I write, therefore I am

Warning: Shameless bragadociousness ahead. Also, the shameless use of questionable words like “bragadociousness.”

Since August of 2014, I have written 100 columns — this being number 100, for my Times of Israel blog. If you count, you will see 102 but two were contributions from one of my talented nephews. I also wrote two others for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal since I began, so 102 pieces in total, but who’s counting? OK, I am, but I think 100 for TOI in less than two years is a pretty good accomplishment. So there!

Many of you have asked me why I write, why I write so much, and what were the methods to my madness. You have also wondered, how has it gone these last almost two years doing all this opinionating? What have I experienced? What have I learned? Do I get paid for it? (No.) And what’s the deal with me and the Jewish stew known as cholent? (It’s my favorite dish. And I like saying cholent.) Please continue reading if I haven’t already lost you.

First, I know there are some out there, purists or something else, who don’t like me beginning sentences with “And” and “But” and “Because” etc. But you know what? Today, there are many acceptable ways to dissert and polemicize. (Like those smart words? See how “goodly” I write?) And if it works for me, I will take the liberties and latitude.

My very first column which I penned out of frustration at the world during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, went extremely viral on Facebook, all around the world, and was also emailed to lots of people. It was posted on my birthday and I happily spent a lot of time answering note after note. Seeing how the column helped Israel and her supporters made the day a good one.

So many people, told me I had written exactly what they wanted to say but could not, either because they felt they were worried about their writing skills, or they didn’t have a way to do so, or they needed to hide their true feelings, or they just didn’t have the time that I do. I also heard from childhood friends and acquaintances with whom I had not had contact in many, many years, and that was an added bonus.

Additionally, I received a number of hate posts and messages on Facebook and was called “a violent Zionist” by a left-wing, self-hating Jew, who had no problem not just defending Hamas actions, but also promoting them. But hypocrisy is one of the mistresses of those near or on the fringes and I have made that clear in subsequent columns. And for that, I have lost a number of people I had gained after my first column. They did not know my politics when they jumped on the brand new Shia (as in Shaya, by the way) bandwagon.

I am a centrist, easy on social issues but tough with defense and economics. But that didn’t matter to those who thought I had betrayed them in some way because I said what they wanted to say on one thing but didn’t agree with them on everything else.

Some liberals wouldn’t even read my non-political columns about Israel, the Holocaust or whatever non-political issue after I exposed my political self. I became a disqualified persona non grata. Oh well. I do know there are some on the left who do read my blog even when they disagree because they like my writing, and at times they even agree with me. I appreciate that and still do.

And if you have followed my columns, you know I have made some conservatives quite unhappy because of my distaste for certain Republican candidates, and because of my social issues views. But again, I know there are conservatives who read my columns – even though they get mad and disagree, because they like my style of writing, and because lots of times there is agreement. I appreciate that as well.

Also, there are those on both sides who want to broaden their horizons and who are tolerant and willing enough to see what the other side might be thinking. Good for them.

Some who have watched me go from column to column would have preferred I toned the anger down a bit, but that’s not me. I started this thing because I was mad about how Israel was being treated. And have things gotten any better for the Jewish state? For Jews in Europe and elsewhere? For the world?

Yes, there are many silver linings and silver clouds out there, but my worry for the world is a large part of why I write. And like so many of you, I get pretty angry and impassioned. Look, I am not, and never have been, a Kumbaya, sit in a circle with flowers in my hair, let’s hold hands and sing peace songs, kind of guy. (“Duh,” I can feel many of you thinking.)

So when this son of Holocaust survivors keeps witnessing lessons not learned, he puts his anguish, and I must tell you my anger is due to sorrowful anguish, into words. And I also get flabbergasted at lost opportunities for my own country, and I state that forcefully as you know.

For the record, I have no issue with anyone giving their opinions. I do not only read pieces by writers with whom I know I will agree. I read columns and articles from those on all sides of the political spectrum, and I can and do learn from those with whom I vehemently disagree. However, I do take issue with, and have little patience for, far left and yes, far right websites that distort and lie. Some of you on both sides know that.

