Barry Rubin was one of a few thinkers who could intuitively connect the dots of a variety of political and social events both in the West and in the Middle East and arrive at an insightful and fascinating theory. But theorizing aside, more often than not, he was right. Rubin's vast knowledge of the Middle East coupled with razor-sharp incisiveness was a potent combination, unmatched by most of his contemporaries.
His blog, the RubinReport was a handbook for those interested in understanding the Middle East in a larger political and sociological context - a context often ignored by mainstream pundits. Indeed, Rubin had the ability to foresee events before they would take place, whether Turkish PM Erdogan's hostility towards Israel or the success of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, before Morsi's eventual ousting.
I had the opportunity to meet with Barry a few times for coffee. Barry was serious man with an obvious eccentric side and a sense of humor. He seemed to enjoy my reading of the peculiar predicament of modern day education and especially young American Jews with whom I studied at the time. I mentioned that it was impossible to engage in a serious debate with American Jews of the more progressive persuasion because their fear of argument and love of consent forced them to act as if they were all running for president. To this Rubin responded with a rather loud laughter and a nod indicating agreement.
I remember that he once referred to himself as an Israeli realist. This obviously meant an arduous and unabashed wish for Israel to succeed and defeat those who wanted it destroyed. A lover of Israel and Judaism, Rubin wanted Israel to survive. He also loved the truth, and whether his writings, TV performances or private conversations, with Barry, truth always prevailed.
I sat with him several times in one of the many cafes by Habima in Tel Aviv (The national theater of Israel). Having had the opportunity to exchange ideas with one of the most insightful thinkers of our time was something I will never forget. A two hour caffeine-laden conversation with Barry was a hoot. After one such Friday afternoon he invited me over to give me a copy of his book on Syria.
As we arrived to his two-floor apartment, Barry noticed that one of the family's cats was missing as someone had left the porch door open. What followed was a frantic half hour search for the missing cat.
While we were crawling under parked cars in search of the cat, I thought to myself that the day had been one of the most intellectually fulfilling afternoons of my life. After spending an afternoon discussing topics such as the dangers of Obama's foreign policy or Israel's lack of one, the cat searching seemed banal. But of course it wasn't. It was an indication of Barry's intense dedication to things he held dear, whether a cat or the future of the Jewish people.
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