31 May 2023


House of Jewish settlers in the Old City, Jerusalem

The Palestinians have a word, sumud that encapsulates their practical philosophy with regard to their dealing with adversity, particularly the adversity of the Occupation. It roughly means resilience. It can take the form of various forms of resistance: violent or non-violent. But it comes from a mindset or historical consciousness of clinging to the land and outwaiting every new conqueror - be it the Jews, or the British, or the Ottomans or the Crusadors, or whoever boisterously asserts their claim to be the new power in the land. Sumud is a powerful force in the face of opposition: a "we will prevail, just like we have always done" statement. Invaders will come and go: the Jews will eventually go back to their countries, with their tail between their legs, just like the Crusaders did before them.

The Jews too have a form of sumud, which is integral to Zionism. According to their narrative, they do not come to Israel as did the early colonials (or as does every new hopeful immigrant) to the Americas. They return to Israel. They come back home. In their conception, they are not colonizers. Wherever else they have attempted to live in the world, they have been reviled, despised, oppressed, enslaved, kicked-out or gassed. Now they are coming home to their own country. Of course, there are other people living here, just as when they previously returned from Egypt in the Biblical period. It is they who are the true encroachers, who don't belong here. The Arabs have 40 countries where they can live just as well. Let them go there instead.

This is the long-term goal that has guided the Zionist enterprise since Jews began to arrive in the 19th century. You obtain a little land, then another bit, and gradually you build a country. It just requires long-term, patient determination. That's the policy now in the West Bank. You use a combination of tricks; confiscate land for military purposes, then re-zone it for settlement. Claim prior ownership by Jews. Take advantage of inadequate legal claims, such as that no-one registered the land, but just happened to live there; claim that an existing settlement requires additional land for "natural expansion"; take advantage of loopholes in Mandatory or Ottoman law, or the loose provisions of the Oslo agreements. If you are a settler, make it hard for Palestinian farmers to harvest their olives - or simply steal the crops, or uproot, burn or poison them. Make it hard for their children to go to school, use every creative tactic you can think of. Eventually "we will prevail" - we will get them out from what was ours to begin with.

So which sumud, and whose resilience will prevail here? What happens when an irresistable force meets an unmovable object?

Historically, what happened to a large degree was that the people living on and working the land maintained their position by gradual assimilation. They could change their customs, religions and languages to match those of the conqueror. The Palestinians of today, are to some extent, the Jews of yesterday. Under the Byzantines they became Christian, under the Arabs and Turks they became Muslim. And who is to say the Jews of yore were not for the most part Jebusites or Canaanites? Even the Biblical narrative shows intermarriage and assimilation. And, at the same time, the Jews who "came back" to establish modern-day Israel look suspiciously like the peoples in the lands from which they came: like Russians, Germans, Moroccans, Iraqis, Indians, Africans or Chinese.

People are first people and then something else; human beings with various accretions of religious, social, linguistic or tribal identity. Why is it so hard to see that we are all essentially the same?

What human beings have in common is that they do best under conditions of peace. Palestinian villagers just want to be left alone to live their lives. Jewish immigrants want a place to settle, educate their children, and make a living.

Peace is never a stable quality or level to be attained and then done with; it's fragile and always something you need to work at. But the best way to establish peace is to allow the historical pattern of gradual assimilation to assert itself once again. Not to fight, but to integrate. Rather than trying to "liberate" the land from those who were there first, allow them the opportunity to become members or citizens in the new structure. Eventually you won't need to get rid of them because they will become just like you. And you will also assimilate some of their qualities too; that cannot be avoided. In fact, that's already happening too. Resistance to cultural assimilation is useless. Geography and climate are determining factors in themselves.

This is an unpopular story that hardly anybody; whether Jew or Palestinian, wants to hear, but given a hundred years, or a thousand, it's the one that is likely to win, even if never acknowledged. And then, this being the Levant, before we know it, the next conquering hero will arrive to supplant the previous one, and the cycle will begin anew.

Tags: palestine
29 May 2023

Jerusalem - Ramparts Walk

Jerusalem - Old City

While out on my morning walk, I had a spontaneous decision to take the bus to Jerusalem. So I walked down and got coffee at the Latroun petrol station. I then took the new minibus service bus 430 from the junction to its end stop at the National Insurance Agency.

Nachlaot neighbourhood Jerusalem - Outside Post Office

I walked from West Jerusalem through the Nachlaot area and down Jaffa Road to Jaffa Gate, the entrance to the old city. At the gate I noticed a sign "Ramparts Walk", so I paid 12 sheqels for a ticket and walked all the way around the walls to Lions' Gate, where the walkway ends.

