Aziz Abu Sarah: "I chose not to hate the soldier who killed my brother"

  
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Before everything else, some great news: You can now listen to Otherwise Occupied on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify!

On today’s episode of Otherwise Occupied I talk to Aziz Abu Sarah, an old friend with an amazing story. And just look at that punim! We talk about his childhood in a West Bank village outside of Jerusalem, how he became radicalized after the tragedy that hit his family, and how he changed direction - turning into one of the most prominent peace activists in this region. I hope he inspires you as much as he has inspired me.

(3:30) Aziz tells about how the pandemic has affected him and his business
(9:00) Aziz opens up about his rock throwing history in the first Intifada
(14:00) Tragedy hits Aziz’ family
(20:00) Aziz tells about moving on from hate and anger
(45:00) The birth of his Mejdi tour company
(50:00) Aziz takes a risky move and decides to run for mayor - of Jerusalem!
(1:00:00) His vision for the region between the River and the Sea


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Transcript

ami kaufman  00:00

Yallah, let's get this show on the road. Hello, everybody you're listening to otherwise occupied the podcast where I amI Kaufman, talk to everyone in anyone between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. I want to thank everybody for the feedback on last week's episode with Chef no fatahna at so much fun talking to her, she was amazing. And some of you had some really great critique about it too. So keep that feedback coming. Keep writing those comments on the post and sub stack and give me some reviews in your directories now, you know, helps in spreading the word. So today I'm talking to an old friend, Aziz busara. I know as he's from our days of cooperating in 97 magazine, I think he's probably one of the most interesting, inspiring people that I've ever met.  He grew up In a village outside of Jerusalem, he was a kid during the first Intifada, which is also when a horrible tragedy hit him and his family. But despite everything, as you'll hear in our conversation, this is a guy who did not let hatred and anger dictate his life. Instead, he is a promoter of dialogue and love. He is an entrepreneur. He is an author of books. He is a TED speaker, and he's an explorer at National Geographic. And whenever I speak to him, I always come out with a feeling that you know what, the world just needs more Aziz. Hope you feel the same. Here's our conversation. I can't believe like, it's when was the last time you remember the last time you were in Israel? I haven't seen in a while.

Aziz  02:12

I was planning on that whole that whole thing started. All What do you call it the whole COVID? I was there until mid March, I was out exactly when they say nobody can come in or leave or all of that I left when I realized that I'm gonna be stuck here.

ami kaufman  02:35

So Wait, where are you right now?

Aziz  02:37

I'm in South Carolina,

ami kaufman  02:40

South Carolina, where

Aziz  02:41

I'm in the states right now.

ami kaufman  02:43

How did you get to South Carolina?

Aziz  02:45

A long, long, long story. It's actually nice. South Carolina is a beautiful state, which I didn't realize.

ami kaufman  02:55

Where are you in South Carolina,

Aziz  02:57

In Greenville, Upstate. So I'm in the area full of mountains and lakes, which I didn't know existed here. So if you if you drive an hour, you're in Asheville, North Carolina, if you drive another hour, you're in Charlotte, North Carolina. And then if you drive two hours you're in Atlanta.

ami kaufman  03:19

How's the food?

Aziz  03:21

Good, lots, lots of good meat, lots of good meat. And it's incredible because you just walk to the farm and buy it directly from the farm. You don't buy meat from stores. Yeah. Which

ami kaufman  03:34

You know, I kind of I want to ask you about about the whole Corona thing because you're a guy who who traveled so much, and your and your business mehg detours we're going to talk a little more about metody later on but but your business is based on on tourism. And, and you I mean, to be honest, you're one of those guys that I hate watching on Instagram because I just can't stand you're all over the book, everywhere else. You one of those guys

Aziz  04:01

That's what I never get the like from you now I get it? Right.

ami kaufman  04:06

How are you holding up with that kind of thing? I mean, what is it? What does it do to you and to your business?

Aziz  04:10

To me, it's driving me crazy. I'm not used to being home, I had to learn how to build a new schedule for my life. I'm always on the run every week or two in a different country. So this was, in some ways, it's really good. I had to learn to appreciate what they have. And in some ways, get to live what I preach, because I talk a lot about travel isn't only how far you can go, you can still travel sometimes even from home. And so I had to learn how to do that, that explore the areas around me. Spend more time talking to people maybe not face to face, but also using technology. I still go out and meet people using social distancing of that I'm a bit more risky than many other people. I know But I'm, to me human contact is very, very important. So I can't live without that. So that's on the personal level and the business level, it's very difficult because less than we had the real income was in March. So to run a come a travel company in a pandemic is hard. And I have friends who run travel companies who are tour guides are completely out of business. So we are getting help from from the government, the US and we are registered both in Israel and in the US. And we do get way more helping the US I would say then in Israel, which surprisse me, Israel is supposed to be the more socialist welfare state, the

ami kaufman  05:47

Aziz, that's such an 80's statement, everything especially since Netanyahu Israel is Uber capitalist than more than the states. Come on.

Aziz  05:56

I'll tell you, I didn't expect the us to do as much as they did. We were able to keep some of our staff because of the PPP loan which which is good so we still have people working. We kept some of our stuff in Jerusalem as much as we could and we still have some people and stuff there. We prepare the little bit better I think than others because we were always felt working in the Middle East is not a safe area, things could could happen and you might end up having a month or two without travel that was always our thinking and so you always have to have a safe net and right we we did that had a safety net that helped us survive through this time. But it also helps this time has made us do all the things we've always wanted to do but never had the time to do because you when you have a travel company just things happening all the time people traveling and when you have a new product in your You don't really have time to get it done right. And now we able to do that. So we developed all kinds of new lines, all kinds of new trips. We built our US market which we haven't done before and I'm talking about similar trips to what we do in Israel and Palestine we don't have a right focused tool for we doing Native Americans focus tours, we're doing okay.

ami kaufman  07:25

I want to I want to talk a lot more about measurable But before that, we have to learn more. I mean, about about you, and you are what I've said this to you to your face of course, but and we go back you know, for you know, not now that 972 magazine, which we both wrote for the celebrating 10 years, so we've known each other for quite a while. But you are one of the most inspiring people that I've ever met as he's and one of the most you've done so much in your life in your short life so far, and you've been through so much. There's a lot of gaps that I still you know why To know about but I'm gonna like, start telling your story about you. And you're gonna have to start filling in because you grew up in a small town just outside of Jerusalem. I believe it's al Azaria. And I remember you telling me how, when you were in your I don't know, I think it was seven or eight. And it was the first Intifada and the late 80s I think it was in Florida started in 87. You were already a kid that was thrown rocks. And I mean, tell me about that. I mean, I always wonder, you know, when we hear about, you know, Palestinian kids go through, I mean, how does it even? How does that start? Like, is it you know, someone tells you, hey, let's go throw rocks. I mean, how does how does it happen?

