Are Jews From India?

I am about to publish my new book, “From Neanderthal to Moses: The World Before Religion, War & Inequality.” This brief history of humanity looks at our origins from the beginning and follows a cognitive development course of history. In other words, it begins by asking the question, “How do we learn?” Not how do we learn in the modern world, but how do we start learning when there are no words for things or even the idea of words?

We learn by cooperation and the open sharing of knowledge and skills. There is no other way to create a common language for interactions and trade.

Did you know that everything you know about early human civilization is probably wrong?

Before it was a symbol of the Nazis, did you know the Indian swastika was used by the Hebrew people to decorate synagogues in ancient Israel because the Hebrews came to the Middle East from India’s Indus Valley 4,300 years ago?

Did you also know that 30,000 to 400,000 years ago prehistoric people had their versions of websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and developed knowledge and language together the same way scientists solve advanced problems of physics at the CERN particle laboratory in Switzerland?

Did you know that the Pharaoh of the Exodus story (Akhenaten) was not native Egyptian but of mixed Indian-European background like the Hebrews and that he may have been related to the Biblical character Joseph who saved Egypt?

Among the artifacts of Stone Age history — a period lasting more than one million years — there are no weapons of war. As a result, the world’s first free public schools and universities were built 12,000 years ago, the first art was created 40,000 years ago, and long-distance trade between humans and other prehistoric people was launched as far back as 400,000 years ago.

Seven years ago, I read a quote from Aristotle claiming the ancestors of the Jews — the Hebrew people of the early Bible — came to the Middle East from ancient India. I began investigating and found all the evidence agreed with Aristotle. According to ancient Jewish authorities, the land where the Biblical Eden was located — Havilah — was ancient India.

The fall of Eden was the world’s first war about 3000 B.C.E. This was followed by the first anti-war state, the Indus, founded about 2600 B.C.E. on the principles of multiculturalism, free trade, the separation of church and state and a bathroom in every home. Genetic research into the people of the Indus Valley has revealed Semitic and Middle Eastern backgrounds among them. After a flood destroyed the Indus (the story of Noah), many migrants moved west to Mesopotamia and the Middle East. Some were called the Hebrews or “wanderers from the East.”

The world divided into East and West, as Near Eastern cultures with roots in old India — the Hittites, Babylonians and the Hyksos of ancient Egypt among others — were supplanted by western-rooted ones.

The divisions in the world today are modern, but in many ways the solution may be the most ancient one used by our common ancestors — cooperation.

Are you interested in learning more? Visit shalomaste.com.

Barry Brown is a veteran Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has written for The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Times, among other publications. Contact Brown at barry17@rogers.com.

Inspiring Community

2013ftv_terrillAt this time of year, fundraisers are extra busy encouraging people to make their contributions before Dec. 31. It adds an additional layer of hustle and bustle to a role that is already somewhat challenging.

But, when you are a fundraiser — either as a professional or a volunteer — and you believe very deeply in the organization you represent, it is much easier to ask other members of the community to do their part too.

As president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, I have countless conversations all year about the importance of The Associated in Jewish Baltimore and the wide-reaching impact of a single gift to The Associated.

When I ask someone to support our community through The Associated, I draw my inspiration from the many people I see who directly benefit from the critical work of The Associated agencies and programs.  These programs are enhanced by The Associated’s Annual Campaign.

I think about the members of our Russian-speaking community whose families were helped 25 years ago as they settled into life in Baltimore, where they discovered their Jewish identities and today are giving back as leaders in our community.

I think about the students with learning differences in area day schools who are now able to fully participate in Jewish education because they are receiving the educational support they need from Shemesh.

I think about the older adults who are tending to a community garden at CHAI’s Weinberg Village with help from the Pearlstone Center and the Jewish Community Center and the sense of fulfillment they experience through this project.

I think about the families with young children who are receiving the beautiful books provided by PJ Library through the Macks Center for Jewish Education and the exciting programs these families enjoy together.

I think about the people who have lost their jobs and have benefited from both career counselors and financial assistance through Jewish Community Services.

I think about the individuals whose lives have been shattered by abuse and who are guided on a path toward healing by the volunteers and professionals at CHANA.

I think about the thousands of students connecting to each other for Shabbat dinner and Jewish holidays through Hillel at our area colleges and those discovering the majesty of Israel on a Birthright trip.

