On Syria and Immigration.
By way of introduction I feel particularly qualified to write on this subject because of my families ongoing ties with the region.
I recently received a welcomed email from my 20-year old cousin Abdullah “Abboud” Zein. Earlier, Abboud had sought my unsuccessful assistance in hopes of migrating to America from Damascus, Syria where he lived with his parents, my cousins, who have lived in that city for hundreds of years. For the past five years they have been suffering from bombings, terrorist attacks by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Brigade, all extremist Islamists seeking to topple the Assad government and convert Syria from a secular state to an Islamic state. The Assad government has protected minorities including Christians, Jews, Alawhites, and Druze (the latter two being Shiite branches in a nation with 80% mostly moderate Sunni Moslems). The Zein family believes they would have already perished during the now 5-year war if not for Assad’s government. Abboud told me he had finally found a way out of the turmoil of Damascus to safety, freedom and a way to continue his education, a major foundation of Syrian and Lebanese Christian families. Likely the same for most moderate Sunni Moslems. Recently, he escaped through Turkey, found passage on a small boat to Crete then to Greece as a refugee among the millions driven away by the scourge of the extremist Jihadists. Penniless, Abboud then travelled north through Europe and finally arrived in the Netherlands where the government provides housing for immigrants. He
quickly enrolled in the university and is comfortably pursuing his graduate degree in business administration and marketing. He still holds on to his dream of coming to America to eventually pursue business opportunities but these days, it seems most Syrian refugees are not welcome in these United States.
The Netherlands with a population of 17 million has accepted 2,600 Syrian refugees. Canada with 30 million people has welcomed over 25, 000. My friends in Montreal tell me the Syrian refugees are overall better educated than Canadians, seek no government assistance and very soon start their own businesses or resume their professions. The U.S. with 300 million citizens has, as of latest reports, vetted and accepted just 2,500 Syrian refugees, shame on our government. Whatever happened to our Statue of Liberty and all it stands for? Are we so protective or selfish with our beautiful nation?
In my research, I found that despite all the political brouhaha over immigration and the fear our politicians and media, especially CNN with its new “tabloid” format, have depicted immigration into the United States today as “dangerous and overwhelming,” this ratio percentage is less than or equal to the immigration numbers following World War II. Most immigrants after World War II were driven from devastation in France, England, the Baltics, Germany, and Eastern Europe.
Were we less xenophobic then? The United Nations carefully vets all requesting refugees from Syria, a process taking up to two years. In addition, our government has built an extraordinary regimen of vetting that is so comprehensive very few are able to survive the process.
Four years ago, my cousin’s family migrated from the very small village of Douma, my father’s ancient homeland village in the northern mountains of Lebanon, to Palm Beach County near family members. Their father immediately found work driving construction heavy equipment and the children, Abraham, 15, and Grace, 14, settled in immediately and enrolled in local public schools; their mother, unable to speak English, suffered the most and became quite lonely. Although the family had lived in a village of only 2,500 inhabitants, Abraham and Grace amazed everyone here by testing two years ahead of their classmates. They each spoke Arabic, French and English, and, as a result, Grace helped her classmates with French lessons. Both children received straight A’s and got academic scholarships to nearby universities. While it was very difficult for their mother and father to leave their homeland, friends, relatives, their work and familiar customs, they brought their children so they could have safer, better lives. Their principles of their faith, religion, family and education are vital as they have been throughout our family and most Syrian and Lebanese families.
Why do I feel strongly about Syrian refugees? And why should Americans care?
First, America, like many developed countries, needs more young, educated, and energetic workers to provide for the aging population. Second, these United States has been the beneficiary of immigrants since it was founded. Most immigrants are “hungry” for good lives, work very hard, seek the best education possible and eagerly want to build a family in safety with simply an
opportunity to succeed. The benefits to our nation’s society are so immense and have been since the first immigrants arrived here. We need them as much as they need us.
*For more on the Middle East and the culture of Lebanon and Syria, please view my Syria pages
See also my historical/romance novels Beyond the Cedars and the The Immigrant, a trilogy, in addition to my memoir The Camp David Peace Accords 35 Years Later: No War, No Peace.
I have received many positive reports on the benefit of my book, A STROKE OF GENIUS – Messages of Hope and Healing from a Thriving Stroke Survivor. So I am writing will share my story with anyone not familiar with it.
I wrote A Stroke of Genius to help people who have suffered and survived a stroke, their caregivers, loved ones, family, colleagues, friends and therapists everywhere. The book has sold thousands of copies and many who have read the book have written that the book has encouraged them and, as a result, hundreds of survivors and their families now look forward positively to a full and vibrant life.
