Monday, June 30, 2008

Agricultural Revolution

In Jordan, as everywhere, people have been struggling with the surge in basic food prices over the past year. In fact it has taken this global food crisis to shift the focus of governments all over the world back to the land and farmers. Here in Jordan there is suddenly more talk of agriculture in the newspapers, on blogs and on the radio.

In the front page article of the Jordan Times today (June 30th) HM King Abdullah is said to have ‘underlined the need to pay more attention to the agricultural sector in light of the drought the Kingdom in undergoing which has afflicted damage to farmers’ output.’ I couldn’t agree more. There needs to be a real commitment to creating a modern agricultural infrastructure with more investment in the training of farmers as to water and soil conservation techniques, crop rotation, use of fertilizers etc., and investment in more modern agricultural facilities that will work towards growing cheaper, hardier, pest-free foods in our dry harsh climate. Most farmers continue to grow crops on a small scale, just as they have been doing for years, and they do so for the most part without the know-how of modern farming techniques or the benefits of things like genetically improved seeds or fertilizers.

Organic farming has recently made strides in Jordan but not without controversy since the idea that it is good for the environment, more sustainable or cheaper, or that it avoids pesticides, are not necessarily always true. Neither has it been proven that organic foods are healthier or that they contain more nutrients. While some claim that the demand for organic foods is booming, it is interesting to note that even in England, where organic foods are considered popular, they only account for 1% of food sold. Part of their popularity over GM foods in much of the world has been due to the media and to the many groups that have actively campaigned to scare people away from genetically modified (GM) foods, despite the fact that the Royal Society (UK), the National Academy of Sciences (USA), the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the European Commission and many other organizations have endorsed the health, environmental and food safety of GM crops. In May of this year even the Vatican stunned opponents of genetically modified food by declaring them to hold the answer to world starvation and malnutrition. GM crops have been among the most studied and reviewed food crops in the world (over 25 years of experience and billions of acres) and through well established and internationally accepted standards of risk assessment they have been found to pose no more risk than crops produced by traditional breeding methods. Yet they have greatly increased yields and decreased the use of pesticides and herbicides.

Whatever one feels about the risks of using organic farming or GM crops to solve the food problems of the world, the greater risk for any country would be NOT to use the bio technology and science available to understand and improve crop plants, especially in environments such as Jordan where harsh conditions make farming more difficult. Here we are spending millions on gated communities, high rise buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Unfortunately, nobody I know can eat concrete! I believe we should be investing more in a modern agricultural infrastructure. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, our farmers need to have improved seeds, improved fertilizers, and information about new growing techniques and such things as water and soil conservation. Compensation to farmers, as mentioned in the Jordan Times article today, is necessary but it is only a stop-gap measure which will do nothing for the security of the farmer or our food supply in terms of improving the yield and profits of crops in the future. What is needed is an agricultural revolution carried out with the help of the government! .........z

Chocolates make the world go round ... a little sweeter

We had breakfast late this morning ….. 9.30am ….. but it was a treat, as son and daughter joined us for the usual banter and hilarity that sends the Palestine sunbirds and bulbuls flying off into the distance; pity the hooded crow doesn’t get the message!

And today third son, the one at uni in Beirut comes home for the summer, just as the drums of violence and internecine strife in Lebanon strike at the heart of us all. I can only pray that the Lebanese President has the power to contain it, as hope went out the window long ago.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the family as they await son’s arrival with agitated excitement, chat about the arrival of other family members, the crazy city streets, the hot weather and the car that needs a serious overhaul …. simply life …. communication, love and anticipation … the same in many households the world over … although in our region, more often than not it is tinged with sadness, anger and intolerance as we watch and mourn in muted horror the devastation from war, occupation and oppression that wreaks vengeance on our lives from Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan - when will it ever end?

