30 May 2011

Palestine Revisited via Rafah Border Opening

I can’t help celebrating the courageous step by Egypt in opening the Rafah border crossing! It is a tiny step in the right direction for a change. Attempts by Israel to isolate Gazan citizens have been greatly hampered by the lifting of the four year old blockade. The blockade was imposed after the free elections in Gaza installed Hamas as the governing party in 2007. Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak cooperated with the Israeli regime in the border closure and allowed very limited passage of Palestinians. Students, businessmen and medical patients were eligible to travel, but often were required to wait months for approvals.

The politicians and pundits are crying to anyone who will listen (which sadly, is the majority) that an open border between Gaza and Egypt will allow for the importation of weapons and expertise from the “evil Iranians”. As stated, and quite rightly so, by my friend Brian in his blog Pilgrim Without a Shrine, they are probably already there. And why wouldn’t they be there? As prisoners in their own land the Palestinian people are desperate to receive any help available. Unfortunately, that needed help isn’t coming from the US and damned little is coming from Europe.

When a person, or entity, comes into your house and throws you out because some mythical god has made a promise to give your house to him, are you likely to accept it and go quietly on your way? Or, are you more likely, going to fight him in any way possible to eject him from your house? Any right thinking person is going to defend his home against any- and everyone. Yet, when Palestinians attempt to defend their homes and ancestral lands they are characterized as terrorists. Look objectively at the situation. Lands were stolen, homes destroyed, ancient olive groves uprooted and burnt, new houses and apartment complexes built on the stolen land, indigenous people forbidden to drive on or build near the new roads… who is the terrorist?

I’m constantly astonished when the free elections in 2007 that were pushed so strongly by the US and Israel are now characterized as a “power siezure”. An election in the US was rigged, and some use the term “stolen” just a few years before the Palestine election. Were diplomatic ties severed? Of course not, The nations of the world continued to deal with the US despite the obvious corruption that not only continued to exist,but grew like a cancer under the direction of the new “president”. The election of Hamas to power should have been embraced by all the nations of the world. Diplomatic relations should have continued and been strengthened. Instead, the US and Zionists didn’t expect that outcome, disapproved of it and immediately dismissed it.

Obama has indicated that a return to 1967 borders is in order. For this suggestion he has been castigated in the media, scorned by Congress and most recently had his face publically slapped by none other than Benyamin Netanyahu. Let’s rub a bit of salt into that wound. That roundhouse slap from ‘Bibi” was delivered, not from Jerusalem, but from the floor of the United States Congress. When the slap was continually administered the members of both houses of Congress gave countless rounds of thunderous applause and repeated ovations! The message to the President was clear; “Say what you like, but we have been bought and paid for by AIPAC and our loyalty is NOT to our constituents, the Constitution, nor to you, our President, it is to the Zionist regime in Israel.”  The 1967 border is not some line arbitrarily chosen by President Obama. That border was established by the United Nations following the war. All other member nations of the UN are required to abide by its decisions; not Israel. They flout the UN authority on a daily basis, knowing there will be no repercussions. They signed the Oslo Accords and have consistently broken every clause it contained, knowing there will be no repercussions. Now though, Obama has “endangered relations with Israel” by making such an audacious recommendation. It is my humble opinion that the real shame is that the US continues relations with Israel given the current terroristic stance against the Palestinians. Diplomatic relations and the billions of dollars siphoned to the real Middle Eastern terrorists should be cut off completely and abruptly. AIPAC should be packed up and thrown out of the country and the members of Congress who have accepted the AIPAC bribes should be recalled and permanently banned from political service. Each one of them is a supporter of terrorism.

Bibi claims the borders of 1967 are indefensible. It’s not the border that’s indefensible, it’s the displacement, land theft and outright terrorism on the part of the Zionist regime that is indefensible. Building colonies in militarily occupied territories is absolutely forbidden by Geneva Convention. There is no grey area here; It. Is. Forbidden. Yet, it goes on day after day, week after week, year after year and not one of the dominant governments seriously objects to it. Each time a Palestinian does or says something unacceptable to the terrorists, their response is to build a few hundred more houses on stolen property.

