Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bir Nabala checkpoint 16.12.07

"Palestinian vehicles are slowed down after exiting the CP as they are forced to maneuver through spikes and obstacles.
Photographer: Tamar Fleishman"

I wish Flickr's "blog this" function would allow you to put more than one photo in a post! In this picture, you can see the long line of cars waiting to pass through the checkpoint into Bir Nabala. My daughter's go this way to school. Some days they will have wait an hour in line to get home.

Bir Nabala checkpoint 16.12.07

"Palestinian vehicles are slowed down after exiting the CP as they are forced to maneuver through spikes and obstacles.
Photographer: Tamar Fleishman"

I came across this photo on machsomwatch's flicker sets. This is the checkpoint I have to cross to go almost anywhere. I wouldn't have the nerve to get out of the car and take a picture there though. People get nervous when you start taking pictures at a checkpoint. I took a couple pictures at Kalandia checkpoint once, and got quickly shooed away by an older Palestinian man who was worried I would get in trouble. The cars in the picture are all heading north out of the Bir Nabala enclave, toward Ramallah, and they don't get checked. They just have to run an obstacle course of small walls on the road and spikes on the side of the road, going on and off the pavement like a mini autocross. They seem to rearrange these obstacles every now and then to keep people alert. The place where the south bound traffic is lined up is not in this picture, but you can see where the soldiers check the cars in the background.

A room with a view

, originally uploaded by frommadon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's apple blossom time

Another post on trees, but definitely more cheerful than the last. I need to look at something cheerful to balance out all the depressing reality.

I heard a report on the BBC yesterday about the beginning of the cherry blossom season in Japan. The cherry blossom festival in Japan is so important that they have forecasters who predict the date the blossoms will open, and this year he was a little off, and made a formal apology to the people on television.

In Palestine, the beginning of the spring weather is heralded by the almond blossoms. I tried to post a few pictures of almond blossoms in a previous post, but I couldn't get any close ups then. Those blossoms have a slightly purplish tint, but the small tree we have in our front yard has pure white flowers. I finally got a close up. Today, the tree is full of little green almonds, but not for long. People here are fond of eating them when they are small, green and sour. You can eat the whole thing, because the nut has not hardened in side.After the almonds finish blooming, the plum trees start. This tree is right by my back door. Plums and almonds get their flowers first, and then leaves. The apples and pomegranates get leaves first, and then the flowers. The pomegranate's leaves are red when they first come out.This morning I went into the back yard for the first time in a couple days, and was shocked to see that the apple tree was the whole way bloomed. Spring has blown past way too fast. I am sure that these trees are blooming earlier than usual.
I love these apple blossoms, because of the delicate pink tinge on the petals. Very soon we will have lemon and calamantina blossoms to look at, and then the pomegranate, which has the coolest looking flowers of all. (calamantinas are like a tangerines)

Another Case of Settlers Destroying Trees

Here is a new al Jazeera report of another instance of Israeli settlers destroying fields of olive trees. It is not an unusual case. Most Palestinians are struggling financially these days, and many families from the villages are dependent on the produce of their land. Can you imagine waking up one morning and seeing that your investment of time, effort and money, which you had been depending on to support your family, was destroyed? And it was done deliberately, and you have no recourse against the people who did it?

Here is an excellent episode of Witness on al Jazeera from a year ago.

In addition to the acts of settlers, many many trees have been uprooted and stolen to build the wall.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Speaking of the weather...

This is crazy. Last month it was snowing, and tomorrow the forecast says it will be 81 Fahrenheit (27C)!

No, this wasn't just an excuse for another wildflower picture.

It's kill the wildflowers day :-(

Bright and early Friday morning, I could hear the jingling sound of horses' reins. Two of our neighbors were plowing their fields with horse drawn plows, and soon after I could hear a tractor in another field. Every year seeing the fields plowed makes me sad. I know it needs to be done, but I love wild flowers so much it always surprises me that people can just see them as weeds.
This morning they started on the field in front of our house. No more pesky weeds, it's all nice and neat. And the bedu brought their flock of sheep to the field behind our house, and now all the pretty red anemones and yellow flowers are gone.
It really hasn't been a good year for the wild flowers anyway. It was so cold in February that many of the usual flowers were set back by the frost. Then as soon as it stopped snowing, the weather became unusually warm and dry.

