Chronicling the Events of our Times

By Ari Bussel

This Postcard, like all others in this series, is about a period of time in the chronology of the Jewish People. The series attempts to weave a picture from individual incidents, using bits and pieces to create a whole.

Once a general frame of reference has been created, it is then time to zoom in, go into more depth, filling the rendering with sight, sound, emotion and texture.

Future readers would attempt to decipher what was it like to live during these dangerous times and how they led to where they arrived.

What was the world thinking? How could it have not seen the inevitable unfolding so clearly? Why did people not act, react, do something to stop the avalanche of doom? And more generally, what was it like to live during the first and second decades of the 21st Century?

The future reader of this series may be wondering how could we (those in the past) have missed the obvious when everything was occurring in real time, all instantly at one’s fingertips.

Therefore, for the benefit of our current-day readers, we attempt to paint an overall picture. We are all busy with our daily lives, our family, children, elderly parents or grandparents, livelihood, an unruly neighbor, a new love, a landlord who wants more money or a bank that suddenly decides to act differently than all years before.

We are bombarded with news, on TV before or after dinner, on the radio while in the car, from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook or other social networks, text messages to our phone or a constant deluge of e-mails from all directions, wanted and unwanted.

Sometimes to make sense of all the information presented to us is quite a challenge. In fact we can become overwhelmed to the point of “overload,” and yet we refuse let go. Instant information at our fingertips is addictive. It makes us feel like a puppeteer in real life theater, staging in real time. This euphoria makes many a person forget what is really important, substituting life for a momentary God-like sensation.

Have you ever seen people in a restroom with a phone in their hands? Or perhaps you drove behind a distracted driver texting while driving, focused on the hand-held device and completely ignoring the road? Maybe you have seen (or have been) a student in school ignoring his teacher in favor of another hand-held device? In a word—absurd! This information addiction is making us do very funny things indeed.

The situation is actually much more dire than I have described. To allow for all these “necessities,” without which life cannot be sustained (imagine, one cannot finish a meal without answering a phone call, text back an answer or remain up-to-the-second in who-said-what-to-whom), and for streaming videos etc., a sufficient bandwidth must exist.

Thus, cell tower after cell tower springs up all over. Some are on the public right of way, hidden underground or up high on utility poles. Along the freeways they are often disguised as palm trees. But most egregious is their proliferation in residential neighborhoods in very close proximity to schools and kindergartens.

The scrupulous operators, “reputable” companies like AT&T or Sprint, Verizon or T-Mobile (recently bought by AT&T), prefer residences, particularly apartment buildings where renters have no say lest they may face the exit door, or those landlords who need or look for a permanent fixed monthly income.

In the United States there is some semblance of “control,” although in practice it amounts to nothing. Localities are unable to regulate the proliferation of cell towers other than aesthetically since Federal Law governing telecommunication preempts anyone from doing anything effective to control these companies.

In Israel the situation was much worse, since the consumption per person is so much greater than in almost anywhere else in the world. Simply put, Israel is at the forefront of usage (and development) of modern-day telecommunication.

Anyone sensitive enough to be looking for cell towers sees them everywhere, most often in places they clearly should not be. Recently the Government of Israel started regulating the location of cell towers—better late than never.

The issue is that we have surrounded ourselves with radiation, the largest voluntary experiment ever created by humankind, the results of which we will likely know in several decades. Until then all speculations are valid, although the overriding strong foot of the telecommunication giants trample everything in its way. The trillions in profits are too enormous to ignore and possible adverse health considerations are not immediately apparent, thus ignored.

I try to imagine what it was like “before.” Actually, I remember clearly. There was a day, not that far in the past, when the number of TV channels could be counted on both hands. A time when households had at most one TV and it was black and white. Telephone lines: Is one not enough? Parking spaces: At most two for wealthier families, at most one for everyone else. And meals were a time to be together, enjoy the bounty of our country and say grace.

Somehow we managed quite well. We even gathered together to view very special broadcasts, “breaking news” or a President’s speech.

Today, we lost that “togetherness,” the meaning of that special time or occasion, and we are quickly replacing relationships, a human touch, reasoning and patience with quick gratification. It is here now, all available in an instant. We even lost patience to read anything longer than a Tweet.

Those of us who still remember that more innocent world, understand what it meant to hold a book in one’s hand (soon children will ask, “but what is a book?”) or to keep a dictionary or an encyclopedia on a bookshelf. I am reminiscent of classrooms where one paid attention to a teacher, of schools one attended in person. Experiences one needed to feel for oneself, like the ability to look another person in the eye, feel a person’s touch, a comforting hand, a loving hug or even an angry fist.

Toward the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century we began running, speeding ever faster against the unknown, trying to get someplace instantaneously. There is no question that “nano” can contain more than the eye can see, that a whole Bible can be written on a pinhead. But is this the life we desire?

As a person sits and reads (or views tapes on whatever media) about life at this juncture, I am not sure that one would immediately grasp the framework. Likewise, I am certain that others, like me, oftentimes feel they are drowning in too much information.

This series, now in its third year, is written to address these needs. The necessity to look at the greater picture, and at the same time be able to feel, hear, taste and experience drives our writing. Thus, even if you are a traveler from faraway lands, from outer space in fact, this Series attempts to serve as a guide.

“Let us hold your hand, and walk with us,” is our invitation to you, the reader. Our goal is the following: We look at America and at Israel, at things that are dear to our hearts, and explore them in depth, from a particular viewpoint. We try to provide the background, the timeline, the players involved and possible ramifications of processes and events. We often glimpse at the other side, the opinion of others, to see what we may learn or derive from their way of thinking and acting.

We compare and contrast, present information sprinkled with humor or sadness, with options and paths. The decision is our readers’, and that is the beauty of writing. We approach issues from a position incumbent upon our background, age, economic condition, health, family status, etc. Then you, our reader, can take each Postcard and relate to it in your own, particular, special way. It is our desire to keep a dialogue alive. Ensure conversation never ends and people continue to attempt compromise.

We discovered each reader absorbs the very same Postcards completely differently, for we all relate to things subjectively: to one a smile, to another a tear dropping sadness from the heart.

The series “Postcards from America—Postcards from Israel” is a journey on which we embarked what seems ages ago. The world has certainly changed in front of our very eyes, and we try to make sense of these changes as they relate to the United States, to Israel but most importantly to each and every one of us. It is what we in our small way do to fulfill our desire to be part of “that” good fight.

It is this journey that brought us to your computer or phone or iPad screen, and which will soon see its appearance in print, an old-fashioned book. You have welcomed us again and again for the better part of three years, and there is now enough material for a full trilogy.

While you may not always have agreed with our words, we thank you for loyally coming along for the ride. It is your encouragement, your support and even your contrary opinions on occasion that make this journey all the more worthwhile.