Palestine has stated the intention of going to the UN to unilaterally declare statehood. Suddenly, half the governments of the world are screaming that it can’t, or mustn’t be done. It must be a mutually agreed declaration. Check your history; I have. What country, declaring independence from an occupying power has done it by “mutual agreement”? The few examples I’ve been able to find were countries occupied by the United Kingdom. And even those mutually agreed breaks of the occupation resulted in membership in the British Commonwealth with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. So, are they really independent nations, or is it still occupation under a different name?

Because the US is a central figure in the Palestine/Israel debacle, let’s examine their declaration of independence. After many appeals to King George were ignored or retaliated, did the colonists sit down and reach a mutually agreed independence? They did not. It was an armed uprising; a revolt. It was the American Revolution that created the United States. Nothing less would have accomplished it. Country after country right around the globe has had to do the same thing. Revolution after revolution has resulted in the establishment of independent states and nations. But, somehow it must be done differently in Palestine. They are revolting against “God’s chosen people” and that is simply unacceptable. God’s chosen people, my ass!

Americans making a unilateral declaration of statehood

Now is the time for Palestine to make their unilteral declaration before the United Nations. Now is the time for the handful of countries round the world who have already recognized Palestinian statehood to step up and render assistance in the armed revolution that is sure to take place. Now is the time for the US and Europe to cast off their fear of Israel and AIPAC and support the occupied victims of 60+ years of systematic terrorism and help them to establish a free and independent Palestine. Further, it is the duty of the Arab states to render assistance and to continue to help them defend their sovereign borders against a rogue, terrorist state.

24 May 2011

Happy Independence Day, Jordan!

Flag of Jordan
Coat of Arms of Jordan

Jordan's Location in the World

الله، الوطن، المليك
Transliteration: Allah al-Watan al-Malek
English: “God, Homeland, The King
Tomorrow (25th May) is Independence Day in Jordan. To mark the occasion I thought I would share a bit of the colorful history of this beautiful kingdom to give you an idea what we are celebrating. The independence of the modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is the story of many civilizations, vast empires and such names as Abraham, Moses, Alexander the Great and Lawrence of Arabia to name just a few.

This ancient land has been occupied by the Canaanites, Edomites and Moabites. The Akkadians, Assyrians, Israelite/Judeans, the Babylonian and Persian empires came and left their marks. Pharaonic Egypt once ruled the lands of the Jordan Valley, as did the Nabataean civilization which left incredible archaeological remains at Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Macedonian/Greek/Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires have also left evidence of their presence.

Muslim Arabs occupied the region from 7th century CE until the Crusaders established the Kingdom of Karak. Later the Seljuk Turks came and the Ottoman Empire ruled until 1918 when British rule was imposed. This led to the creation, in 1922 of the autonomous emirate of Transjordan, and later the independent state.

After the first World War the Ottoman Empire was broken up by the League of Nations and the borders of the eastern Mediterranean were redrawn. The Sykes-Picot Agreement gave birth to the British Mandate of Palestine. It was agreed by the Transjordan Memorandum that territories east of the Jordan River would be excluded from the provisions governing the Jewish settlement.

In 1946, following the end of the second World War, Britain requested approval of the United Nations to end the British Mandate in Transjordan. Independence was granted under the leadership of As-Sayyid Abdullah bin al-Husayn, who had been appointed Emir in 1921. The newly independent leader was proclaimed King Abdullah I, also known as Abdullah the Founder. He ruled until he was assassinated at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1951 and was succeeded by his son, King Talal who was later removed because of mental illness.

King Talal’s son, Hussein, was too young to rule and the kingdom was governed by committee until Hussein reached the age of majority and was crowned in 1953. Upon his death in 1999, his son, King Abdullah II ascended the throne and remains there until today.

The late King Hussein survived several challenges to his rule and served as a symbol of unity and stability in Jordan. He ended martial law in 1991 and legalized political parties the following year.