And thend the discussion turned to music and the 'weird' mix of singers of the new ‘Jordan Festival’, performing this year (among them their favourite Mika - unfairly targeted by the 'boycott the festival' camp). So in support of those who believe our old Jerash Festival was wrongly and crassly assigned to the rubbish bin of history, I shall continue to call this effort to create a nice little cultural treat for Jordanian citizens who can't afford to go, the Jerash Festival, because I would like the old one back please, you know the one that the government apparently could not afford and the one badly organised etc etc. Funny that ... how come they can now afford the likes of Placido Domingo?

And meanwhile back at the breakfast table, daughter delights in a surprise she found on her office chair when she arrived at work yesterday: a box of Hamley’s chocolates, a compliment from the famous children’s toy store of Regent Street fame …. that opened recently in Amman on none other than Mecca Street. And as we pondered this crazy world of toys, chocolates and war games, hubby caps off the morning with “that’s all we need, more ‘hamels’ in town” ….

On on then! ….. J

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the richness of the Arabic language …. the Arabic word ‘hamel’ means lazy (or good for nothing)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I always fear for workmen perched at great heights and doing the most dangerous things. Are there any safety regulations around? This poor guy has been working for the past three days cleaning the building next to mine and I suppose the only saving grace is that water has to be used rather than the dry sprays, but everywhere is still covered in a horrid fine sand. No mask, just goggles and a shmagh. and he probably gets just a pittance for what he is doing. T
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general sales tax and special sales tax - help!

I was looking through my Zain mobile bill and noticed that we have to pay the General Sales Tax of 16% and a Special Sales Tax of 4%. Would someone please explain to me why I (and everyone else) are paying a 20% tax. Land line bills just have the 16%.

What is a Special Tax? T

Monday, June 23, 2008

protecting our ancient sites from vandals

Should we have concerts and other events at our antiquity sites? It was a great experience to sit in the theatre downtown the other evening but have we counted the cost of tons of equipment brought into sites that need protection?

Petra, Jerash, the Amman citadel and theatre are used with Petra the most vulnerable as the others are built of stone.

It seems that even if a ban is put in place someone finds a way round it. Petra should be a complete no no to anything that means bringing in trucks and equipment into the site. When will those in charge be strong enough to say NO to the highest and the lowest? We should be thinking of our heritage and not in short term publicity.

I think that those who try to bribe, cajole, force, use their wasta and give permission to get concerts into Petra are doing the country a disservice and they should be treated as vandals destroying our heritage. T

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The thing about Nichomachus ....

The town of Ajloun with the Qal'at ar Rabad on the hilltop

Went up into the hills of Anjara yesterday; a spectacular place that overlooked al Qal'at ar Rabad, the Islamic castle on the hill at Ajloun, built in 1184 by 'Izz ad-Din Usama bin Munqith, a general of Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders in 1187.  And then I learnt about Nichomachus ... the ancient mathematician of the first century AD .... and the 'thing' about him is that he hailed from Gerasa ... our very own Jerash .... just a ten minute drive from Anjara. 

The geometry of a chair ...

... more geometry ...

And as you survey the undulating hills that mold the Jordan Valley into the Great Rift Valley, you can't help but remember the terrible battles of death and destruction that took place centuries ago on this seemingly peaceful land, in the name of dominion for some, and survival for others; nor imagine the burning beacons that would have been lit at night to pass signals from one castle to another along the vast communication route that linked the lands of Jordan with Syria and Egypt, nor even the great achievements of individuals such as Nichomachus who lived among these rolling hills all those years ago.

It's almost as if we are still struggling with this effort today, as no matter how many beacons are lit in this darkness all pervading, it's a case of see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing, at least on the political front.  

... and some more!

So it was refreshing indeed to meet a mathematician from Anjara, whose love of all things mathematical and musical, led him and his wife to redesign their home and create a small cultural space in honour of Nichomachus, (this link is for the mathematicians amongst you) who left his mark on the subject for over a thousand years.
Meanwhile, until peace prevails,  and we get back to the business of human ingenuity, is it any wonder that I continue to take photos, enchanted by the simple things in life even for a fleeting moment ... J

Saturday, June 21, 2008

organic farming for all?