Aziz  08:47

First, thank you for for that introduction. And you know, the feeling is mutual. I feel very inspired by you. So, and I love you dearly and how does it start at Well Is that a year Bethany is such a small town I knew everybody literally lived within like a mile mile and a half radius would walk into any house you want in you every kid in the area. So you, but it also meant it was so small, there was nothing to do. We would finish a school, go home, do your homework, and then there's nothing there is no playground, there is no no infrastructure, there is no community center. So you have to kind of invent games together. And when the Intifada started, we would watch television. And so people throwing rocks and me and my friends who were old, seven and eight years old, just the same age as mine. We all just thought this is a good idea. How did we miss that we could just walk to the street and throw rocks and it'll be fun. We didn't know we weren't even supposed to throw rocks at Israelis. We didn't know what Israelis were and when you Seven, this whole political thing you might repeat all kind of statements, but you don't really understand it. And so the first time I want to throw rocks, I throw rocks at my neighbors, because we didn't know that we were supposed to throw rocks at Israeli cars. We threw rocks at our neighbor's cars. No, no. And they showed them at our parents, our family's homes and we get discipline. But our takeaway from it wasn't we shouldn't throw rocks was you should throw rocks at people who don't know where you live. So we figured out there's a settlement that passed right close by my home that road called kid or the road was literally less than three minutes walk from my house. So we like okay, these people never come to our neighborhood. We can throw rocks at them and that's that's how it started and

ami kaufman  10:50

Was there ever a close brush, you know, with security forces like today did you ever shot at

Aziz  10:56

Many times

ami kaufman  10:58

Really?

Aziz  10:58

Yeah. First time is the one that sticks there are a couple that I remember really, really well that kind of

ami kaufman  11:06

stuck is when you're when you're seven or eight years old, basically you're saying right right.

Aziz  11:10

So the first time it happened we most of the times we threw rocks were to cower, so we were so far away so we rarely even came close to any car and the thing but one of those days we got the little boulder got closer and we are one of our stones hit the bus with a bus that was passing by I didn't I didn't do any damage but we were arguing among ourselves no I hit it No you hit a taking pride into being good aim and it's like a baseball game who's who's done a good job with the with the head and the bus stopped and a guy came down and started shooting. What the, the minds we had was just run away and we didn't really realize how dangerous it was kinda more Exciting, scary but exciting at the same time. So that's one. We threw rocks at soldiers who did try to come after us. We were able to jump into the hat because we knew every house and everybody so we were able to escape but I remember when the jeeps drove after us it's pretty terrifying. I think the most terrifying experience I had this when I felt the bullets were literally fly. I was nine years old. I remember this I was getting religious didn't last long. But I was getting religious for a while and I'm like, I'm gonna go to pray at the mosque every day and I'm gonna be a good a good boy. And I started going to the mosque and one of those nights I was walking back from the mosque and the soldiers were chasing other guys who assumed throw rocks. And they were these guys just started running by and I'm walking like, is going on. I didn't know what was happening and suddenly Bullets started flying by and I swear I thought the bullet literally just when, I mean, I know in those moments, you can tell but the feeling was and I ran like crazy. And for a while I was terrified of leaving at night because there was a night prayer as like if I got night soldiers will come and shoot. I can blame Israel for my lack of being religious.

ami kaufman  13:24

So, but I mean, you weren't you and the family eventually weren't weren't, I guess I don't know how to put it that lucky because tragedy eventually hit and it hit very, very hard. Specifically when it comes to your brother tastes here. And tell me a little about that as much as you can. Because I know I'm sure this is very difficult thing to talk about. And it's I'm sure it's affected you till this day and your family. So how old were you? When all this happened?

Aziz  13:57

I was nine years old when he was arrested. He was a rested from home again one of those memories that stays with you forever. The soldiers coming to our house at about five in the morning there was Ramadan, we just had a our pre fasting meal. And they come bang really, really hard. I think my mom or dad opened the door they just turned the house broken. came to my room which I shared with my four brother. I'm the youngest and tayseer and I shared the actually a double bed we didn't have enough space for a single bed.

ami kaufman  14:34

So you were nine and Tayseer was how old then?

Aziz  14:36

Tayseer was 18 at that time. And so they checked all of my brother's IDs, talked among themselves and then decided to take him. We didn't know why we didn't know what's happening. They said we only want to talk to him. Obviously that wasn't the case. And that's in the first Intifada. So we are talking about 1989 nine Yeah. 1989 and they took him for the next couple of weeks more or less. We didn't know any information. My dad was gone from one lawyer to another from going to the Red Cross trying to get any information and you couldn't for up to 18 days, which is kind of now I think about that how sinister it is. 18 is the number for life in, in Judaism and I go ahead 18 days of interrogation before they will tell you what's going on and feel last that interrogation, you're likely able to get out. However, most people would then last those interrogations. And at some point during the interrogation they see or admitted to whatever charges against them, which was throwing rocks. I get asked a lot. Did he really throw rocks and I don't know the likelihood is he did.

ami kaufman  15:55

Who didn't right? I mean everybody was doing it. Right.

Aziz  15:57

I don't know if he did that or not. The likelihood is He did. But yeah, everyone did it at that time it was I did it and I was a little kid. So I imagine he would Oh, but it's not a crime that you should be killed. And the beating he received in prison has all kinds of injuries and by the time you got out of prison if he vomited blood, he was very Korean for less than a year. I don't remember the exact time it was a little bit less than a year. He was sentenced for about a year and he got out with four. And he passed away about a couple months after he was released, more or less spent. So when he was in hospital,

ami kaufman  16:45

he also when he got home, he was already very ill and he was You said you're saying when he was released, he's basically most of the time in hospital because I have to deal with these these injuries.

Aziz  16:54

Right? Yeah, and I should track it at some point. I know the Red Cross And took his testimony about the torture. I sat through small part of it and then my dad walked me out of it because it was too graphic.

ami kaufman  17:12

You mean the Red Cross was was where he they came to take testimony at your house? Yeah. Some I saw there were the Red Cross. That's again. Yeah, add things puzzles together. Yeah, yeah, they were. They came in interviewed him about the torture and what was happening and what he went through. And so I sat through maybe the first five, seven minutes, and then my dad kicked me out of the room because he realized I probably should in here this Yeah. Yeah. Geez. So he was in hospital and he died in hospital.