I suffered the worst stroke the doctors had seen; if I didn't die in the next 30 minutes, which they expected, I would never walk again, talk again, use my left side again or make any decisions again the doctors thought. "He's lost 45% of his brain cells," was the collected expert opinion of my doctors.
I had to create my own vision for my life which was indeed, to live, walk again, talk again and use my left side again. Since then, with years of therapies, a strong faith, determination and loving support from friends and family, I have indeed fulfilled my vision. I have written and published ten books, traveled to more than 40 countries and spoken on 25 cruises with Norwegian Cruise Lines as their Enlightenment and Destination speaker. I have served as Keynote Speaker at numerous conferences on stroke for The American Heart and The American Stroke Associations across the country. I now live a full life of writing, consulting, painting and public speaking on numerous subjects.
I also am privileged to counsel stroke survivors and their families across the country by telephone
and with personal visits. I try to set an example and inspire those who have suffered this tragic and
debilitating illness. I now play golf, right handed only, I paint and have shown my art work at many
exhibitions and one man shows.
The later pages of this my website show details of my books and art work. Thank you for you time
A Prayer for the Victims of the Syrian Conflict:-
We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.
To the wounded and injured:
Come Lord Jesus.
To the terrified who are living in shock:
Come Lord Jesus
To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:
Come Lord Jesus
To those bringing humanitarian aid:
Give protection Lord Jesus
To those administering medical assistance:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
To those offering counsel and care:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
For all making the sacrifice of love:
Give the strength of your Spirit
and the joy of your comfort.
In the hope of Christ we pray.
-Church of England Prayers for Syria
"All minorities you mentioned do not make more than 15% of the Syrian population. I am glad they are protected, but what about the fate of the other 85% of the population, does it matter to you at all!"
My reply. I understand, as you do, that minorities within Syria constitute about 15% of the total population, and that the majority are Sunni Muslims.
Isn't it ironic that Syria's neighbor, Iraq is predominately Shiite?
Syria and Iraq, both under the Baath Party, have governed secular nations, meaning freedom of religion and equal rights for women. I favor that.
Being of the Syria Orthodox church, I naturally am concerned about the same, particularly because I still have cousins, uncles and others in Damascus.
It is very regrettable that, generals and other leaders, principally Sunni Muslims hate America and lead ISIS.
As you know, the US government sees the Middle East through the lens of Israel, unfortunately turning its back on the Arab and Muslim people as the citizens of America. I am grateful to be here but many times, like many Americans, I disagree with the actions of our government.
Obama called for Assad "To go". In my opinion he opened the flood gates to every extremists group and removing Assad without a political settlement is foolhardy. The existing government performs many things within a political infrastructure which would disappear creating additional chaos.
Russia instead supports Assad, believing that it does no good for the Syrian people to have him forcibly removed and need to "nation build" (As the U.S. incorrectly believes it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
In time Syria will have to rebuild every aspect: infrastructure, highways, electricity, water and sewer, buildings and a social culture with trust.
I pray I will live long enough to see that."
ON SYRIAN REFUGEES My Canadian friend Don asked
Why the U.S. is so afraid of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.?
Don lives part of the year in South Florida and part in Montreal, Canada and is a citizen of Canada. He told me there are more than 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada at this time and there has been no trouble. He told me the Syrians, by and large are better educated than Canadians, do not want government subsidies, and are eager to start their own businesses. Last Sunday evening on 60 Minutes, the Canadian Prime Minister was interviewed, repeated that indeed, Canada has opened its arms to Syrian refugees and have accepted 25,000 saying the U.N spends up to 24 months vetting each refugee followed by Canadian vetting and that he is absolutely confident they are good people.
Now compare Canada's population of 36 million with that of the US 300 million.
Don added that the churches and Syrian/Lebanese communities help the refugees with food, clothing, housing and getting them jobs. Sounds like the American culture of our past when America was the beacon of hope for the world. It seems today too many of us feel, "I've got mine. You get yours somewhere else."
Doesn't reflecting our proud Judeo - Christian beliefs does it?
I told my friend, Don that it appears our politicians and media and thus our citizens are consumed with FEAR and ANGER like we've never seen before (perhaps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2941) when President Roosevelt famously said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Even Florida with 20 million residents refuses to accept a tiny 1300 or so. Why?
There are already thousands of Moslems in Florida and more Syrian Americans, mostly Christians. Almost all own their own businesses or are among families that do. Syrians make wonderful citizens in America.
Surely we and our Intelligence community are capable of protecting us.
And, I understand, of the 350 reported arrests of Moslems in the U.S., more than 90% were because fellow good citizen Moslems reported them to the police when they saw anything suspicious.
A friend of mine recently gave a copy of my book, A Stroke of Genius: Messages Of Hope And Healing From A Thriving Stroke Survivor, to his minister.
Firstly his minister read the book but most interestingly within a few days of having read the book an older member of the congregation suffered a stroke. The minister reported back that the information contained in the book had proved to be an invaluable guide to him and had provided both the stroke victim and his family a sense that there would be a future.
Secondly the very next week a younger member of the same congregation approached the minister seeking guidance. He was involved in providing support to a family with a member that was recovering from having a stroke survivor.
This reminded me of the reason I wrote the book. I have received many, many letters and phone calls from either a stroke survivor or their care giver as to the invaluable guidance and practical advice the book contains.
I urge you if you are a stroke survivor, are caring for a stroke survivor or know of someone in that situation to please refer them to my book page
“After my severe life threatening hemorrhagic brain attack, a most severe stroke, I was declared 100% disabled for life! During my 90 day stay in a rehab hospital, receiving and enduring 5 therapies each day for 5 days a week, I was very depressed, angry and felt lost. I felt I had no future at all. Then one day a fellow stroke survivor counseled me. He convinced me I could overcome my stroke. He changed my entire perspective, gave me hope and persuaded me to be determined. I found I had to create my own vision of my life and it was far different from that of my doctors. I would walk again. I would speak again. I would use my left side again. I would make decisions again. I also determined my future included a ministry to help others who had suffered a severe stroke. So, after about 4 years of being incapable of very much, I learned how to hold thoughts and write. At my dining room table, and after many hours of rest each day, I found myself writing what became A Stroke of Genius: Messages Of Hope And Healing From A Thriving Stroke Survivor. It has since sold many thousands and brought me hundreds of kind letters of thanks.
I have been the keynote speaker at many Stroke conferences of the American Heart Association and counseled families across America from Philadelphia to Carmel, Wichita to Boston.
This book has become akin to a miracle for many, many families. It is an easy and quick read, humorous in places and filled with hopeful messages. I revised the original edition a few years ago and added some additional sections. This book has been read by many thousands to date. I hope and believe it will help many more people who are living with the results of stroke and be a guide for the families who must bear the support burden.”
I just signed the petition "Syrian ceasefire talks must include Christian representatives" on CitizenGO. Will you sign it too?
Join this petition! Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: Syrian cease fire talks must include Christian representatives: http://www.citizengo.org/en/pr/32890-syrian-ceasefire-talks-must-include-christian-representatives?tc=gm&tcid=20232069
With the volatile situation in Syria and the Middle-East it is useful to be able to read an account of the history of the region at the time of the Camp David Accords brokered by President Carter in 1978.
Sandy Simon's book "The Camp David Accords 35 years later: No War, No Peace" provides such a history told in a personal and entertaining manner.
In December of 1978 Sandy Simon then Senior Vice President and three other leaders of the National Association of Arab Americans traveled to the region at the request of the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and President Jimmy Carter.
The objective was to consult with leaders heads of state and other highest officials of the eight Arab countries involved counties involved in the region to determine their true attitudes following the signing of the Camp David Accords in September of 1978.
During the fourteen day trip they meet with King Hussein of Jordan; Sheikh Ali Al Sabah of Kuwait; Leaders of Sadam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in Baghdad Iraq; Emir Al Khalifa in Manama Bahrain; Leading Government Officials in Doha Qatar; Prince Turki bin Faisal, bin Abdul Aziz and King Khalid in Riyadhi Saudi Arabia; His Majesty Abdul Halim Khaddom and President Hafez Al Assad - father of today’s President Assad in Damascus Syria; President Elais Sarkis of Lebanon and PLO Chairman Arafat in a night time meeting. Additionally significant time was spent meeting with the US Ambassadors in each country and many other high ranking national leaders.