King Abdullah II has refocused his government’s agenda to reform economic difficulties as well as the rapidly growing population. The more open political environment has led to the emergence of a variety of political parties. Several key regime figures have been the target of investigations and corruption charges and has become the major focus of protesters and political Islamists.

Thanks to the relative freedom and tolerance, as well as the richness of historical and archaeological treasures in the kingdom, Jordan consistently ranks high as a tourist destination. Last year (2010) more than 4.6 million people spent at least a day traveling in Jordan. We enjoy a very diverse array of cultures that is welcoming to artists, religious sects and ethnic groups. Jordan enjoys an excellent reputation for stability and tolerance.

To sum up, Jordan is a wonderful place to live or to visit. The ancient Arab Hospitality is still practiced and all visitors are warmly and genuinely welcomed. Come visit us when you can and experience a vacation that cannot be matched anywhere on the globe!

The late King Hussein
His Majesty, King Abdullah II

His Majesty in an episode of Star Trek, Voyager
The Royal Couple
Her Majesty, Queen Rania

The most beautiful Queen in the world!
7 Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum

22 May 2011

End of the World...

Over the past few weeks a great deal of discussion, cussing, derision and promises have been made about the “End of the World” that was to have taken place yesterday. Thankfully, at least from my perspective and circle of friends, humor was the overriding emotion.

Most of you have probably noticed by now that the world did not, in fact end yesterday. Everything is going on at its usual pace. Wars are still being fought all round the globe, people are still hungry, sad, unemployed, retired, working, happy and just glad to be alive. In short, with the possible exception of a few misguided souls, life goes on.

The sun rose over Jordan on 23 May 2011
I cannot fathom the depth of disappointment and embarrassment the doom-sayers must be feeling today. Perhaps 21 May 2011 will come to be known as the “Second Great Disappointment” after the original disappointment when the world didn't end as predicted by William Miller, whose followers came to be known as “Millerites”. When his original prediction didn’t come to fruition he and his staff announced a miscalculation and announced a second and a third date. The Christian Advent Church and the Seventh Day Advent Church grew out of the Great Disappointment.

Here are a few posters and charts from the Millerite days:

Millerite prophecy chart for 1843

Beginning of Miller's "70 Week" prophecy

Miller's 2300 day prophecy timeline relating to 70 Weeks

Another interesting Millerite chart
Of course, Miller wasn't the last one to predict the end of the world, and the latest Rev Camping won't be the last.

Rev Camping

How to get ready? What to pack? Should I have a haircut?

A "guarantee", that might cause some problems...

Interesting place to put a tract about the "end"...

I can't help wondering what will grow out of the Second Great Disappointment.

15 May 2011

Operation Smile Jordan

A day or two ago I wrote a column about Souk Jara. I omitted mentioning an encounter I want everyone to know about. I found a booth operated by Operation Smile Jordan. This group is part of an international alliance of chapters whose mission is to provide free treatment to children and adults who suffer from facial deformities.

Her Majesty, Queen Rania al Abdullah is the honorary Chairperson and Patroness of this program. For the past 10+ years, thanks to Operation Smile and the Ministry of Health children with cleft lips, cleft palates and burns have been treated by volunteer Jordanian and international medical professionals without charge to the patient.  More than 1700 children have been helped by Operation Smile since 2004.

Her Majesty and Operation Smile Jordan inaugurated the Operation Smile Jordan Center in Amman in 2008. The center provides year-round care and consists of a medical evaluation and post-operative clinic, a speech therapy clinic and the Roma Downey Life Support Training Center that provides medical professionals with Paediatric advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) training.

I am very happy, but humbled to be a donor to this great cause. Please visit their website at http://www.operationsmile.jo/ and make a donation so they can continue helping unfortunate, poor children to have a more normal and fulfilling life!

Here are a few facts taken from the Operation Smile website at www.operationsmile.jo/ that are rather sobering. Please give them a visit and if possible make a donation to help a child to have a more normal, productive life. Thanks.