Aziz  17:46

He died in hospital. Yeah.

ami kaufman  17:48

Do you remember that day? Do you remember?

Aziz  17:51

Yeah, I remember. Pretty good. I remember being in the house. My sisters had just come from Egypt, they went to visit him, I think that they are the day before. And the way we got the news when somebody walked in, I don't remember who and say they needed his photo. What they call it the headshot. And I didn't understand what that meant. But suddenly everybody started crying what it meant is they needed it for the announcement that would go to the newspaper and would have the photo that he died. So everybody started crying and I figured out at that point that that he passed.

ami kaufman  18:36

What kind of you know, effect does that have on on you and on everybody else in the in the family?

Aziz  18:43

Um for me, it took me a bit to realize it to understand it because, again, I was 10 at that time because it took a year. I didn't fully believe it. or understand that until he was buried, they actually thought, now must be a mistake. There are all these stories of people dying and then finding out they're not really dead than I, in my mind. I thought it's, it didn't happen until after he was buried and then I started understanding the reality. The affected had a mean mostly is they see or was my closest brother because in age he was closest to me. Which meant also he was the person I mean, as I said, we shared literally the same bed we he was the person who was in charge of teaching me stuff protecting me when I got in any problems. He was the person to come. So the when I had problems in school, he came to check and what was going on when I had a fight with somebody in the neighborhood, he would be the one to come and like stand for me. And to me that men from that moment that the doesn't exist anymore. So it's it's losing more to me was losing more than a brother was losing more of a parent. Because that's really the world is is taking a took in my life.

ami kaufman  20:15

And I presume I mean it also fills you with a lot of anger and probably hatred.

Aziz  20:21

Oh yeah, I was furious. And for most of my family, they just shut down meaning. I mean, I remember we didn't listen to music, watch a TV nothing for literally over a year after we would not engage in any celebratory my older brother who was very close to tixier they were a year apart, was not eating that not functioning. They don't want to talk to anyone for months. The whole family just shut down and eventually nobody wanted to talk politics. Nobody wanted to talk about anything. We it kind of divided us in some ways as a family because we just We came all individuals who just in our own pain, I was the only one who took it though to revenge and feeling of I have to do something about this. I'm not sure why maybe I didn't also understand the consequence potentially of those and feelings or actions. But I that's all I wanted to do for the next for the next eight years, but what did you do my focus? Well, I'm not a good fighter, so I knew I can't really do that. But I, I wrote a lot. I wrote pamphlets I wrote for I joined the Fatah youth movement I wrote and edited the youth magazine for in Jerusalem which was all of this was illegal. You go to prison for a few get caught immediately. At least an administrative arrest for For a few months, so I did that I threw rocks. Now I knew why I was throwing rocks. I got into mobilization. So I helped mobilizing people. I mean, it's kind of interesting because it's the same stuff I do now just for different purpose,

ami kaufman  22:15

very different purposes.

22:16

I in some ways, got to use or figure out what my talent is when it comes to political affairs and activism. doing that. I add that it wasn't that anger was sustained because other things were happening as well. So after tayseer was killed, we had one of our neighbors who was very close to Texier, also a skill. So that made a lot of influence in me and he was shot. He was shot in his neck and I remember seeing him before he was buried, which is an image you can show Take away. My dad's cousin who lived next door to us was killed by settlers who he was working in a gas station they came and after they filled their gas dragged him, literally killed him like torture as well. And that was few years after. And so there were things like this happening all the time, that sustain the anger and sustain itself. This feeling of like, I am, right.

Aziz  23:32

They are this way or that, you know, the us versus them mentality. It was very easy to sustain it when all these things were happening. And then and then you say seven, eight years that lasted and then what made what made you change because you really took a different route suddenly, right? So in high school, I refuse to learn Hebrew, even though I went to a public high school and it was mandatory to learn Hebrew. I refuse to learn the language and finish High School I thought I'm gonna go study abroad and then work out. My family didn't have the money even though I had some of the good grades. I didn't have enough connections with the Palestinian Authority which we'll know this all about how well connected you are to get a to get a scholarship. So I ended up having to stay in Jerusalem and then had to figure out Hebrew because you can't work or study or do anything. And I looked where's the best place to learn Hebrew and the best place to learn Hebrew is an open so someone told me about open Mila which isn't King George Street. I signed up for that.

ami kaufman  24:40

Just for our listeners though, who don't know what ulpan is, I mean ulpan is basically anyone who immigrated to Israel if you come because you're you're Jewish and Israel. Let's see when because you're Jewish and you don't know the language. You're given this free school to learn the Hebrew language.

Aziz  24:56

It wasn't free for me. And whenever I paid I paid 700 shekels a month. That's back

ami kaufman  25:03

Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe it's not free.

Aziz  25:05

No, no, it is a free for the immigrants. It's not for me because I'm not I'm not you're not Jewish. Yes. Only fine, you convert back then and then life would have changed.

ami kaufman  25:19

Okay, so you're going to open and I guess is this with all these immigrants that are coming from the States or

Aziz  25:26

it was a mix. We had immigrants from the States. We had immigrants from Europe, we had immigrants from Russia, we had quite a nice mix of immigrants, couple Korean students who were there for Biblical reasons. But I was only Palestinian in that classroom. And I think that was important in some ways because I didn't have this comfort of finding somebody and just sitting next to them and I'm just sticking with them and talking to them the whole time. I was forced to get to talk to the other students in the classroom and I remember the first Say I walked in, I had my hands, you know, my arms around. Yeah. And I'm like, I don't want to be here and unlike anybody here, and I thought they probably had the same feelings because I'm like, they're probably looking at me and thinking, what is this Arab doing here? Why is he in our classroom probably the teacher must hate me. She's forced to have me here. This is the thoughts. I had my mind. I was very uncomfortable. I thought nobody wanted me to be there and I don't want to be there. And from the day, the first day, something happened that really kind of shook me at obviously, I fought against that for a while. My teacher walked to me and greeted me in Arabic. And I was so confused because in some ways, what she did was recognize me not just as a student recognize me as being pacinian. Arab that I have a different language recognize me as a person as a human. And it sounds very small, but that moment This so stuck with me is like the fact that she tried to speak Arabic to me and say marhaba kifak. Like, she didn't speak Really? I mean,

ami kaufman  27:10

she wasn't erasing you. Like right most people doing this she was she was saying, you know, you're, you're here.

