By Jerry Alatalo
s. Eileen Fleming has kindly agreed to participate in our interview project/series after we offered her an invitation. We strongly recommend viewing her powerful documentary film,“We Americans and the U.S.S. Liberty”, including interviews of the Liberty’s survivors, on the events surrounding the deadly 1967 false flag attack on the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli forces, and carried out in collusion with U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.
Ms. Fleming’s insights are particularly timely given the recent major announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump regarding Jerusalem. Thank you Eileen for sharing your thoughts in the following words and images.
Question 1.) What was your primary motivation for entering the world of blogging on the worldwide web?
My childhood dream was to be a reporter.
In keeping a long story short:
I had a very brief career in journalism in my youth but NOT until I was 50 years old did I begin to live my childhood dream!
The events of 11 September 2001, was the catalyst that made it possible for it led to my first of eight investigative journeys to both sides of The Wall in the Holy Land beginning in 2005.
While in east Jerusalem, a serendipitous meeting with Israel’s nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu, [who had been freed in 2004 from 18 years behind bars to 24/7 surveillance] reignited my childhood dream as it grew it up!
It happened when I asked Vanunu to tell me about his childhood in Marrakesh.
When Vanunu asked, “Have you seen that Dorothy Day movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much?”
I laughed as I replied, “You mean the Doris Day movie where she sings Que Sera Sera?
Vanunu nodded, “That’s the one. The opening scenes are from where I grew up…”
Vanunu kept talking but I was already imagining walking in the footsteps of Dorothy Day who co-founded The Catholic Worker newspaper, which agitated church and state.
Before I departed Jerusalem I told Vanunu and vowed to God I would tell, as in write the Vanunu Saga UNTIL Israel allows Vanunu the right to leave the state.
Question 2.) How would you describe yourself with regard to spirituality?
With a poem I wrote in 2005:
The more I learn, of less I am certain, except for the need to remain open to the Mystery we call God;
Creator of unfathomable diversity,
Artist of intricate details who crafted verdant mountains where fragile flowers dwell
Who designed the ocean depths where no human eyes have yet to read their deepest tales.
So it is with us, unknown realities within: The Divine indwells;
Thirstily seeking us as we search hungrily for what we desire to possess:
Peace of mind and life to the full.
So many voices in the world striving to convince, when all that really matters is the peace that can be within: Begins with Detachment from outcome—just do your best!
When one lets go of the need to control and to self-defend
When one has a heart for the poor and oppressed
When one seeks and sees The Divine within all creatures and events
When one trusts The Holy is in control-although the daily news denies it.
When one accepts The Other has a plan and desires to find it.
When one comes to understand The Eternal Mystery is more than any concept
And welcomes the diversity of men rather than deny them.
When one accepts we will not stand on any accomplishment,
But on our motives and the love that drives it.
When one is aware that evil as well as good cut through every human heart
And learns to make friends with silence:
The Light is ever present to guide us.
Silent time in nature is as necessary as bread,
Prayer is poetry and service her manifestation.
To forgive is divine and necessary to be divinely forgiven.
And therein lies the peace that passes all understanding.
And every drop of dew are but tears from heaven,
Shed each day a new,
For me, for you
For what we did and did not do
To help bring in The Kingdom.
The Kingdom comes from above and it comes from within: IMAGINE a kingdom of sisterhood of all nations and all men.
Question 3.) What were some of the most memorable transforming points across the years (reactions to world events, books, personal contacts, mystical experiences, etc.) in the developing of your current spiritual perspective?
I could write articles and books on that topic, and as I already have, I repeat myself now:
Do You Want to Be Healed?
In May of 2005, just prior to my first journey to Israel Palestine I phoned Mother Agapia Stephanopolous, a Russian Orthodox nun and the administrator of the Orthodox School of Bethany in Jerusalem, to schedule an appointment for Spiritual Direction and to discuss our mutual feelings about The Wall.
Mother Agapia is the sister of ABC News commentator, George Stephanopolous, and she had recently and passionately informed Congress about the fact that, “Israel is destroying the local Christian community.”
On April 18, 2005, Robert Novak’s article “Walling off Christianity” reported on the nun’s letter to Congress and how East Jerusalem had been cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Mother Agapia predicted, “It is only a matter of time before Christians and Muslims will be unable to survive culturally and economically.”
Mother Agapia spoke bluntly about the nine yards high wall of Israeli concrete that have “shattered” the Christian communities.
She told Novak, “I witness the strangulation of East Jerusalem, and the deprivation of her non-Jewish residents’ religious rights every day. Even the United States seems to have been taken in by Israeli spin.”
On my very first afternoon in Jerusalem, on June 12, 2005, the nun met me at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem and I told her that I hadn’t been taken in by the spin, but what could I possibly do? She had no answer.
I also told her of the surreal experience I had that very morning while wandering around in the Old City. I had landed in Tel Aviv with ten other members of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace just a few hours before dawn on that Sunday morn. We all checked into our rooms at the Ambassador; they all crashed, but I was wide awake.
As soon as the sun rose I began to explore, and after attending mass at St.George Cathedral I wandered around the Old City, which was eerily empty. I stumbled upon the site of the Pool of Bethsaida and experienced déjà vu, which was more real than imaginary.
