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Meet Jason Alster Author of Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel
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Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

To read more about Norm Follow Here






 
By Norm Goldman
Published on April 22, 2010
 



Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com interviews Jason Alster author of Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel

 

 Click Here To Purchase Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel

Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Jason Alster author of  Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel.

Good day Jason and thanks for participating in our interview

Norm: 

Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.

Jason:

Hello Norm,

I am originally from Hartford, Connecticut, that is I am Connecticut Yankee, but lived in New York, New Jersey and in the south Maryland, before I moved to Israel. So travel was already in my genes. Maybe I have the “wandering Jew syndrome. However, living in different places because of school and work opened my eyes to observe different peoples and cultures.

My father was a Holocaust survivor and my mother always considered herself some who lived through the depression. My parents would travel allot every weekend and this added to my knowledge of places. I remember as a child being surprised when another kid said to me his parents don’t travel on weekends. I thought everyone did.

Professionally, I am a student of behavior and psychology, yet I ended up working in the field of medical diagnostics because of my interest in psychophysiology. Later in my career I became interested in special education, art, creativity, I felt I came full circle when I became a biofeedback specialist working with anxiety disorders and learning challenges like ADHD. This let me combine my skills in physiology, behavior, creativity, and learning strategies. The next step was to become an author and publisher to bring to others the experiences I have learned over the years. If I was to sum up what is a common denominator for all my careers work, it would be to help others empower themselves and self help.

Norm:

How did you decide you were ready to write Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel?

Jason:

I always noticed and observed differences between peoples and cultures, partly for professional and research reasons.  When living in Israel, Israelis would come up to me and tell me I had a really good insight into what was going on. So when I moved from Israel I wanted to write a book about my life there because I knew I had a perspective that would be appreciated by others. I also knew that Israel had an image problem, so I wanted to explain in the book what Israel is really about at least from my own experience which was not little considering that as a biofeedback therapist I came to know many Israelis.

Yet, I also developed a perspective on America by living away from her shores in Israel. I started to get a better feeling for what the forefathers meant when they wrote the Constitution. I mean, how did they get those ideas so advanced for their times that are still valid today?    One example I mention in the book is “The Freedom of Information Act” or “The Pursuit of Happiness.” As a student in the USA use to a free library and a free press, I had no idea what you need a Freedom of Information Act for. Then when I moved to the Middle East, I found out that even in democratic Israel, information was a commodity and not shared so easily. That’s when I learned the concept that not all democracies are the same and newer democracies like Israel had to go through a growing process, not unlike the USA after her birth. Remember, Israel is a democracy, but most of her people moved there  from non-democratic countries. After living in Israel for 23years, I understood that I had to write at least one book about it.

Norm:

Was there a particular audience you had in mind when you wrote your book? As a follow up, whom do you believe will benefit from your book and why?  What are your hopes for this book?

Jason:

When I wrote the book I had up front in mind peoples who moved from one country to another with the question, “How can I acclimate?” I was even thinking about the servicemen serving in the Middle East sent there and having to acclimate to other cultures. Of course, I also had in mind people who wanted to move to Israel and make Aliyah , Jewish and non- Jewish tourists who wanted to understand a bit more about Israel from an American’s perspective. But, I also had in mind allot of people that no one really thinks about. That is, the Jews who made Aliyah to Israel and left for different reasons. It is to these people I even dedicated the book. The unsung heroes, who tried to help a country develop, but found their own existence at odds with living in another country and reality. Maybe this book could explain a bit about what they went through, and be a guide to others who will try to make the journey.

Norm:

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Jason:

I learned that when you write a book, you learn more about your real self and who you really want to be than in almost any other way.  I also learned that if the book is to help others you leave a legacy and answer the question“why were you placed on this earth?”

Norm:

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Jason:

The book is just out, but from other readers who have been to Israel I have heard – “Hey, I remember that, I experienced that.” So I felt that I did an accurate job as I could in portraying Israel to those who have not been there. I also learned that if they experienced the same things as I did 20 years ago, then change can be slow.

Norm:

Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?

Jason:

I self published, and that is a chapter in the book I did not write. I became a publisher because when I tried to publish my first book “Being In Control : Natural techniques for increasing your potential for success in school,” I was told in Israel , the nation of the book, that because it is all in color and graphics it would be too expensive to produce and be profitable.  

