Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow Days

I’m from Michigan and no stranger to long cold winters with snow that lasts for weeks on end. Although snow was inconvenient, it seldom disrupted our lives.

Like most of my countrymen, I had no idea that Jordan could have severe winter weather. The first five years that I was here I froze. We had one space heater that could hardly heat a closet but was great as an extra cooking burner. Then we had one of those Syrian stoves with an oil drip that did give off some heat in one room when it wasn’t sputtering and spewing soot. I didn’t know a house that actually had central heating so obviously everyone else was cold, too. Whenever I asked about it I always got the same answer, “You see, we really don’t need it; winter is hardly four months of the year!”

That reasoning was a big cover-up! Jordan was too poor a country for such luxury. People couldn’t afford central heating in their homes. They couldn’t afford boots and warm coats either. Unfortunately, many still can’t, and with current price increases central heating is yet again a luxury. The one pleasant aspect of all this is the unplanned holiday of snow days. We can stay home knowing we aren’t going to be missed or miss anything. We can sleep in, eat hardy soups, and do whatever we want to do at home. And best of all, we know we have replenished some of our water and can look forward to a glorious spring.


Monday, January 28, 2008

The Development Set

This poem was found by a friend in a drawer in a house in Sudan. Author is unknown. But I'm sure you know someone this poem is talking about..........z

The Development Set

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet -
I'm off to join the Development Set.
My bags are packed, I have all my meds,
Travellers cheques and nets for the beds.

The Development Set is bright and noble,
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global.
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations,
We damn multinational corporations.
Injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with an open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution -
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

Consultants, it's said, believe it no crime
To borrow your watch to tell you the time.
Their expenses, however, are justified
When one thinks of the jobs they might later provide.

Development Set homes are extrememly chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

When the talk gets deep and you're feeling dumb
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, 'Is it really development?'

Or say, 'That's fine in practice, but don't you see,
It doesn't work out in theory!'
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray God the biblical promise is true:
'The poor ye shall always have with you.'

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Our New Blue Numbers

It seems that the municipality has eliminated the glut of signs on buildings and replaced this form of identification with one large blue number on each building. This is a great idea and quite an undertaking considering how many buildings they have to deal with. But I have a couple of problems with them. After dark they can’t be seen at all – unless someone has specifically illuminated their number. I had to call a friend for alternate directions to find a shop on Garden Street the other afternoon because it was already dark and not one number was visible. Then the placement of the numbers is totally inconsistent. I don’t know where to look to find one which can be dangerously distracting when one is driving alone. In some residential areas the numbers are on the gate post at the sidewalk about one meter from the ground. On other buildings on the same street, the number is high over the main entrance or somewhere higher. One needs to search.

I’m sure we all accept our new blue numbers in the name of progress. However, someone, somewhere, needs to re-work them so they will be the efficient guide they are meant to be.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Another thought for the day

The Cyber Silencing of the Lambs by J

The Jordan Times has a new image
with a little web based opinion poll
Something I like to participate in
to express a view, promote and
ponder, relate and rally;
all on a Saturday, a day of action too.

But what happened this week, with its
"Do you support legislators' rejection of the new traffic law
because it is "too harsh"?


The 'No' button did not respond;
Neither on Sunday, Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday
Or Thursday.
But on a Friday; a day of rest,
the final day of the voting test.

And meanwhile that 'yes' button was punched
over a thousand times
by week's poll end;
What the ....?
Now that's a harsh reality
As I ponder my vote that never was
today or any other day,
Because today's a Friday, a day of rest.

So relax; the lambs have been
silenced for the week, no fear, it's only a cyber poll.
No meaning, no pulse on the people
as they lay dying on the streets of death;
Because today is
a Friday, a day of rest;

... or mourning.

Poll Results for the week 19-25 January 2008 as of 25.1.08 at 11am:
Total 1323
No opinion 2%
No 21%
Yes 78%

Quote for the day

As the Sage of Baltimore once said:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and thus clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Telephone-wielding drivers beware!

Last week my car license was due for renewal. The required documents were submitted, along with the car, but I was informed that there were 2 violations for driving while using a mobile phone. It is unlikely that the "sinner" could be me, as I have a hands-free phone, but of course it could have been some other member of the family who was driving the car. The point is, traffic police are out and about recording mobile-phone violations, and they are not required to stop you.

However, a question also arises, are the authorities simply imposing a fine on all drivers, knowing how serious the mobile phone problem is? After all, how many of us can honestly say, we never use our mobile phones while we're driving?