Aziz  27:17

And I have to say I know Israelis often when I talk in schools and so on will say there's a big peace movement Israel there was never one in in Palestine, right. That's very common right wing. talking point I always say the first time I heard of any peace, anything in Israel was when I was 18. Like really, there was this woman. So there might be a peace movement Israel, it didn't really come to me it didn't really introduce itself to me and there was, you know, good or bad reasons for that. And this was my first human interaction with anybody who was Israeli was Jewish and and then for the next few months As I was studying there, I had two teachers, both of them were incredible. They were the sub. And they, they had me one of them is specifically just really was interested in Arab culture, Palestinian culture and so she would have me even bring Arabic music to classroom and should we would translate it together and well, maybe we'll do even a mini belly dancing class and

ami kaufman  28:26

never heard of an ulpan like this. I gotta tell you,

Aziz  28:28

I was very, very lucky because I went after a different open and it was the opposite experience. And I was thinking if I went there first, my life would have gone totally into a different trajectory. This This was really an I was, I was lucky, I was blessed, whatever it is. She also didn't, didn't escape from politics. She talked about politics, not so much to tell us what to think because we have a lot of right wing and left wing in the classroom but He was willing to let us express our opinions have discussions about that she had us go down in the street interview people about their political views. She talked about Palestinians in the classroom which again to me that was all I can't believe in Israeli is talking nice about Palestinians, including Well, you thought this was 99

ami kaufman  29:22

were you were you uh, were you telling them in ulpan ? were you telling your story? were you saying your opinions? I

Aziz  29:28

didn't tell my whole story but I did say some opinions. Yeah.

ami kaufman  29:33

Tell me more. I mean, your your your your, you say you're starting to change but what what's, How's it coming about? I mean, what, what's changing?

Aziz  29:41

I think I realized, one slowly I became friends with some of the other students. And amazingly, two of the students I became friends with were Russian, which we know tend to go right but they they weren't. We ended up spending tons of time talking with a mother and a daughter and we ended up was hanging out together and spent a lot of time talking with each other. And we started realizing how much we have in common, which to me was, I mean, it sounds so simple and normal, but it wasn't the growing up that didn't exist, realizing that I can hate these people because they're my friends. Now, you know, when we talk about all kinds of things, we'll agree and stuff and disagree and stuff, not just politics in general, but we became friends. And that's I think what started shifting is realizing this whole concept of had a us versus them just can't work anymore. And it still was a time when there were suicide bombings and shootings, and things that really I think, made a difference for me is if I heard of something happening in their area, I was worried I was worried that they would have been hurt and when something happened in my issue, some they would check on me and asked me If I was okay, and that was a big change, because I didn't have those connections before, suddenly if if a bomb went on in West Jerusalem to me, it's not just Well, I don't know anybody, there is no one to care about. If anything, it's the enemy. Suddenly it's my friends live in that area. And that that changes everything if you can see them as the enemy anymore. And slowly with that, I started realizing that you can't, you can't control what other people do to you. You can't control the soldier who arrested my brother, I can't control other people actions, be it good or bad or criminal. But you do have the ability to control how do you respond to those actions. And that was such a redeeming feeling of knowing just because the person who tortured my brother decided to be criminal and decided to be a murderer. I don't have to choose to go on the same path. I actually have a choice and If anything, when I choose to hate, I am being his slave. I'm being I'm not living the life I want to live, I'm living the life he, he decided for me. So he kills my brother and then he kills me in some ways because I don't have my life anymore. And realizing that there's so redeeming, I know, it's such a piece of wisdom that I think people it takes decades for people to reach that kind of understanding about, about life, about about hatred about, you know, racism and conflicts, but but you you've got it at such an early age. And then you start working on that you start working in that you become the activist who is trying to spread that message. Right. And I think the reason it resonated for me is being angry, being full of hatred really takes so much energy out of you and those eight years I talked about, they drain Your energy, being bitter all the time is not easy. It's it makes you miserable. You might think in your mind, you're not, but it takes a toll on you. And realizing I have a different choice was just amazing. And I have to say, even though I did make that choice, the learning journey is a lot longer because you can say that to yourself and think you got it and then you realize, you know, nothing. And for the last 20, some years, I feel I continue to learn and understand. One of the first things I had to learn, I didn't know anything about Jewish history, I didn't know anything about Israeli history and you only my narrative, and I decided I want to learn the other narrative. And it was really hard because a lot of the other narrative conflicts with mine narrative. So becoming an activist, I had to face those kind of conflicting stories, conflicting narratives,

ami kaufman  34:00

You met that a lot correct me if I'm wrong and in the group that you joined the bereavement circle, right is that that's probably where you met a lot of those stories where you really had to. I mean, this is this is a group of people who have lost family relatives, your loved ones on both sides of the conflict. And it's such an amazing group people just you know,

Aziz  34:23

That's the first time I've joined. That was the first organization that ended up becoming part of very grateful I met with Rami elhanan specifically who had a lot of influence on me is his daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, and yet he is one of the most loving and giving people I know him his wife Noy to Palestinians, to me personally they've been they've been just unbelievable friends. If I'm in trouble, Romney is one of the first people I call because I know I know he would do everything. To help and I've been like, I got arrested once on a tour. For stupid reason. He was my first phone calls and let me find me a lawyer. And that's, that's the kind of relationships I ended up having the bereaved families forum is to be able to exchange those narratives, to learn about them. And to also learn to have sympathy, and to learn to have empathy with with the other. And that's, that's hard because it's harder to empathize with your enemy than you think you might be willing to learn but to empathize me to also feel their pain to feel their, what they're going through, to breathe it in, and not to try to always compare it to yours when one of the Israelis and the bereaved families will tell their stories. It's very easy for me or for any of the Palestinians to jump up and say, but let me tell you about my pain. And that's normal and complex. So we had to work harder than that. And I'll tell you a story. I don't think I told you before but empathy. With Rami, my, my father came once to one of those meetings, one of his first meetings with Israelis. And my dad always says the wrong thing at the wrong time. 100% of the time, and we argue all the time. But he came to this big meeting that was starting to explore the different histories very delicately, very carefully, because we knew it could explode. And we talked a little bit about the Holocaust. And so my dad right away, raises his hand. He's like, I have a question about the Holocaust. I'm like, Oh, no, because I'm you this is going down very, very bad that he did that. And he stands up and he goes up. So this Holocaust thing, which is, again, another good way to start into a question about the Holocaust and you know, it's not going to be anything constructive. This holiday Casting didn't really happen, or is it a political ploy used by the Israeli government to take Palestinian land? I'm thinking I just want to open up and swallow me. I was at that point, the chairman of the parent circle debrief family. And my dad was talking about conspiracy theories happen, right? So you can imagine how embarrassed and I just wanted to run away and no one knew how to answer him. I just sat down. I'm like, I'm not saying your word. And everybody else looked like it was dead silent. And then Ramiz stood up Brahman Hannon. And he said, You know, that's a fair question. I don't expect you to believe in something you never learned about. This is like Israelis get upset about those kinds of questions, but in reality, how can I believe in how can I expect you to believe in it or know about it? If you never learned about it? It's absurd. So Here's what I can offer you. Ramiz father was an Auschwitz prisoner. He was in the camp of Auschwitz. And at that time, he was still still alive in his like, I'll have my dad take you to the Holocaust Museum. He will tell you his own story as he walks you through. And then another member of the organization in the UK of gutterman, who also is a Holocaust survivor said, I'll go as well. And suddenly a movement started happening. And many of the Palestinians in the room said, Well, we also don't know anything about this healthcare. So we would like to learn and from this weird question, wrong question, I guess politically incorrect question. 70 Palestinians signed up to go to the Holocaust Museum, to learn about the Holocaust. And I have to say as amazing as it is, it wasn't easy. They asked questions that were difficult. They said things that were offensive multiple times, but it started a real relationship. That didn't exist before. They weren't walking on eggshells me anymore.

