In a Middle East overwhelmed by war, politics, destruction, and conflict, it is easy to forget that it is, like any other, just a place where life goes on; people live, people grow, people die. Communities flourish and decline. People come and people go. Mired in the hellfire of media and politics, it is easy to overlook the simple truths about life in the Middle East.
That there was civilization here before the advent of modern politics. Near Petra, Jordan.
There is a long history here: the legacy of the Romans, and its permanence. Outsiders before modern times. Roman Amphitheater, Amman, Jordan.
Even in modern cities, there was something here first. Original Haifa architecture, damaged and dwarfed by pervasive modernization. Wadi Salib, Haifa.
That there are pilgrims who travel from every corner of the world to touch the history in these stones. Old City, Jerusalem.
Those whose communities and families are torn between two warring nations. The Golan Heights.
Those who, despite a life of faith, must always walk behind. Women's Balcony, Western Wall Cave, Jerusalem.
That there are those who would put themselves in harm's way to defend a homeland they know of only from their dreams. Nabi Saleh.
Those for whom modern boundaries mean little. Eastern Jordanian desert, between Amman and Baghdad.
and that fruit still blooms in the desert. Irbid, Jordan.
Those whose playground is composed of ancient alleys. Old City, Jerusalem.
Those children who play in the winds of change. Bar Hai, Carmel, Haifa.
That there are children whose homes are destroyed, victims of politics in which they have no part. Al-Araqib, Naqab.
That soldiers are still children. Israel Train.
and that such childhood is short-lived. Wadi Nisnas, Haifa.
There are those who carry on the craftsmanship of their ancestors. Naqab.
Those who keep alive the music and the culture of their ancestors. Terez Sliman concert, Akka.
That poetry exists even in dark places. Haifa.
That art is hidden in plain sight. Rainbow Street, Amman, Jordan.
There are those who rap in protest, and those who listen in solidarity. DAM Concert, Fattoush, Ben Gurion St., Haifa.
That despite everything, this day is just like any other day. Haifa.
Against a backdrop of never-ending political gaming and war, life goes on as usual. A restaurant kitchen, Haifa.
And that, inevitably, the end comes. Here, a moment of forgotten history. British WWI Cemetary, Haifa.
There is a past, a present, and a future. Old City, Jerusalem.
n call it that) for his support of Israel’s worst policies. Nor will I detail the irony of his support of the Jewish presence in Israel so that the Messiah will come and take the “believers” (a.k.a. Christians) to heaven, or the spectacle of his cosying up to Israel’s radical politicians such as Likud MK Danny Danon, “the carefully coiffed Mad Hatter of Israeli Tea Party wannabes.” But if you’d like to, be my guest.
To be quite frank, I have been negligent in following the proceedings on #AIPAC2011. After listening to Obama’s much-anticipated Middle East speech last week, and for some reason letting myself be disappointed that he didn’t magically become a one-stater, I’ve sort of checked out temporarily. (Oh, and I was working all weekend. Anyway.) Continue reading →
When I was younger, the Haggadah we used at Passover had a farcical play in the back, jocularly re-enacting the story of the Exodus from Egypt. We used to perform it every year around the Seder table as our version of telling the story of Passover. There is one line from the play that has stuck with me through all these years, a line my sister and I quote to each other throughout the year, and one that seems particularly relevant as I look back at what I’ve just written:
No, not because it’s Valentine’s Day and I have no one to share it with. Actually, I’m sickly happy about that. I’m sad because my childhood perception of my country is slowly but surely being shattered.
Whether it’s this Islamophobia of the ignorant punditry surrounding Egypt’s revolution or the broad realization that so many Americans will put their personal interests before the greater good, my world is not what it once seemed.
When I was a child (so like, five minutes ago), The New York Times was, in my mind, the newspaper. “All the news that’s fit to print,” and like so many, I took that to mean not all what it literally means but also to mean something like “truth.” In my upper-middle class educated white girl world, The New York Times told it like it was and like it should be. Then I strayed from conventional paths, renegade that I am, and tumbled out of my box.
Thursday morning around 6 am I was getting on a bus which would take me from Haifa to my destination point, Jerusalem. There, my friends and I were about 30 minutes late for a bus which was waiting to take us to the South Hebron Hills where we would be given a tour of one of the most violent and tense areas of the West Bank, Hebron. Once we got on the bus, the tour guide got straight to business. He was a former soldier who served in the Israeli Defense Forces about 10 years back. His audience was 100% European, American and one Asian. As I entered the bus I could feel the foreignness in the air. I never really realized it until now, and its probably because I’ve been in crazy-town for a quite a long time now, but there’s something about being around foreigners, not accustomed to the environment here, that is very easy to sense. To them, the world is not so bad—no need to frown constantly or be rude just because the brown American girl didn’t hear what you said in a language that she doesn’t understand! Continue reading →