Monday, December 31, 2012

ADVERT: Palestine is normal


Do an image search for the world Palestine and almost every result contains the national flag. Of those results that are photographs, most show Palestinian protesters. In some there is the added ingredient of an Israeli Defence Force soldier to add contrast.

It is not so easy to find images of the country of Palestine, its landscape and its normality.

Palestine is a dry, hard, mountainous region. Its roads are dusty and, outside of the major cities, are free flowing.

Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to get from, say, Ramallah to Bethlehem, because somebody built a bloody big wall across the road which you now have to 20 miles round.
In the West Bank there are a lot of bloody big walls. But there are also a lot of roads, a lot of cars and lot of advertising.

The huge advertising hoardings are proof that, even in a country of military occupation whose people continually suffer in the struggle for freedom, anyone can still be persuaded to buy crap.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Folk off dancing

Surely there is no better way to celebrate a day accidental activism, antagonising Israeli soldiers and visiting the birthplace of Jesus Christ. A night of traditional folk dancing.

If there is any form of dancing guaranteed to have you off the edge of your seat, half asleep and mind-numbingly bored, it’s folk dancing.

Anywhere in the world, this ritualistic jive is the reserve of the organised trip, where an unwitting captive audience is forced to witness unnatural body movements coinciding with music that no sane person would actually want to own.
And here we have folk dancing Palestinian style, where the smiles of the dancers hide the hours of pain spent perfecting a dance nobody wants to watch.

I attended this event after a day-long tour of Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank.

In Bethlehem I visited the Holy Church of the Nativity, built on the site of Jesus’ Birth 2,000 years ago. In Hebron I went into the old town H2 district, controlled by the Israeli Defence Force and inhabited by Israeli settlers.
H2 is not the best place for a group of 50 international activists to start singing ‘Free Palestine’ songs. Especially when they are already surrounded by IDF soldiers.

We got out of Hebron safely. Our local guide faired less well. Later that evening Israeli soldiers came to his home and arrested the Palestinian. He has been in an Israeli prison ever since.

While he was beginning his detention stint, we enjoyed the dancers. Just another day in the West Bank.
NOTE: Photographed at the Ramallah Cultural Palace on November 12, 2012.

Palestiniana, the book about my visit to the West Bank, is out soon on Amazon and for Kindle.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nablus, West Bank, Palestine


Its pristine An-Najah national University university is the rated fifth in the Arab world. The university was closed by Israel during the First Intifada between 1988 and 1991.

Nablus is noted for its hot cheesy Kanafeh sweet and olive oil soap.

From my notes: Walk round the old town. We saw area of an old soap factory bombed by Israeli jet planes. On wall is a large poster of the family and people who died.

Took photo of young man outside shop (shop sold detergents etc) also photographed with owner. Ate deep-fried cheese sweets.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yasser Arafat's final day of resting in peace (with visitors) - November 11, 2012

It was a surreal day anyway. Two hours sleep with an Italian/Canadian couple in the wrong hotel, then realising I was on an anarchist's bus tour through Palestine when they started spraying slogans on an Israeli settlement wall. And it was raining heavily. Not your usual day in Palestine.

And so, as the biggest thunderstorm to hit this region in decades descended, we were dropped off at Yasser Arafat's tomb in Ramallah. He had died, aged 75, eight years earlier to the day.

Arafat, former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was one of the most recognisable political leaders of the last 100 years.

The very next day this mausoleum was closed to the public as plans were put in place to exhume his body in order to certify whether he had been poisoned to death with polonium-210.

The soaking walkway to his tomb building is easily the most treacherous stretch of marble I have ever navigated. The red carpet had already turned into the world's longest sponge.