Here's what the front field looked like a couple years back at about this time. (They gave the olive trees a hard pruning that year.)
That picture doesn't show just how much color there was.
If you think I am obsessed with the wildflowers....guilty.
But I don't get tired of looking at them. Some are so small, but they are each a miracle.Like a sign from Allah subhana wa ta'ala that there is always a reason for hope.
And that there is always something good in life if you look carefully.
And even if you are poor, some of the treasures in life are free.
When I used to live in an apartment, I used to go out into the fields and dig up a few wildflowers every spring with my kids and plant them in old yogurt containers,just so I could get a closer look at these beauties,
and because I couldn't afford a potted plant.
Maybe my neighbors thought I was nuts. Maybe they are right.
These gorgeous yellow clover flowers grow all over my back yard.
I won't let anyone plow there. I dig it all by hand after the flowers finish.
The purple flowers below are not wild, but the yellow ones are. How can you consider them weeds?
My apologies to anyone with a slow connection, if the page loads slowly. I try to keep the pictures small in size.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Israel's plans for the old city of Jerusalem

Another field

The field behind our house has a completely different set of wild flowers growing in it than the field next door. The red flowers are anemones. I wish I could get them to grow in our yard, but they don't grow where it is plowed regularly, I guess.
I took the above pictures over our back fence, but I can't climb over it to take closeups. (Which has been driving me nuts, but let's face it... it's a short trip.) So I finally convinced Number Two Son to go over the back wall and take a few pictures. Every picture he took had garbage in it! Not accidentally, but intentionally. He decided to do some sort of exposé on litter. Actually, they were rather artfully composed, but I wanted pictures of flowers! Do you think this one of those, "if I do the job badly enough, maybe Mom will stop asking me" ruses? He is 16, after all. He did take one finally without the trash.

pepper spray in the face

I took these 2 pictures from Annie's Letters. Pepper spray straight in her face, ouch.
A woman tries to intervene as a Palestinian man is arrested ...
Sun Mar 16, 12:22 PM ETPrev 14 of 402 A woman tries to intervene as a Palestinian man is arrested by the Israeli and border police prior to a Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 16, 2008. REUTERS/Peter Andrews (JERUSALEM)

An Israeli police officer sprays tear gas on the face of a Palestinian ...
Sun Mar 16, 1:38 PM ETPrev 7 of 402 An Israeli police officer sprays tear gas on the face of a Palestinian woman as Christian worshipers, background, walk down the Mount of Olives, some holding palm leaves, during the traditional Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem Sunday, March 16, 2006. The Palestinian woman was sprayed by tear gas after trying to help her son, after he arrested by Israeli police. The cause of arrest is unknown. Palm Sunday, which begins the Christian church's most solemn period, marks for Christians Jesus Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, when his followers laid palm branches in his path, before his crucifixion. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Monday, March 17, 2008

flowers for fjb

Fjb asked me about a shrub in one of my previous post's comments. I am sorry I can't tell you the name of the plant. I think I knew it once, but I can't remember it. It is quite beautiful, grows very tall, and blooms a lot. But I was told it's leaves are very poisonous. It doesn't need much water and it's often planted along roadsides. We generally use it as a backdrop for family pictures, because it blooms so much.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I love spring

I promised my self that I would post some wildflower pictures today. This is the field next to our house.
I love the look of the huge rocks. Ok, I am weird, I am into rocks.You can't see in the pictures above how bright yellow the bushes are. These yellow bushes and wild cyclamen like to grow in between the rocks. I have almost never seen them grow somewhere where they are not up against a rock or wall.My kids always called these "purple-upside-down-flowers." They are gorgeous, aren't they? And they are free, but they won't be around for long. In a month they will be gone. The last 3 pictures were taken by Number Three Son, who is 12, because I can't climb over the wall to get close enough to the flowers. The field is completely closed off, which means that the bedu can't bring their sheep there to eat all these pretty flowers. The field behind the house can be reached by the flocks, and I once saw one of the shepards try and take a sledge hammer to the wall between the two fields because he wanted to let his flock graze in the rocky field. I yelled at him in English, and that sort of put him off the scheme, at least temporarily. I didn't quite believe his protests that the woman who owned the rocky field said she didn't mind if he broke a hole in the wall.

The field behind the house has a completely different mix of wild flowers, but that's for tomorrow's post.

Witness - Two Schools in Nablus

Please watch this al Jazeera documentary called Two Schools in Nablus. (HT SabbahBlog)It makes you wonder how these kids manage to get an education at all. Be sure and watch the whole way to the end.

