Archive for January, 2006

Patient Cancer

“Hitler hak.” He flicks his lighter and illuminates the dashboard of his taxi and the flashing insanity of humanity.
“Hak” in Jordanian Arabic means “this.” The Palestinian taxi driver was pointing my attention to the flame of his lighter and giving me a visual clue to how Hitler burned the Jews during the Holocaust, just in case I didn’t understand his appreciation for the Nazi leader’s actions when he voiced them in Arabic. It all became more clear.
The Holocaust has always fascinated me. The idea of modern man systematically eradicating others somehow seems as distant in my mind as the notion of an endless sky.
But as far as I can see, the sky is endless, and man continuously breeds an unhealthy hatred.
The reality of it all hit me in the small West Bank village of Azzun watching as bulldozers, backed by Israeli settlers and hired guns, took over Palestinian land systematically like a determined and patient cancer.
Palestinian villagers tended to their gardens, served tea, and sat down on seats made of brick. They talked of the moving earth and trees in front of them in past tense. It was as if life had always had this element of disease and the tiresome battle against it.
After crossing the Hussein Bridge over the Jordan River into Jordan, I flagged down a crowded bus on its way to the capital, and my home away from home. I was given a seat on the floor next to a father and his kindergarten-aged son. The son asked his father if I was a Jew, and after checking it over with me he assured him I was no such thing and that I was just a harmless Canadian. The father continued to talk to the child about Jews and how I clearly wasn’t one of them. I was, and still am, an American, which, in a bus full of Palestinians, would have been just as incriminating as admitting to being Jewish.

Questioning Weakness

“Religion is a weakness in mankind,” was one of the first opinions I relayed to my wife on our premier date. “Isn’t it alright to be weak? Aren’t we all weak at times?” she replied with all the innocence of humanity backing the tone in her voice.
This is one of the reasons I fell in love with her. She admitted the weakness in all of us and made me question my sense of strength and control at the same moment.
My visit to Israel, like most people, was one of religious contemplation and exploration. What struck me was the level of obedience the Jewish people and the Arabs have towards their religion. The question that kept going through my head was, “How can all these intelligent people be so religious? How can they follow something so unknowable?”
On a smoky four-hour bus ride home from Aqaba last night I talked with a Jordanian, Mohammed, who had studied German in Germany and who happens to speak English as well as most folks in America. “In Germany you ask people if they believe in a God and it’s completely normal if they say no. Here if you ask someone if they believe in the God, and they say no, you think to yourself, ‘How can someone with a rational mind not believe in a God?’ It just makes no sense to me,” he said.
The Wailing Wall in the old city of Jerusalem brings out some of the most dedicated. If I asked this child leaning against the wall if he believed in the God, I wonder if he too would look at me with the same look as Mohammed and say, “Doesn’t everyone?”