Friday, February 29, 2008

146 Palestinians killed since the start of the year... and rising

According to a B'Tselem press release:

During the first 2 months of 2008, Israeli security forces killed 146 Palestinians. At least 42 did not participate in the fighting when killed, and 11 were minors. Palestinians killed 2 Israeli civilians, and one member of the Israeli security forces.

As of February 28. Just short of a 50:1 ratio. They still have today...

"No one is comfortable living in Palestine"

I went to replace my daughter's American passport on Thursday. Her old one was damaged by rain water. Luckily the American consulate has arranged an office near Ramallah where people who cannot travel to Jerusalem can go. I think they are only there twice a month, I am not sure. There is nothing on the outside of the building to hint that the office is there, either to avoid implying any official recognition to the Palestinian Authority, or perhaps for security. But lucky for me, every taxi driver knows where it is. I have gone there twice, and each time I asked to go to a hotel that is near it, and the driver immediately asked if I wanted to go to the office for American visas. Must be a popular place.

I met a Palestinian American woman there, and asked her if she was comfortable living here. She said "No one is comfortable living in Palestine." Well, yes, I guess that is true. No matter how well off you are or how happy you are with your own life, the misery of the occupation creeps in to spoil things. But our lives here are so much better than what the people of Gaza are facing. Gaza is getting pounded again. An Israeli in Sderot was killed Wednesday by rocket fire, and the Israeli response has killed at least 32 Palestinians, including a 6 month old baby and 4 boys under the age of 16, who were playing football in a field. Read From Gaza, With Love's account of her life this week. It just makes me ashamed for complaining about anything.

On the way home from applying for the new passport, I went through Ramallah. There was a demonstration at the Manarah. It was a small demonstration.
If I understand correctly, they were demonstrating against the Gaza version of the government banning a very pro-Fatah newspaper. The Fatah government in the West Bank recently closed down several Hamas papers in the West Bank. Ya Allah! Save us from these "leaders" who can't put their own self interests aside for the sake of their suffering people.

There seemed to be one camera man for each 10 demonstrators.
Most people paid no attention at at all to the demonstration, and just continued their shopping.
Ramallah has some streets with pricey, posh boutiques, but I like the old fashioned shops with all their wares out on the sidewalks or the open market.
There are lots of pictures I would have liked to have taken, but I feel very uncomfortable taking pictures with people in them. I tried to wait until there were no people or they were all looking away, but that is next to impossible in a crowded market. Besides, the people are part of what makes the market so interesting. And, I am kind of shy about wandering around, taking pictures like a tourist. That , and the fact that my batteries only lasted for about 5 pictures before they went dead. I bought 2 new rechargeables for 35 shekels, about $10US, which is a major splurge for me these days, so I can go back to taking pictures of hills and flowers soon, inshaAllah.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

choking 10 year olds for sport

A quote from an Israeli soldier in an article from Ha'aretz (an Israeli newspaper) about the human rights abuses of the Israeli Army in the West Bank. (via chroniques de palestine):

In another instance, soldiers at roadblocks choked 10-year-old Palestinians with their bare hands until the children passed out. "Hebron is like the Wild West and the army is the law," a soldier said. "We would see who could go without breathing the longest."

goodbye mart 'ami

My mother-in-law passed away very early on Friday morning. She fell a week ago, and broke her hip. The doctors operated, and she came home, but then she had a stroke.

They lived about 5 miles away from us, but the wall and checkpoints kept us from seeing each other as often as we used to. I cannot attend the "azza" (funeral reception) to be with the rest of the family, because I don't have the papers to pass the checkpoint. So I am going to remember her here, with my 2 or 3 readers.