ami kaufman  39:02

Amazing. Wow. It's just amazing story. So after the bereaved circle, forum, you, you finally kind of got to the States, right.

Aziz  39:16

So, at some point I realized there were many reasons why I came to the States. But at some point I realized at the time I was 26, 27 that I hit my sky ceiling kind of in Israel Palestine, politically, in the Palestinian Authority, your chances of getting any I mean, the same people who are in charge back then, which is what 15 years ago are the same people in charge today except those who died you know, you can, you can't when there was no elections since since then. So I had no political career, which is something I was interested in. I had no I already hosted a radio show for all for peace then did quite a bit of TV stuff. But I knew I had no more possibility of doing any more of that I hit my ceiling in activism I was working already in running, like, being the chairman of the parent circle briefing was foremost one of the biggest NGOs. So I had nowhere to go nowhere to learn no challenge after and I needed, I needed to do something different. I want it to work in other places as well. And I ended up meeting with this guy named Scott Cooper, who we were still together today, who asked me if I want to work with him at George Mason University. He said, I have no money. We're going to have to figure out the finances together at some point. But I think together we can do something. And I started working with him at George Mason and our first project we were able to work on which we ended up fundraising money for was in Afghanistan. So Scott is Jewish, Palestinian, and the two of us few months later found ourselves in cobbled together, which was incredible. I mean, I don't think we realize how crazy what we were doing until we got there. And we're like, Okay, this is, and we checked into our hotel and the hotel told us how it's the safest, safest hotel that has been bombed few months before, a year before. And they expected that to be bombed again. So they give you a briefing about what you do if the place get attacked. Yeah. And you listen to that, and you go, Mike Do you don't like, but it was, it was amazing because I needed to learn about other conflicts to understand even our own conflict. I needed a bigger picture. So working in Afghanistan later on, I worked on projects in Iran, I worked in Syria I worked and in Colombia, I worked in all these other places and I think put things more into perspective for me and showed me how when you outside or how you see things when you are inside Either how it's more emotional, you don't really see things as clear because you are into it. So that was very important step in my life.

ami kaufman  42:10

How did the idea for Mejdi come about?

42:13

So Scott and I are doing all this work and conflict resolution felt that the there was no sustainable element to our work. I mean, we were very proud of it happy we were doing it, very moved by it. But we felt the moment you finished a project, it's really hard to continue what you do, and we hated fundraising to both of us. So we wanted to create something that can reach larger amount of people not have to fundraise for and make it more part of our daily habits make peacebuilding conflict resolution, a daily habit, and that's something you have, you have an NGO to bring you to a meeting and then you go back to your life which is full something was missing. And so we started looking at different industries and realized at that time 1 billion people traveled internationally every year. Last year, that number was 1.5 billion. This year. It's way lower

ami kaufman  43:14

A little less,

Aziz  43:16

just a tad less. And we like a second a billion people travel every year looking to meet others looking for connections. This is the largest intercultural exchange program in the world. And here's the amazing thing. They pay for it themselves. You don't need to fundraise. They'll pay you to organize it for them and, and we started putting things together. We're like, well, if we could connect enemies together in Afghanistan, have shears and Sudanese and have Hazara is and Tajiks and pashtoon sit together, and we can do it. In other places. We can do it anywhere in reality, and so we started building the concept of melody. And one of the first things that we decided to do was Every tourist that comes to Israel and Palestine, definitely at that time only gets one narrative gets either those alien narrative or the Palestinian narrative. And we wanted to challenge that and we wanted to give two narratives. And so we decided to do two tour guides one Israeli one Palestinian working together. And I remember when we started it other tour companies and you would tell me this is the dumbest idea period. Ironically, these companies today try to copy us and try to hire

ami kaufman  44:33

Are there people trying to copy you.

Aziz  44:36

Even the language dual the dual narrative concept Not only is used now by leftist companies who copyist it's used by right wing companies also no

ami kaufman  44:46

yes, you should have like I don't know like protect that or copyright. I

Aziz  44:51

can't really trademark trademark. But to me that means it's successful though. The fact that same people who laughed at us Now use our model and try to hire the people we hire is to me is very uplifting. It's Yeah, it's not maybe, actually I think it is good for business, it spreads the message that this is the new way to travel. So I'm happy about it. It means we have succeeded in in some ways, changing how travel works in Israel and Palestine. This two guys, we had no money, started running this experimental travel trying to convince people to have to tour guides with with a lot of people saying this is dumb, and this is stupid, and I can't believe you. You're going to fight all the time, which doesn't happen. We rarely almost never have guides fight on the tours of anything. They become friends

ami kaufman  45:48

what do you mean rarely, you've had fights like you've had guides that fight?

45:52

No, we had guides who may be and this is really rare who the personalities didn't click And that could happen in any business not just in travel, but not like really fight. Never if anything, like I said the opposite. I mean, you have your violin or some, you know you've been to another 972 person who I met him there and recruited him to come and work with brilliant, brilliant too.

ami kaufman  46:21

He knows everything there is to know in the world

Aziz  46:25

a little bit sometimes upsetting when he just starts like coating poems and start playing music. I'm like, Is there anything you can include? Like, it's hard to guide with you because I have to up my game 100 times and I still can't like singing.

ami kaufman  46:42

But I'm kind of curious about what kind of crowd comes to the tours, especially like if we just focus. I mean, I know you're working now in other countries, but if we just focus on Israel, Palestine, and then the tours that are coming from the States. What kind of crowd is it? Is it is it? Is it already a progressive crowd that are opened?