Thankfully our "sins were committed" in September and October, before the new penalties were imposed, so JD30 was duly paid, and my car was re-licensed.

Snow, snow, snow

We were fortunate yesterday; we had snow to dampen and nurture the soil parched and frost-bitten from a year of weird weather. So it was nice to know that Jordanian/English actor Nadim Sawalha was also enjoying a bit of snow on the plains of Utah at the Sundance Film Festival where the first Jordanian film in fifty years is being shown "Captain Abu Raed" .... something we are all very proud of. J

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Zionism exposed

To get over the feelings of despair and hopelessness I am feeling these days, I browzed the web as one does and three words seemed to catch my attention .... Neturei Karta and Ho'oponopono .... and a sense of joy began to fill the air just trying to correctly say the last one! So as I have yet to get around to reading The Secret, I hope I will be forgiven for not learning about it sooner. It was hardly coincidental, I realised as I read further and decided that hope was just about hanging on by a thin thread.

For Neturei Karta is a Jewish organisation that has long stood against the racist, political ideology of Zionism that pervades every waking moment of life of the Palestinian people and quite a few Jews too. This video recording of the Neturei Karta Cheif Rabbi exposes the Zionist agenda - a powerful voice speaking truth to power, but is it a voice in the wilderness? We can only pray every which way that it is not and this is where ho'oponopono comes in; finding the inner peace within to watch the sun rise once more over our collective humanity. J

Monday, January 21, 2008

People are dying ... Help Us!

All I can do to help is post the following ... but what appauls me the most is the total uselessness and impotence of the UN read UNITED NATIONS ... who only seem capable of expressing concern ... and meanwhile Gordon Brown, Blair's pal, trots around the globe touting negotiations for a 'new world order' to be instituted at the U.N. I'd like my old one back please, you know the one founded on the Geneva Convention and the rights of man and international law ... the rights of the child and the right to live without fear and suppression ... J

20/01/08 "ICH" -- -- A humanitarian crisis is underway as the Gaza Strip's only power plant began to shut down on Sunday, and the tiny coastal territory entered its third full day without shipments of vital food and fuel supplies due to Israel's punitive sanctions. The Gaza Strip's power plant has completely shut down on Sunday because it no longer has the fuel needed to keep running. One of the plant's two electricity-generating turbines had already shut down by noon. This will drastically reduce output to 25 or 30 megawatts, down from the 65 megawatts the plant produces under normal conditions. By Sunday evening the plant will shut down completely, leaving large swaths of the Gaza Strip in darkness. Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer be generating any electricity at all. "We have asked the Israeli government to reverse its decision and to supply fuel to operate the power plant", Dr. Kittaneh said. "We have talked to the Israeli humanitarian coordination in their Ministry of Energy [National Infrastructure]. We say this is totally Israel's responsibility, and that reducing the fuel supplies until the plant had to shut down will affect not only the electrical system but the water supply, and the entire infrastructure in Gaza – everything." After months of increasingly harsh sanctions, Israel imposed a total closure on the Strip's border crossings, even preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Israeli government says the closure is punishment for an ongoing barrage of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip. "Famine"180 fuel stations have shut down after Gaza residents to buy gas for cooking. A Palestinian economist Hasan Abu Ramadan said the current humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip will be deepened by the blockade on fuel and food supplies. He warned that Gaza Strip could go from a situation of deep poverty to all out famine, disease, and malnutrition. Abu Ramadan said that more than 80% of the Strip's 1.5 million residents have been surviving with the help of food aid from international organizations such as UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.International condemnation Most international actors in the region believe there already is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, who said at a press conference at UNHQ in New York on Friday that "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be justified, even by those rocket attacks". UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed particular concern, in a statement issued later on Friday through his spokesperson, about the "decision by Israel to close the crossing points in between Gaza and Israel used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such action cuts off the population from much-needed fuel supplies used to pump water and generate electricity to homes and hospitals". The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, John Dugard, also issued a much sharper statement on Friday, saying that Israel must have foreseen the loss of life and injury to many nearby civilians when it targeted the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City. This, and the killings of other Palestinians during the week, plus the closures, "raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its Commitment to the peace process", Dugard said. He said it violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law: that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Daniel Barenboim accepts Palestinian citizenship

The news that Daniel Barenboim became a Palestinian citizen was made public this week despite the fact that this honorary title was given to him a year ago. Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote a wonderful article in Haaretz titled "Honorary citizenship of the moon" that puts this whole subject in perspective. You can go directly to the article or read it below.

