From a tiny Persian Gulf country to brightly decorated homes throughout America, new friendships span faith traditions and signal hope and peace for countless millions in the year ahead.
Washington Post correspondent Steve Hendrix visits Dubai to observe the arrival in brightly illuminated market squares of an unprecedented tour by an estimated 10,000 Israeli Jews, many on their first-time visit ever to the Arab world.
A photo accompanying the Hendrix account is a symbol of what the season signifies. Here is a Jewish visitor standing tightly adjacent between two kafiya-clad Dubai residents, hugging one with his right hand and the other with his left. They were celebrating the start of Hannukah.
Since the first flights from Israel to Dubai began a fortnight ago, an estimated 50,000 Israelis … a stunning reminder that the saying, “On earth, peace and goodwill among men” can have universal meaning — even well beyond the Christian world.
On his fourth day in the United Arab Emirates, Jewish visitor Arieh Engel was totally overcome when he heard a group of Emiratis burst into a Happy Birthday greeting — sung to him in Arabic, English and finally, even in a halting Hebrew, by the staff of the Arabia Tea House in Dubai’s Old City. “It feels,” Engel said, “like they really want us here!”
Reaching Across Communities in America
Helping the less fortunate in America, well-educated U.S. leaders have reached across traditional boundaries to help their fellow citizens in a complex new communications environment. Duke University alumnus Douglas Michelman, Class of ’82, believes U.S. corporations have the power to close what he calls “the homework gap” for schoolchildren in low-income communities across the country.
That’s why Mr. Michelman, the recently-retired director of corporate relations at SPRINT, has guided that corporation to use its wireless network to address the millions of high school students across our county who live in homes without reliable internet access.
Many schools issue needy students a computer to assist with homework, college applications (especially at this season) and financial aid. But, he adds, “too many are disconnected. The moment they leave the school building, they don’t have access to the internet. SPRINT recognized this inequity, and our ability to help address it.”
So SPRINT donated wireless and data services via an independent non-profit organization it created. The organization’s name: The One Million Dollar Project Foundation. Douglas Michelman was its first president. Since 2016, the project he envisioned has now raised millions of dollars more to buy WIFI devices for those in need.
“It feels good,” says Mr. Michelman, “not only to have made an impact, but now to see other corporations address the digital divide and do something even bigger.”
The “optimism and love” that transcends borders
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker has described the sense of optimism and love of fellow humans that characterized civilizations such as those in distant Dubai and the yearend Yuletide celebrations in so many front yards across America.
“So no wonder we’ve pulled out all the stops. We’ve become armies of lamplighters, reversing the darkness and spreading the flame of civility and civilization from one front yard to the next, a shared ritual of belief in something greater than ourselves, and closer to home, belief in one another.
“These riots of light are about more than just our December holidays. They’re testaments to unity, communion, innocence, hope and joy (think of the warm Arab welcome of Israelis in Dubai and the generosity of American corporations fostering technology to the needy in their homeland). They’re testaments to unity, communion, innocence, communion and joy. One candle lights another and another until the sun rises and the trumpets blare. Which is an excessively ornamental way to say that America’s (and even the world’s) spirit of goodness, love and charity is alive and well. You can see it twinkling everywhere.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More