I think about the new immigrants in our sister city of Ashkelon whose dreams of freedom are being realized in Israel.

And I think about the thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust and now live in isolation in the Former Soviet Union. Were it not for our community, which provides home visits and food, they would literally waste away in their desolate homes.

It is very easy at this time of year to get overwhelmed. But I choose to view this as a time of reflection and celebration of all we have accomplished in the past year. In the fall, The Associated began using the tagline, Inspiring Jewish Community. This reflects who we are and what we want for Jewish Baltimore, both to inspire and to beinspirational to all who get involved as volunteers, donors or recipients of services made possible by The Associated.

Thank you to this incredible community for knowing that things don’t just happen. They happen because we collectively dedicate ourselves to making it so.

Marc B. Terrill is president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To get involved with The Associated, visit associated.org.

Bedouin Relocation: Unjust and Unnecessary

As a rabbi and a Jewish community leader who cares deeply for Israel and its people, I have a moral obligation to speak out against an Israeli government plan to forcibly relocate and resettle 30,000 to 40,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel because they are a non-Jewish minority.

Bedouin communities trace their historical connection to the Negev for centuries. By the 20th century, most Bedouin settled in permanent areas, used their own system of land ownership recognized by the Ottoman Empire and later by the British Mandate and engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry.

The Bedouin who remained in the Negev after Israel’s War of Independence were forced to live within an arid zone known as the Siyag under martial law. The government then confiscated most Bedouin land outside of this area as state land.

In the 1960s, the government’s master plans failed to acknowledge Bedouin residential areas in the Siyag and zoned the land in the area for industrial, military or Jewish agricultural purposes. These measures essentially wiped Bedouin villages off of maps and made every existing and future Bedouin structures “illegal.”

At the end of the martial-law era, the government began relocating Bedouin into seven urban townships, which remain at the bottom of every economic and social indicator to this day. The approximately 90,000 Bedouin who remain in villages unrecognized by Israel do not receive even basic services from their government, including electricity, water, plumbing, health care and education.

Legislation currently before the Knesset, known as the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev or the Prawer-Begin Plan Bill, perpetuates Israel’s legacy of unjust treatment of its Bedouin citizens. The plan threatens to uproot the residents of as many as 25 villages, demolish their homes, resettle most of them in highly concentrated urban areas and impose a one-sided solution to longstanding land disputes between the state and its Bedouin citizens.

That is why I and more than 780 of my rabbinic and cantorial colleagues have joined with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and Rabbis for Human Rights urging the Israeli government to set aside the Prawer-Begin Plan.

I have had the joy of visiting several Bedouin villages. The people I met are proud people. They want to maintain their way of life while coping with the modern world around them. And they want to maintain their community structures and places of residence.

The government’s plan is costly and unnecessary. It is causing friction and instability in the Negev. An alternative plan produced by Bedouin communities, along with the Israeli NGOs Bimkom and ACRI, allows for recognition of 35 unrecognized villages and meets professional planning standards.

One of the most important moral principles in Judaism is proper treatment of the poor and the stranger. The Bedouin are poor, but they are not strangers. They are part of the polyglot of people who make the modern democracy of Israel so vibrant. I believe the Begin-Prawer Plan violates those Jewish values and the democratic principles that make Israel what it supposed to stand for.

View full list of rabbinic signatures >>

See related article, “Prawer Must Be Stopped.”

Rabbi Floyd L. Herman is the rabbi emeritus of Har Sinai Congregation in Baltimore.

37 Years, 3 Major Themes

I’ve  been writing for the Baltimore Jewish Times since 1976. Over the years, my articles have had three major themes: the foolishness of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank outside of the environs of Jerusalem; the lack of consistency of U.S. policy in the Middle East, most particularly toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, an inconsistency also demonstrated by the current president, Barack Obama; the discovery of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program in late 2002, I have emphasized the necessity of its removal, something neither the United States nor Israel has yet accomplished.

Perhaps my most controversial column came early in the premiership of Menachem Begin (1977-1983), when I condemned his policy of seizing Palestinian-owned land on the West Bank for “security reasons” and then turning that land over to Israeli Jews to build settlements. Not only did I assert that this was theft, but I also warned that the more the settlements spread on the West Bank, the more difficult it would be to reach a two-state solution. Unfortunately, since I wrote the first of a series of articles condemning Israeli settlement policy in early 1978, Israeli settlements have proliferated, and — along with the issues of Jerusalem, Israeli security requirements and the Palestinian refugees — settlements have become a central problem in forging Israeli-Palestinian peace.

