So why exactly does your friend want to go back over there?”

“He is a man with a vision and a passion. He is committed to justice for both sides, and he believes he can make a positive difference. If you knew him personally, Harold, you would believe it, too.”

Harold lifted his almost empty pouch of Crown Royal and exclaimed, “Let’s toast the man, and then I’ll tell you what my daddy told me when I was a kid, when my brothers and I would get out of hand. He’d say, ‘boys, you all are going the way of Cain and Abel, and you’d better quit. For one of those boys was filled with so much hatred and jealousy that he killed the other.’

“Then my old man would be on a roll, and he’d tell us about Sarah, Abraham’s wife. And we loved to hear that part, so we’d quit our fight. You see, although Sarah was already menopaused, she still desired a child. God had even shared a laugh with her about it coming true, but just like a woman, she took the matter into her own hands, and refused to wait for the Lord to deliver. So old Sarah decided to give her maidservant to her old man, and that chick and Abraham made a kid. Everything was fine when Ishmael arrived, but only for a very short while.

“Now, although Sarah was a dried-up old crone, she, too, birthed a son, and named him after the laughter she had shared with God, but called the kid Isaac. Sarah had gotten very territorial and demanded Abraham cast out his beloved first son with his mama Haggar, into the barren wilderness, and Abraham did it! But, as God always hears the cries of mothers and sons, he promised to make a great nation from Ishmael’s descendants, too. And thus, the Arab nation was born.

“By the sixth century before Christ, the conflicts in the land were already old news, and Jeremiah warned the people that all God could see was violence and destruction in the city. Sickness and wounds were all around.

“And then my old man would get tears in his eyes and softly recite, for every misunderstanding, every condemning thought, every negative vibration, every tear torn from a heart, every time one grabbed and wouldn’t let go, and they only did it because they did not know. The Divine is within all creation and within all women and men.

And every tiny kindness you have ever done, every gentle word spoken, every time you held your tongue, every positive thought, every smile freely given, every helping hand that opens, helps bring in the kingdom. And the kingdom comes from above, and it comes from within. Imagine a kingdom of sisterhood of all creatures and all men.

Harold stroked a tear away with the velvet pouch that held his Crown Royal, drew the last swig and offered up, “Godspeed to Dr. D on his mission from God.”

Read More: 16 Days in Israel Palestine

City-Built Parking Garages Are Almost an Essential Service in Omaha, Neb.

Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, NE) April 14, 2002 Byline: John Taylor Apr. 14–You won’t find many parking garages on a list of architectural wonders of the world, particularly those built by the City of Omaha.

But what the drab, gray pillbox-like structures lack esthetically, they have made up for in the economic lift they are giving downtown Omaha, public and private officials say.

Most of the estimated 32,600 people who migrate into the downtown area day and night to work will be arriving by car, not bus. They, along with the more than 5,600 people who live in the downtown area, have to find some place to park.

That estimate of workers and residents in downtown Omaha was made in January 2000 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency.

Increasingly the parking spaces for those commuters and residents have been provided by the City of Omaha in the form of huge, new garages with more than 3,382 parking spaces in an area bounded by Leavenworth, Cass, 24th and Eighth Streets.

Since the city got into the parking-garage business in 1980, it has built seven in the downtown area, and has started work on an eighth, this one the biggest of them all, a 1,300-stall garage near the new Union Pacific Corp. headquarters. go to site city of omaha

Actually, the city owns only seven of the garages. In 1984, in a complex trade of property, it turned over to the State of Nebraska the five-story, 450-car garage on 14th Street, between Harney and Howard Streets.

The city isn’t the sole owner of all downtown parking garages. There are also 17 privately owned garages with 6,117 spaces, according to MAPA.

But counting the latest project, which will include a tunnel to the new U.P. headquarters at 14th and Dodge Streets, the city-built garages represent a public investment of more than $55 million.

And they’re well worth the spending, boosters of the city-owned garages say.

In fact, had it been left to private companies, that number of spaces probably wouldn’t have been built, one official said. Too costly is the guess of Greg Peterson, assistant director of the City Planning Department.

Marc Nichols, president of Downtown Omaha Inc., agreed: “Here’s what I hear developers say: ‘It is very difficult to get a parking garage profitable because you don’t have the 24-hour-a-day usage.” In the eyes of some, then, city-built parking garages have become almost an essential public service, like filling potholes and mowing park grass.

“I never thought of it that way,” Nichols said, “but that could be a way you could look at it.” If the parking weren’t available, he said, “because of our current culture it would be very difficult to attract corporations and business to locate downtown.” The culture, Nichols said, has to do with Omahans’ attitude toward transportation.

“In the Midwest,” he said, “we’re car people. That’s a hard thing to change. People want to be able to park close to wherever their destination is, work or entertainment.” The City of Omaha has helped satisfy that expectation, but providing those close-in parking spots has come with a cost. Taxpayers, at least temporarily, help pay for the structures.

The garages have been financed mainly through tax-exempt revenue bonds. The bonds are paid off through revenue generated when the city leases space to businesses or to individuals.

When income from parking falls short of covering expenses and debt service, bondholders are paid from city general funds, which are derived from taxes.

