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5 questions with Christopher Karas, the high schooler fighting his school over homophobia

 

Christopher Karas, a gay Mississauga high school student, is currently at the centre of a battle with his French Catholic school over what he calls homophobia. While he powers on in his fight for gay rights in the courtroom we caught up with him to chat about his views on the history of gay rights in Canada, funding for religious schools, helping young people get involved, and his own future beyond the halls of high school.

What is wrong with Queer and Trans rights in Canada right now?

Queer men (labelled as MSM) aren’t able to give blood in Canada. MSM is a moniker the Canadian government has used to distinguish men who have sex with other men from the general public. As if Queer men are different from our heterosexual counterparts. MSM also applies to women who have sex with men who had sex with other men. In Canada, MSM aren’t able to give blood if they had sex with their partner in the last 5 years. This discriminatory policy has been used to bar Trans people (especially Trans Women).

Trans people aren’t protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code. Close friend Susan Gapka is lobbying the Canadian government tirelessly to amend the Act and the Code to extend protections to Trans and Non-binary people across Canada, potentially adding Gender Identity and Gender Expression for the first time.

Intersex people aren’t part of today’s important conversations. Many of today’s conversations have focused on Trans people. While a focus on Trans people is needed and an important one, we must also have conversations that focus on Intersex people while centering #BlackLivesMatter, Brown and Indigenous people as part of these conversations. As we know, LGBTTIQQ2SA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, Asexual (Aces as we say!), and all those not yet included or who don’t want to be defined by any label) communities are Intersectional and always will be.

What have we gotten right since the Queer and Trans movement began?

When the Queer and Trans movement first began it wasn’t owned by any one person. This in itself is one of the movement’s greatest strengths. However, some have tried to co-opt our movement (i.e. Pride Toronto sponsorship, etc.)

Should the government be funding religious schools?

I think that it should be up to the people to have a debate in [upcoming elections]. We fundamentally protect the right of freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression yet we exclusively fund the Roman-Catholic school system while denying funding to freedom of conscience and religious schools. Although, I might be a bit biased. I sued my school board when my school barred me from putting up posters of my civil rights hero Harvey Milk and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance I tried to build with my peers.

 

Five reasons why the career focused woman should go on a work retreat

 

By Sinead Mulhern

For me, 2018 marks the year when I turned an idea that had been brewing for four years into a reality. The notion of travelling for months on end had become impossible to ignore so before the timing became hopelessly complicated, I left my life in Toronto and boarded a plane to Colombia. This wasn’t in the fashion of your classic quit-your-job-and-travel story, but rather, as a way to travel while moving forward with my career. Conversations around travel often hint at getting away from work but for me, a woman who enjoys her line of work, my travel experience will be the opposite.

I believe that spending time abroad to enhance work life is the way to go and, luckily, there are plenty of work-travel retreats that make the transition less daunting. In the era when working remotely from a laptop is becoming the norm, there are several options that allow workaholics to commit to travel knowing there are like-minded individuals waiting on the other side. Programs like Be Unsettled and Remote Year offer more temporary stays around the world whereas artist residency programs or co-working houses, like Roam and We Live, cater to digital nomads who want a longer-term fix. Interested in taking work abroad? Below, find a few reasons why a work-travel experience is the best way for women to explore in 2018.  

Your career won’t stagnate.

My will to explore the world is a big reason why I ended up pursuing a career in journalism. Like many, I don’t need to stay put in one place to build upon that career. Before I left, I built a stronger network of clients so that I could make my version of work-travel a reality. I’ve expanded the topics I write about as well as the places in which my writing is published. Contrary to the belief that one must stop working for a period of time in order to explore foreign regions, travel can actually open new doors – professionally speaking. In other words, it’s not an “either or” ultimatum.    

The environment fosters personal growth.

While the projects may bring joy, work life can be enhanced further by attending a work-travel retreat. Just like the travel companies that cater to those who want to escape the office for a couple weeks, there’s no shortage of folks who plan travel experiences for digital nomads, freelancers or entrepreneurs. Relocating to foreign territory kick-starts some much-needed personal growth – instilling more confidence and inner peace. This in turn impacts professional life in positive ways.

You set your schedule.