On my second theme: It started with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In his shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel in the mid-1970s, he had come to realize that the only way to reconcile America’s multiple goals in the Middle East — keeping Israel alive, keeping friendly Arab regimes in power and maintaining access to oil and strategic communication routes — was for the U.S. to actively work for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter embraced this concept. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did not. Their Middle East policies suffered accordingly. In the case of Obama, his tactics have been less than consistent. He deliberately cooled relations with Israel between 2009 and 2011 only to embrace the Jewish state warmly from 2011 to 2013, virtually quoting the Jewish national anthem, Hatikvah, during his visit to Israel last March. Obama has fluctuated between emphasizing the importance of stopping settlement construction, emphasizing the primacy of the issues of borders and security and calling for the resolution of all the “final status” issues.

On Iran: Its leaders have consistently threatened to “wipe Israel off the face of the map.” Slogans such as “Death to Israel” are inscribed on Iranian missiles. George W. Bush, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, chose not to strike Iranian nuclear facilities; Obama, who, to his credit, did develop a very strong sanctions system against Iran, has nonetheless chosen to use diplomacy rather than force. The six-month agreement with Iran has numerous flaws, including allowing Iran to continue building its heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak. Whether these flaws can be corrected in a follow-up agreement is a very open question.

It has been a pleasure sharing my views of the Middle East. Thank you.

Dr. Robert O. Freedman is the Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone professor of political science emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University and visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Being Jewish and a medical professional is an ancient tradition. This year we welcome the reactivation of the Doctors Division of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, the Maimonides Society.

With just under 18,000 Jewish residents in 7,500 households, Howard County is consistently recognized as a wonderful place to live, boasting excellent schools, religious and cultural tolerance and diversity. With many medical professionals living and practicing in Howard County, we hope to nurture the culture of involvement and giving through our Maimonides Society.

The Maimonides Society is a national society linking medical professionals to the spirit of Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, perhaps the most famous Jewish doctor, who lived in the 12th century. His life combined Torah learning with the demands of a career as a physician, as well as with the demands of daily life as a Jew. He was world renowned for his knowledge and his practice of medicine.

Maimonides’ major contribution to Jewish life remains the Mishnah Torah, his code of Jewish law. This provides a guide for Jewish behavior in all situations, including tzedakah. It is with this perspective that the Jewish Federation has formed the Maimonides Society, illustrating that healing is not just a career, but also a core Jewish value.

As Jewish health-care professionals, the members of this group are dedicated to educational, social and philanthropic activities that focus on the betterment of Jews in Howard County, Israel and around the world.

The Maimonides Division provides a unique opportunity for collegial socializing and networking, and it integrates medical and Jewish concerns to demonstrate the unique contributions that health professions can make in support of the Jewish community. Programs will feature an array of diverse speakers in specialties, such as medicine, bioterrorism, ethics and the changing health-care environment.

All medical professionals will be invited to join the Maimonides Society with an inaugural meeting early in 2014. Our local hospital, Howard County General Hospital, will be sponsoring the division this year, and we are thrilled to have it as our partner in this endeavor. Membership to Maimonides will be included for a donation of $150 a month ($1,800 a year) to the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s annual campaign. This year’s annual campaign encourages “stepping up” and increasing existing donations as well as increasing the number of first-time donations. We have a goal of 1,018 donors by June 30, 2014. Contributions will support the federation”s existing programs, social services, scholarships and overseas needs and offer opportunity for greater community growth and innovation.

In the spirit of Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, who combined Torah learning with the demands of his profession as a physician and his devotion to community, we look forward to a year of rededication of the Maimonides Society of Howard County.

Dr. Jerry I. Levine is vice president and medical director of Maryland Primary Care Physicians and chair of  Maimonides Society in Howard County. For more information about Maimonides, contact Michelle Ostroff at mostroff@JewishHowardCounty.org.

No Strife. No Confusion.

2013ftv_sadovnikI told my husband we were bringing latkes to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner last week.