I was talking to a farmer from the north of the Jordan Valley at the Souq al Ard (Farmer's Market) this morning. He was selling organic lemons. I don't know what the standards for organic growing are in Jordan but I suppose you have to believe what the farmer is telling you.

Anyway, this farmer was telling me that he thinks all fruits and vegetables grown here will be organic because the farmers will not be able to afford the fertilisers and pesticides which have gone up by over 50%! I was quite shocked at the huge rises which will, of course, be reflected in the market.

I felt sorry for the farmer and bought two organic lemons for half a dinar! T

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Being Held Accountable

I have difficulty understanding the logic of certain regulations in Jordan. I think many of them exist in order to confuse lines of responsibility because the judicial system is underdeveloped and unable to cope with minor violations. For instance, the chicken Shawarma affair last summer happened because one restaurant violated health regulations and sold tainted food making many people ill. The reaction of the government was to close all the restaurants in the entire country that sold chicken Shawarma! This caused unnecessary and unbearable financial loss to many small businesses. What should have happened was that the restaurant responsible for the initial violation should have been the only one shut down and made to pay a fine or whatever. Publicizing the affair would have been sufficient warning to others to review the health standards in their kitchens.

A few years ago I remember an incident where a travel agent put an advertisement in the newspaper that was fraudulent. The ad promised something that it did not deliver or had no intention of delivering. Instead of prosecuting the agency, all travel agents were required to have prior approval from the Ministry of Tourism before they could place ads. This was a ridiculous requirement which produced nothing but unnecessary busy work for the travel agents and the ministry, not to mention lost revenue for legitimate agents who were planning to sell tours that summer.

The article in today’s paper about a controversial law that restricts the work of over 3,000 civil societies in Jordan is a current example of pointless micro management going nowhere and producing nothing. I quote Asma Khader: “The common procedure is to refer any violations supposedly committed by any organization to the courts and not impose laws that restrict their freedom on the basis that these organizations MIGHT violate the law.” I don’t see how the government can pass a law to prevent people from breaking the law. If someone breaks a law, prosecute.


A poem ...

Strange set of cirumstances presented themselves this morning ... while reading the news on the internet. Found a link to the issue of the Canadian genocide of indigenous tribal people by the Church and State of Canada
and the movement for truth pursued by Keven Annett, when my daughter sent a poem over the email, with the title: 'Freedom Speaks Genocide' so just had to share it:


You preach the words Allah
you praise the mosque, the church, the Buddhist temple
pray and ask for forgiveness
the sins that mount
the tongue that spits the verses
the once blue sky turned grey
cross, crescent aren't they made of the same?
blood, sweat, bones
the 3 words of wisdom
the 3 words of controversy
worn away by man..
"don't use god's name in vain"
but yet the mist beyond the hills still burns red
the devil's colour
the colour that yells the flames higher
what's it all for oh Allah?
the lucky number 7
or the firm belief that you might be right?
there is no right, wrong, big, small
words are the mirage
the sensual dancer in the desert
the luring snake towards the apple
greed, glutton, envy
all bad things in three;
what did the mother tell thee
greed, glutton, envy
the bane of your misery!


PS ... didn't know she did poetry too!

Monday, June 16, 2008

first church in the world?

Our Jordan Times seems to print stories without any in-depth research or questions. The story about the finding of the first church in Rihab near Mafraq was taken up all round the world as a major news story.

Were the claims checked with the Department of Antiquities or any other established, recognised authority?

Two experts have now refuted the findings with their letters printed in the Jordan Times. So where does that leave Jordan?