Aziz  46:58

no. And that I think partially because we are not a nonprofit, we are a business. We do our best not to be propaganda in the sense, I have strong opinions. I don't push my opinions on tourists and our travelers. I have people who speak to our tourists who I strongly disagree with. And our method is, you don't, you don't go and start telling them why they rock. I want travelers to really hear the right and the left the one state or two staters and the democracy and authoritarian regime hearing Israelis hearing Palestinians from different walks of life because that's the reality. And I want them to explore all of it. But I also want them to hear peacemakers and make up their mind I can, I don't want to run a propaganda in the sense only get you to hear what I want you to hear because that's not really multiple narrative or dual narrative in any way. So by doing that, I think we got more of a reputation of being More more honest, I guess presenters of, of the, of the reality we also obviously customized for the groups of the groups are more right wing that you probably don't want to send them right away into Hebron, that and I remember talking once to a synagogue to a rabbi who I knew his synagogue I've spoken in his synagogue before and we were putting a trip together. And he said we would go to Hebron and we're gonna go to Jericho and we're gonna go to Bethlehem and that and it was funny conversation because I'm like, No, you can't. And he's like, why wouldn't I like because I know your congregation. You are a lot more left than your congregation. You take your congregation to these places and your first trip, and you're gonna end up with a job pretty soon. So you have to meet people where they are. And that's something really important for me communication. You don't want to communicate what you want to communicate. You want to meet people where they are get them to be willing to explore to understand that there is another story you You're not going to get people always from A to Z on on the tour. I want them to be curious. I want them to understand there's a different story. And if they more on the left, I want them to understand the right if they're more on the right, I want them to understand the left. So we get, I had tours where I had people who identified as Tea Party supporters and the trips. I have quite a lot of Republicans who come in our tours, which I'm very happy to happen and some who have become really dear friends of mine. We have Yeah, we have people from all different backgrounds, all different walks of life who comes it's not a progressive only tour, and I will do everything possible to keep it that way.

ami kaufman  49:49

So besides being you know, this tourism entrepreneur, you've also been a TED speaker, which was amazing that he if anyone's listening to this, you should google As he as he's his name and Ted, and you'll find that great speech that you gave. I'm very jealous of you for also being working with the National Geographic because that was my dream as a kid when I was when I was subscribed to those monthly yellow framed magazines. My dream was to be,

Aziz  50:17

I didn't know what graphic was. I don't know what it was let me something.

ami kaufman  50:21

And here you are working with the National National Geographic Explorer. But a year ago, I get a message from you or maybe it was more than a year ago and you say, Ami? I'm running for mayor of Jerusalem. Wait, could you just run that by me again? You're running for mayor of Jerusalem. I mean, first of all, you are like away. So for so long in the States, and I'm like, Where are you back here now? I didn't know where you were. And but most of all, I'm just wondering what the hell does what makes a guy who's who's doing his businesses good. Doing well. His activism activism is doing well. National Geographic, Ted everything. Why does a guy like that suddenly decide to make a run for public office?

Aziz  51:12

Yeah, that was the question my family asked. My parents were totally against because of that that was there. Things are going well, why would you mess it up? But the way I looked at that is exactly that things are going well. I didn't grow up with privilege. I grew up in a family that didn't have money. I mean, I remember my allowance was half a shekel a day. As a kid, that was my daily allowance for a long day, which was useless. It didn't buy much at all. Yeah, so I didn't grow up with privilege. I didn't grow up even with a passport. I didn't grow up like all the things that people take for granted. Being able to travel because you have a passion passport, I had to always apply for a million visa to be able to go anywhere, which for some of the words in travels crazy by going through so much of not having privilege and then getting to a place where I felt privileged, having a business having more comfortable life being successful in all the things you mentioned, that makes you more responsible as well or it puts on you a responsibility, the responsibility of not just saying, well myself, that's all the matters. And Jerusalem is a place that's very, very dear to my to myself to my heart. And I felt that it's a step that needs to be done, and no one is willing to do it. Putting Jerusalem back in the map talking about the issues that's happening in Jerusalem, talking about the Palestinian residents and how we have no right to even run for me or even though I try to run for me.

ami kaufman  52:56

When you say nobody, nobody was willing to do it. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong Let's put it into context which is because I think nobody was willing to do it like young new Palestinian leaders one does, because the old Palestinian leadership or the Palestinian Authority the stance was you know that this is basically normalization or you're you are agreeing to Israeli rule over Jerusalem and you're and you're kind of playing along. But you have a different take on that.

Aziz  53:28

Well, I find it hypocritical I mean, it's the same thing what's happening with the UAE now in the Palestinian sense like you can't talk to Israel when they've been doing it for 25 years. They talking about Jerusalem as you can't accept anything about Jerusalem with Israel except they agreed to not have any power any presence in Jerusalem in the Oslo Accords. They, they pretty much abandoned Jerusalem since Oslo. And that's how most people in Jerusalem feel they might not be able to say it in public because they do work and they have a Lots of things and family in the West Bank. So they prayed the Satan public. But that's a reality the Palestinian leadership has given up abandoned Jerusalem quite a long time ago.

ami kaufman  54:11

But that's the reason I brought it up because, in a way, you know, I'm just trying to show people how brave you are because not only are you going up against, of course, you're going up against the Israeli narrative in the Israeli regime, but you're going up against the Palestinian regime, the Palestine thority, you're somewhat alone.

Aziz  54:32

And yeah, I don't realize how alone I was until later in the process, because I was talking to people and they're like, this is amazing. It's incredible. You know, some somewhere telling me you're doing a reckless thing, but then everything I've done in my life was a result of being reckless to some level. If you calculate every step in your life, you do nothing. You have to you have to take risks and I thought this is a risk worth I did as much prep as I could I went and met with a lot of leaders in within the Palestinian Authority. Try to reason try to explain to them my opponent, and I told them the chances of me winning to be the mayor is about zero percent because by law I can't run, if anything, this just mag boots, magnifier and the issues in Jerusalem and explain explain to the listeners why by law, you can't. Because even though we are 40% of the population, Palestinians in Jerusalem, we are not citizens. And the last days to run for mayor you have to be a citizen. So she roussillon which Israel considers its capital, which is a democracy has 40% of the population of a city unable to run for the most important office. I mean, in reality you can't vote for for the kinetic and vote for our life has completely run with no representation and we just because I hear also, again, A lot of Israeli say well you don't also pay taxes that is the biggest bullshit possible because we pay taxes exactly like everybody else and if anything if you don't pay taxes you will not get a paper from the Minister of Interior you will not get there are checkpoints on our neighborhoods that check if you have outstanding payments to the government literally checkpoints outside so we are outside wadi joz So this concept of you don't pay taxes is like

ami kaufman  56:31

when the city doesn't come up even to pick up the trash.