More and more in recent years, I had been itching to pack my bags, board a plane and travel for longer than the quick in-and-out experience that my vacation time from my office job afforded me. Like many, at times I also took issue with working the same hours every single day. By signing up for one or two months of a remote work-travel program (or custom designing your approach like I’m doing) laptop workers can maximize productivity by working during their most constructive hours. Full disclosure: be warned that this could come at a financial cost – at least in the beginning. Adjust expectations accordingly.

New vantage points lead to fresh ideas.

Part of the day can be spent at a desk with a beach view and part can be spent eating local cuisine. Getting away from the daily grind for a month or a year – whatever you choose – will provide a new perspective since everything from the people to the cultural norms are completely different. Because of this, working professionals are likely to tackle projects with new approaches and a fresh pair of eyes.

Getting out of the comfort zone lends well to making bold moves at work.

When spending time abroad, even completing the most basic tasks can seem like an accomplishment – especially if there’s a language barrier. When simply ordering lunch or navigating transit becomes difficult, the things that seem intimidating at work become much more doable by comparison.

 

Is all female travel the way to go?

By Sinead Mulhern

Of all my trips exploring Ontario cottage country, one particular weekend with my best girl friends stands out. Now that I’ve just left Canada, I’m sure I’ll value these memories even more in the months to come. The girls who I grew up with were – and continue to be – a boisterous, foolhardy crew and so when, in our early twenties, one of us suggested a canoe camping trip, the idea took hold. We crammed our gear into the truck, drove north, packed the essentials into two silver canoes and paddled through the waters of Pointe au Baril in Georgian Bay. That weekend, we chopped wood, built raging fires, constructed a tarp shelter to weather stormy hours and cracked cans of beer as we dipped our paddles into the bay, our battered muscles moving the canoe forward.

*

Trips like this and others that followed lead me to strongly feel that all-female trips are an experience like no other. Whether travelling with a group of lifelong friends or meeting a pack of adventurous women halfway across the globe, the benefits of exploring with other women are not in short supply. Cement-strong bonds form fast when exploring unknown territory plus instances of everyday sexism are fewer. This in turn affords the space for female travellers to move confidently and develop necessary travel skills. There’s the fact too that some women simply prefer to travel in an all-female crowd.  

I’ve been lucky to have always had a band of lady friends eager to accompany me in my adventures. My crew from childhood also experienced not just cottage country but the nation’s capital, Toronto and Alabama. When I visited a friend in Brazil, I quickly became pals with her two best friends as we road tripped up the northeast coast for a beachy weekend. In 2016, a close friend and I flew south to see the third woman in our troop who had recently become a Colombian transplant. There, we chatted about relationships and early career goals and raided each other’s suitcases. We went to a Caribbean island laughing over boozy coconut cocktails by turquois shores and commiserating over sunburnt skin at night. These memories, to me, are priceless.

Not every woman with a case of wanderlust has an all-girl group on board. What then? Those curious about travelling the globe are spoiled in 2018 – not just for choice but for style of travel. If my personal experience sparks envy, know that many travel companies have stepped in to do the heavy lifting. If spending the next vacation abroad surrounded by a like-minded sisterhood sounds appealing, know that cementing plans is just a matter of finding the all-girls-club that fits.

WHOA Travel is one-such example in the sea of female travel groups. The boutique adventure company is founded by Allison Fleece and Danielle Thornton who stepped aside from their careers after an adventure in Kilimanjaro. They inspire women around the world to step outside of their comfort zones by booking one of their tours. Adventure Women is a company of a similar concept run for women by women. Its focus is to take other adventurous ladies on active trips for once-in-a-lifetime experience. Collectively its organizers have been to 65 countries. In other words: they know their stuff.

For the woman who craves solitude during the day with a little company later on, all-female hostels and hotels are a smart choice. Hostelle, for example, is a wise play on words “hostel” and “elle” to indicate that this place is for women and girls only. Started by Bianca Brasdorp, this Amsterdam abode is a comfortable zone for any woman – backpacker or business tripping nine-to-fiver – who finds herself in this corner of Europe. Closer to home, Canada’s capital also sets a positive example with Barefoot Hostel, a space which, since 2016, has been inviting to women of all ages and backgrounds. These are just a few. Whether a woman is looking for beach glamping or a rigorous trek, there’s an all-female crowd waiting. She just has to look.