Jerusalem - Old City

So I descended and took the via Dolorosa back towards Jaffa Gate; I more or less know how to negotiate the maze of streets by now, so that wasn't too hard. On the way I sat down for a pizza; quite a good one, in a tiny restaurant that reminded me a little of the Blue Lassi place in Varanasi.

Pizza restaurant

Once back on Jaffa Road I took the tram, or light rail back to the bus station, returned to Latroun and walked back up the hill towards home.

Jerusalem light-rail

I was not overly tired, but had a shower and a good rest. Thanks to D for hanging my laundry - I had dropped it into the machine before deciding on the day's adventure.

All along the way I was taking pictures - a couple have been included. The rest are here.

Links of the Day

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban

Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank said Monday they erected a religious school in a dismantled outpost after Israel’s government lifted a ban on settlements in several evacuated areas in the northern part of the territory.

Government members praised the new construction. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a key government member and a settler himself, said it was “an exciting historic moment.”


The fediverse in Hebrew: a good explanation, with important links and servers.

Tags: jerusalem
28 May 2023

Afternoon in Tel Aviv

beach scene

It's raining hard, though no water is coming out of the taps due to some problem with the water supply. Rain at the end of May is unusual it unusual in itself in these parts, except at the end of a khamsin, the weather phenomenon we had yesterday, with grey skies and 33° C heat.

The warm weather didn't stop me from joining D on her trip to Tel Aviv - she had to be there for an afternoon meeting in Tel Aviv but I just hung out at the beach, taking some photos (see more of them here), then settling down to sip beer, eat pita and hummus and read my e-book.

While doing so I had a curious encounter with a writer, who was walking along the sea front hawking his books. I don't think I've ever met an author selling his wares in the street, but I guess these are hard times. He had had one of them translated into English, so I purchased a copy.

cover for

In the tradition of Richard Bach and Paulo Coelho, The Book of Arkovia offers a timeless message of hope and inspiration. A modern philosophical classic, the Arkovian journey and its unique characters teach us the importance of self-image, unity, and the pursuit of true freedom in the face of oppression."

Krishna devotees dancing

The ISKCON (Hare Krishna folks) are still around in Tel Aviv. Back in the 1970s they used be at 35 Hayarkon St, while our yoga centre was at number 45. Occasionally we would join them for an Indian meal.

The dancers put up a brave front, but the musical and vocal accompaniment was a bit raucous today; maybe they had been going at it for several hours already. None of those sweet gentle bhajans produced and popularized by George Harrison back in the day.

Woman on electric scooter passing electric scooter cart

Scooters, auto-rikshaws, cycles, bikes, skate-boards - you never know what will come flying at you.

Cat burglers in plain sight.

Epicyon's RTL problem

I'm not a big fan of browsing from the terminal, but MLTerm solves Epicyon's RTL problem by scooting RTL text to the right margin. Interesting. I wonder if there's a GUI web browser that does the same? Featherpad and most text editors get RTL text right (excuse the pun).

Links of the day

India: Official suspended after draining reservoir to retrieve phone

More than 1,500 arrested at Extinction Rebellion protest in The Hague

‘They say I should clean floors’: Barcelona’s working-class, leftwing mayor Ada Colau fights for third term

"The Gemini protocol seen by this HTTP client person"

As I believe you might have picked up by now, I am not a big fan of this protocol but I still believe it can work and serve its community.

Interesting. I have yet to read something good about Gemini from "outsiders". I still think the best approach is to use the infrastructure of the existing web but to implement it with minimum complexity. That's what I'm trying to do in my blog and website, and am pleased to receive suggestions to make things simpler still (without creating additional work). By "simple" I mean avoiding solutions that introduce complexity while trying to circumvent it. But I guess it's always a balance between what we hope to attain, and what we want to avoid.

Never-ending Naqba

Under settler terror, Palestinians tear down and flee their village "Twenty-seven Palestinian families made the devastating decision to leave their homes in 'Ein Samia, hounded out by Israeli settlers and army pressure."

26 May 2023

Lazy day at home


Went for an early morning walk with my new barefoot-like sandals: crossing through the pinewoods, descending the path that leads down to the vineyards in the valley, then back up through the woods towards home. Surprised that despite the stony paths around here, there was no discomfort in these sandals, except once when I was looking at my phone and banged my toes into a rock lying on the path. That's the thing about walking without adequate foot protection: you have to be mindful.