I have seen many marriages strained to the breaking point by mothers-in-law, but mine was only benefited by her presence. She was a special lady, with a quiet faith, courage and strength that I hope I can emulate. I felt accepted by her from the day we met. My husband and I met and married in America, and the first time I came here I was scared that she wouldn't like or approve of me. But she was one of those, unfortunately all too rare, mothers that assumed that if her son loved me, I must be ok. I didn't speak any Arabic beyond the words needed for my prayers and salams, and she never spoke any English. But she always showed a concern for my comfort through her actions. If my husband and I had a dispute, she always urged him to be patient with me, and sometimes she actively took my side. She treated me as much like a daughter as she could, considering we couldn't talk to each other easily.

You are supposed to try and forgive someone who dies of any hurt they have caused you, so I tried to think of any old anger or resentment I had against her to forgive, but I couldn't think of any. The closest I think I was to being angry with her was when we first moved over here, when my oldest was just a toddler. I had learned a "tough love" sort of parenting, where rules had to be set and schedules maintained. In America, I had been advised to set a bed time for my little one, and stick to it, which I did. The idea was to follow a certain routine each night, put him to bed, and leave the room. If he cried a little bit, say good night again from the door, and leave. This was to teach regular habits and order. It worked fine in the US, but it's hard to explain changing timezones to a baby! My Mother-in-law had no patience with the "leave him cry a bit" school of parenting. The second he made a noise, she would be at the bedroom door, and calling me. I compromised on that one, and sat I with my son until he fell asleep, but he did eventually learn to adjust to the new schedules. I still think the family tends to spoil the kids a bit, letting them stay up too late and be little princes and princesses, but I couldn't hold that against my Mother-in-law. How can you be angry with someone whose only fault is that she loves your child so much she can't stand to hear him cry?

When I came, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to call my mother-in-law, so I called her by her "kunya." (ie "the mother of so-and-so," a polite form of address in Arabic.) There is a word for mother-in-law, "hamaati," but she thought that and the kunya were to formal and impersonal, and insisted that I call her "mart 'ami," "my aunt." (or more literally, "my uncle's wife") I will miss Mart'Ami's face, I loved the very lines in it. As I get older, I hate every new line I see appear on my face, but I always thought that every wrinkle in her face was beautiful. Even when she was asleep, the lines on her face showed that she was a woman that smiled a lot, and loved a lot. It amazes me that the lines on her face showed the joy and beauty of her spirit, when her life was often so hard. She was born during the British Mandate, and lived through war after war. She had 10 children, but her youngest daughter was killed in an explosion in 1968. She would have been my age. My mother and father-in-law were always religious, but they weren't the type running around yelling "haraam, haraam" all the time. They are both examples of patient devotion. Praying and fasting were the steady rhythms of their lives.

I hope I can live up to her example.

Oh Allah! Surely Mart 'ami is under your protection,and in the rope of your security, so save her from the trial of the grave and from the punishment of the fire. You fulfill promises and grant rights, so forgive her and have mercy on her. Surely You are the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The end of the road

This house is now at the end of the road. The road used to go on to the next town, but the Israelis-only road and wall cut us off. I don't think it was pleasant to live next to it during the construction, and I would hate to have the guard tower over looking my back yard.
The bedu are their neighbors .Are Palestinian kids the only ones that throw old shoes into the wires? During the first intifada they used to make home made Palestinian flags, when it was illegal to display a Palestinian flag, and attach them to the shoes or a stone with a string and tangle them in the electric wires. It was a form of protest. But now the kids just do it for fun.The view at the top of the hill was beautiful. But can you imagine farming in such rocky soil?
A few flowers are ready for spring.

Where I am from Poem

After reading Umm Zaid's "Where I am from Poem," inspired by Umm Farouq's "mini poetry-a-thon," I decided to try writing one myself. In an attempt to get the courage to share what I finally wrote, I decided to re-read all the other posts relating to the original writing exercise, only to find there was a template to be followed. I never was good at rules, so here goes anyway:

Where I am from

I am from bare feet in new plowed soil
from old folks and old ways
from ancient, emerald hills that embrace little towns
and keep them safe at night

I am from white mary janes, gloves and a Sunday dress
little bible tucked in my pocket book
I think it was just for pretty
maybe read it, but never question