*

My friends and I packed up and canoed down the river well before dawn. We arrived home our feet black from going barefoot all weekend and our air-dried hair wavy and clinging to the smoky campfire smell. That trip was one for the books: I became closer with those girls and learned how to make a roaring fire. Since then, we’ve moved farther first to different cities and then countries. At the time, it was a simple long weekend away. Now that we’re dispersed, I think back on that trip as a cherished memory.

 

Save money green your home

Written by: Bilal Khan

As a sub-urban resident of greater Toronto area, I enjoyed the house that my partner and I bought a couple years ago. Moving from our small downtown apartment to a spacious detached house gave us the opportunity to break away from the “newly graduate and freshly employed” lifestyle. We had ample space to host and entertain people, and space where I could slip into a study area to concentrate on a private project. All this freedom was about to come to a staggering halt the moment we found out that we were expecting our first child. The study room that I had fallen in love with so much now began to feel distant as the thought of it being converted into a nursery haunted my nights. We were forced to ask our selves the question, where do we see our family in 5 – 10 years? Do we relocate to a larger house, or renovate our existing place?

Should we go or should we stay?

Relocating would give us room to expand our lives to accommodate our growing family. But it would also mean adding more transit time to work, relocating to a new and uncharted neighbourhood, moving away from friends and family. As I saw our priorities change from entertaining and hosting friends to more family time, relocating would completely isolate us from our friends, our support system that we had grown to rely on so much. Renovating became the logical choice.

Of course, anyone who has had the experience of renovating their house would tell you that it can be a costly venture, especially when you are aiming to live in that house for a very long time. We knew that in thinking of longevity, it meant buying quality materials that are durable, sustainable, and maintainable as the house is passed on from one generation to the next.

Greening your home? Don’t do it alone!

Luckily, the government of Ontario has recently introduced rebates and grants for homeowners opting for sustainable material choices for their renovation projects. These incentives can be used to upgrade your home to be more durable and energy efficient, to save money on your utility bills and household maintenance long-term; in other words, to make your home more sustainable. The program includes rebates for heating and air conditioning systems, windows, insulation, and electrical applications to name a few.   

So say if you live in a old house and often wonder why its cold in the living spaces even though the heating is really cranked up, that’s because it is mostly likely that the exterior walls and windows are leaky and/or uninsulated, allowing, allowing heat in the house to rapidly escape. This is not sustainable!   

Since this was going to be our forever home, at least for the foreseeable future, I realized that these government rebates and grants would take away some financial burden upfront, but in the long run also affect the colossal energy bills that we as a household were paying annually.

Find your incentive

Rebates can be assessed through the Green Ontario Fund, which is a not-for-profit provincial agency tasked with reducing greenhouse gas pollution in buildings and industry to help meet Ontario’s emission reduction targets. So by making a conscious decision of insulating my home and replacing the old windows with high performance one’s, I was not only having a positive impact on my energy bill but also helping to meet Ontario’s emission reduction targets and helping us work toward a low-carbon future – something we all need to participate in.

I don’t have a little private study anymore. In fact, my privacy has totally been breached by a 2 month old, yet I feel fulfilled. I guess they are right when they say that a child brings a positive change in your life. I can certainly see that change on my energy bills.

 

Bilal Khan: Architectural Designer

Bilal is currently working at SUSTAINABLE.TO through an internship as part of the degree requirements for his Master of Architecture at Dalhousie University. His experience in the biomass industry and clean transportation has shaped his career towards thinking about sustainability as a system. Bilal is passionate about Urban Systems Design through architectural exploration and believes that the true value of design lies in improving individual and community lives through sustainable urban interventions.

 

Building community

The Women’s Post office is a hub of activity, but unlike most media companies our work revolves around the stories we write and the charity work that our publisher, Sarah Thomson, is focused on at Civic Alliance and the Transit Alliance. Readers will notice that while we carry the usual fashion and passion stories we also write about city building – creating strong healthy communities. We believe that the future is shaped by the passion and commitment we put into building community and that each one of us has a duty to give back to the community. And we hope that you the reader can share in our passion.