Has this been a ploy to encourage tourism in the north???? Was it a fraudulous claim? Or just plain lack of knowledge? And bad journalism for printing a story without checking it first? T

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Of Natural Resources and Authority

So the Natural Resources Authority finally got their way! Copper mining is a’comin, having been blocked successfully for the previous decade by the RSCN, concerned about the environmental threats that copper mining presents to the land, the natural environment and the people that live around Wadi Dana, Feinan and beyond. The NRA has just launched a tender for the extraction of copper just outside the nature reserves of Dana and Feinan …. must be one inch outside the boundary then?

So what of geological tourism so proudly announced on their website … ? Well, we just can’t compete with world markets and world demands these days … our country is being tapped into, carved up and potholed because of the need for uranium, shale oil and now copper … all finite resources peaking everywhere around the world.

Hope the NRA lives up to the need for an environmental impact study required by Jordanian law; unlike what happened to the Wadi Ma’in when the Ministry of Public Works decided to build a road from one side of the valley to the other …. in the process destroying the little water streams that I loved to watch trickle their way down to the Dead Sea, and damaging geo-thermal wells that were used by the hotel in an agricultural pilot project for generating energy. Such carelessness and disregard for this ancient land and precious environment in the name of development, is mind boggling!

There is alternative technology out there … but where and when are we going to find the courage to use it?? J

Friday, June 13, 2008

Paying Commissions

“A fee paid to an agent or employee for transacting a piece of business or performing a service” is a definition of 'commission' in my dictionary. My father made his living as a commissioned salesman for the same chemical company until he retired. He was an employee who received an agreed upon percentage of the sales that he generated rather than a monthly salary. He always said that working on commission was like owning the company; it was challenging and rewarding.

My experience with paying commissions, or more precisely, not paying commissions, happened when I operated a small gift shop in our hotel in Jerusalem. Occasionally a guide would ask me for a commission from sales to people in the group he was escorting. I refused because the guide hadn’t performed any service for me. I had no agreement with him because the group was composed of guests staying in our hotel. I suggested that he bring people to my shop who were not our hotel guests, and then I would consider paying a commission. Not once in 18 years did this happen.

When I read the complaints in the Jordan Times last week from the owners of souvenir shops on Artisan Street in Madaba about the pressure on them to pay commissions to guides, I felt sorry for them. A 35% commission to a tourist guide is a rather steep price to pay to someone for doing nothing but allowing the group in your charge to shop. I believe tour groups world wide have always relied on guides to facilitate their shopping, and will continue to do so even when they know that the guide is getting a hefty commission. Although this phenomenon verges on the dishonest, it is firmly in place, and I don’t know what one can do about it. Maybe the shop owners in Madaba could try some different marketing techniques and possibly diversify their investment in the travel business. They might consider urging a son or daughter to become a tour guide. Regardless, it is a frustrating state of affairs.


... meanwhile on TED

Time for something else other than politics ... and what better than the TED blog for a bit of inspiration ... and hope. Check out anthropologist Wade Davis on the worldwide web of belief and ritual and what it is that makes us human:

Mustafa Salameh

A sense of pride overwhelmed me when I saw the picture in the Al Ghad newspaper on the breakfast table of Mustafa Salameh standing on top of Mount Everest holding the Jordanian flag high above his head. Mustafa is the first Jordanian to reach the summit of the world, and the third Arab, sharing the honour with an Egyptian and a Kuwaiti who reached the peak a few years ago. He achieved his ambition third time around and he did it on Jordan's Independence Day - 25 May.

Considering that this young Jordanian comes from a country that has a semi arid landscape, with harsh desert climates and a couple of hills that pass for mountains, it is quite a remarkable feat. It was rather a charming thought too when I realised that he went from the lowest point on earth (Dead Sea) to the highest!

It never ceases to amaze when man finds the 'will to the way forward' .... pity the political leaders of this world have yet to learn this lesson. J

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Along the Desert Highway

Along the Desert Highway
Originally uploaded by jojournals

Back in 2006 I took this photo proudly announcing the entrance to a village along the desert highway, south of Katrana. But that was then when pride was in the air.

