Thursday, January 31, 2008

more snow

Woo hoo! More snow and another day off school.
It was really pretty this morning, but it's starting to melt now.
The kids had fun making a snow lady. My daughters had to make her fashionable.
Cold snapgragons.Iced grapefruit juice, anyone?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

snapdragons and narcissus

I promised Umm Farouq I woulds post pictures of my red and yellow snapdragons from another year, but I had computer problems a while ago and lost a lot of pictures. This is the only one I could find. You would think I would have learned to do regular backups by now. I still have these plain yellow ones, but they are not blooming yet.These were blooming 3 days ago, but this morning I couldn't find them. They are smashed under snow and slush. .


My kids are happy this morning. After 2 weeks of winter vacation, they went back to school for one day, and then it snows! It started with hail last night.
By 6:30 am everything looked white. If there is any snow here, school and everything else is canceled. It's a public holiday!My kids are thrilled. They were jealous before when Jordan got snow and we didn't. The lemon and olive trees look funny with all the snow. I hope we don't end up with too many broken branches.I used to love snow when I was a kid, in Pennsylvania. But now, I dread it. Bah humbug! The house is cold, the water is cold, and the kids get half their clothes wet and it takes ages to get them dry in front of the space heaters. And my poor flowers! Snow on date palms looks weird. This is in my neighbor's yard.The blurry guy in the picture is my almost 16 year old middle son. It's still snowing out there, but I am too cold to take any more pictures for now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger's plan to help the people of Gaza

I am so sick of politics. I don't intend to do a political blog, there are people better at writing political analysis than I. But I would love to be able to point out some of the craziness that is part of life here, the pain, suffering, absurdity of life for Palestinians. I want to cry out, how can the world turn a blind eye to this? How can so many people who otherwise say they stand for justice, the rule of law and human rights just ignore what Israel does? But sometimes I can't take all the talk of politics. It stresses me out too much.

There was an article in Ha'aretz today about Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger's plan to help the people of Gaza. He wants to transfer them to the Sinai desert, and make Sinai into a Palestinian state!
According to Metzger, the plan would be to "take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona - we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city. This will be a solution for the poor people - they will have a nice county, and we shall have our country and we shall live in peace."
I am sure that the Egyptians won't mind someone taking their land any more than the Palestinians did! This isn't some kook on the fringe of Israeli society, he's the chief Rabbi. I know that there are plenty of Israelis who will think his statements are as ludicrous as I do, But I still find it shocking that they would be seriously considered. Plenty of people showed their support for the Rabbi's ideas in the talkback section. I must remember that I promised my self not to read the comments on Ha'aretz articles.

He also tells Muslims, "
we want to give you respect but let us live and believe our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to us. You have another place, Mecca and Medina, you don't need a third place."
In the interview Metzger also described Jerusalem as "the capital city forever to the Jewish nation." He argued that Muslims have no connection to Jerusalem commenting that "behind the Kotel we have a mosque. But when they pray even though they are in our holiest place, they face Mecca. Their back is to Jerusalem. So you can see from only one sign that it does not belong to them. They have nothing - no connection."
By his logic, then no mosque anywhere in the world outside of Makkah and Madinah should belong to Muslims. Anyway, how can your back be to Jerusalem, when you are in Jerusalem?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

how do they see me?

A site called Media Curves, which does studies of "Americans’ perceptions of popular and controversial media events and advertisements," did a survey looking at people's perception of a woman wearing hijab. Some of the results were not surprising to me, for instance the woman in the picture with hijab was perceived to be older, married, and more likely to be a stay at home mom. She was also seen as having less education, which I expected, but the percentage of people who thought she had a post-graduate education increased a little bit too. More people assumed the woman with hijab came from a wealthy family. Both pictures were of the same woman, but 16% rated the picture of her without hijab as "beautiful" while 27% thought she was beautiful with hijab. Interesting! The discouraging bit was that 19% of the respondents said they would prefer the woman with hijab to live outside the US, as opposed to only 1% for the woman with her hair showing.