This year the Transit Alliance is working on a series of seminars focused on educating our public servants at the municipal level with the goal in to update the entrenched procedures and processes that are no longer competitive or productive. The focus will be to share new ideas, and new ways to structure our large infrastructure projects in order to ensure efficiencies.

To that end our first seminar on Feb. 16, 2016 will involve a lot of terrific infrastructure leaders donating their times to moving our region forward. With the help of terrific leaders like Bert Clark, CEO of Infrastructure Ontario and Bruce McCuaig, CEO of Metrolinx who are both committed to building our communities. Tickets are available here.

The Transit Alliance will once again host the Toronto Region Vision Summit in April our goal is to develop a 50 year vision for the entire region. If you would like to take part early-bird tickets are now on sale here.

The Transit Alliance is also working on a series of education campaigns. Each campaign is focused on a key issue essential to unlocking gridlock and creating stronger and safer communities. The campaigns cover the need to fund infrastructure with user fees like tolls; the importance of the smart relief subway line; and updating our safety standards for road hardware and making our roads safer.  If you would like to help the Transit Alliance, or take part in our initiatives, please become a member here.

This year Civic Alliance will be focused on educating the public on the environment and the importance of lowering our carbon footprint in housing, as well as the use of electric vehicles.

We hope you enjoy the work we are doing and will join us in our effort to build a safer, stronger Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Summer Must Have: Jumpsuits

Sometimes it can take hours trying to find the perfect shirt to go with your pants. But don’t worry, the fashion world is here to save you. The jumpsuit, which became popular a few years ago, has come back for another season. Immerse yourself in style and comfort and embrace the onesie-like feel. Because it’s trendy and we like it!

Now you just need a pair of shoes to match.

Lace sleeveless jumper

Romper with Lace Detail / Combishort avec Dentelle

It’s got lace detail, so it’s girly, but it’s polyester, so it’s comfy. Perfect for lazy days when you still want to look pretty.

Available at Jacob.

 

Jumpsuit

This interesting printed number will look great with a pair of bright strappy sandals or wedges. Grab a wide brimmed hat and step out for some fun in the sun- boho style.

Available at H&M.

Zigzag print long jumpsuit

Zigzag print long jumpsuit | MANGO

This is a great summer work outfit. Classy yet cool. Pair with a blazer for a more polished look.

Available at Mango.

 

Crochet playsuit

Okay, the name sounds like a mix of an old lady and a toddler, but the outfit is kicking fun. It would look great at a summer party.

Available at Topshop.

The Gardiner Expressway Analysis

With the debate heating up around what to do about the Gardiner Expressway the Women’s Post encourages all city councilors to break free of political alliances and study the issue that will shape Toronto well into the future.  The decision to support the Boulevard or Hybrid options ties into so many other questions.
Does the decision to rebuild the East Gardier today lead to rebuilding rest of the crumbling expressway with a cost estimate of close to $2 Billion?  
How much more will it cost taxpayers to maintain an elevated highway  in comparison to maintaining a boulevard?
Why are major cities taking down their elevated highways on their waterfronts?
The truck association claims that their drivers won’t use the Gardiner Expressway – Don Valley Parkway route if a boulevard replaced the elevated highway — how many trucks will stop using it and will it speed up travel times for commuters?
Below are the pros and cons around the Gardiner Expressway issue.
 The Boulevard Option pros:
– push truck traffic away from the Gardiner and DVP – helping to alleviate gridlock on those highways
– save the city close to $500 million in initial cost and millions more in future maintenance
– reclaim the waterfront and add 12 more acres than the Hybrid option offers
– more reclaimed land creates more tax dollars for the city
– Toronto health believes it is the healthier choice for the citizens of Toronto 
– experts like Jan Gehl call for tear down of Gardiner East to enhance the waterfront
– make Toronto competitive with other world class cities that have taken down their elevated waterfront highways
The Boulevard Option cons:
– disrupt truck and freight traffic using the Gardiner Expressway – Don Valley Parkway route
– add 2-3 minutes in commute times for drivers
 The Hybrid Option pros:
– enable truck traffic to continue using both the Gardiner and DVP
– allow a continuous route along the waterfront
– maintain the same travel time for commuters
– trucking industry support
 The Hybrid Option cons:
– cause more pollution in the core
– cost more to build and maintain pushing costs onto our children and grandchildren
– smaller amount of reclaimed land will limit future tax intake for the city
– health risks for residents of  Toronto
– less competitive than other world class cities that are taking down their elevated waterfront highways to open up their waterfront to development
– increases the likelihood of Toronto having to rebuild entire Gardiner Expressway at estimated cost of $2 billion

