A Dream for Peace is the most surprising Memoir by an Ambassador published by Dr. Ghoulem Berrah Foundation in March 2019.
This very rich and captivating life story is paved with many bumps, twists, and turns, multiple lives in one life.
Freedom Fighter for the Independence of Algeria, Man of Science and Lecturer at the Yale School of Medicine, Ambassador, Dr. Ghoulem Berrah (1938-2011) was a tireless proponent of world peace.
The French edition Un Rêve Pour La Paix was published in 2018 by les Éditions de l’Archipel, in Paris, France.
The Algerian edition was released in December 2018 by les Éditions Dalimen, in Algiers, Algeria.
“ A detailed book about an extraordinary man and his belief that ‘only dialogue can save humanity from the perils of war.’” — KIRKUS REVIEWS
"Freedom fighter and globe-trotting diplomat Ghoulem Berrah’s memoir A Dream for Peace is an inspiring, detailed account of working toward peace." — FOREWORD CLARION REVIEWS, Joseph S. Pete.
A BOOK LAUNCH WILL BE HELD LATER THIS YEAR.
Chapter 2 - Hardship and Prison
There was a sudden whiff of cold tension in the room. I got up and closed the door behind me. In an interesting twist, I realized that I had inadvertently uncovered a plot: the police were spying on us and relaying information to the university. I was the “white wolf” in the student community—the president of the Bordeaux section of the UGEMA, chairman of the Liaison Committee for the Overseas Students, and vice president of the Student Union of France. I knew then that I was an obvious target and concluded it was time for me to leave the country.
Shortly after midnight, I walked briskly toward the Public Garden of Bordeaux, where I was renting a room in a small house behind the park. Moving stealthily like a cat in the night, I was on full alert, when I realized that the house was surrounded by both plain-clothed and other police officers. I stood in the shadows for a minute and snuck away quietly without being noticed. I was perturbed, not because they had caused me some inconvenience, but by the fact that I had exposed my landlords to the bedlam. I thought about the warmhearted wife and mother of a ten-year-old boy who had opened her home to me and pledged to do everything to help and protect me. She even told me that if she passed away someday, she prayed her son would encounter some semblance of hospitality on his journey through life.
I faded into the dark of night, needing no further convincing that the big foot of the law was planted steadfast on my neck. Jamil Ben Bouzid, an old friend from Aïn Beïda, was home when I knocked. He was not under surveillance, but he knew that I was being watched. I spent the night at his place.
Chapter 5 - My American Experience
Armed with more knowledge and scientific acuity, I came into my second year prepared to pursue excellence in microbiology. Dr. Konetzka had among his subjects a topic that had been causing some major anguish in the scientific community since the later months of the 1950s, through the early 1960s, dealing with the inhibition of DNA synthesis. Scientists had been searching for a chemical compound which could inhibit Gram-negative bacteria without inhibiting the Gram-positive. For those in the field, the subject matter seemed foolish, because Gram-negative bacteria are more resistant than Gram-positive. We focused on experimenting with phenethyl alcohol, which was used to isolate Gram-positive bacteria in a petri dish.
My experiment was conducted in a “liquid media” at different concentrations. At 0.25 percent concentration, the organic compound inhibited the proliferation of the Escherichia coli bacillus while the individual bacteria stretched like spaghetti. I cleansed the transformed bacteria and soaked them in a fresh “liquid media” without using phenethyl alcohol. The action prompted the bacteria to divide rapidly. I repeated the experiment several times, until I was convinced beyond a semblance of a doubt, and then, with a sudden boost of courage, I rushed over to see Dr. Konetzka.
In my beginner’s English, I informed him that the chemical compound had selectively inhibited DNA synthesis without interfering with RNA and proteins. He laughed in my face and said: “In the largest laboratories in the world, researchers are desperately seeking a way to selectively block the synthesis of DNA. Nobody has succeeded to this date. But lo and behold, here you come, straight from the bush, to calmly break the news to me.” I was not discouraged by his reaction. I rushed back to the lab to review my experimentation results again, just to be absolutely sure of my conclusion. When I repeated the experiment several times and came up with the same results, I reached out to him again, but he was still dismissive.
When he got a break in his hectic schedule, he set aside some time to have me redo the experiment in his presence one evening. Professor Eugene Weinberg, a specialist on the physiology of iron, was lecturing students in the nearby laboratory. I began by charting my entire methodology under Dr. Konetzka’s close observation. He helped me inoculate one of the preparations with phenethyl alcohol, but there was no inoculation of phenethyl alcohol in the second preparation, which served as base reference. After the experiment, I placed the two preparations into the incubator at 37 degrees centigrade, and with his permission, I left for the night. He stayed at the lab and spent the entire night in the incubator, monitoring the results closely. The next morning, I came to the laboratory very early, and found the word “WOW” written with white chalk in extra bold letters across the blackboard.