Today, it looks slightly different ... a sign of the times perhaps ... or just a reflection of how I am feeling these days along with these villagers .... a bit bashed on the head at the thought of half the country sectioned off when the great rush to go nuclear begins with the mining for uranium in about six months! J

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

are sheep a traffic hazard?

I wonder how the traffic police deal with the herds of sheep wandering down the middle of the roads? Do they come under any law? Can tickets be issued?

Personally, I quite enjoy seeing them eating any green that they find on the empty pieces of land but they do cause a traffic hazard and make such a mess on the streets. Should they be banned or should we enjoy a bit of eccentricity on the streets of Amman (and presumably other towns in the country)? T
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7 tons of plastic part 2

I was reminded of fellow blogger T's post about the tons of plastic that litter the countryside, when I returned from a trip to Aqaba recently.

Just on the outskirts of Aqaba as the Wadi al Yetum winds it's way upwards out of the beautiful mountain range that skirts the red sea town of Aqaba, we were greeted by a miniature forest of black that suddenly appeared in the desert, directly opposite the newly established truck stop/depot. And as the hamseen wind blew up a storm, the weird image of millions of bits of plastic dancing in the wind while smothering wild desert plants, was a sight to behold.

So I thought it timely to repost this information provided by 'anon' in a comment. Messrs Carrefour, you did it in Turkey, how about trying it out in Jordan too ... for is it not time to do something drastic about plastic?


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

graduation for those less fortunate

Graduation day for those whose physical bodies do not match their mental abilities! It is very uplifting to see these children without limbs or their bodies so distorted they cannot walk, singing and putting on a play and receiving their graduation certificates with smiles on their faces while their proud parents watch.

The Al Hussein Society for the Physically Challenged is always facing difficulties in providing all manner of support for this sector of society. They exist on private donations rather than Government support (a few seconded teachers) and do a marvellous job. I salute an NGO that does not have workshops in 5 star hotels and spends its donations on those who are needy. T

The Fulbright Seven

I have a dream, that The Fulbright Seven will come to symbolise all that is wrong with American/Israeli policy in the Middle East ….and that those with principles (okay, we may need to resurrect them from their graves) will one day soon rise up and expose the double standard, the hypocrisy and outright contempt of international law and human rights that has hijacked the world and his aunt.

Fulbright must be turning in his grave to see what he fought so hard to achieve, being manipulated and politicized to the point where it goes against every ethical stance that he ever took. So where is the principled dissent against the Israeli government’s contempt of all things American this time around?  Do I see a little light on the horizon of our times?

Yeah right, i was only dreaming along with the Fulbright Seven who have yet to get their golden ticket to freedom! J

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What worries me about all the building expansion in Jordan

As all these buildings rise high into the air I wonder what good will they be for Jordan? How is the water going to get to these edifices and how will the waste water be taken away in an old antiquated sewerage system??????

In today's New York Times there is an interesting article that starts -

'As California faces one of its worst droughts in two decades, building projects are being curtailed for the first time under state law by the inability of developers to find long-term water supplies.

Water authorities and other government agencies scattered throughout the state, including here in sprawling Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, have begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization for dozens of housing tracts and other developments under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for building.'

Recently a 1,500 home development project was stopped with one of the reasons being a failure to provide substantial evidence of an adequate water supply.

We should be doing this in Jordan. We are one of the most water starved countries in the world and yet we are having these ridiculous building projects which seem almost impossible to sustain. Surely all these investments would be better off in industry, agriculture etc rather than building and building and building???? T

Saturday, June 07, 2008

7 tons of plastic bags

SEVEN tons of plastic bags used by Carrefour each week! What an amazing figure, the mind just boggles at the thought of these mountains of plastic going through the chain from factory to outlet to customer and then to the streets of Amman, the fields of the countryside, the desert and anywhere else a human being can find to dispose of them.