I'm from holding Grandma's hand,
looking at the stained glass window in church
Jesus has long, blond hair
blue eyes and a beard

He looks like the hippies
Grandma warns me about.
And Mary is in her hijab,
but I am not supposed to be like that

I'm from long hours with Mother
sitting on a stool while she cooks
hidden painful secrets
a love that shelters
"Nothing will hurt my daughter"

I'm from Home, where all is right and normal
everywhere else being…. not right, not normal
Everyone else is ethnic
with names not used in public
red necks covered to respectability

I'm from men who worked in steel mills and rail roads
and women who made a house a home
and filled jars with fresh grown produce
and grew to fill the new roles they were given
blooming with the times

I'm from never ending questions
and knowing something didn't fit
from being told to "do my own thing"
as long as I did it just like everyone else

I'm from the men and women and land that produced me
cut from the cloth of everyone else
stitched together in my own new pattern
imported threads embroidered on top
history in a fading quilt.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


There is a lot of rain forecast for this week, so when there seemed to be a break in it today, I decided to go out for a walk. I thought I would climb a hill near my house and get a picture of the dramatic, puffy clouds and the bright blue sky peaking through. Before I was even half way up the hill, the sky had become solidly gray and it started to drizzle. Typical.

Our village is in the foreground, and on the hill in the back is an Israeli settlement.
I didn't mind getting a little bit wet once I saw that the first almond trees had burst into bloom. I really wanted to get a picture of them, so I was wandering around in the soft rain trying to get a good shot. Just the kind of thing to make the neighbors think this ajnabiya (foreign woman) is a bit majnoona (crazy).
Drat my cheap camera! I hate not being able to manually focus. None of the close-ups were properly focused and then the batteries went dead. Typical.

So I went off to do my shopping, and the rain got stronger. I walked to the grocery store (for dry goods and dairy), then the butcher (who only has chicken), the green grocer for some onions and finally the bakery. I remember, once upon a time, being able to get all my groceries in one warm, dry store. Vaguely. I have been here for 13 and a half years, so I am used to having to schlep all over the place for the ingredients for a simple meal.

Just as I reached my house, the rain stopped, the gray clouds split, and the sky was full of puffy, dramatic clouds and patches of cheery blue sky. It would have looked pretty in a picture from the top of the hill....

And then, I realized that my darling husband had dead bolted the door I had the keys to from the inside of the house, and left by a door I didn't have the keys to open. Typical.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

AbuTreika images

UmKahlil's blog had a post a couple days ago saying that Google and Yahoo have removed all pictures of Mohamed Aboutreika's "Sympathize With Gaza" t-shirt from their image search results pages. If you haven't heard about it, here is an Al-Jazeera English report about it.

I tried searching for "Abu Treika", "Abutreika", "Abotreika" and "Abu Trika" in Google images and didn't find any pictures of him with that shirt. It's a sad day when saying you have sympathy with people who are suffering will get you banned. Shame on you Google and Yahoo, if it's really true.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where am I????

I have a pet peeve. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, but I really hate those little drop down lists of all the countries. Lots of sites online ask you to register, and you have to tell them what country you are in, but the problem is that where I am is not considered a country. I am NOT going to choose "Israel." I am not in Israel. Way too much of my life is controlled by Israel, but I am not in Israel. Most sites don't include "Palestinian Authority" or "West Bank" or "Palestine" on the lists. Technically, I don't live in any country, I guess.

***EDIT: Sunni Path added Palestine to their list since I originally posted this. Alhamdulillah!***

It really bugs me when you find this on an Islamic site. I like SunniPath, but their tuition rates are according to country, and there is no country on the list for me. Never mind, I probably couldn't afford it. Dar-us-salam's website is kind of funny. There is no Israel on the drop down list....
but there is no choice for someone in the West Bank either! I guess I won't be ordering any books from them. Never mind, I couldn't afford them too.
Once in a while you will find one that has Palestine.
But usually, I just have to choose Jordan. The West Bank used to be part of Jordan, but in 1988 they renounced their claim to it. I have never been to Jordan, but YouTube lists me as being there.
No, I am not trying to hide my age, I just didn't want to be reminded.