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A letter from Jerusalem

*From the Archives March 2000

By Barry Allen

The Jews are in Israel because it is the ancestral home of their people. To call modern Israel a colonist regime is the simplistic propaganda her enemies resort to when they want to pander to the leftist sentiments of Western intellectuals. Colonists come from somewhere else (their original home), and take over another people’s land. That’s what the English and French did in North America, the Spanish and Portugese in South America, the Dutch and Germans in Africa, and so on. Israel is not like that. Jews have come back to their original home, a land from which they were expelled time and again by invading would-be colonists — Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turk.

The establishment of the State of Israel by the UN in 1948 is one of the few really decent things to come out of the dismally disappointing twentieth century. It did not have to make refugees of the Arab population. They were offered a state of their own, on half of the territory, and they turned it down, calculating that they could expel the Jews by force and have all of Mandate Palestine for themselves. They were wrong. They lost the war they started. They tried again in 1967, and again in 1973, and lost each time.

Usually, when aggressor nations start wars and lose them, they accept defeat and negotiate a settlement. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict this familiar expectation is inexplicably suspended. Instead, the Arabs now use a cynical combination of terror and faithless negotiation to try to win everything they lost, three times over, from wars they started.

Even more inexplicable is the support this perfidious tactic wins from the world community. In the eyes of much of the world, Israel can do nothing right, and the Palestinians can do nothing wrong (or very bad). They are under occupation, so, of course, they may resort to terror and refuse to compromise in negotiations. The Israelis won wars they didn’t start, and have prospered and become faithful Western allies. So, of course, they must be in the wrong.

Palestinians have reasonable claims against Israel. If they would only press their reasonable claims, they could get a deal. Instead, they stick to the same uncompromising, maximalists demands that cost them their own state in 1939, 1948, and last summer. The present Palestinian leadership is either unable or unwilling to do what it takes to get a real agreement. All they know how to do is repeat the same old demands — demands, in effect, that the Jews abandon the land they defended in three wars, and turn it over to those who lost the wars they started.

Israel deserves the world’s support. Anyone who thinks a rock is not a lethal weapon should stand in an open place and be a slingshot target. Those outraged (from a comfortable distance) at fatalities when Israel Defense Forces encounter rock-throwing gangs (often shielding gunmen) should try, not just aiming for, but striking the legs and not the upper body of a running youth trying to throw a rock at their face. Those shocked that Israel should target known terrorists for preemptive liquidation probably don’t put their children on bulletproof school buses every morning in countries where terrorists deliberately target not just civilians but children on the way to or from school.

The tanks were loud last night. A lot of artillery falling on the Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Jala. The morning newspaper carried a photograph of a distraught Arab woman standing amid the ruins of her blasted home. It is sickeningly sad. But it is simplistic, irresponsible, even morally offensive to blame Israel.

Why were the tanks firing? Because for five months that house and others have been sniper nests, firing on Jewish homes, and enforcing a reign of terror on the neighborhood across the valley. Is artillery a disproportionate response? Unfortunately, a stiffly-worded letter to Arafat would achieve no more than to lighten the mood in his Gaza office. What else, exactly, is Israel supposed to do? What would you want your government to do if the people across the street began to shoot into your living room every night, or snipping at your children as they boarded the bus? If their response to efforts at negotiation was to demand that you pack up and leave so they could have your house?

Tomorrow I leave Israel after a four month stay, traveling first to Egypt, then elsewhere in the Middle East. People here say I’m leaving at the right time. Almost everyone expects the situation to worsen, and soon. I would stay if I could. Since I can’t, I write this letter instead, to urge readers to press past the simplistic and often grossly one-sided media coverage of the intifada. Ask yourself whether Israel isn’t right to defend itself against terror. Ask what you would do if your children’s lives were on the line. And whether the Jews do not have as good a claim as anyone to return to their original home from the longest diaspora of refugees in the history of the world.