“Why? They’re not Jewish. Do they even know what latkes are?” he asked me.

I grew up in an interfaith family. It is all I know. Though it sounds like a series of awkward adventures to other people, to me, it is perfectly normal.

When I was three years old, I told people that I was half-Christian and all Jewish. I wasn’t good at math, but I understood that through my mother’s side I was Jewish through and through. On my dad’s side I had Christmas.

In fact, I only know three things about my father’s religious beliefs:

• Christmas trees should have multi-color lights. Nothing else will do.

• Eggnog is superb, especially in coffee.

• I don’t care if Hebrew school is going skiing. You’re spending Christmas with the family.

These rules also apply to his grandchildren and this was difficult for my husband at first. He is always worried that Christmas will be more fun for the kids than Chanukah, that the enticement of the tree will shake their beliefs, that they will lose their Jewish identity with every bite of green Rice Krispie Treats.

They won’t. I didn’t. No one of my family talks about religious beliefs because it is not necessary.

My investment in a Jewish school for my children, and the time my aunts and uncles and cousins have taken in sending their children to Hebrew school or church, is what solidifies their faith, not how they decorate in November and December. Our relationship with each other is what makes us confident in ourselves and our ability to navigate diverse communities. My children know what to say when someone asks why they don’t have a Christmas tree.

My cousin Kristie currently lives in Kigali, Rwanda with her family for her husband’s diplomatic service. They sent a thoughtful package to my daughter’s classroom at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. It was filled with African crafts and coins and notes from her children. Lila’s teacher sent me a gentle email, “If you don’t mind me asking, are your cousins Jewish? The kids want to send something back and all they want to create is Chanukah-related.”

I explained that they weren’t, but having lived around the world, they were culturally aware and anything the class wanted to send back would be appreciated. Lila’s teachers helped the children create letters and items explaining the story of Chanukah and how they celebrate. No strife. No confusion. No proselytizing.  And my daughter didn’t leave feeling like her cousins were outsiders. They were just other children.

I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle, Kristie’s parents. As my uncle rounded the buffet, he came to the latkes.

“Oooh!! Latkes! Hey Steve, did you see the latkes?”

Just like my Jewish kids stare in wonder at beautiful Christmas lights, my Christian uncle still delights in Jewish food.

Autumn Sadovnik is the director of lifelong learning at the Edward A. Myerberg Center.

The Impact Of Israel

2013_Moshe-HeidemanAssimilation. Apathy.  Absorption.

Last month, in the release of the Pew Research Center’s study of U.S. Jews, a bleak picture was painted of what the American Jewish community will look like by the end of this generation. On the other hand, there were highly optimistic numbers in certain pockets of our faith as well, with astonishing growth in Torah learning and other similar areas.

The tension between these two unprecedented extremes places a grave importance on our Jewish youth. We find ourselves at a very auspicious time in our nation’s history, standing on the cusp of an accelerated decline or an exponential boom. It is Jewish teenagers, those growing into positions of influence and gaining a tangible edification from parents and educators, who are the ones who will realize this “decline” or “boom” in the near future. For those passionate about preserving our tradition, the debate has naturally shifted toward how best to inform our teenage youth, and to which areas is it most crucial for them to be connected.

Well before the Pew study was conceptualized, NCSY had been addressing the challenge of inspiring the Jewish future.  Entering our 52nd year in Baltimore, NCSY has been facing Jewish assimilation head on, adapting our methodology throughout the years to reflect a changing Jewish landscape.

One issue we have focused on, which we consider critical to the Jewish future, is ensuring a strong connection with the State of Israel. The period after World War II and then Israel’s War of Independence inculcated the nation with a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to rebuild. In the decades immediately following the state’s founding, we built the country on a passion for Zionism.

However, as we approach Israel’s 66th birthday, these sensitivities are largely lost on today’s youth. We have seen that the only way to foster such a strong, personal identification with our homeland requires proactive and strategic involvement. Organizations, such as the Baltimore Israel Coalition, are dedicated to the cause, by offering community events designed to engage our youth.

Ultimately, bringing teens to the land of Israel and allowing them to experience her beauty and unique passion in person is ideal. NCSY brought nearly 1,000 Jewish teens to Israel this past summer. Building off the BIC’s tireless efforts in local programming, this number includes almost 100 local teens, indicating that a large portion of NCSY’s tremendous impact is being made right here in our backyard.