A lot of the IP locating software has trouble figuring out where I am too. Saudi Stepford Wife has a wigit on her blog that lists where the latest visitors were from. Every time I visit her blog, it says this:

I can't even read the name. Last week Google decided I was in Germany too. It took several tries before I could switch my settings over to English. Now that's a cute drop down list. They list Klingon, Elmer Fudd and Pig Latin as languages! has me in Germany too. says we're in Nablus. I haven't been to Nablus in 23 years. says Jericho. I was there for Eid ul Fitr. I wouldn't mind being there at this time of year. It's warmer. decided I am in Israel, although the pointer on the map is on the West Bank side.
No wonder Palestinians can't get a country of their own! Nobody can figure out where we are.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oppressing to be on the Safe Side: The Situation of East Jerusalem Palestinians

Oppressing to be on the Safe Side: The Situation of East Jerusalem Palestinians

Written by Lubna Masarwa, this article explains some but not all of the pressures placed on Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In the article, she mentioned the Israeli practice of canceling the "residency" of people from East Jerusalem. When Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, they annexed it as part of "Israel's eternal and undivided capital," a move unrecognized by almost all countries in the world because it violates international law. While they incorporated the land into Israel, they did not make the people living on the land citizens. People living in East Jerusalem at the time were given "permanent resident" status. Well, maybe not so "permanent." All Palestinians in the Occupied territories are supposed to carry identity cards, and the ones given to East Jerusalemites are blue, and give the holders slightly more rights and freedoms. For the last 10 years, Israel has been taking more and more of these East Jerusalem IDs away. If someone moves to the West Bank or another country, they run the risk of losing their ID. If someone with East Jerusalem residency marries someone from the West Bank, they West Bank spouse can no longer get a coveted blue ID so they can live in Jerusalem. Israel is trying in every way to decrease the "demographic threat" of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. For instance, it is very expensive and difficult, if not totally impossible for Palestinians in East Jerusalem to get permits to build houses on their land, or even to expand existing homes. This drives housing prices sky high. So many people moved just outside of Jerusalem to afford decent housing at a decent price. Then the Israelis take away their residency permits for Jerusalem! (Remember this when you hear that Israel has promised to stop building in illegal settlements, and then says there has to be an exception for "natural growth!" "Natural growth" in illegal settlements built on stolen land is ok, "natural growth" in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem on land owned by Palestinians is to be suppressed at all costs.)

Bethlehem checkpoint at 4 AM

A short film made by the Images for Life project with Al-Rowwad center in Aida refugee camp.

the last snow pictures

All the snow has finally melted, alhamdulillah, except for a few lumps here and there in the shadows. Alhamdulillah it came and alhamdulillah it left! The last few days have been bright and sunny, so I have finally almost caught up with the massive amount of laundry 5 kids make when they play around in the snow. (Most Palestinians line dry their laundry)

The day before yesterday I went to get my daughter's report card in El Bireh, next to Ramallah. They had a lot more snow there it seems, since there was still a lot on the ground after several sunny days. This is the view across the street from the school, mashaAllah.
My oldest lives most of the time in the village of Bir Zeit, near the university. Bir Zeit is north of Ramallah, They had plenty of the white stuff to play in. When he finally made it home, he brought these pictures.And finally, one more picture of Beit Haninah, for my reader who is from there. I have only got a couple readers, so I guess I ought to try and make them happy. (Picture by my daughter)

Friday, February 1, 2008

My humble little blog got mentioned on Global Voices. How cool is that? Thank you Amira Al Hussaini.

Born in the shadow of a checkpoint

On January 7 another Palestinian baby was born in the the middle of the night, in the cold street, after soldiers prevented the mother from passing through a checkpoint until it was too late.

From Ha'aretz, via The Institute for Middle East Understanding.