Stan Timm, city finance director, has estimated that the city will spend nearly $750,000 more than it takes in this year from the parking garages.

The idea of the city’s being in the parking garage business is relatively new. Until the 1980s, providing off-street parking was a job for private enterprise.

The Omaha Downtown Parking Association, a private corporation, was created in 1954 to build, operate or lease parking facilities downtown. Four years later it claimed credit for increasing the number of off-street parking spaces by more than 4,400. In 1968, the organization was reorganized into Downtown Omaha Inc., to take up broader downtown issues.

In 1980, with help from a state law and contributions from private foundations and companies, the city began planning a garage as part of the Central Park Plaza project. That work involved construction of two office buildings bounded by Douglas, Farnam, 15th and 16th Streets.

The city would finance its portion of the garage costs — $5.2 million — with a $1.9 million revenue bond issue and $3.3 million in tax increment bonds, the first time that type of financing was used by Omaha.

With tax increment financing, a public improvement is paid for with the sale of bonds. The principal and interest on the bonds is paid off with increased property tax receipts from the improved private property.

Another $1.35 million to build the garage was pledged by The World-Herald Foundation, Peter Kiewit Foundation and the Hawkins Charitable Trust.

That public-private partnership has been the impetus for most of the garage projects, said Peterson, of the City Planning Department.

He cited these examples:

OmahaPark Three, a three-level, 227-stall garage at 900 Farnam St., built by the city for $1.2 million. The city agreed to build the garage next to the Greenhouse building so the building could be redeveloped into apartments. The two lowest levels are for tenants. The upper level is for the public.

OmahaPark Four, a two-level, 434-stall garage at 10th and Jackson Streets, serves two demands: It gives residents of the Old Market a place to park and the city an opportunity to provide public stalls to visitors to the area.

The garage was built with part of the funds from the same $8.475 million bond issue that also was used for OmahaPark Five, a 454-stall garage constructed in conjunction with renovation of the Civic Auditorium.

Peterson said the garage that will be built for the Union Pacific headquarters — at 13th and Dodge Streets — is still another example of a public-private partnership.

“The City of Omaha has long believed that the central business district is the heart and soul of the city,” he said. “Parking garages are expensive to build, and that is a way the city can participate to have companies construct major office buildings . . . that are critically important to the overall success and viability of downtown.” Would Union Pacific have built the garage and tunnel if the city had not?

“I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that, since we didn’t have to go there,” said John Bromley, a U.P. spokesman. “We looked at it as part of the total package the city and state offered us — tax incentives and parking.” To James Monahan, a former Omaha city councilman and president of a company that owns 10 downtown parking lots, the answer is obvious. “Why should you (build a parking garage) when you can get the city to do it?” he said.

“But the city can probably afford it. It probably does help the businesses because they get a parking garage they don’t have to put their money into, and they can put it into something else.” As the number of parking spaces increases, however, the number of people riding buses — many to downtown destinations — continues to decline.

Although Monahan is one of those who believes the proliferation of parking lots and garages has undermined public transportation, an official with Metropolitan Area Transit, operator of the city’s buses, takes a more benign view. in our site city of omaha

“I don’t know that we’ve ever been able to draw any kind of direct correlation between (the growth of parking garages and ridership),” said Curt Simon, senior director of operations.

Other economic factors, such as cheap gasoline and reasonable parking rates, also have to be considered, he said.

“It’s still an easy town to get around in your car,” Simon said. “Those are tough things to compete with, so I wouldn’t say parking garages in and of themselves are anything that we’ve really able to pinpoint as a major detractor.” Garages or not, ridership on MAT buses declined to 3.8 million people last year from 4.3 million in 2000.

MAT has come up with a strategy, to be put into operation this summer, that officials hope will boost ridership, particularly within the downtown area.

Last year MAT outlined a plan to begin using circulator buses to move within neighborhoods and within the downtown area. The idea would be for buses, stopping at frequent intervals, to provide transportation to people going to lunch, to their cars or to some other destination in downtown.

While MAT ridership might be helped by serving people already in the downtown area, no one seems to believe that large numbers of commuters will abandon their cars and daily trips downtown for bus transportation.

Although no recent surveys have been done comparing parking supply and parking demand, officials like Monahan believe there are ample spaces available.

Indeed, the 2000 MAPA survey found there were 17,804 parking spaces in private, city, state and public lots, garages and underground facilities in the area bounded by Leavenworth, Cass, 24th and Eighth Streets. That’s enough parking to accommodate the entire population of Papillion.

OmahaPark Eight, the lot connected to the U.P. project, is the only one the city is currently actively involved with, but it probably won’t be the last.

“As long as (people) have that automobile and they need to get to work, and their office is downtown,” said Peterson, “I think it’s important that the city work with those businesses to provide a place for employees to park that’s close and competitive, to keep (businesses) from going to the suburbs.”

Author Details
Eileen Fleming, A Citizen of CONSCIENCE for House of Representatives 2012 campaign can be followed at EileenFleming.org. Eileen also founded WeAreWideAwake.org, Produced “30 Minutes with Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu” and authored “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory” and BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu’s FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010. Visit Eileen’s YouTube Channel
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