Aziz  56:35

That was one of the one of the things I ran on is that trash at that time, there was a really major failure in picking up the trash more than usual because usually there's a failure but I took one of the TV stations cnn at that time, I'm like, you know what, I'm not gonna take you to any area I want. Just have your driver drive Anyway, you want an Easter or something and let's see where the Thresh The trust leads and they were all overly pack overly packed and everything is around and burning.

ami kaufman  57:07

that was that one to be it. Was that going to be like that? Especially the campaign question was like, if you win the election, what is the first thing you're going to do when you get into office? Was that was that going to be the first thing you're going to take care of Josh would be the

Aziz  57:22

first benchmark for what I really wanted to do is especially dealing with issues like house demolition. I have family members who have lost their homes, cousins, who have lost their homes due to house demolitions. And that's one issue that I felt is really important to tackle my I have a brother who lives in Crawford atop now because he can't build in Jerusalem you can get a permit to build into some it's impossible. next to impossible they give a few the cost is absurd. And then the two to get that permit takes years and it you know, no, no You plan neighborhoods for Palestinians in East Jerusalem since Israel control Jerusalem occupied Jerusalem in 67. issues on their new neighborhoods, never call this God save all these elements. They all planned in issue somebody not planned for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, they plan for those Jewish residents. And not the one neighborhood built for us. Where Where do we live? Where do we go? So when people go, Well, you shouldn't build a legally I'm with you. I don't like that illegal building. But give us then a place to build, allow us to have a spot to build let us live somewhere. And the only option we have is to leave the city which is a political decision and with that the Palestinian Authority again does nothing and I felt somebody has has to start talking about those issues. And and talk about this whole charade of democracy. You can call yourself a demand If you can't allow us to run for front office, and that pissed off, everybody pissed off the Palestinian Authority. I think the Palestinian Authority got pissed off because they realize I was getting traction. And the message was working. So one of the first things they did is ban all Palestinian media from interviewing me, which made my life a lot harder because they can say whatever lies they wanted, but I couldn't respond. There was a whole campaign of intimidation, sending people if I do any event or attack live, and while at the same time, I want to remind you they were doing security coordination with the Israeli military, right. So they were accusing me of being a normalizer as they doing security coordination with Israel, talk about schizophrenia,

ami kaufman  59:52

or are there any other examples that you know of, of young leadership in Jerusalem or in the West Bank? Trying to challenge the old guard.

Aziz  1:00:03

There are, but they are a yes. So there are people who are doing that, and a lot of them end up in the Palestinian authorities jail. Really, there's today, there's a journalist who is in prison for criticizing the Palestinian Authority. There's an activist two weeks ago who was in prison for doing Facebook videos. He's 4040 to 43. Who does these videos criticizing the Palestinian Authority? It's slowly it didn't used to be like this, but slowly becoming more and more oppressive. And it's very sad to me because I have friends who work in the Palestinian Authority, and they not that kind of those kind of people. But from a security point of view. It's becoming like a good classic Arab regime. And so you get that under Palestinians and then you get the Israeli side which, which did also Israel anything possible to make my life difficult?

ami kaufman  1:01:03

Do you ever never get tired? Do you ever lose hope?

Aziz  1:01:09

I get frustrated. I get tired, but I don't lose hope because I think life is impossible without hope. So, and I've seen things change in other places where it felt like it would never change. I think sometimes you go through the darkest moment before you get to the end of the tunnel or some kind of life. So I refuse to give up hope, I think you should see can't live without hope.

ami kaufman  1:01:35

Here's the question that that that I asked. I'm going to ask everybody in this podcast that it's kind of like a double kind of question. What if you could snap your fingers now and have your way between the river and the sea? What kind of entity Would you like to see? And The second part of that question is, with all your knowledge and your expertise in this region, what do you think will actually happen? What do you what do you think there will be for the next few years or decades? I mean, so the two different questions and what if you could immediately change and have your way right now? What is that dream that fantasy? But what do you think is really going to happen? Ah,

Aziz  1:02:25

what I what I would I used to be a two state solution hardcore to status I'm not

ami kaufman  1:02:32

at all so as I was,

Aziz  1:02:33

right, I think when we met we both were on the same page that I I don't think once I mean, ideally, I think one secular state that's what I would say ideally would be the the right thing, democracy secular open to everybody, that the chances of that happening I think, is about zero percent. So I wouldn't say it's gonna happen. I like I like the view that some of our friends work on it like Dahlia, where it talks about the federal federal confederal system, where we have two states but really one country, and people can live wherever they want. I think it answers some of the hardest questions about, about Israel and Palestine, which is that Palestinians will not forget Haifa and yaffa and ARCA and in reality to us those places are extremely extremely important. Those were the main Palestinian cities more than Ramallah. Ramallah was not was was kind of a small village. In comparison, it really is a small, small place. It wasn't that important historically for Palestinians, while ACA and the APA and and Haifa are way more important historically for for the Palestinian population. Well for the Jews, who are religious at least Back in which is right next to Ramallah is very important publicly. So it gives a place for the Palestinians to kind of start moving toward the coast for religious people moving more religious who's moving more internally? And so I think that answers that question.

ami kaufman  1:04:20

I think I think what it doesn't answer for Jews who are and I wonder about this sometimes, you know, what the one state or the Confederation kind of solution always what answer do they have to the, to the fear that Jews have? saying, you know, well, that you know, if that happens, then that's the end of the zionist dream. That's the end of the Jewish state. And if it's the end of the Jewish state, then it's the end of our protection. And if we don't have protection, boom, that means another Holocaust and other way down the road. I mean, what do you say to those people who have a legitimate, you know, very legitimate fear. He just can't you can't, don't be a stone. Be afraid.

