Thursday, August 28, 2008

Child Labor?

I'm excited that Yousuf is finally at the age where he can help me with some very laborious tasks- and does so quite skillfully at that. Now I'm not talking basic chores here-like say putting dishes away or folding clothes. See, I set the bar much higher. Think: stuffing eggplants for magdoos (pickled/brined eggplants) and coring squash for mahshi... :) Good old-fashioned child labor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Out fishing in Gaza!

After a long and hard trip to Gaza, international activists who sailed there from Cyprus plan to return, taking with them a few stranded Palestinian Fulbright scholars. In Gaza, they delivered hearing aids to a charity-Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children (one which I absolutely love for their handicrafts, made by deaf men and women which you can purchase online).

But before doing so, they accompanied Palestinian fisherman yesterday morning to help them break the maritime siege on their fishing boats. The Oslo Accords were supposed to "grant them" (a natural right, but they decided it should be bestowed nonetheless) the right to fish 20 nautical miles into see. In reality, this has translated to no more than 12 in the best of times, 4 at the height of the second Intifada based on my interviewees with fishermen; and 6 in the past few years.

Their fishing vessels are frequently shot at by the israeli navy, the fishermen themselves harassed, thrown into the water, beaten, detained, and in many cases killed, rendering their once bustling profession and mainstay of the Gazan economy one of its most dangerous jobs.

The hope was that accompanied by international activists and a swarm of media alongside them, the Israeli naval boats would lay off; and despite circling them from afar with their enormous guns pointing towards them, they did.

My father accompanied one of the fishing vessels to aid in translation and protection. Initially, the fisherman were afraid to leave for fear of being shot at by the Israelis, as they frequently are. Slowly , they decided to attempt to surpass the nautical mile limit imposed on them by the Israelis.

And they did.

The fishermen told him it was their most successful catch in four years!

My parents aboard a Palestinian fishing vessel

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Free Gaza boats sail into Gaza port!!!

Many of you have by now likely heard of the Free Gaza movement, whose two boats full of 46 civilian activists (including my uncle, a UK based engineer) from 14 countries are attempting to break the siege on Gaza by sailing to its shores from Cyprus.

Among the passengers are Jeff Halper, founder of Israel Committee Against House Demolition, an 81-year-old Catholic nun, the sister-in-law of Mideast envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and an 84 year old Holocaust survivor.

They are meant to arrive today, and everyone is waiting anxiously to see whether they will make it or not. Their journey has been fraught with technical difficulties, rough sea conditions, and electronic piracy-scrambled radio signals and jammed phones.

But despite it all, it appears they are making it into the Gaza harbor!! This according to Jeff Halper who is one of those on board the SS Free Gaza- they are 9 nautical miles from the Gaza Port. The SS LIBERTY is still 25 miles out.

Image by AP. Huwaida Arraf throws roses in memory of the A36 mericans killed aboard the USS Liberty.

According to journalist Yvonne Ridley, one of those on board the SS Libery: "We've entered Gazan waters. We're flying the Palestinian flag, and we now believe that we're going to reach the shores of Gaza very soon. I missed the start of the Berlin Wall coming down by just a few days, but now I know how people felt when they tore down those first few bricks. Today is a huge victory of people over power."

Meanwhile, in Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians are waiting on shore to celebrate the much anticipated and daring arrival.

Image by AP. Palestinians wait in fishing vessels in Gaza City for the arrival of the Free Gaza and the Liberty.

My mother and Aunt were on board Palestinian vessels on the Gaza side that went out to greet the international vessels; apparently they had to turn back to Gaza shore after hearing Israeli naval warning shots.

I have been unable to make contact with them since this morning, but we all anxiously to hear if this attempt to break the siege will succeed and what the next stage of this heroic saga will be.

You can see a recorded stream of passengers on the from 7pm GMT yesterday night by clicking here.

You can also catch live streaming when available at this link.

UPDATE: The boats both arrived safely earlier today! My parents called to update me earlier today. My mom said she greeted the activists with labaneh sandwiches, cucumbers, and warm mint tea, which they much appreciated. My father accidental fell into the harbor after trying to prevent my mother from doing the same aboard a life raft! They were met by hundreds of thousands of Gazans. They plan on holding a press conference tomorrow morning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

RIP Mahmud Darwish

Palestine lost one of its greatest sons yesterday, and it is not just Palestinians who mourn the loss of the iconic Mahmud Darwish. His words touched the consciousness of Palestinians and non-Palestinians alike the world over. He was imbued with the ability to stir our emotions, evoking tears and smiles, hope and fear, belonging and displacement, all at once-putting to words what every Palestinian felt, defining us at different moment as a nation. In so doing, he transcended the status of a mere "poet" or artist or even activist. Below is one of my favorite and oft quoted of his poems. Rest in Peace, poet of a nation and their struggle.

The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she'd be kind to us.

I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.

- Mahmoud Darwish

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Noor- a soap opera star?

I'm going to settle this once and for all people (and I mean you Will!). NO! I did not name Noor after the now insanely popular Turkish soap opera, whose male star (Turkish model Kivanc Tatlitu) has managed to secure a loyal (some would say obsessive) following of several million Arabs and is making women swoon from Gaza to Riyadh (my mother confirmed this when she said she called her friend around Maghrib time in Gaza City to chat and she quipped "I can't talk now- I'm watching Noor. Aren't you? Every TV set in Gaza is turned to it!").

In fact, I'd like to think THEY were inspired to name the show and the character Noor after my own little ray of light... except that the show originally aired in Turkey 3 years ago (where, incidentally, it was a flop).

I guess when you are living in Gaza these days, escapism isn't such a bad thing (though I wish the masses were half as enthusiastic about .... I dunno, any number of things that pop to mind).

Claims are numerous that many a marriage has ended in divorce in weeks past over the show.

Friday, August 01, 2008

breastmilk brownies, anyone?

ok time for another "gross!" breastfeeding post (for those of you who have been with me from the beginning of my journey-when Yousuf was a baby and I wrote this post on weaning him under occupation, you'll catch my drift).

The other day Yousuf wanted to bake some brownies with me for Yassine's co-workers at the hospital. Turns out we were out of butter "oh well, some other day" I said.

"Well how do you make butter?" the ever inquisitive Yousuf asked.

I gave him a brief, non-technical explanation.

"Tayib, can't you just take your milk and make butter with it?" he responded, in all seriousness.

After a few moments of hysterical laughing, I explain that though its theoretically possible, I doubt that the other doctors want to eat breastmilk brownies. :)

But curiosity got the best of me and I did some research. Not breastmilk butter-but turns out some people have made (a rather runny) yoghurt from their expressed breastmilk. The name for this au natural concoction: Boobie-yo.

Ok-how many people have I scared off now?