NCSY capitalizes on these impactful trips by making Israel a priority in all its programming. This weekend’s Regional Convention’s theme centers on our individual connection to the land, and we are frequently working with AIPAC to demonstrate the importance of Israeli-American relations and our individual power to influence them.

Instead of being deterred by startling statistics put out by scientific surveys, the BIC and NCSY are targeting teenagers in this upcoming year to proactively deal with the current crisis. Join us as we endeavor to show our teens that our country is truly the Jewish homeland and as we nurture deep connections with that which we hold so dear.

Moshe Heideman is Baltimore City director of NCSY — Atlantic Seaboard. His organization is a member of the Baltimore Israel Coalition. Learn more at baltimoreisrael.org.

Let’s Thank Family Caregivers

2013ftv_kruppEvery November, the president of the United States proclaims that month as  National Family Caregivers Month.  It is designated as time to thank, support, educate and celebrate the more than 90 million family caregivers across the country who provide $450 billion in “free” care-giving services.

It is hard to believe that two out of every five adults are family caregivers, that 39 percent of all adult Americans are caring for a loved one who is sick or disabled (up from 30 percent in 2010). And this is not to mention that there are at least another 10 million people caring for loved ones with special needs who are younger than 18.  So if you count yourself as one of these millions of Americans, you are definitely not alone.

Being a family caregiver can be a very lonely endeavor, especially if you have little or no chance for social interaction with others.  But in the not-too-distant future, virtually every family in America will be involved in some form of family care giving.

Experts predict that the nation will need one million more home-care workers by 2017 and as many as three million more by 2030, when all of an expected 78 million baby boomers will be older than 65.  Right now, these home-care workers or non-medical home-care aides come into the homes of the disabled or older adults and help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation and everyday chores.

Unlike medical home health aides, they don’t do physical therapy or handle medications. Many work through home-care agencies, while others work directly for families.  Most seniors pay out of pocket or tap their long-term health insurance policies for the in-home care.

The demand for in-home care is growing because the number of individuals 65 and older in the U.S is expected to double in the next 20 years, and many seniors prefer to stay at home rather than move to a nursing facility. Also, more families are relying on paid caregivers because more women work than in previous generations and cannot attend to elderly parents during the day. And it’s not just women doing the care giving.  Men are now almost as likely as women to say they are family caregivers (37 percent of men; 40 percent of women).

As we observe National Family Caregivers Month, we honor those family caregivers who take time to improve the lives of family and friends. Family caregivers exemplify the true spirit of compassion by providing support to their loved ones and assisting them with their everyday activities and special needs.  These selfless people must often make great personal sacrifices to maintain the care and support their family and friends require.

It is at this time that we want to remind caregivers to share the responsibilities. It is also a good time for others who are not caregivers to think about helping the caregivers they know or even to consider a career as a caregiver.

We all have a lot on our own plates. But know that by reaching out and letting someone know that you are there to help and listen, you are taking a good first step. The second step is not to wait for a caregiver to ask for help but to offer your assistance and insist on it. Thank you caregivers.

Shoshana Krupp is managing partner at Elite HomeCare Services. SCENEior focuses on the benefits and challenges of growing older.

Thanksgivukkah: Abe Lincoln the Maccabee

2013_silberI have fond childhood memories of Thanksgiving. I can’t quite remember what was on the annual menu, but I do remember the feelings of familial warmth and cohesion. In the midst of the manic pace of life, the last Thursday in November offered us the opportunity to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

I remember that Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, who was known for his lengthy classes, would begin teaching earlier on Thanksgiving to allow his students the opportunity to spend quality time with their families. In many ways, Thanksgiving has become an important anchor in familial connection for Jews and non-Jews alike.

American Jewry is abuzz with excitement surrounding a calendrical anomaly that has not occurred since 1861 and will not occur again in our lifetimes — the marriage of Chanukah and Thanksgiving.  This family-time extravaganza is already known by many as Thanksgivukkah.

I, for one, am very excited. The connection between the two holidays is more profound than you might imagine.

On Chanukah, we commemorate and celebrate our military victory over the Greeks and the cruse of oil lasting eight days. Although we mention the military victory in our prayers, it is the kindling of the menorah that today defines our observance of this holiday.