Quick Facts

  • Operation Smile Jordan is honored to operate under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, the Honorary Chairperson. 
  • Approximately 1 in every 700 babies in Jordan is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate or other type of facial deformity. 
  • Children with facial deformities who do not receive reconstructive surgery often have difficulty breathing, drinking, eating and speaking. As a result, many suffer from malnutrition, medical and psychological problems. 
  • In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever. 
  • It costs as little as JD450 to repair a cleft lip. 
  • Operation Smile Jordan is a registered NGO. 
  • Operation Smile Jordan has treated more than 1700 children since 2004. 
  • There are more than 200 Operation Smile Jordan Student Volunteers 
  • Operation Smile Jordan won the Outstanding International Student Club of the Year award during the International Student Leadership Conference in 2007. 
  • Operation Smile Jordan sends physicians to the annual Operation Smile Physicians' Training Program (PTP) - held at Operation Smile’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. PTP brings doctors from around the world together for training in their respective specialties. 
  • Since 1982, more than 115,000 children and young adults have been treated by thousands of Operation Smile volunteers worldwide and thousands of healthcare professionals have been trained globally. 
  • Operation Smile provides care for children in 51 countries. 9 resource countries raise funds and provide medical volunteers, while 42 program countries receive education and training and conduct surgeries. 
  • Operation Smile Jordan is a certified American Heart Association life support training center. 
  • Operation Smile Jordan’s Speech Pathology Clinic offers year-round speech therapy consultations by a team of certified speech pathologists.
*Disclaimer – I was not asked to write this post by anyone associated with Operation Smile Jordan, I have no financial or other connection with the group, nor have I received any compensation for it. I have written this column out of a sense of compassion for the children, admiration for the group who operate it and without consulting them about it at all.    /obj

Visit to Ajlun and Mar Eliyas (Prophet Elijah)

View of the village from atop one of the surrounding hills

Our very nice friend Ramzi invited us to visit his family at their home in Ajlun for lunch and a tour around the area. Those of you who follow this blog will remember I posted a column about our visit to Ajlun Castle last year. Until yesterday that's the only part of Ajlun I'd been lucky enough to see.

The day started out somewhat cooler than usual (no shorts today!) and rainy. Yes, thats right; rainy! 14th May and was raining! It's unheard of over here! Nevertheless, it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

Our first stop was the family house in the village where we were treated with Turkish coffee and biscuits (cookies).
Refreshment in the Owais house
After a short visit with the family we drove round the town for a few sights and then headed up to the top of the mountain to see the family's summer house. It's really a beautiful place to see! While we were there the hired hand dug up a Rosemary plant for me that's now living happily in a new pot so she can flavor my cooking a bit from time to time.

Gate to the summer house

Main house

Part of driveway


Rosemary now has a new home in one of my pots

One of the many breathtaking views from the house

Did you ever see yellow Queen Anne's Lace?

After visiting the house we drove to Mar Elias. It was here that Prophet Elias (Elijah) was born.

From this side of the site you can see Palestine on the distant hills

It is said that anything for which you pray, whilst lighting a candle at this altar will be granted

I reckon it can't hurt...right?

Our host and guide, Ramzi Owais

Just one of the many intact fragments of the mosaic floor of the church

Baptismal font

Interior view of water cistern. I estimated it to be around 10 meters deep

Water cistern. Water was transported here through a network of small canals

People, mostly Indians, tie ribbons on this tree as they recite their prayers

Tombs adjacent to the church

Getting down into the tombs was a tricky situation, unless you happen to be a goat...

Many archaeological artefacts on display around the area of the church

Ancient olive trees fill these mountains. Some of them are many hundreds of years old, dating back to the Roman occupation

More views of Ajlun from the mountaintop

Notice Ajlun Castle on top of the mountain just behind us

Sometimes Ol' Big Jim is just too shaky to operate a camera...

Driving through the forest.

Some of these are almond trees. We picked a few green ones and ate them. Very tasty!

Notice how neatly the sheep keep the trees trimmed at the bottom!

We made stop at an olive press. After the oil is extracted, the pulp is compacted and allowed to dry. Afterwards it is burnt to make charcoal for grills and arghileh

Prophet Khidr was a companion of Elijah. His tomb is very near Ajloun Castle

A beautiful end to a beautiful day