While walking I listened to another chapter of The Dawn of Everything, then some beautiful hang-drum and flute music by the Nadishana Trio, and similar tracks on Sound Cloud.

After breakfast, I watched a Frederick Wiseman documentary, High School.

Nights of Beirut - dessert

H, a friend of D came to visit, bringing with her a dessert she had made for the holiday known as Layali Beirut ("Nights of Beirut"), which I enjoyed with a cup of English breakfast tea. It's a kind of firm pudding, made from semolina, cream, orange blossom syrup, sprinkled with pistachio nuts.

In the evening I took some photos of the sunset, from the village entrance (above - more at my photoblog).

Links of the day

‘Farming good, factory bad’, we think. When it comes to the global food crisis, it isn’t so simple - George Monbiot

Real solutions to our global food crises are neither beautiful nor comforting. They inevitably involve factories, and we all hate factories, don’t we? In reality, almost everything we eat has passed through at least one factory (probably several) on its way to our plates. We are in deep denial about this, which is why, in the US, where 95% of the population eats meat, a survey found that 47% wanted to ban slaughterhouses.

The answer is not more fields, which means destroying even more wild ecosystems. It is partly better, more compact, cruelty-free and pollution-free factories. Among the best options, horror of horrors, is a shift from farming multicellular organisms (plants and animals) to farming unicellular creatures (microbes), which allows us to do far more with far less.

I have put Monbiot's book Regenesis on my reading list.

Tags: walk music film
25 May 2023

Shavuot holiday

holiday meal plate

Shavuot holiday

It's the Shavuot Jewish holiday today, so an excuse for a family meal.

I don't know much about this holiday, other than that it's somehow connected with Pentecost, which I think is known as Whitsuntide ("white-Sunday-time") in the UK; except that it's not a Sunday. It seems to be one of those seasonal holidays, based on the agricultural calendar.

Although lots of milk products are consumed on this holiday, our meal was completely vegan and planet-friendly.

xero sandals

New sandals

Because I'm young and foolish, I purchased a pair of Xero sandals (thin-soled high-priced hipster huaraches) with the thought that when I do another long Camino like hike, I want to have those in the side pockets of my backpack rather than the usual flip-flops. More useful at the end of the day or, at the beginning of the day, I could actually hike in them, if the spirit moves me, or my socks didn't dry. They look flimsy, but come with a 5,000 mile guarantee, so we'll see.

Links of the Day

Lina Qasem-Hassan in video

What’s the Story? Dr. Lina Qasem-Hassan on Israeli medical apartheid (link is through Invidious) This 7 minute video is testimony by a person at the head of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an important HR organization operating in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. I think it could be more informative: obviously you can't expect too much of such a short video, but what's there overly relies on anecdotal evidence. If you want to challenge a truism, such as that "the Israeli medical system is an island of equality/peace in a situation of conflict", you need to present hard facts, and maybe even those facts that support the accepted narrative if you wish to discount it.

My own experience of Israeli hospitals is seeing Palestinian and Jewish hospitals working together, and of mixed wards or rooms where there will be religious and secular Jews together with Palestinian patients. Does this apparent integration obscure other factors? Do Palestinian doctors enjoy equivalent professional advancement as their Jewish colleagues? Do Palestinian patients feel satisfied with their treatment at the same levels of Jewish patients?

The film points out that you can't have health equality where there is wealth disparity and infrastructure inequality. But this affects the society as a whole. In a society where every fourth or fifth person is below the poverty line, there are underprivileged Israeli Jews who also suffer from these disparities: equally or differently? That would be important to know.

Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza can sometimes access treatment in Israeli hospitals: it's one of the fields in which PHR is active. But there have been stories in the news media about the ways in which Israel uses this apparently "good" policy for propaganda purposes and for gaining leaverage over Palestinians under occupation in various ways, such as rewarding or encouraging informants. In conclusion, this short video, though interesting, offers only a glimpse at a complex reality, and we cannot hope to learn from it "what the story" is, and gives a taste for more.

The Tantura families’ committee hopes the investigation will lead to more inquiries into the events of 1948, which Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe.

UK study of 1948 Israeli massacre of Palestinian village reveals mass grave sites Researchers analysed cartographic data and aerial photos to identify three possible locations in former fishing village Tantura. I have visited this holiday resort - at the time, I was not aware that it was the site of Tantura. Until the past is acknowledged and understood, we cannot hope for a better world. This is the same everywhere. See Wikipedia article on Tantura.

Tags: links gear holidays nakba
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