Aziz  1:05:01

No, no, I agree. And I've read enough about history to know there is a real fear even in, you know, Jews were treated well in the Middle East, but there were times they weren't. I've read through Egypt's more modern history and what Jews have gone through being extremely patriotic, fighting against colonization and still being thrown out because they were Jewish. They were assumed to be Zionists, just because you were Jewish, even though many of them were not scientists and became Zionist thanks to dasion regime at that time, so you're absolutely right, there is a fear but the way I see a confederate system is that it can exist in the sense it can still keep to two states I wish it can allow the symbols that can allow some kind of color Colette safeguards that could be in place. To allow that. I think Palestinians would be open to that, especially considering we in the weaker position right now. So we would be willing to accept some safeguards that would give the Jewish the Jewish residents in that state that ability to, to feel safe. Now, there will be violence regardless with which solution we're going to go with. There'll be people who will try to torpedo it. There'll be people who will always on both sides. Right. And that's, that means we have to really work together and making sure we don't make those people dividers. It's not gonna be easy.

ami kaufman  1:06:41

Yeah, well, that was actually the first part of the question. That's kind of what you want what you dream. What do you think is going to happen, though? I mean, well, what do you

Aziz  1:06:48

not any of that probably, at least not in the in the short term? What I see I actually think that Likud kind of platform is what's going to happen. Which means you slowly and next, some settlements, more settlements, you do it very slowly so you don't get the whole world upset at you you normalize it. I mean, what what the right wing in Israel has done is brilliant, they will do something and that we'll see we'll check what the world reaction is on multiple levels. And then they're like wait for a little bit and then do small part of it. Oh, it becomes normal. And then you do it again and again and again. And eventually, nobody cares that it's happening. So I think they'll start annexing few subtle ends and then a few more and a few more. And what would happen is that Palestinians would have these cities on way to control will be self ruling cities really would be closer to ghettos in some ways. Poor, overcrowded, and eventually it's not sustainable, but it is for for at least the foreseeable future when people say their occupation is unsustainable it is for a while. And it was sustainable for the last 50 years profitable. I would argue for a lot of people, definitely a lot of Israeli businesses, a lot of Israeli government, people and a lot of Palestinian officials and businessmen as well, and will be that way for quite a while. Until eventually it's not.

ami kaufman  1:08:23

Well, okay, so before we have to go, there's one title that I forgot to add, besides, you know, the TED and the National Geographic and the businessman and everything else. You're an author now, right? You wrote a book. Tell me about that.

Aziz  1:08:37

Yes, it's my second actually. I i co authored the book two years ago with a zoo and a Christian, I guess. And we wanted to write our own communities about important matters. I wrote about ISIS and Jihad and all those topics. are tough I should I'll get your copy when I see you. And this book I wanted to write more about I wrote it alone. And I wanted to write about well alone and one chapter a friend of mine wrote a woman. And I'll tell you why Ellie Annie that a woman perspective. It's about all the travel books I could find in the market are usually about where to go the top destinations that travel to, you know, where you should spend your time which restaurant you should eat that. And I think that's a wrong way to to look at travel. It's not about where to go it's how to go. You know the story it's kind of teach a man to fish or give a man a fish he'll be you fed them for a day teach him how to fish your friend and for his whole life. It's kind of the same we tell people eat at this restaurant, but then if they don't have the paper, they don't know what to do. And that's absurd to me. I'm like, unique. I'm like that Exactly. That's That's me. You're talking about me. Well, that's why you need the book. That's good. So the book goes through all kinds of aspects of like, how do you check about responsibility through travel? How do you meet people when you are traveling? How do you find out the other narratives that you don't hear about? You know, the idea of multiple narratives isn't only Israel and Palestine, most countries you travel to, will only give you a polished picture about themselves and they will not highlight a lot of the other narratives. You can go to Greece today, you will not know about all the refugees. I know tourists who go to Greece don't talk to refugees don't hear about refugees. They avoid the areas that refugees are add because it's inconvenient. Why do you want to talk about it, you can go to the United States and not learn anything about Native American civil rights, movement, migrations, any of that and suddenly you have these beautiful image that's not real, and doesn't really give you a memorable experience. My best experiences when I traveled any It's the people I've met the, you know talking about food, the food they ate because somebody local told me where to go and eat not because somebody in Lonely Planet told me where to go and eat chickens. I the best meal I had in Vietnam was this old lady who hosted us in her home Vietnamese a friend helped me find her. This old house that was built at the French error there. And the way they used to build houses is tall and narrow because the taxes apparently used to be and the width of the house. So it's a weird thing and we ate in her house the best meal and then we walked into the kitchen realize it's it's such a small kitchen. I can't even tell you how small it is. But there was two things of everything. Two fridges, two stoves and like there's barely a place to stand. Why do you have these and she's like, Well, my husband's sister got divorced and she lives with us and me and her don't like each other. So she has her fridge or stove ended up Having this honest conversation with her about how do you live with somebody you don't like and it was a class and conflict resolution in some way, when they were honest. She's like, oh, when I'm hosting you now she goes out. And if she has guests, I'll go out and we work out the way and we want her to stay live with us. We just don't get along. And to me, that was incredible. And you don't get to do that. And most tours and I want that to change. So I wrote a whole book about how you do that. I also wanted to talk about volunteering responsibility and volunteering people volunteer in in orphanages where kids are not orphans, for example, they don't know they want to help and you end up in places like Cambodia doubling the number of orphanages because these are businesses, they just take kids away from their families and we go and volunteer and think Yay, how amazing we are as we destroying the country social fabric. I wanted to talk about issues like culture, religion, how do you really get to explore Those things. There's so much in the book. It's I got it.

ami kaufman  1:13:05

I think it was the name. He didn't say the name of the book, the book. Come on.

Aziz  1:13:09

The book is called crossing boundaries a travelers guide to world peace. So it's how to be a peacemaker.

ami kaufman  1:13:19

Yeah. on Amazon, get it on Where Where can I buy it?

Aziz  1:13:22

You can get it on Amazon, you can get it in Barnes and Nobles, you can get it and pretty much most the most international stores. And if you go to my website as eatable serra.com, you will find all the options of where you can actually buy.

ami kaufman  1:13:39

Excellent. Aziz. I love you. You are fantastic. You are inspiring. I said. I'll say it again a million times. You're just an amazing, amazing person. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast and otherwise occupied and I hope we get to see each other pretty soon, you know?

Aziz  1:13:56

Yes. I'm so looking forward to come back. As soon as soon as it's possible after the, I hope by the end of the year, I'll be able to come and see you see my family. Yeah.

ami kaufman  1:14:12

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Aziz  1:14:14

Thank you. And thank you for having me and saying I love you so much.

ami kaufman  1:14:26

Wow, I guess you can tell how much I love that guy. Well, I hope you love them too. If you liked this episode, I'd really appreciate it. If you could help me spread the word about otherwise occupied, share it with your family and friends. share it on social media that really helps leave a comment on the site here on substack. Or now that the podcast is on Apple and Spotify, you can leave a review there. I would love to hear your thoughts. So thanks so much for taking the time to listen to me and I'll see you soon. Bye bye.