Good for the Ministry of Environment and HSBC for the new service at Carrefour which provides the customer with reusable bags. I certainly carry my old plastic bags back to the supermarket I shop in and always ask for them to use as few as possible. I suppose with the price of oil hitting the stratosphere it will make all plastics more expensive and hopefully make the consumer think twice about using these horrible products which blight the environment and fill rubbish dumps. T

Musings with mulberries

‘Breakfast is ready’, I shouted out to Hubby pottering about the house in preparation for a trip down south. Breakfast, that wonderful start to the day that nurtures the soul with delectible delights from Arabia that can no longer be taken for granted. With all this talk about food security, food riots, and the ‘blame it on China’ rhetoric, it certainly is food for thought … at least.

And as we tucked into homemade ‘mutabbel coussa’, olives and a delicious bowl of seasonal ‘toot’ or mulberries that seem to be in abundance right now, hubby’s hand suddenly appeared hovering over the zeit and zartar.

“Are you okay” says me a bit concerned that he was having a seizure … I should have known better!

And as hubby turned on the charm with that cheeky grin, he paused while plucking a mulberry from the plate as his hand hovered overhead;

“Life is like a plane flying straight sometimes, confronting turbulance at others ….in the hope of landing safely, all parts intact.”

And as his hand landed on mine, I couldn’t help blurting out “And on the way trying to avoid Elmo’s fire at all times”, as thoughts drifted far away to son at uni in Beirut …. safe for the time being, at least.

For we had landed safely, but will they? J

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tippy Toeing Through the Tulips

Ok, so the news is horrible as usual. With Mr Obama being defensive about his 'Israel' policy claiming that the security of Israel is sacrosant and non negotiable and that McCain's quip about Hamas welcoming an Obama presidency, was 'offensive and disappointing'. And what of my security Mr Obama? The only thing offensive and disappointing is that he has to go to such lengths of appeasement to clinch the presidency. And then that little 1926 ditty of Tiptoe Through the Tulips, made famous by Tiny Tim in the 60s, suddenly popped into my head. So here's my version with or without a musical accompaniment:

Spring has gone, yet we still tiptoe through the tulips
with whomever is flavour of the month in America.

So Mr Obama, when you tiptoe from your pillow of integrity,
out into the shadows of demonic foreign policy,
why won’t you tiptoe with me?
With me, the one from Arabi?

Knee deep in flowers you may be,
but I won’t keep the showers at bay,
when they come;
if you continue to stray from my sanctity,
sacrosanct too in this land of Arabi.

And if you kiss in the garden of Eden,
under the Arabian sun,
and thy will be done in Jerusalem
Alas, we come not to tiptoe I fear;

For will we … ever pardon you?


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Human Face of Fruit

With all the talk about a world food crisis, and the sudden scrambling of world leaders to find a way out of the bureaucratic maze they have been living in for a while, I found it quite pathetic that the plight of people who can no longer buy rice by the bag, but rather by the cup, should have such a profound impact on the new head of the UN that he has to incorporate this ‘personal observation’ into a speech …. more empty words that do nothing for the masses struggling for survival because of political mismanagement in some office somewhere.

And what about the people of Gaza, who are being systematically starved and deprived of a livelihood by the ruthless government policies of Israel? Where is the political will to do something about that? We get so tired of words that are empty, hollow and harrowing as they no longer hold any semblance of dignity or meaning. And yet, we keep up with the words in the slim hope that one day we will listen to our conscience and the world will awaken from its deep slumber.

And so today I shall post a story about people and that wonderful gift of nature - fruit; a staple you would think. But no; not for many people.

