Friday, July 24, 2015

July

  • We've hopefully had the last of the small car issues that seem to be plaguing us in the last months.  Turns out that the seal of the new windshield wasn't as complete as it ought to have been so after a particularly strong rain storm, it dripped inside on my left foot as I was driving to work.  It got fixed, with apologies and no charge, shortly after.  The foam they sprayed in to check for leaks was neat. 
  • The above was preceded by software reprogramming that was required for the same vehicle (the new to us one).  It was for the rev matching, where at low speeds, the car shifts rougher than it should.  It made me feel like I was sitting with some learning to drive standard.  Apparently the original factory program wasn't as good as it should be and there was a technical bulletin put out with a better one.  Again, just one hour at the dealership and no charge.  Not sure why the previous owner hadn't dealt with it.  Now that it has been done, it drives like a completely different car -- More aggressive -- We like it!
  • I'm finally feeling settled inside after Palestine and Israel.  In fact, I've just returned from a new destination for me that some people would consider "dangerous" and it didn't even register for me on the worry meter.  It ended up being much more of a vacation than expected.  That feeling of knowing you've been stretched once again, is pretty cool.
  • I have to start taking care of myself better.  I'm feeling achy more often than I'd like. Forgetting to stretch, be strict with my eating etc.  makes a real difference to me and I know better.
  • Looking forward to having a low key rest of the summer!  We'll have a lot more cottage time this year along with a return trip to Bangkok and it will be great.
  • D is still putting in way too many hours but will be getting lieu time for it.  He desperately needs a vacation and is looking forward to some upcoming time off.
  • I got something unexpectedly fun in the mail the other week, from my bank.  It was a letter with a small envelope of confetti, in anticipation of the celebration that will come when the mortgage gets completed later this year.  They also wanted me to call them for some reason.  D thought it is to try and talk me into borrowing more money.  It ended up being about the mortgage discharge vs.  keeping the home equity LOC in place.  But that would mean no formal discharge of the mortgage.  Incidentally, a formal discharge will mean a $200/yr savings on our house insurance. 
  • Not sure whether I'll continue with archery.  I haven't been missing it even though when I'm there, it's good.  I've had a lot going on lately and it could be just that but time will tell.
  • Got a notice from the tax department asking for copies of my charitable receipts for the last tax year.  I exceeded what I usually donate by a significant amount so I'm not surprised that it triggered a check.  You can upload scans of receipts so that made for an easy procedure.  Am assuming I'll get a closure letter in time.
  • D's laptop suddenly died so it was a bit of a mad scramble to get a new one.  Neither of us would have guessed that his would die first, considering the way mine had been acting. 
  • I've recently interviewed and have been offered a spot on my next Habitat build team.  


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jerusalem


Emerging to a feeling of light and hope after the darkness of Yad Vashem

Church of the Holy Sepulchre 

Western Wall

 Pater Noster Church

 
Church of Mary Magdalene 

Basilica of Gethsemane



Tomb of Virgin Mary




Thursday, July 9, 2015

Palestine 2

  • This was a tough post to write.
  • If I had let my thoughts be known on where I had gone or how I feel about the treatment of Palestinians at Ben Gurion airport, I would have not doubt that I would have been immediately detained.
  • Volunteers and would be volunteers have to contend with ethical issues with respect to the decision whether to lie as Israel controls all borders into Palestine.  Even using the name Palestine isn't appreciated as it is not recognized and can be seen as sympathy towards the cause.  You say "Arab" instead.
  • I shouldn't have to feel like I need to be deceptive.  To pretend I was all giddy and there for something else.  Volunteers I spoke with were mailing home their journal books (you are encouraged to document everything you observe) and everything else that point to Palestine.
  • Others I met were going all the way down to Eilat to cross there into Jordan to leave as they were told the border was easier.  Another person told me she deliberately dressed like a hippy who was there to go on a Christian pilgrimage and planned to leave the same way she came, after her placement was done a month later, via TLV.
  • I had a surprise at the post office in Jerusalem, when my passport was asked for and subsequently scanned.  It was one of those scary, suddenly need to maintain your composure moments when I realized they had pretty much everything about me...I hoped for the best as the book and various other things I was mailing was 100% about supporting Palestine...
  • The security procedures at Ben Gurion, in my opinion are unnecessarily over the top.  Because I had status with Skyteam, I managed to get my boarding pass via a different lane before the pre-security screen that I didn't know I needed to go through.  To me, it looked like people were just lining up to check in.  
  • So when I showed up at what was the 3rd station without the sticker from the first station (There are no signs directing people anywhere -- It was ridiculous considering the aim is to control)  they sent me back to some indeterminate direction.  Finally I found someone to ask and it turned out it was the entrance to where I was supposed to go.  Again, no signage!
  • The initial interview took a while.  The officer stood very close to me.  A few inches and they pretty much just glares as you.  I didn't step back.  She didn't like that I wasn't looking at her all the time.  It took minutes just to analyze my passport photo.  Then began the repetitive questioning about all the Muslim country stamps I had in my passport -- Morocco, UAE, Jordan, Turkey...About why I hadn't checked any luggage.  About why I traveled so much.  About why I was traveling solo.  And most importantly, who did I know in those countries?
  • I was completely prepared to lie and say that I stayed solely in Jerusalem, should the topic come up but it didn't.  I had receipts to prove my hotel reservation, even though I didn't spend much time in the city at all.  
  • I only had photos of Jerusalem on my phone.  Spent 3 - 4 hours every night uploading all the ones from Palestine onto a separate place where D would download it for me.  It got really tedious because my days were so long as it was and internet wasn't so fast.  I deleted the program before I left.  
  • My email and Facebook accounts were stripped of any correspondence related to Palestine.  My phone of this blog, banking, library, work etc.  I was told that nothing is off limits should they decide to search.  There is no such thing as privacy rights in Israel when if are suspected of being a threat.  
  • And everything was checked in my carry on bags.  It took a while.  And everything was scrubbed down for explosives.  My understanding of that stuff is that the particles are so fine that they pervade everything.  Scrubbing down the insides of my bag, toiletries bag, everything article of clothing is ridiculous.  
  • When I started to get frustrated at all the time it was taking (I still had passport control), I made a (slightly sarcastic but somewhat enthusiastic) comment about how I had read that Israeli security is the best in the world and I felt "so much safer" because of it...She actually thanked me for understanding! 
  • Then I started talking about how much I love Halva and how much weight I think I gained from eating so much (remembered not to call it Halawa -- Arabic name...) as I had 2 tubs of it in my bag and we got along way better after that as it is a favourite of her's as well.  Then my toiletries bag exploded when the scrub stick broke a seam and then it took extra time to find tape for me to put everything together...
  • I had it easy.  Only 45 min!  There were some Muslim travelers and they were told to sit down, a number of feet away, while everything in their luggage was taken out and they were not allowed to stand by it, like I was.  It is racial profiling as its best.  And they make no qualms about it.  It's what you have to contend with.  You don't have to go there if you don't like it.  
  • Worth noting also that upon arrival, when getting off your plane, there are plain clothes officers observing who is coming up the escalators.  If they don't like what they see, they will pull you aside for questioning.  They stare at you like they want to kill you.  I was shocked and intimidated at the overt hostility I felt, even though I was warned about them ahead of time. 
  • Now that I've gone through it once, I'll be even more ready next time.  It was absolutely worth the effort to get in, to be prepared to compromise myself to get out, to combat the effort that is being used to keep people like me (who wish to learn more about what is going on versus the religious tourists) away from Palestine.  It represents a very small sliver of the type and level of scrutiny that exists everyday for people in the West Bank.  

 
Photo of a few volunteers who were stationed in Hebron,
going on their rounds each day, observing and noting.
And yes, it can be risky, especially in the rural areas.


***Before you think that I'm anti-Israel,
I want to say that there are important distinctions to be made between:
Israelis, Israel the country, Jewish people around the world, Settlers,
the policies of the Israeli government, their military mandates, the countries who provide financial support.***


My first and last day was spent in Jerusalem and found the sheer historical sites overwhelming in its significance.  Whether you are are religious or not, most of us have heard of and grew up with so much of what is found in that city.  It moved me much more than expected.  More on this later. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Palestine

However disjointed my thoughts remain, I need to start.

