Showing posts from 2017

Israel and Palestine: A Dumb Story

I recently spent three months in the West Bank of Palestine and Israel (and then two months in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan), and feel compelled to write about my understanding of the situation there, based on my experience. Not a lot has changed about my views, having entered Israel and Palestine with a relatively well-formed historical and political understanding of the situation; and yes, a well-developed cultural bias against Israel and the actions of its government and people. Still, I remained as open as one can be given the reality on the ground, and the historical facts. And the more I experienced and witnessed, the more I was (and am, even more after some time away) convinced that the real problem and solution lay neither with Israel or Palestine. Expecting a solution from Israel and Palestine is like locking a grizzly bear in a cage with a pack of wolf pups. Israel, the nation created in 1948 and slapped down upon Palestinian people by Britain (largely), is an extrao

Land of the Free

Music plays in his mind like a soundtrack. It’s a familiar tune, from a film he thinks. The van he’s lying in the rear of is moving fast, and with every bump on the road he twitches with pain, for his ribs are broken. Feelings of resignation and rebellion rage within him. Fear too, for he knows what’s to come. Now, bound by plastic zip ties and a hood over his head, Hami thinks of his father. A few hours earlier he'd been walking home through the marketplace of the Old City of Hebron, under the wretched eye of settler and soldier alike. Noticing a group of internationals looking lost, he smiled their way. ‘Excuse me. English?’, asked a young man with a British accent. ‘No, Palestinian’, he answered with a cheeky smile. ‘And you?’ A little playful banter later and he invited them on a tour, as was his custom and source of income. Not far from a settlement checkpoint Hami was pointing out a building of historical significance, now a popular teahouse, when a car started


''You don't win friends with Settlers...', to paraphrase the great Homer. The Settler movement in the occupied Palestine territory of the West Bank is so much more disturbing than war itself. For it seeks to torment and break down, gradually and psychologically, to subjugate and humiliate, to reinforce to Palestinians their hopelessness and human inferiority. But Palestinians rise above in these harshest of circumstances. The Palestinian prisoners of Israel are so brave and large and inspire a cosmic kind of hope. Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, is home to around 215,000 Palestinians, around 500 Zionist Settlers and 4,000 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. It is technically divided into H1 (under Palestinian Authority administration) and H2 (administered by 1948), but essentially all is controlled by 1948. 1948 is the name used by many Palestinians to refer to the occupied Palestine territory known as Israel. It is a kind of passive re

Jesus of Nazareth

Wandering the steep and winding streets of Nazareth has been a whirling dervish of wonder and fascination. It truly is a feast for the senses — the streetscapes, the ornate building shapes, the reminiscent scent of incense, of charcoaled meat smells...the chiming of the bells and the singsong of Nazarenes conversing in the streets as if telling the most important story ever told. Walking aimlessly through this place is the best way to find hidden treasure. I was fortunate enough to find some when I noticed a little sign in a gift shop window advertising ‘Ancient Bath House Tours’. Shortly after moving into this shop and renovating in 1993, the owners uncovered the historic remains of an ancient Roman public bath house. Their first clue was cracking a hole in a pipe on the other side of a plastered wall (see photos below). They discovered a series of horizontal pipes in the wall, identified as the same type of clay pipes found in other Roman Era bath houses such as the ones i

Fortress of Masada

I was befriended by a group of sixteen-year-old Israeli teens who were out on excursion yesterday. When they found out I was Australian they became very animated and excitable, firstly about the Australian Open and their hero players and then other generalities. A few of them had pretty good English, so we were able to communicate well, but when one of them struggled they would consult their friends for the word escaping them. It was very much a group conversation. They were very impressed that someone would come all the way from Australia to visit their country. They wanted to know why? This seems to be a theme amongst Israelis. Once we established my lack of interest in Tennis and exchanged general information about one another a few of them were keen to talk politics. They wanted to know what I thought of the Israel-Palestine conflict, their respective leaders, President Trump, the BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel), whether I was Left or

A Call To Arms

How pathetic we are. As a people, as a social class and as a species. In order to survive humans must be nurtured from birth until at least four or five years old (this gestation period extends much further for some — around thirty years old for myself). Most species of animal, however, are born ready to fend for themselves and survive independently. And yet we human animals dominate — I think in part because we are a naturally social and dependent species. But in developed nations such as Australia we are perhaps more so. I recall being in parts of India in 2007 and observing children who appeared to be no more than two or three years old getting around in the streets and in their families’ businesses relatively unencumbered by parental supervision and engaging the world with a kind of sophisticated resourcefulness and street savvy. These three year olds seemed more ready for the world than many of their Western counterparts at eighteen years of age. Of course, they did wear their mat