I think this study would be more interesting if they had tested a variety of styles of hijab/Islamic dress and other religious and ethnic dress. I wonder if any of the respondents were Muslim?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

in bloom

These are askadinia (loquat) blossoms. They bloom all winter, and it's the first fruit that is ripe in the spring.
The leaves are large, thick and fuzzy. It's a nice tree, with a swing for my kids when they were small. Snapdragons bloom all winter and spring. They are called "tum as samaka" in Arabic, "fish's mouth."
I still have no idea what these are really called. My son started calling the plant the "green monster" when he was little, because the bush they grow on gets huge and will spread all over the place if you don't cut it back.


Olive orchards need to be plowed at least twice every winter and spring to control the weeds. (AKA the beautiful wildflowers I love) They did the field in front of our house a couple days ago. In our area this is usually done by horse drawn plow. I sent my 12 year old out to snap a few pix of the horse, because I felt shy to go out with the men there. He took several pictures of the donkey that carries the plow from field to field.
But he never got a clear shot of the horse plowing. Most of them were of the horse's back side,
and of the dog they brought along.

Pictures of the Gaza/Egypt wall

These images were on Palestine Remembered, but with no attribution. I can't stop looking at them. Most of the wall looks like corrugated metal, but this section looks like the wall they put up here.
They look so happy, even though they know it is temporary.
A lot of people were bringing livestock into Gaza. I heard that the price of meat in Gaza was double the price in Egypt before the wall was breached.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A fallen wall

I know it won't last, but watching the pictures of Palestinians walking over the wall to enter Egypt thrilled me. The situation in Gaza has gotten so dreadful. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he would not let the blockade of the Gaza Strip "turn into a humanitarian crisis," but I can't imagine what his definition of a crisis is. How much suffering and death does there need to be before he thinks it is a "crisis?" People are cold, hungry, sitting in the dark and dying for lack of medicines and access to health care, and he doesn't think it is a crisis?

Israelis-only roads

Following a link in Lawrence of Cyberia's post, I read this article about Palestinians suing for the right to use a road built on land confiscated from them. Who is allowed to use which roads is a big issue here. In the years that I have lived here, the Israelis built a highway past our house. They took land that used to be a shallow valley where the bedu lived and grazed their flocks. They turned the valley onto a hill, built a road on top of it, and then placed high walls all around it. It goes right through our neighborhood, but we have no access to it. Most of the people living in this village would not be allowed on it. It was built for the settlers to get from their settlements into Jerusalem without having to drive on the same roads as us.

I took this picture from my front yard last fall, when they were putting up some "prettier" wall outside of the wall that was already around the road. Notice the big red truck in the picture? That's the normal ground level. And it is a
big truck, but the hill they built to put the road on is huge.

This system of Israeli-only roads, walls and check points leads to daily stress and frustration for every Palestinian. It is not really something to be lightly joked about, no matter what president Bush thinks.

What is the difference between saying "A Jewish State" and "a state whose population is predominantly Jewish?"

Sometimes I read a blog post and just wish I could make every one I know (and don't know) read it. Lawrence of Cyberia's "Palestinians are Nobody's Negroes" is one of those, although I am not keen on the title. It is about why Palestinians refused to formally recognize Israel as a "Jewish State." He writes:

There is no people on Earth that would agree to vocalize its own racial inferiority as a precondition for freedom, yet you're surprised when the PLO won't do it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where lions wear wrist watches

It's funny how you can walk past something hundreds of times, and not notice the details. I never really paid much attention to the lion statues in Manara "Square" in Ramallah, because I hated the idea that someone had spent money on them, when there are so many other good causes to spend on. And as a Muslim, I just don't like statues. And also because the lions were dwarfed by an ugly metal thing, it seems too generous to call it a sculpture, that always made me wonder "what on earth were they thinking?" Thankfully, they took that down recently. But there are plenty of other things to wonder about standing near the Manara, like why is it called "Manara Square" in English all the time, when it is a circle? Or why do all the Palestinian Police stand around talking most of the time while pedestrians wander in and out of traffic? Or why do Palestinians think it is acceptable to slap up posters all over everything, even the lions? Mostly, I just wonder if I can get across all those streets without getting run over.

