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In a recent online interview, I was asked about the reasons I wrote Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel and how te book relates to YEDID, the Association for Community Empowerment in Israel, an organization I support.
In my answers, I relate that my experiences growing up in an immigrant Jewish family of moderst resources living on the margins of American society, came to shape my view of what kind of country Israel should be.
The interview, reprinted below, can be viewed on line here.
"A writer, teacher, geographer and activist, Dr. Yosef Gotlieb works in myriad mediums to address and remedy the social troubles facing Israel. Born in Costa Rica and raised in the US, Dr. Gotlieb has made his home in Israel since 1984 and currently directs the Text and Publishing Studies Program at David Yellin College of Education in Jerusalem.
"Compelled by traditional Jewish values of social justice and remembrance of his childhood in the socio-economic margins of America, Dr. Gotlieb works to promote innovative, concrete solutions to critical issues facing the Jewish state, specifically matters relating to social justice, and coexistence among the different sectors of the society.
"Recently, he generously donated a portion of the proceeds from his newest work, Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel to YEDID, an organization which he believes truly offers empowerment as a solution to those struggling with socio-economic hardship.
"Below are Dr. Gotlieb’s responses to some of our questions about where the idea came from for this particular novel and how he came to be involved with YEDID.
"According to your website, you are a man of many interests and talents, but can you tell us a bit about what the inspiration was for your novel?
"The inspiration for Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel is wholly my love and deep concern for my people. As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I believe that the message implicit to the book – that the quality of Israel's society, it's soul, is no less important to Jewish survival than our defense needs – is best conveyed in a reality-rooted novel rather than more abstract forms such as an essay or academic paper. The latter options lack the possibilities of intimacy and empathy that fiction provides.
"You kindly donated proceeds from your book launch on November 19, 2011. How does your support of YEDID fit in with your vision for a better Israel?
"The problems that Israeli society confronts today include the profound disparities that exist between different sectors and classes. The economic programs of recent governments have significantly widened the gap between the super-rich and the rest of the society and have rendered poverty more entrenched. The official statistics speak for themselves: One out of four Israeli families live under the poverty line and one out of three children is poor. Ten percent of the population lack sufficient resources for regular meals. The middle classes are also struggling to maintain their economic well-being. This breeds frustration, anger, hopelessness and extremism.
"As someone who grew up in an immigrant family on the socio-economic margins of American society, I remember well how overwhelming a new social environment can be and how welcomed guidance would have been. I strongly believe in the Jewish imperative of helping people struggling with socio-economic hardship. I am also convinced that imparting skills, knowledge and hope is the best way to help people help themselves.
"YEDID is a provider of these essential tools, and by donating part of the revenue from the sale of the book that deals with social justice to an organization that concretely fights for it, enables me to fulfill one of the most important mitzvot in Jewish tradition. I am thankful to YEDID for enabling me to assist in the struggle for social justice, for all sectors, in Israel.
"Is there anything else you'd like YEDID website readers to know?
"Support Israel by giving selectively to those institutions that strengthen it through direct action. YEDID is a resource that addresses problems of Israeli society at their root. It seeks to enfranchise people from all sectors of the society who have been marginalized by it – the poor, the socially disadvantaged, minorities, and others who are not now able to contend for themselves in the rugged landscape of Israel today.