Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Multicultural Speakers Series - Part 4

Odai Sirri IRAQ, Kate Burgen host, Ilan Goldenblatt ISRAEL

Final Multicultural Speakers Series

This was the last in an innovative and very popular series which allows Nanaimo residents to get to know their neighbours who come from many countries. It occurs to me that sitting down for an intimate, informal and personal chat is hardly a novel way of getting to know each other. Sadly it is something that we, as a community have done far too seldom.

Kudos to the organizers of this event which was facilitated by the Multicultural Society and the City of Nanaimo.

It was announced at this final meeting, that in two weeks time there will be an informal reception. An invitation will be extended to those who have attended this series, both as guests and members of the audience.

Ilan Goldenblatt - ISRAEL

Ilan was interviewed by host Kate Bergen and then answered questions from the audience. Ilan was born in Montreal but grew up in Israel where his parents emigrated when he was an infant. This gave Ilan the good fortune of being a Canadian citizen from birth which later allowed him to settle in Canada without the red tape.

Ilan describes himself as having an easy, privileged life growing up being well educated and participating in several character forming camps as a youth. He did his mandatory 3 years of military service which saw him engaged in military intelligence.

As many young people do, Ilan set out to see the world with his first stop in Montreal to see his aging and ailing relatives. He was headed for Asia but decided to first stop in British Columbia on the way. He did finally make it to Asia but not until after he had been well and thoroughly smitten with British Columbia.

After returning to Israel for another year he made his way back to Canada and spent several years in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He then moved to Gabriola for a three year time but finally decided that Nanaimo was the place he wished to settle in and call home.

He and his wife are owners of the popular Thirsty Camel restaurant in downtown Nanaimo where they serve up food which is the same as you would find in Tel Aviv.

Ilan grew up with a strong sense of justice and deep interest in politics and expressed his views on the state of affairs in Israel today. I will not attempt to relay Ilan's views on this complex matter as I fear it is far too complicated for this humble scribe. I would suggest anyone with an interest in politics and in particular Israel, that if you stop by Ilan's restaurant, there is a good chance you will find yourself involved in conversation that can not be described as mundane.

Odai Sirri - IRAQ

Odai was born in the United Arab Emirates and spent seven years of his young life in Iraq before coming to Vancouver where his father had several business interests. During that time much time was spent either in Vancouver or on Vancouver Island.

Odai spent two years at Malaspina College before completing his education at Simon Fraser University.

He went to Egypt as an intern which eventually resulted in a job offer to work with Al Jazeera and one of his first assignments was to go into Iraq which was after Saddam was out of power and the United States were in control of much of the country.

As one can imagine being on the ground in such circumstance had quite an impact on Odai and his two fellow reporters. One of the first things that struck Odai after entering Iraq was the destruction of power lines and other infrastructure which had been destroyed by the American troops. Not engaging the troops was considered preferable to trying to striking up a conversation, which could have negative results.

Odai was not able to actually stay in Iraq for too long as things simply got too dangerous and he had to leave the country. He did however stay in the region for about seven years before returning to Nanaimo.

The situation in Iraq today for the average person is simply miserable to say the least. High ranking corruption sees massive oil wealth coming into the country with little of it benefiting the 30 million people living there, who have to contend with very poor infrastructure. Having electricity for only a few hours at a time is simply commonplace. As terrible as life was under Saddam it is thought to be worse now.

Odai is the manager of the Grand Hotel and is the head of the Chamber of Commerce board taking a very active role in the Nanaimo business community.

This series has simply been excellent, and it is hoped that sometime in the not too distant future it will be repeated.


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