My mother Edith Alster gave me 10,000$ to produce the book. It made it to number two on Amazon.com for a few weeks in the special education genre’ and still is a successful book of natural techniques for helping ADHD students. I think it was the first book ever in color graphics to help ADHD and dyslexic students. I was proud to say this lovely colorful book was also “Made In Israel” or as Israelis say “a blue and white product”, after the colors of the Israeli flag. I also felt that this beautiful book was a better representation of Israel than some of the negative press and condemnations Israel receives in the UN.   Once I became a publisher , then why not enjoy the journey rather than give it to someone else to publish.

Norm:

What were to you the five most unique characteristics of Israelis and as a follow up, how would you compare Israelis to Americans?

Jason:

Well again my experiences are personal. The first thing that struck me was the camaraderie. This could be because of shared experiences, shared security situations, small town attitude and shared culture. It would be in contrast to the individualism philosophy of Americans. This could also be seen in the workplace where working more with a consensus is the toted line than Americans do. Today, with American companies in Israel, this has changed a bit and American culture has seeped in.

Eating habits, Israelis are eating a healthier Mediterranean diet and local foods are emphasized more than imports.

Change is more on the American mind. Having to change the world, we hear that allot from Americans. Change was the platform of the last presidential race. In Israel, and more traditional societies we are more likely to hear that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, or “Our forefathers were wise men and knew what’s best for us.” Change is not as easily accepted, and change for changes sake is frowned upon.

 Because Israel is a small country and you can see three different countries from your window, Israelis are more likely to travel to other countries for vacations and business. This makes many Israeli worldlier than the regular American who can travel five hours by plane and still be in the USA. This translates into a fierce competitor, developer of ideas, and business and social networking. It is no accident that many inventions are made in Israel. It is not unusual for an Israeli to have friends all over the world where they might stay for a visit. But one thing I have learned makes American special. That in their Constitution there is the right to the “Pursuit of Happiness”.

The pursuit of happiness is not necessarily the objective or priority in other nations and peoples. Rather religion, obedience to the state , etc might be the priority of that country without the individual freedoms, individuality and psychological well being of the people.

Norm:

I noticed that you showed great deal of creativity in adapting to Israeli life. Where did this come from? 

Jason: 

From being an artist for one, from having to open my own business, and from researching creativity as a process to help learning challenged students succeed in school. My feeling was that if a student had a problem in some subjects, he or she might compensate by “learning how to learn” and increasing their creative abilities. You can then enjoy the world more so through creative pursuits. It also came from my early reading of the Hobbit. That if you have to embark on a journey then and do as the Boy Scouts say “be prepared” and expect the unexpected. .

Norm:

Do you think there will ever be peace between the Arabs and Israelis?

Jason:

That’s the million dollar question. I actually think there is already peace between the Arabs and Israelis, not counting fringe groups that still want to stir the pot. Look, Israel accomplished statehood, created many things, just listen to her amazingly beautiful music for one. Israel can’t be denied and the Arabs know this well. In Israel, many Arabs and Israelis work well together and have many joint projects. Israel is here to stay.

Still, I think President Bush had it right. Bring democracy to the Middle East and things will change for the better all around. My advice would be to understand that Israel is a great and new and ancient nation. She needs her space. I think that there has to be a re-division of the Ottoman Empire in that vast empty lands sit with some Arab nations while Israel and the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs and others like the Kurds are squeezed. 

Some say Jordan made peace with Israel because she feared she might have to give up some of her lands to accommodate the Palestinians. The Egyptian Sinai is almost empty, and so too the Saudi peninsula. Some parts of Israel, on the other hand have a majority of Arabs living there, and some parts of Arab lands were once part of Israel or promised to her. So a possible solution would be that the nations in the area rethink their borders for the sake of a lasting peace for all the great peoples living there.

Norm:

Where can our readers find out more about you and Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel?

Jason: 

My websites are, http://jasonalster.googlepages.com/leavinghome,goinghome,returninghome  ; http://jasonalster.googlepages .com/home ; and through my Amazon.com profile.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered? Yea , don’t forget to mention that the book is also a fun read , as well as full of adventures.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Click Here to read Norm's Review of Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel

Click Here To Purchase Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel