Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Interview with Bulgaria Now

I was invited by Lance Nelson to be a guest on his weekly podcast show, Bulgaria Now. Lance is the founder of the extremely successful Bansko Blog. The Bansko Blog reflects Lance's passion for Bulgaria, for its outdoor life, the mountains, and in particular, the winter ski season. The blog also posts articles on topics ranging from property ownership in Bulgaria, to Lance's travels around the country.

In my Bulgaria Now interview, I talk about my book, Valley of Thracians, my experiences in Bulgaria and what it was like to be under rocket attack in Israel.

In addition, I field a range of random questions. Listen to the podcast and you'll learn what excites me, what book I am looking forward to reading, and whether I am a beer person or a wine person. Enjoy!

You can listen to all the Bulgaria Now podcasts by clicking here. Subscribe to all the podcasts on Soundcloud, iTunes, Overcast or Stitcher.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

10 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About Bulgaria

Bulgaria? Why visit Bulgaria? Bulgaria is a beautiful country, with majestic mountains, sandy beaches, picturesque villages, good food, and hospitable people. And, it's incredibly affordable.

If you don't know anything about Bulgaria, here are ten reasons you should visit.

1. Roses - Bulgarian roses are not only stunningly beautiful, but a major export item as well. The petals reportedly produce as much as 85% of the world's rose oil, an essential ingredient in the production of perfumes. Gathering the roses is very labor intensive. Visit the country in May and June to see the colorful harvest.

Read the rest of this article on The Huffington Post.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bringing Gilad Shalit home

The Negotiator by Gershon Baskin offers a behind the scenes look at the negotiations that brought Israel's soldier home from Hamas captivity.

On June 25, 2006, Palestinian terrorists made their way through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip and attacked an IDF post near the border. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another two were wounded; two of the Palestinians were also killed. Gilad Shalit*, lightly injured in the attack, was dragged back into Gaza through the tunnel.

This scenario sounds eerily familiar, after the recent attempts by Hamas terrorists to penetrate into Israel and strike at army posts and kibbutzim, actions which led to the loss of several Israeli lives. During Operation Protective Edge, it was believed Hamas was striving to achieve a "quality" attack, in which they could kidnap Israeli soldiers for use as future bargaining chips.

When Gilad was captured, Dr. Gershon Baskin, founder of an Israeli-Palestinian think tank and veteran of peace process talks, immediately launched informal talks with Hamas officials. In particular, Baskin communicated with Ghazi Hamad - initially the spokesperson for the Hamas government and its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. With Israel and Hamas refusing to openly negotiate with each other, the two believed that they could help compose the principles that would lead to a prisoner exchange between the sides.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Incident with My Wife's Birthday Present

I asked my wife one week before her birthday what she would like to receive as a gift. "Perfume," was her reply.

A few days later, my wife called me to say that she had just purchased her birthday present, and hoped that this was okay with me.

I felt relieved, knowing that I would not have been able to select a suitable scent. Perfume comes in a wide variety of fragrances; it's something that one should choose for oneself, I thought. (Author's note: my wife and I have a stable enough marriage that surprising each other with gift selection is not necessary. Birthdays are a time to celebrate; after all, it's the thought that counts.)

"I put it in the computer room," she informed me that evening. And that's the last I thought about the purchase. Little did I know, at the time, what would happen to that bottle of perfume.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Murder in the Invisible City

The Hasidic Jewish community of Brooklyn is a closed society, but the brutal murder there of a pregnant woman is a story that must be told.

Rebekah Roberts, a stringer for one of New York's daily newspapers, is assigned to report from the scrap yard where the woman's body has been found. Immediately she confronts religious residents who refuse to talk. She realizes that it may prove difficult to uncover what happened to the victim.

Although Jewish by birth, Rebekah is not observant and knows little about the Hasidim or their customs. Teamed up with a NYPD detective, who wears a yarmulke in order to fit in with the community, yet drives on the Sabbath, Rebekah also begins to track down her mother, who she hasn't seen since the woman abandoned her when she was a child.

The murder investigation seems to have stalled; it isn't following "normal avenues". Could it be that there is a cover-up and people know more than what they are saying? Is it possible that the Shomrim, the community's self-appointed "guardians" have taken matters into their own hands?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Very Real Question Asked in "The Lie"

The Lie by Hesh Kestin
If you are morally opposed to the use of torture during interrogations, how far would you go if a loved one's life was at stake?

Cigarettes abound on the pages of The Lie, the new suspense novel by Hesh Kestin. There are cigars as well, and a trail of butts left by Hezbollah terrorists. Almost all of the characters in this book smoke, and those who don’t, get smoke blown in their faces. Or lit butts held to their chests.

Dahlia Barr, a controversial human rights attorney who regularly defends Palestinians in Israeli courtrooms is offered a position she finds hard to refuse. She transfers to the police force to serve as Special Adviser for Extraordinary Measures, where she will be able to prevent the torturing of suspects during interrogations.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Voices of Reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Guest Post by Vanessa Thevathasan

August 4 2014: As the violence continues, there are grassroots organisations in Israel and Palestine that are working to build peace. One such example is Parents Circle-Families Forum. The organisation has bought together more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the conflict, to call for peace and reconciliation.

Out of war and the human tragedy it inevitably entails, the Parents Circle-Families Forum is working to bring families together to amplify the call for the immediate cessation to the conflict.