But actually, the oddest thing to wonder about escaped my notice until recently. One of the lions is wearing a wrist watch! I have read several explanations of how the lion ended up with a watch here, here and here, but the gist of the story is that the designer meant to remove the image of the watch before the design was sent to the people who carved the statue in China, but either by mistake or because the Palestinian Authority neglected to pay the designer on time, the design was sent with the watch included and the carving was faithful to the design.

Picture source

Friday, January 18, 2008


Another reason why I haven't been posting is because it has been tooooo cold here. All of the middle east seems to be having unusually cold weather. Our computer sits in a room that is usually unheated. Palestinian houses have stone floors and walls and very high ceilings (about 10 foot) and our house is large, so we usually only heat the living room and the bedrooms. For the last week, the night time temperatures have been around freezing, so most of the house is very cold. My hands are almost too cold to type. We haven't had any precipitation, or we would have had snow, like they did in Baghdad. We usually get sleet most years, and every couple years since I moved here we got snow that laid on the ground. One year there was over a foot!

Now I am off to get warm!


When I was pregnant with my first child, I read stacks of parenting books. I wanted to be prepared. I learned lots about nutrition, discipline, and education. But I feel totally unprepared for the latest stage in my children's lives. My daughter got engaged 2 weeks ago today, and I am still recovering.

We had a "small" family party in our house for the engagement. "Small" in this family apparently means under 60 people. The week before was a rush of shop-'till-you-drop days and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
Engagement parties are a big deal here, and even for a "small" party at home, Palestinians go all out. The custom is that the groom's family is to provide all the food, even the coffee. He also buys the bride's dress, shoes and 2 sets of jewelry, one fabulously fake and the other seriously expensive gold. She wears the costume jewelry at first, and then is presented with the gold later. The food is served to all the guests first, while the bride in all her finery sits separate. Then the Islamic marriage contract is signed, so they are technically married. Finally, it's time for the dancing. Most women here love dancing. All the ladies are in a room separate from the men, and they all dance with the bride. The groom comes during this time, and dances with her, and puts the gold jewelry on her. This gold is a gift, not the Islamic mahr. That is given at the wedding. The men are some place else drinking tea and coffee and eating fruits and sweets. In our case they were in the house next door, since our house was over flowing with women. After all the dancing, all the guests leave except the groom, and now he and the bride are allowed to spend as much time as they like together. Well, maybe not as much as they would like, but then when you are young and in love, there never is enough time together, right?

By the time the day of the party came, I was exhausted. My daughter looked like a princess in a Disney movie, with a flowing, sparkle-y ball gown and elaborate curls with more glinting sparkles. My 2 daughters had spent the morning in the salon, and were all glittered up as never before. In addition to all the family, I invited 3 of my friends, as my "family." I don't know how I would have gotten through the day without them. I woke up that morning with the song "Help" by the Beatles running through my head, and I certainly did need help to get through that day. I am ashamed to admit it, but I think I spent half the party crying. Maybe more. I couldn't help it. First I was thinking, "She's too young; this is too soon." Then I was missing my own family, Then I thought of her moving away. Every time I calmed down and tried to join the party, another thought would ambush me and send me back to my bedroom in tears. Alhamdulillah, my friends were there to help me through it emotionally, and my sisters-in-law did all the work. May Allah subhana wa ta'ala send his blessings and mercy on each of them. I should mention that none of my tears were because I didn't like the man my daughter is marrying. MashaAllah, he is a nice young man, and I know of nothing to say against him. A few of my tears may have been because I had to face the fact I am old enough to refer to my daughter's
fiancé as "a nice young man."

It has taken me two full weeks until I could calmly write about that day, so that is why I haven't been posting. I have had other things to write about, but it somehow seemed wrong to pass over something as important as this without a mention.