Karl Linn has left us: Berkeley Daily Planet.
Pagan anarchist Holocaust survivor, early kibbutznick, Karl fled the Nazis, landed in Palestine, and left for Switzerland and America before the formation of the Israeli state. In a dialogue group once he indignantly refused to be counted as an Israeli. He didn't really want to be counted among the Jews when we totaled up who was who in the group. He said he was a citizen of the world. Karl was more critical of Israel than I was willing to be, and pushed me to the left during long heated dialogues about Israel and Palestine. I listened to him because despite his feeling of "not being really Jewish", his criticisms of Israel came from his love of his people and his ideals. He was not bashing Israel out of hatred, he was demanding that Israel live up to principles of justice. He also said that without Zionism, he would have been killed by the Germans, and he was lucky to have landed in Palestine; he would then say that because he was saved, an Arab, or many, had to lose their land, which saddened him. This central paradox perplexed him, and was perhaps the driving force around his dialogue group efforts. (italics indicate edit - I wanted to change and expand on a previous comment).
Karl was a child psychologist and a landscape architect; at the end of his life he built community gardens. The East Bay Jewish-Palestinian dialogue group hosted many picnics in the Peralta Peace Garden that Karl founded.
From a documentary that features Karl and the garden, A Lot in Common:
"Throughout these last 75 years, what really happened to me made me realize how important it is to live in a society that’s based on tolerance and multiculturalism. I was born and raised on a farm in northern Germany, and I grew up in this incredible 15 acres of fruit trees. And during springtime, when all the trees were in bloom, it looked just absolutely incredible. Just like a fairy land.
"The farm was about half a mile away from the village, and we were the only Jewish family in a huge, huge region. I know how difficult it was for me as the only Jewish kid. When Hitler took power in January 1933, my schoolmates suggested that I join the Hitler Youth movement because they had a lot of fun going camping and had a real sense of community, and I knew I couldn’t do that.
"And a few months later they realized that I was the only convenient target to practice on, and from time to time I could hear the Nazis’ goose-step as they walked down the cobblestone street towards the farm, checking the house out and threatening us. And my experience with racism motivated me to devote my life to contribute to the emergence of a humane society. That’s the way I’ve attempted to live my daily life. To create joy and possibility that’s inspiring, but underneath it all, there’s a lot of pain. A lot of pain.
"We never know what will happen with the future, and I concluded how important it is for me not to be a pessimist or an optimist, but a “possibilist,” to create possibilities of working with people creating life-supportive, life-affirmative small projects that could be inspiring and enrich people’s lives."
Sierra Club profile of Karl Linn.
Finally, a photo of Karl (in red plaid shirt) surrounded by friends, Jewish, Palestinian and other (including my mom, in keffiyah at back), taken at one of the San Francisco demonstrations against the Iraq war, spring 2003.
Karl died at his home on Thursday February 3, 2005, surrounded by family, at the age of 81. (corrected, thank you Khalil B.) His love of humanity, his mystical reverence for the Earth and her fruits, and his intelligent perceptions of the Israeli/Palestinian situation inspired me. I will always be grateful for his friendship. Blessings upon his soul.
UPDATE: My mom wants to clarify that she doesn't normally wear a keffiyah. It was a very cold day in SF, she had forgotten her hat and scarf, and the keffiyahs were on sale at the march.