Explanations behind the mystery tunnel

As Toronto’s baffled police try to uncover who is behind the mystery tunnel that appeared just south of York University, the Women’s Post has compiled a list of 5 possible explanations for the tunnel.

1. Rob Ford decided to dig the Scarborough subway extension himself , and has once again demonstrated that he has no idea where the actual Scarborough subway is supposed to go.

2. Mayor John Tory was looking for a “pot of gold” to fund his Smart Track plan, and heard that the Pan Am games might have some funds hidden in a chest near the Rexall Tennis Centre.

3. It was created to hold a new weather machine that will bring warmer temperatures to Toronto. The machine was stolen…

4. Next film location for shooting the Shades of Grey sequel.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs plan to use it as a hide-out to avoid possible lynching.

Jerusalem: In search of identity

By Gabriel Levin

“The eyes of all the Jews in the world praying right now are on you”. Our tour guide Yuval is explaining how Jews all across the world face the Western Wall when they pray. Our group of 39 young adults from across Canada are in Jerusalem on the third day of our Birthright Israel trip. The program Birthright Israel sends young Jews between 18 and 26 from all over the world to Israel for free.

Despite being afraid of tour groups, my addiction to travel, as well as a curiosity to see Israel, could not let me pass up a free trip. The people who fund Birthright do so in order to create a link between the Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel. My own Jewish roots are complex. I grew up religious and was immersed completely in Judaism. My friends were all Jewish, my school was Jewish, my life was Jewish. At 15 I decided that the religious life was not for me, I abandoned almost everything Jewish. My trip to Israel was about not only seeing a new country filled with culture and history, but also about perhaps finding my own sense of what it means to be Jewish.

As I write, the trip is just starting to settle nicely into memories. My experience as a whole was mixed. I’m not someone who enjoys traveling in groups. The hours spent waiting… for people to use the bathroom…for people to get on the bus… for people to finish shopping are incredibly frustrating.

Also, because of the super security on the trip, it often felt as if we were looking at Israel from a distance rather than actively discovering it. For me, as pretentious as it may sound, there is nothing I prefer to sitting in a café on a busy boulevard and just watching the new city go by. On the other hand, Israel is absolutely gorgeous and ripe with the history and myth that are fundamental to Western culture. We visit a valley where David fought Goliath; a mountain where the Zealots held off the Roman army; a river where Jesus was baptized (not that Birthright stressed the Christian or Muslim importance of Israel), and so on.

Birthright also brings Israeli soldiers along with the group for a few days, which gives the group a chance to interact with real Israelis. As a Jew, it is incredible to be in a country where almost everyone is Jewish. There is a commonality; a mutual understanding there that is not present anywhere else in the world for me.

One of the discussions the group had in Israel was about our loyalty to Israel versus our loyalty to Canada. This is always a tricky question because it is the basis for so much anti-Semitism, dating back thousands of years. The idea that Jews’ loyalty will never be the state they live in but lies elsewhere is even written in the Bible: Exodus 1:10 says “Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.” It’s a very difficult position to find myself in, because I love Canada. To me, Canada is the greatest country in the world. At the same time, I know history and I know that again and again throughout history, countries in which Jews have felt secure were ultimately not secure. In the end, there is no such thing as security for Jews. Israel, in that sense, acts as a security blanket for all the Jews of the Diaspora. So, I do have loyalty to Israel, but it is different from my loyalty to Canada.

Ultimately, my quest to understand my Jewishness was not answered with any finality. As usual, I was looking for easy answers where there are, of course, none. Being in Israel opened up new questions and new ways of looking at myself as a Jew. I know I will spend the rest of my life trying to answer them. Some people define their Jewishness based on religion, some on race, and yet others on culture. I have attachments to all three identities. Why is it that I feel attachment to other Jews? Is it common history? What makes me feel so attached to Israel? Is it purely self-interest or is it something more? I may have to go back to find out for sure.

First publisher in Women’s Post Jan. 2005 print edition