Feb. 15th 2016. A Statement on the Cease Fire in Syria
All peace-loving people everywhere applaud the unanimous agreement to a cease fire throughout Syria.More than 12 million, TWELVE MILLION!, at least, innocents have been driven from their homes (displaced internally and abroad)!My relatives, some still in Damascus, have been traumatized, threatened and bombed. They have been unable to get food except during the few quiet hours in the morning or the evening. Schools have been targeted by opposition and ISIS (al Qaida), ITA branch of Al Nousra. Like Hussein in Iraq, Assad, while a strong man, never was a threat to America. Both Hussein of Iraq and Assad were Baath Party leaders. Assad strongly enforced a secular society, with freedom of religion, freedom from religion and protection of woman's rights, religious rights and minorities including Christians, Jews, Druze and Alawites.In Iraq, 75% of the population was Shiite while Hussein was Sunni. In Syria 80% of the people were Sunni, while Assad and his own people are Alawites, a Shiite branch and a true minority in Syria.My cousins as all innocent Syrians welcome the unanimous agreement to a truce allowing humanitarian aid to arrive especially in Aleppo, once a magnificent city with a very large Christian population, and where the Episcopal church has been feeding, housing and sheltering innocent women, men and children for 4 years!While everyone is happy about the truce and cease fire, all are wary.Remember that ISIS, Al Qaida and other terrorist groups opposing the Assad government are not parties to this agreement and could resume the fighting, bombing and shooting, as well as throwing rockets on and kidnapping and killing innocents.We will all see if the superpowers can enforce this agreement.Actually, many believe Russia has been on Assad's side all along, and will continue soIf the U.S. succeeds in pushing Assad out, there would be a chaotic vacuum that ISIS would fill, and innocents, especially Christians like my relatives, would perish and disappear from their historic land.Only with peace in Syria can Lebanon reconstruct itself and resume a higher level of stabilitySandy Simon
When he was a boy in the 1940s, Sandy Simon sold newspapers up and down Atlantic Avenue.
The landowner, Adolf Hofman (1871-1953), foreclosed, and then leased Kraus a small space in the arcade leading from the sidewalk to the courtyard. Kraus added sandwiches and buttermilk to his menu, and eventually the little shop expanded to three of those spaces.
In 1932, Kraus persuaded Hofman to rent him the large courtyard for an open-air restaurant and lounge. The Arcade Tap Room was born that year, and so was a daughter named Carolyn.
“Well, I’m not sure I know all the facts,” Carolyn Kraus Cunningham says. “I was just a baby. But it was no major speakeasy, I can tell you that.”
In the ’40s and ’50s, cartoonists now long forgotten rented the Tap Room’s second-floor offices as studios. Pat Enright, the political cartoonist, and Fontaine Fox, creator of the Toonerville Folks comic strip. H.T. Webster and Zack Mosley. They drew upstairs, drank downstairs, and in time the Tap Room’s walls were adorned with their work.
When Bill Kraus learned he had cancer, he sold the business to Bert White, who ran it until his own death two years later. In the 1950s, Bunny Fertita, a Fort Lauderdale restaurateur, took over the lease, renamed the business the Charcoal Pit, added a roof to the courtyard and tore out the brick fireplace in the bar.
By the 1960s, the population had surpassed 12,000, and Sandy Simon was no longer a little boy hawking newspapers. He was a grown man, and a customer.
On June 30, 1989, Jim Hallas closed The Arcade Tap Room. A trio played For Once In My Life while the old-timers dined on prime rib, pork chops, broiled flounder and memories.
Now the population of Delray Beach is 65,000, and the new Old Arcade is open for business.
For more information, visit www.caffemartierdelray.com. and
“With his gift of blending storytelling and history, Sandy has hit another homerun with
Renaissance of a Village by the Sea. Well-researched and thoughtfully detailed, this remarkable mosaic our town’s character and the human condition that gave it its soul brings it all back to life.”
Cary Glickstein - Mayor, Delray Beach, Florida
“Sandy Simon has such a charming way of providing a very interesting history of our wonderful town. You feel as if you’re sitting with the author, having a cup of coffee and learning about your family history. Sandy does a remarkable job capturing the exciting early days. It’s a great read.”
Nancy L. Dockerty - Chairman of the Board of Directors, Delray Beach Public Library
“You will not want to miss Sandy Simon's newest book about his beloved Delray Beach. Sandy's passion for his hometown is reflected throughout. Sandy clearly enjoyed researching and writing each and every chapter to the fullest. Congratulations on another winner, Sandy!”
Nancy S. Merritt, Realtor
This book tells a beautiful and important story about a small town in big trouble that redefined itself to become the entertainment, dining, and shopping magnet for all of Southeast Florida. And most importantly, Mr. Simon expertly describes how all this happened: how the citizens arose; how they took control of their town; how they changed it to be awarded the “All America City,” twice; and how it came to be awarded the "Most Fun Small Town in America.” His book convinced me I should consider relocating to Delray Beach, that wonderful "Village by the Sea."
Mary Strobel - Editor, Delray Beach, Renaissance of a Village by the Sea