Archive for January, 2006

Changing Minds

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and encouragement in my work here. You all had interesting questions, ideas, and fears. Just to clear a few things up, I’m here as an observer, one who is learning about the region more and more every day, but also one who admits to not knowing all the issues or the answers.
My concerns come mostly when I see people from home write that they are truly afraid. Conservative Muslim groups are indeed gaining power throughout this region, this is true, but please understand conservatism, the role it plays in people’s lives, and try not to place people in pre-conceived groups.
From what I know of Islam, it is a beautiful and peaceful religion. What is not so beautiful and peaceful is the economical situation here in the Middle East. Life is tough, unemployment is high, governments are corrupt, and to throw oil on the fire there is a form of modern colonialism throughout the region.
My desire is that people start to see hope in the region, both those in the West and those who live here. Change needs to start in our minds as much as theirs.

Hope in Sight

The people of Palestine have spoken, and Hamas seems to have been their choice for leadership. I spent election day in the town of Hebron in the West Bank. The town has been in the news recently because a group of Jewish settlers has decided to claim an empty Palestinian marketplace. The Israeli government is supposed to evict them by the end of the month.
The feeling one gets when reading the news and looking at the fragile political structure of Palestine is that it’s easy to see instability and conflict of opinions among Palestinians. But being among the people feels much different.
Hamas supporters would joke with their friends who supported Fateh and take the green hat they were wearing and run off with it or replace it with a black and white checkered Fateh hat. They would argue jokingly about who was better in the way two people in a less hostile part of the world would joke about two sports teams, but in the end they would agree on both loving the sport.
Palestinians see this election as a sign of hope, whether Hamas or Fateh wins. It’s as if a group of people, long stranded on a deserted island, has just seen a boat in the distance.

Ball in Their Court

Tomorrow the Palestinians take the next step towards a more politically backed people in the the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) election.
On Sunday through Monday the present security forces voted, and I had the opportunity to watch as many of them proudly “spoke their minds” in the way of votes. It surely was a beautiful thing. This is to be the second PLC election the Palestinians have had.
Whether the United States, Israel or the European Union approve of those who run in the elections or not, a true democracy, if this is what the free world proposes, is a people free to choose.
In this photograph members of the security forces gather before entering the voting booths at a college in Jerusalem. Painted on the wall to the right is “Fateh,” the ruling party in Palestine and also a party many Palestinians view as too close to both Israel and the US.
The fact that Hamas is doing well has little to do with the popularity of “terrorists” in this part of the world and more to do with what these people see in those they want representing them.
Washington Post just published a number of articles recently pointing out funding by the United States to boost the popularity of the current government so that Hamas doesn’t gain seats in the Parliament. Our government is spreading American democracy; money buys the government.

In Search of Beauty

After four hours of interrogation and being embarrassed from a strip search by the Israelis at the Jordanian border, I decided I could not continue to get so frustrated with the way the world sometimes works. Instead I decided in future that I would continue to search for what is good and beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful little girls in all the world who is standing on one of the most heinous and hideous blemishes on modern civilization, the Wall.


City life, wherever it may be, requires an occasional escape. Amman can be as taxing as any city on one’s sanity and the belief in the true goodness of life.
Jordan has many places where you can escape to what sometimes feels like another planet. The landscape can switch from concrete, tar and humans to endless rock, sand, and sky in a short bus ride.
Annah and I took a vacation in the Dana Nature Reserve south of Amman where we hiked through a wadi (similar to the Grand Canyon, but without the water and not so Grand) and stayed in an eco-lodge where electricity and hot water is produced with a giant group of solar panels on the roof, and the whole building is lit by candles.
In a place where the sun rarely hides, solar power seems to be the best bet for the future. It was strange to see a village like this, which was so advanced in its earth-friendliness, in the middle of a canyon in Jordan. I kept thinking, “Why don’t we have places like this in our national parks?” The question hit me even harder when I was taken behind the scenes to see the solar setup. All the brand new solar technology came from Outback Power Systems in Arlington, Washington. It all came from the US.