  • Imagine you are a 5 year old, having to go through 5 intimidating check points each way in order to get to school.  Volunteers who work in Hebron as one of their duties, get to walk these little people to and from school each day as well as do walks around the city observing how IDF officers are treating people.  
  • Families find that the ID checking procedures are suddenly quicker and easier when a foreigner is present.  Until then, I had doubts whether volunteer efforts, non violent approaches were really making a difference.  They are.
  • At the Qalandia crossing, foreigners get to stay on the bus.  I didn't want to.  I wanted to feel what standing in corrals, like cattle, for what could be hours, with no air circulation, waiting for the light to turn green before an undetermined number of people are allowed to go through the wall high turn stalls, some getting locked in midway, being watched by camera and officers from above, hidden behind bullet proof glass.  People have died waiting to get through such checkpoints trying to get to a hospital.  Some women have had to give birth there.
  • Do you want to learn patience?  Go to Palestine.  Palestinians are incredibly patient.  They say they are born waiting.  I have a lot to learn because even typing this is making my blood want to boil.
  • The ridiculous notion of one street being separated into sections where Palestinians could walk on, but not drive on, others where select families could drive on but could not walk on.  Houses that front streets where you were not allowed to leave by your front door, but rather via roof tops to another street in another block where there was street you were allowed to walk on.  Just to go buy bread.
  • Highways that divert around the main Israeli only roads so that a trip can take hours longer than it should be.  And that is without sudden pop up check points.
  • Farmers who are cut off from their land suddenly by walls, off limit roads, and are harassed, shot at for sport, while trying to get to their fields to harvest and take care of their crops.  Again, volunteers efforts here as accompaniment are making a difference.  
  • Farmers who are not allowed to use tractors or any type of farming tool and being forced to harvest wheat by hand!
  • Being a prisoner in your own house, afraid of being shot, harassed, having your windows broken by flying stones, having severe water shortages, being constantly watched, being awoken at 2 - 3 am by soldiers banging on your door to do random checks.  The threat of being arrested and detained for years for no reason at all.
 Word is getting out.  
A team from the Netherlands staging an event to raise money
and to show Palestinians that the outside world cares.
The lady in the front middle, is the Mayor of Bethlehem.
She spoke passionately about the quest of Palestinians for the Right to Free Movement.
Here's another great event.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June

  • I'm getting close to being ready to write about my time in Israel & Palestine.  It is important to Palestinians and for those of us who stand as witnesses, to do so.  
  • I've been uncharacteristically clammed up about it.  Any attempts to verbally describe what I saw to people still illicit strong anger. The concerns are so huge, I still don't know exactly where to start. 
  • Another valuable resource:  Palestine Speaks:  Narratives of Life Under Occupation by Cate Malek and Mateo Hoke.  The intro astounded me as it is Dead On in its description -- Have pictures illustrating the initial progression.  I had intended to read it before I left but didn't have enough time.  Glad it worked out that way because reading it after has impacted me far more.  


In regular news:

  • Those of you who currently own or may end up buying cars that use nitrogen gas in the tires, a word of advice:  There is a online directory of mechanic shops that supply it across Canada and the US.  Good to know if heading out on a road trip etc.  
  • Or when you suddenly notice lack of traction during a turn in the rain or a tire looking limp -- We acquired a nail in one of our tires.  And it was also great to find out that Costco tire centers offers nitrogen for free to its members.  Finally, it is safe to put regular air in nitrogen tires.
  • I have been addicted to Halawa/Halva since my return.  I lugged 2 containers home from a small shop in Nablus and it has officially become my version of cocaine...I even use a super sharp knife to shave off ultra thin slices...Warning:  Absolutely not low cal!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Occupation Separation Segregation



I found it impossible to remain indifferent here.  
And difficult to speak or write without feeling strong anger and outrage.  
So for now I will leave you with some photos, a tiny glimpse of what I saw.
Plus a couple of resources should you wish to delve into this topic and region.























































 
http://occupation101.com/

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/