Yes, I have written about the right of Jews to live in peace in Jerusalem and their homeland, about the immorality of Europe and the United Nations, about the disgusting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‎ ) movement, about politics in Israel and in the United States, about my country’s double standard failed and feckless leadership, and about sundry world events. Three of these columns were posted on the non-partisan, highly respected and viewed, RealClearPolitics RealClearWorld page.

And I wrote plenty about terrorism and the P5+1 Iran nuclear deal, which I think is a kind of terrorism because it enables it.

I hate that I feel the need to write about unabated terrorism against Israel, Jews and others, but as long as the murdering of innocents continues, I will continue to express my outrage.

But it wasn’t all politics, not in the least. I have had some fun and plain old introspection along the way. I wrote about cholent, and my stint on jury dutyI penned a tribute to Robin Williams and Joan Rivers entitled Kim Kardashian and I imagined I was the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of Israel, in modern times. I also spoke at my nephew’s high school graduation. Only in my head though, and on your screen.

I wrote a number of Dvar Torah (Torah insight) columns, eight of which were posted on the RealClearPolitics RealClearReligion page.

And there was more; you can click here to see them all.

My column about an event I attended was plagiarized by another blogger/writer who used quite a few of my exact words and depictions in his own column outside and within his interview with me. But there was no interview. He just wanted descriptive words the easy way, saw my piece and added parts of it to his. Imitation (some of it in a weirdly creative fashion) may very well be the sincerest form of flattery, but that wasn’t nice. The person, who may even be a paid contributor to a different Jewish website, is a family man so I didn’t want to make trouble for him. But if he does it again…

Another of my columns, one on terrorism against Jews and Israelis, was translated word for word into Spanish without my knowledge but with full credit given, on a Spanish language website. I was OK with that. More, who may not have otherwise, could learn about the Jewish people’s pain.

Friends, and others, this has been quite a ride so far. From you, I know I have made people happy and sad, have changed some minds, have taught with secular and religious thought, and I have been told I have encouraged and inspired others who needed a spiritual boost now and then. Of course, I have delighted some while infuriating others.

I have to be true to myself and my passionate feelings, and if I lose some along the way, well, so be it. I can’t be all things to all people. Who can?

I try hard to be consistent and not hypocritical, and I use links from traditional media and government sites as proofs to validate my words and numbers. If you haven’t noticed, I do not use right-wing websites to make my points. Quite the opposite. I typically use The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, UK sites, etc., – liberal writers and editorials, and such similar sources to not only assist me, but also to show I am not a shill for Fox News. I have even used NPR! Heck, last week I used Al Arabiya! Not that it matters to the “fringers.”

I have been called all sorts of interesting names, from all sides. And that’s fine. If I can dish it out, I can take it. And the kind words I have seen and heard publicly and privately more than make up for the negative ones. I actually welcome the negative comments just as I do the positive ones. By the way, I appreciate everyone who reads my blog no matter his or her view of the issue at hand. I even value the tough comments, and the stirred debates, because brain exercise is a good thing.

The anti-Semitic comments my blog has generated? I don’t like them for sure, but it’s par for the course and I love unmasking and taking on the Jew-haters.

I thank you, my dear and loyal readers, and my once in a while readers, for your support. The new friendships I have made through this endeavor have also become a treasure to me. Of course, I am grateful to the Times of Israel for allowing me to lend my voice to the global dialogue. I believe that although I may not have always been perfect thus far along this journey, I have tried my best and I have done some good. And I admit the creativity has been somewhat therapeutic.

Because I have been told my columns are too long, I will spare you continued wordage. (“This has been more than enough,” I can feel you thinking.) And I hope I haven’t bored you.

But I will end with this. Left, right, center, or whatever, Jewish or not, we are one world community. Those of us who are good-hearted have the same goal, a better place for all, even if the path there is different. Let’s hope we get there much, much sooner rather than later.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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