My kids don't go to public schools. We have scrimped and saved to keep 5 children in private schools, and I was never more grateful that we could than I was last year. The public schools were a mess, with teachers not getting paid and strikes all the time. My kids used to go to a school that was next to a checkpoint, and there were troubles there some times, with demonstrations or rock throwing leading to soldiers throwing tear gas and sound grenades. But believe me, the kids were not always the ones who started the problems. I have seen the soldiers wait near the boys' schools until classes let out, and then taunt them over the loud speaker from the safety of their armored jeep. I got tear gassed 3 times my self, while out shopping near a school. My children no longer go to the school near the checkpoint, because the wall cut off our access to it. The school the boys go to now isn't as good as the old one, but it is within a few minutes walk from our house, and there are rarely any soldiers around here these days. They have surrounded us with walls, and only need to guard the gates.

Here is the video, in 4 parts:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I don't want to talk about politics!

But I feel compelled to. I would rather talk about wild flowers in bloom and birthday parties, but it seems wrong to dwell on happy things when there is so much wrong in the world. After the slaughter in Gaza and then the shootings at the yeshiva in Jerusalem, I just feel sick of reality. I want to move out, I don't want to live in reality any more.

The killings at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav was no cause of celebration for me. No matter how horrible the massacre of Palestinians the week before was in Gaza, or how many of our kids died, we should never look at killing someone else's children as a suitable revenge. Sometimes you hear people say, "we have to let the Israelis feel some of what they are doing to us," but no one looks at their dead child and thinks "oh, now I understand how our enemies feel when their kids die." Revenge leads to revenge.

Chris Hedges from Truthdig wrote an excellent post that was reprinted on the IMEU site.

War creates a world without empathy. Those who have empathy cannot, as did Palestinian gunman Alaa Hisham Abu Dheim, coldly murder students in a Jerusalem library. Those who have empathy cannot drop tons of iron fragmentation bombs on crowded Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, killing more than 120 Palestinians in a week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians. Those who have empathy do not, as Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai did, thunder at the Palestinians that they face a shoah, meaning catastrophe or holocaust. Those with empathy are unable to rejoice, as many leaders of Hamas did, over slaughter, as if the murder of the other’s innocents is justified by the murder of your innocents.
The yeshiva that was attacked was known for its support for and promotion of the settlement movement. Gideon Levy described the school in an article in Ha'aretz, an Israeli paper (but I am copying this from the Global Voices site, since the Ha'aretz link is in Hebrew):

“The flagship of religious Zionism” was among the used phrases, along with “holiest of holies” and even an exaggerated comparison to the Al-Aqsa mosque in terms of its holiness as a location. Some of the crowns tied to the school's name are indeed appropriate. There is nothing that can justify the horrid killing of youth in a library. But it is important to remember, even in this difficult hour, what came out of this school.

Many Rabbis who led some of the more damaging steps in the history of Zionism were educated there. Many right winged, Arab-hating instigators came from this “flagship”. Religious leaders such as Moshe Levinger, Haim Drukman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zafania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all admired by their students, were raised and raised generations of nationalistic youth within the walls of this school. For instance, how do we grasp Rabbi Lior's words from the past, who ruled in 2004 that the IDF is permitted to kill innocent people? That only we can? Lior declared that “one must not be blamed for the ethics of gentiles”. He ruled that the Knesset cannot decide to evacuate settlements, and that soldiers can refuse to obey orders to evacuate settlers. Rabbi Drukman made similar claims. Rabbi Aviner, another graduate of the school, called out to kill those refusing the compulsory draft. At that time there were mostly refusals from left-wing youth. In addition, Aviner claimed that soldiers who die in wars are not a reason for national mourning, and requested to cancel the Memorial Day. He compared the “road map” plan for peace as if conceding to Hitler. Evacuating settlements, he claimed, is an unlawful sin.

My heart is torn with the killing in the yeshiva. No one deserved it. Not the innocent in Gaza and not those dead in Mercaz Harav, Jerusalem. They all died in vain. They already paid the heaviest price. Their families and surrounding will surely gain more radical views, which will continually lead us through this never-ending cycle of bloodshed.

The settlers have vowed revenge, and said they would build a new settlement for each of the students killed. Lo and behold, next day the Israeli government announces that they will be building 750 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev. That's the settlement in one of the photos I posted last month. You can see the very tip of the settlement at the top of the hill in the background. InshaAllah I will get a better picture to share one day.
A Peace Now report shows that 44.3% of the area of Givat Ze'ev is on private Palestinian property. You can see a arial photo of the settlement with the land ownership marked here. (It's a Word Document) There is an excellent article on Miftah about the settlements ringing East Jerusalem, belying the idea that Israel ever intends to allow any future Palestinian statelet have any portion of Jerusalem.

Tomorrow, inshaAllah, I am going to post about FLOWERS and BIRTHDAY cakes.