No one will dispute the awesomeness of the supernatural display of one day’s supply of oil burning for eight, but it was the military victory that secured our future. Still, the oil takes center stage. Why?

The Talmud (Shabbos 21b) explains that after defeating the Syrian Greek army, the Maccabees returned to the Temple to find it in total disarray. The altar had been used for idolatrous service; the golden utensils were gone. The Maccabees knew they had to do something to ignite the flame within the hearts of their Jewish brothers and sisters, so they began to look for oil. They found only one small jug with the seal of the High Priest (indicating its ritual purity).

They had to make a momentous decision: To light the menorah or not to light the menorah?

On the one hand, it didn’t make much sense to start a process they would be unable to complete. There was clearly not enough oil to keep the menorah burning. And even if they kindled the menorah, it would be a week until they could secure additional ritually pure oil. Perhaps, it would have been better to wait and inaugurate the menorah service properly a week later.

On the other hand, the Maccabees realized there was an opportunity, no matter how imperfect the opportunity really was. It was an opportunity to infuse light, and they grabbed it. They kindled the menorah, and God helped them make history.

The menorah has become Chanu-kah’s dominant theme because it reminds us to take advantage of opportunities. Don’t wait for the perfect moment; make the current moment perfect.

Abraham Lincoln was thinking like a Maccabee when he re-established Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving observances and celebrations date back to the 1500s. But in 1863, just two years after Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving (the last such occurrence), President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a legal holiday.

The Civil War was raging, and Lincoln penned a special Thanksgiving proclamation:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity … harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict. … I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

In the midst of a brutal war, Lincoln reminded us we must take the opportunity to thank God for all that is good.

Like Lincoln, let us find our inner Maccabee and seize the moments when they present themselves. Let us honor the tradition of this great country and remember to thank God even during challenging times.

Rabbi Shmuel Silber is the spiritual leader of Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim and founder and dean of the Institute for Jewish Continuity.

David vs. Goliath

2013ftv_novickWe all grew up with the biblical story of David and Goliath. Of all the various stories from the Bible, as a child it was the one I would read over and over again. The story of the young boy defeating — against all odds — the massive giant is a lesson we adults apply today to business, warfare and obstacles of all kinds.

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, “David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants,” demystifies the story and the common assumptions we make about power.

Gladwell, who has gained a res-pected pop-culture status as an author, sees beyond appearances to get through to their underlying essence. He does it again here.

As the story goes, the Philistines were camped on one side of a ridge overlooking the Elah Valley; the Israelites were on the other. Unwilling to descend down into the lower ground, both armies were at a standstill. That is until Goliath makes his way down into the valley, carrying a javelin, a spear and a sword. He barks, “Choose you a man and let him come down to me! If he prevail in battle against me and strikes me down, we shall be slaves to you. But if I prevail and strike him down, you will be slaves to us and serve us.”

When no one in the Israelite camp moves, a young shepherd boy steps forward and volunteers. Against King Saul’s wishes, the boy refuses the king’s armor and runs down with only a sling, a shoulder bag and shepherd’s staff. Goliath mocks him, gesturing to his staff, “Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”

What takes place next is the stuff of legend.

With perspicacity and close examination, Gladwell reveals the reverse of what we were taught. Among the three kinds of ancient warriors, which included cavalry (on horseback and on chariots) and infantry (foot soldiers with swords and shields) there were projectile warriors (slingers).

An experienced slinger could kill or maim a target at a distance of up to 200 hundred yards and were deadly against infantry. So who really was the underdog?

Gladwell uses this story to demonstrate how we misperceive threats and challenges. We often see them as enormous when we’re not really seeing them for what they truly are. He points out, just as the Israelites saw an intimidating giant, in reality the very thing that gave the giant his apparent advantage was also the source of his greatest weakness.

Fast forward to Israel today. With a vast unwieldy Arab world in turmoil — not unlike the larger, unstable Goliath — Israel has demonstrated the story Gladwell is preaching. By being smarter and more nimble modern Israel is the embodiment of the brave lad who outmaneuvered the slow, unsteady enemy.

Again, the metaphor is not limited to warfare. Each of us also has our own perceived Goliath — an illness, a job schoolwork — that seems overwhelming.  Its size might just be its downfall.

Abe Novick is a local freelance writer.
For more, visit his website, abebuzz.com.