This story was told to me by a lady who volunteers at a mental health facility in Zarka, a large industrial city to the north of Amman, home to many refugees from all the wars of the Middle East of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. She works with Iraqi and Palestinian children and their families traumatized by the impact of war on their lives and their homelands. And this is her dispatch:

“ I'm making a request, which may seem a bit odd, but it is something that came up in the clinic today: Fresh fruit. It struck me when one mother today told me how it has been three months since she has had enough money to buy fruit for her family……

Since there is now so much fruit in my own garden, e.g. cherries and ripening apricots, I am starting to bring these in to the clinic for anyone to take home. If, like me, you are awash with fruit and have had enough of pickling them or sun drying them on your roof - please get in touch …. the children we meet will especially enjoy your kindness!”

Later that week:

“Kind thanks for the donations of fruit last week! We were able to bring ten very full bags of various fruit to those who passed through our clinic on Thursday. I would love to share a few 'thumbnail' sketches of the families/individuals who received your support, as they were all really, really, delighted.

'Hajia' (we call her this out of respect) is an old poet from Najaf in the south of Iraq. She frequently stops by to recite a few lines to us and then, eventually, to share something of the burden that wears on her life. She came to Jordan from Iraq with her daughter after her son was murdered. On Thursday, she had only had milk and bread for the day. She was very happy to take a bag of apricots and cherries home with her.

'Ahmad' is a teenager and head of his household after the execution of his father. He's insulin dependent. He came to sit with us for an ‘ideas sharing session’ because the charitable source where he usually finds insulin has 'temporarily' closed its doors due to budget constraints. It is expected to open again soon, but he is running from one place to another to find medication. He is sad because he feels his diabetes prevents him from managing jobs very well - hard labour is usually on offer, but he is not a strong fellow. He took the fruit home to his mother and little brother and the other family with whom they share an open plan flat for 60 JD per month. His heart was no longer heavy that day.

'Shireen' is very little. She has witnessed too much already in her life. At 4, she managed to peer through the shielding hands of her mother to see her neighbour being slaughtered like a goat in the street. A few months later, she witnessed the surprise assault of her uncle - executed before her eyes at point blank. The family finally decided to leave their country Iraq, after they were detained by insurgents in their home for three days. Shireen and her siblings (younger) were allowed to roam the house. Their parents were bound and gagged. It is difficult for me to imagine how much Shireen understood about the things her mother suffered at the hands of these men. When I play with her - no matter what I give her - paints, pencils, crayons, toys - she always selects the colour red. Her mother, fortunately, uses this play time session when her daughter is not around to talk to my colleague, an Iraqi psychiatrist. Shireen is now five years old. Last week, she stabbed her baby brother in the arm to watch the blood run. She is a gentle, silent child.

Kind thanks for apricots, cherries, berries... whatever is ripening on your tree this week that you don't want!!! It is a kindness that is deeply appreciated.”

End of dispatch.


The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. ~ Albert Einstein


Monday, June 02, 2008

Fulbright and Gaza

It is great to see that the seven Fulbright scholars from Gaza have had their scholarships reinstated. The power of the media and internet has certainly made Israel look bad (and the USA for that matter). I just hope that all other Palestinian students studying abroad will be able to travel as well as those with Fulbright scholarships. T

Contempt and Complicity

Yesterday’s Jordan Times reports another instance of a father signing a pledge to guarantee the safety of his daughter, and she, a young mother of a toddler, is stabbed to death the next morning by her brother. Compared to murder, my concern is trivial, but what happens to the father in this case? He signed a JD 5,000 guarantee that his daughter will be safe in his care, and then she is murdered. What happens to him and the guarantee? He is violation of a contract and in contempt of the authorities. Most articles about ‘honor killings’ state that the fathers have signed such a guarantee, but I never read that they are held accountable. I assume that violating a signed pledge is illegal in Jordan.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Something to Ponder

The latest space shuttle to blast off on Saturday was carrying toilet parts to the international space station. That’s something to ponder considering there are millions of people living on earth without electricity, running water, let alone toilets!!...........z