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 03:56 16/01/2008
Honorary citizenship of the moon
By Amira Hass

"Daniel Barenboim, the world-renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, has received Palestinian citizenship" and a Palestinian passport, the Haaretz English edition reported on Monday, using a Reuters story. The Ynet version said that the Palestinian Authority had granted Palestinian citizenship to Barenboim, whereas The New York Times reported that the Argentinian-born Israeli pianist and conductor had agreed to accept Palestinian citizenship and an honorary Palestinian passport.

The passport was given at the conclusion of a concert in Ramallah, in appreciation of the way (and this is the present writer's version) in which Barenboim has for years linked musical initiatives to his clear opposition to the Israeli occupation; of his willingness to come and visit Ramallah at a time when most Israelis see it as a bastion of terror; and of the way in which he became friendly with prominent Palestinians who were not popular with most Israelis, like Edward Said.

He received citizenship, he agreed to receive citizenship, citizenship was granted. What difference does the wording make? It could just as well have said that the PA granted Barenboim citizenship of the moon, since the PA has no authority to grant citizenship (or in its more correct definition: Palestinian residency) to anyone. Not to Yasser Arafat, not to Mahmoud Abbas and not to an 80-year-old refugee woman who lives in Ein el Hilweh in Lebanon and continues to miss the almond tree that her grandfather planted in the village of Lubia (today's Kibbutz Lavi).

Arafat and Abbas, like several thousand other Palestinian Liberation Organization activists who returned to Israel in 1994, received their "Palestinian citizenship" and their Palestinian ID card (written in Arabic and Hebrew), because Israel permitted it. Because an Israeli civil administration clerk in the typed their details into the computer of the Israeli Interior Ministry, so that the ministry would permit the Palestinian Interior Ministry to print the ID card in its printing house, so that the data would appear on the computer screen of the last of the soldiers at the smallest of checkpoints.

The PA has no power to grant Palestinian residency to those who were born in pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine, nor does it have the power to grant residency to those born after 1948, within the borders of the State of Israel. It does not even have the power to restore residency to about 400,000 people who were born in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after 1948, and Israel did everything possible over the years so that they would lose their right of residency: It issued injunctions limiting their right to stay abroad, prevented their return from abroad in time, did not take into account those who were not present during the population census of August 1967.

Tens of thousands of them are living today in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in their homes, in their villages, but without official papers: They had temporary travel documents from various Arab countries when they went to study or work abroad. They returned to their homes as tourists. The temporary documents are no longer valid, and they are prisoners for all extents and purposes in their cities of residence. If they are caught at the checkpoints they will be expelled. Only through an exhausting process of "family reunification," which is controlled by Israel, can several of them become "citizens" of their homeland. During the past seven years only recently has the process been approved, for about 3,500 people, out of at least 65,000 in a similar situation.

The PA does not even have the power to change the residential address from Gaza to Ramallah unless an official in the Civil Administration (and behind him a member of the Shin Bet security services, and behind them the Israeli interior and defense ministries) approves. So does the "PA grant citizenship to Barenboim"?

In spite of the wealth of information published in recent years, especially in Haaretz, about Israel's control of the Palestinian Population Registry, the facts are not absorbed. The PA is seen as a "state" with the sovereign right to grant "citizenship." For Israelis in particular it is hard to understand the extent of our domination over the Palestinians: After all, every Jew in the world has a right to come to Israel, and within a few days to become an Israeli citizen and to live not only in Israel proper but in any illegal settlement and any illegal and unauthorized outpost.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Food in Amman

In the travel section of yesterday’s New York Times there was an article called, ‘All the Foods of the Mideast at Its Stable Center.’

The reporter’s observation is that food in Amman represents the changes that have taken place in the Middle East. Her premise is that Jordan is the only stable country in the geographic middle of the region, and restaurants now reflect the identity of other nationalities who live here, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and Iraqi. It used to be that people went to eat falafel and shawerma in the small cafes, or mansaf, Jordan’s national dish, in the larger restaurants. Now (to quote the reporter) “in this politically, religiously and ethnically fraught corner of the world, it is a symbol of bloodlines and identity.”