Between 2000 and 2001, I was a first year student in the Episcopal Diocese of Orlando’s Formation Program for Spiritual Directors. I knew going into the program I would never be hanging out a shingle as a Spiritual Director that I was there for other reasons. I was drawn to the program because of the curriculum; to deepen my prayer life and study the lives of the saints. During the first year all the students attended three weekend retreats.
On the second night of the second retreat, we had a guided meditation on the story of Jesus at the Pool of Bethsaida.
I remember it as clearly now as I experienced it then.
There were seven of us in the class and we were instructed to close our eyes, listen to the story and allow our imagination to lead us to respond to the character that called to us.
Our leader prefaced the story from John 5:1-6, by telling the legend of the angel from heaven who would descend and agitate the waters of the Pool of Bethsaida.
Only the first leper, blind, or invalid who made it into the water would receive a healing. One day while Jesus was there, he walked by a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years.
Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?”
The man answered he had no friends to help him get into the water first.
Jesus asked him again, “Do you want to be healed?”
Our leader then went silent, and in my imagination I was immediately upon the back of that agitating angel.
I hadn’t thought of that experience until four years later when I found myself at the site of the Pool of Bethsaida.
What triggered the memory of that guided meditation was the recollection of a dream I had had a few weeks after that day we call 9/11.
In my dream I had stood at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. I remembered thinking the moment I woke up from that dream what a strange place it was, but then I quickly forgot all about it.
That is, until the afternoon of June 12, 2005, four years later, when I found myself standing at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. What a strange place I thought, how could it be that I had seen this scene in a dream a few weeks after that day we call 9/11?
On the afternoon of my very first day in Jerusalem, I told Mother Agapia about my dream and what I had seen at the Pool of Bethsaida. She shrugged and smiled, then told me about the Jerusalem Interfaith Peace Conference with satellite link to the world that was happening the Sunday after the Thursday I was scheduled to return to the USA. I knew immediately that I needed to attend and after saying goodbye to Mother Agapia, I phoned my husband to get his OK.
On June 26, 2006, I attended the world wide satellite linked Interfaith Peace Conference at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Dan Rather moderated from Washington DC and the Holy Land interfaith panel were all moderates attempting to reclaim the battlefield of ideas from extremists on both sides.
Reverend Theodore Hessburgh, President Emeritus University of Notre Dame began the evening with a pledge and a summons:
“The Peace of the world begins in Jerusalem.”
Dr. Tsvia Walden, Board of Director of the Peres Center and Geneva Initiative stated, “There is a need for a third party in the negotiations that could enable both sides to trust each other. There are more people in this region interested in making concessions, they all want peace so desperately.”
The Coordinator of World Bank emergency services to the PA, Rania Kharma informed the world, “We all need to be the bridges to our leaders that justice, equality, and human rights will bring peace. Give people justice and they will reward you with peace.”
Sheik Imad Falouiji warned, “Religions must go back to their origins. God commands us to love each other and live together. This Holy Land was given to all people. This land is on fire. There is an occupation that must be removed. The language of peace cannot succeed without justice for all.”
The Rt. Rev. Bishop Riah Abu Assal affirmed, “Peace is an act. Blessed are the peacemakers not the peace talkers. Peace is possible in the Holy Land. The root cause for the lack of peace since 1967 is the occupation. For peace to make progress in the Middle East we need to deal with the root cause…Religion was not meant to bring death. All those involved in searching for peace should commit themselves to work for justice and truth.”
Throughout the entire evening, I kept remembering what President Bush promised in his Second Inaugural Address:
“In the long run, there is no justice without FREEDOM.There can be no human rights without LIBERTY. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we stand with you.”
Question 4.) What is your greatest wish for readers as a consequence after reading/considering your writings?
To THINK and then Do Something!
Question 5.) Can you offer any advice to people having a difficult time dealing with government and media lies, especially as it pertains to so many average citizens who hold erroneous perceptions on important events and situations around the Earth?
For those who are conscious of the lies and alert to rapidly changing events and feeling stressed, I recommend the Practices of Yoga Nidra, Mindfulness and Breath Work.
As everyone can practice Yoga Nidra and reap enormous benefits, I offer this excerpt from WABI SABI BODY: ETERNAL SPIRIT:
Yoga Nidra or “yogic sleep” is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, which produces the deepest possible states of relaxation while maintaining fully conscious.
The term Yoga Nidra comes from two Sanskrit words, yoga meaning union or one-pointed awareness, and nidrameans sleep. Yoga Nidra is not sleep, as we know it, but a conscious sleep.
The ancient sleep based guided meditation relaxes, rejuvenates and renews the physical body by bringing brain waves down from Beta-which is wide awake- to Alpha which begin as soon as you close your eyes to Theta-light sleep and even Delta waves indicating deep sleep –yet you remain conscious!
This technique frees the THINKING mind to reconnect to the FEELING body, which effortlessly changes one’s relationship to pain, stress and habits.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that about forty-million Americans will suffer from anxiety.
In one study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the top ten selling prescription drugs listed are all lifestyle (and lifetime) drugs, with the number one prescription drug being pain medicine. Each of these issues: depression, anxiety and physical pain are either stressed caused or stressed exacerbated. The practice of Yoga Nidra is a proven, effective, simple and inexpensive tool for treating all of these conditions…