Thursday, 26 August 2010

Oops...belated Ramadan Kareem

How can I forget to wish everyone a Ramadan Kareem. Sorry for being two weeks late, but internet is really slow around here.

The Samaritan Village

When I was told we were going to visit the Samaritans, I couldn't help but shiver with excitement. A few years ago, someone told me a spell was put on me by a Samaritan, the masters of spells. Being an Arab, I believed it, that's why I was shivering, and I was curious to know at what this group of people, which, one out of their small group of 750 had "put a spell on me", was all about. Prior to my visit, I met a young Samaritan girl. Her cat like hazel eyes instilled my pre-conceived fears even more, and until my visit, I did not sleep properly.
We got on the bus and up the mountain in Nablus. After a few arguments with Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) followed by persistent reasoning with said forces by members of the Samaritan community, we were allowed through. My visit to Mount Gerizim changed every idea I had of this community. The Samaritans (hence Judea and Samaria) live on top of Mount Gerizim in Nablus (right beside Mounib El-Masri's house). They are a small group - 350 live on this mountain and 400 in a locality near Tel Aviv. They speak Arabic, resemble each other (in-breeding to keep the Samaritan faith alive), attend the university in Nablus, and call themselves "Nabulsies."
Samaritans celebrating passover
Unfortunately, many people inside and outside of Palestine are un-informed about the faith and/or and do not understand it. I don't blame them. The discourse often presents only Judaism, and the Samaritans are silenced. One has to personally seek out the information for themselves. The Samaritans have various differences between them and followers of Judaism, mainly the location of the original holy place: the Samaritans regard Mount Gerizim as the chosen location for the temple, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount. It is considered to be the location where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Zarb, cooked underground for a few hours
...and the final delicious product

After a little history courtesy of our guide, we were shown our meal in its final underground stage (zarb). We explored the mountain, met members of the community and then headed towards the dining hall to find the tables filled with plates of zarb, hummus and bread and members of the Samaritan community joining us for dinner.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


My first visit to Hebron was in 2002 and back then I thought that after Gaza, this was the saddest place on earth. After experiencing Hebron again, I think it's safe to say that, in my opinion, this place is sadder than Gaza. Gazans are indeed under siege and live inhumane conditions, but the situation in the Khalil (Hebron) is unique, and has to be seen to be believed.

The red mark represents "by military order"

Many Palestinians and visitors to the West Bank do not visit this historical old city located in the South (historical "Judea"). Hebron is the burial site of prophet Abraham, Sarah, prophet Isaac, Rebecca, prophet Jacob and Leah, making it holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

The first checkpoint to enter Al-Ibrahimi mosque
Prophet Ibrahim's burial site
The IDF does not allow repairs on certain heritage buildings so when they crumble, they occupy them and use them as a base.
The Ayyubids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans have all left their mark on the old city of Hebron. 800 years later, their homes continue to line the streets.
Unlike most old cities in Palestine, Hebron isn't a city of walls and gates. Its homes are all adjacent to each other, accessible if one were to jump roof to roof.
Apartheid has also left its mark here. 400 settlers, 1,500 soldiers and 5,500 Palestinians live together in the old city, unsegregated and discordantly. If you've ever wanted to visit a ghost town, this is it...Palestine's prison.
Below the homes of settlers nets have been installed to prevent the dangerous objects from reaching the Palestinians below. Sometimes settlers piss on them, throw acid and other chemicals.
Shuhada Street
Shuhada street, a former busy street for Palestinian residents and businesses in the old city that now runs through a settlement is now closed to Palestinian movement. Only Israelis and tourists may access it. The street is lined with 512 shops closed since 1994 due to military order and voluntarily due to the violence faced from settlers. Palestinians that continue to live on this street must enter and exit via their back doors or climb the roofs of the old city.
Under the Hebron agreement (1997), the city has been divided into two sectors: H1 (Palestinian Authority controlled) and H2 (inhabited by approximately 30,000 Palestinians is under Israeli military control to protect the settlers). The city has hundreds of checkpoints placed all over, limiting the mobility of Palestinians.
This is the house of an active Jewish Defense League member. He continously shouted "liar liar" at his Palestinian neighbour when he was showing us his home.
His neighbour has had the entrance to his home blocked and therefore has to climb and go through a few obstacles to get to his home.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I apologize...

sincerely for my slacking blogging ways. I haven't even completed posting my Palestine adventures for you, and since my return from Palestine I've been to Petra (in Jordan), Lebanon, and the Basque country, Catalonia and Spain Spain (San Sebastian, Barcelona, Madrid). I'm working on Middle Eastern internet, well I mean East Bank (Jordan) internet, which is way slower than Palestine internet, which is slower than Spanish internet, and which is slower than North American internets. Again, forgive my delays, it's been quite a whirlwind, one that consisted of me getting my bag stolen which contained one too many passports, ids, credit cards, debit cards, and some cash. Stay tuned, I'll be posting in order of visit, promise.