But isn’t that true in every large cosmopolitan city in the world? In London you can eat Indian, Thai, Chinese, French, or American’s fast food exports to mention a few. Maybe there is a political significance to this and these restaurants exist to cater to the expatriates of the particular country. On the other hand, maybe the choice of cuisine is a business decision to offer culinary variety to Londoners. I think the article infers that in Amman it is the former, not the latter, although there are a number of well established Italian and Lebanese restaurants that have offered hungry Jordanians great food for years. I don’t think I’ve seen comments on food take on a political twist before. But then the article is about the Middle East.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Where is the hope that heals?

So we get treated to media reports of Bush on yet another mission for peace. When is he going to declare the war over in Palestine? Does he have the guts? … afterall he has nothing left to lose, he will be gone by November and then the blushing and blundering all over the days of our lives will be in someone else's hands. And meanwhile as we await a time when we no longer hang our heads in shame - in Gaza, and the Bantustans of Palestine - the victims of this sixty year mess driven by Zionism and the Bush White House and the fence sitters the world over, draw the short straw yet again.

Hope is there we are told … but what about the 1.5 million people incarcerated into the tiny strip of land that is Gaza … what of the 750,000 children of Gaza, you know the ones who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child … what of the 17,000 hearing impaired, mostly children and middle aged adults of Gaza who are denied hearing aids by the Israelis because the battery that is required could be used for 'dual purpose'?

Did you know you can't even import 'paper' into Gaza these days? In a few months time, schools will run out of stationery supplies and one by one the printing presses are closing down, along with all the other industries because spare parts, resources and day to day supplies are controlled and denied entry into this living hell by the Military Occupiers that hail from Israel.

So what is the end result of all this misery? Exactly that which this War on Terrorism is supposed to end … extremism, more misery and therefore more hate that ultimately leads to violence that begets violence and the cycle begins all over again; Israel must be very proud. Gandhi summed it up perfectly "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"

It's ironic that since the arrival of Hamas and its rout of Fatah, corruption and violence has been curtailed and Gazan women now feel safe to leave their homes and venture out into this vast urban landscape that borders the Mediterranean Sea. The other irony is that they can't go anywhere else; not to attend their childrens' weddings in other countries like Jordan or even in other parts of Palestine, nor to a hospital in the West Bank of Palestine, because Israel never agrees.

It's not just about the peace … but an end to this criminal occupation and the recognition that Palestinians are human and have equal rights to everyone else in the world … that's the least we as a civil society can do. And then maybe, the world will no longer be at war with itself when a Palestinian mother can live in the secure knowledge that her child will live in a free and fair world. J

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children can be found at

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Death of a hero

A dear, dear friend, Hanna Najjar, died last week of cancer. He was one of our 'boys in blue' who defended the skies of Jordan as a fighter pilot. In 1967 he was flying in the Hawker Hunter taking off from Mafraq Airbase to defend our air space with our other pilots. He was the last one to land in Amman (Mafraq had been destroyed) and as he was approaching the runway to land others noticed Israeli aircraft behind him and were urging him to just leave the aircraft but he taxied down the runway looking for somewhere safe to put the Hunter and thought that it would be safe next to the UN aircraft parked there. Just as he had stopped the Israelis swept in and Hanna was caught getting out of the aircraft and injured in the hand. All the aircraft were destroyed. Hanna ended his career in the airforce as a Brigadier Director of Operations. He then went on to become Director General of Civil Aviation and was currently working on the privatisation of Aqaba airport when cancer savagely attacked him and took him from his family in a very short time.

I am so far away in New Zealand at the moment and could not join in the mourning but I salute him, as should we all, a wonderful and loving family man and a good friend. Blessings on his family, we shall all miss him so much. T

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Even in New Zealand Palestine is not forgotten

What does one see when walking in down town Auckland but a small demonstration on behalf of Palestine! It is amazing to see these mainly Kiwi activists (with one Palestinian who may be recognisable to friends of JoLadies!!!) gathering to express their views on what is happening so far away from them. It seems Palestinians do have friends round the world. T

Friday, January 04, 2008

parks in NZ

New Zealand now has an interesting way of dealing with rubbish in their national parks. There are no rubbish bins, which can overflow, look unsightly and be a health hazard. Instead everything that is taken into a park has to be taken out by the people themselves. As the pictures show everything is spotless! T

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lovely New Zealand

Having spent a lovely week in Singapore with my son, his wife and two grandchildren, am now in wonderful New Zealand staying with old friends from Jordan (she is Kiwi and he is Jordanian). They live in a great house north of Auckland and this is the view from the back. Can anyone think of anywhere better? I just had to share the stunning views. T