When he arrived at the laboratory at his usual time, he was ecstatic. He exclaimed, “Wow!” and gave me a bear hug. “Ghoulem, this is a miraculous breakthrough. Oh my God. This is a big deal! Big, big, big deal! This will set the scientific community on fire.” He broke into a rapturous laughter. At last, I felt a great sense of relief. We gave each other multiple high-fives and decided to publish our findings. “We’ve got to move very quickly and publish our findings, before someone else beats us to the punch.
Despite all the efforts, there were skeptics in the scientific community who were not convinced by the findings in our publication. Many of our colleagues around the world kept asking for reprints and samples of our experimentation compound. The skepticism continued until the day we were invited to the Annual Symposium on Fundamental Cancer Research in Houston, Texas, in 1962.
There was an intense level of curiosity in the atmosphere. My cohorts could not wait to see me on the podium. A friendly gentleman in the reception area, who introduced himself as Howard Temin from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, approached me. He wanted my opinion and further elaboration on the inhibitive process of DNA and RNA synthesis. We engaged in a brief conversation, and I informed him that I would be sharing some more details from the podium. On this day, Dr. Konetzka was in heaven. He was beaming from ear to ear as if he was the happiest person in the world.
When I finally stood up to begin my presentation, I was immediately bombarded with questions from many of the attendees. One of the most virulent voices was Professor Norton Zinder, a friend of Dr. Konetzka’s. His voice echoed through the conference room as he engaged me in a brief discussion on a premise that phenethyl alcohol did not just inhibit the synthesis of DNA, but that the process had a similar effect on RNA. Although, he’d requested and received a reprint with a sample of the compound that I originally used in the experiments, he claimed to have conducted more experiments on a type of RNA virus known as the F2 virus, and thus arrived at a different conclusion. I immediately begged to differ: “What you are saying is patently false. Phenethyl alcohol selectively inhibits DNA and not RNA. The RNA is the slave; it cannot substitute itself for DNA, which is the master. The information it carries goes to the DNA, and then returns to the RNA, which in turn transmits the information to proteins.”
I was the first scientist to ever give a hypothesis declaring that the discovery of an enzyme was necessary to effectuate the process of transmission. The enzyme was later identified by Professor Howard Temin as the “reverse transcriptase enzyme,” which is a factor inenabling specific RNA viruses to induce certain forms of cancer.
As a result of my initial discovery in 1961, and my hypothesis at the Houston symposium in 1962, Temin managed to isolate the enzyme’s immunologic structures later in the 1970s while conducting further research at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I was elected an active member of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1966, and I became a permanent member in 1983.
Professor Temin, along with David Baltimore and Renato Dulbecco, shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In the same year that I became a permanent member of the Academy of Sciences, Dr. Montagnier and his team discovered the HIV1 and HIV2 strains. Their research went beyond the development of measures to prevent the transmission of AIDS, a retrovirus, which reverses the normal pattern of replication in RNA. They discovered that retroviruses depend on the reverse transcriptase enzyme to use the genetic material in the white blood cells that they infect, in order for the virus to have the proteins they need to survive.
Chapter 10 - Israel and Palestine—Our Plea for Peace
At the service of peace toward the painful Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I used all the talents that the Almighty bestowed upon me, including a dogged determination, without ever holding back any effort. The president devoted all of his strength and energy toward a secret diplomacy — I was his trusted emissary.
“It must be clear to all that only the love of man and the love of peace guides my actions in the interest of all. I wish that in the passionate pursuit of peace and by resorting to the Creator, all the stakeholders will have confidence in me and give me complete freedom of action. I do not hide the fact that there are difficulties, but it is because there are seemingly insurmountable difficulties that I rest in the belief that God can once again lead men out of the difficulties they have created by turning their backs to the love and justice that emanate from Him.”
Considering the excruciating pain and suffering inflictedon my people in the aftermath of the Algerian war, a bloody war that had left in its wake countless numbers of martyrs, I made the determination to work for a better world and find an alternative to war. I decided to dedicate my life to public service and work to establish a better understanding among all people through dialogue—for the sake of peace and justice.
Chapter 11 - Our Common Faith
During the Muslim call to prayer, we could also hear the Christian procession praying loudly as they made their way past the mosque en route to the Holy Sepulchre, while at the same time the Jews prayed at the Wailing Wall. Together, all the prayers of the various faiths, emanating in unison, rose toward the sky. A sign of our common faith in one unique God.
I couldn’t help but think of a verse from the surah AL-MA’IDAH 5:48 in the Holy Qur’an: “Unto everyone of you have we appointed a different law and way of life. And if God so willed, HE could surely have made you one single community; but in order to test you by means of what HE has vouchsafed unto you. Vie then, with one another in doing good works. Unto God you all must return, and then HE will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.”