I am going to start sharing some pictures from our trip to Syria. On the first Sunday we were there, we went to an internet cafe’ in the Shiite neighborhood and when we left it around 1:30, these scenes from the street caught our eyes.

Children, children, everywhere … even in the streets!

Children talking with their friends after school probably wondering who that crazy foreigner is taking their photo

Kids, bikes, cars, trucks, even the occasional horse … all sharing the road

These little guys were nice enough to stop and pose for the camera

Andrew got caught by the guy we dubbed “the aggressive nut seller,” and he bought . . .

a kilo of pistachios and cashews for about $17!


Photos from February 1, 2009
Damascus, Syria

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Samer and his friend welcoming Susanne in Damascus with flowers!

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St. Paul Chapel

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St. Paul Chapel

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St. Paul Chapel

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St. Paul Chapel

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St. Paul Chapel

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Old Damascene house

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St. Ananias Chapel

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St. Ananias Chapel

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St. Ananias Chapel

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Syrian Catholic Church

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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John the baptist shrine inside the Umayyad mosque

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The ceiling in the Umayyad mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Umayyad Mosque

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Sayida Ruqaya Mosque

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Sayida Ruqaya Mosque

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Sayida Ruqaya Mosque

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Sayida Ruqaya Shrine

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Sayida Ruqaya Mosque

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Saladin Shrine

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Azem Palace

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Old Library in Damascus

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Market in old Damascus

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A shop in old Damascus

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Susie of Arabia

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Old wall of Damascus

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Shiek Muhi al-Din Mosque

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Shiek Muhi al-Din Mosque

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Shiek Muhi al-Din Mosque

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Abu al-Nur Mosque

A week ago today, we were at Krac des Chevaliers.  *sigh*  Our trip to Syria was great!  The people were so hospitable!  See more of those we met here. I really miss them a lot.  We left Damascus early Wednesday after 12 wonderful days.

Here we are with Samer. He is truly a fantastic young man!  I am very blessed to be his friend.  It was an honor to meet his family, friends and see his city and the surrounding areas.

More later.


A year ago the January excitement was snow, but not this year!



My house in January 2008 when we actually got snow!

Southern snow is so boring compared to, ohhhhhh, deciding your first overseas trip is flying over 6,000 miles to visit friends in the Middle East! Agreed?! Samer invited me and my husband to visit Damascus many months ago. We discussed it then, decided we might like to go during the winter so we went ahead and got our passports just in case. That was in May 2008 so this trip seemed so far away, but now it’s here and I can hardly believe it! Did I ever mention that I’d never traveled west of Tennessee? And that the only plane trips I’d been on were 1.5 hours each way. So this will be quite a change!

If all goes as planned, we will fly to Chicago in the morning and then it’s on to Istanbul for a 12 hour layover. Lord willing, we will arrive in Damascus at 1:25 on Friday morning. That’s different from what it was originally, but oh well. The earlier flight from Istanbul to Damascus was canceled.

We are looking forward to seeing Damascus and surrounding areas, but most importantly, I am eager to meet my Arab friends. I really meant it when I said they were God’s gifts to me! I look forward to meeting Samer, Sami, Jake, Amer, Basheer, Hassan, Mohammed and maybe even Souvenirs & Scars (see blogroll on left). Sadly, my cheeky friend Louai is in London (he’s a famous architect!) so I won’t get to see him, but he has been helpful in giving suggestions about places to visit.

I guess the moral of this story is….don’t invite me to come visit you unless you really mean it. I just might take you up on the offer! Insh’allah. 😉

gaza

After the war in Gaza ended last week, a very interesting report caught my attention. The leaders of France, Germany, England, Spain, Italy and the president of the European Union met with Israel’s prime minister only ONE day after the war in Gaza ended. They wined and dined with the butcher himself just few hours after he finished slaughtering young children. What is more interesting was the comment of Italy’s prime minister. He said,” I am very pleased to be here this evening to express my support, together with the other European leaders. As far as my country and I am concerned, we have always stood beside you. We feel for the hardships you must face.You certainly remember that Italy always stood beside you, even when Israel was the only democracy in the Middle East. This is because of our shared values, our aspiration for freedom, our cultures and our free market rules.

What shared values are these? Can you try to imagine how an ordinary Arab would think when he sees all of those European leaders honoring a murderer shortly after he finished killing more than 410 Arab children? For us it seems that the West will never treat us with the same dignity and respect as they treat their own citizens or the citizens of their apple of the eye, Israel!

Anyway, I also wanted to share another interesting article I read in the Guardian about some of the atrocities that happened in Gaza during the war. What took my attention the most were the following things:

“But most disturbing of all was the graffiti they daubed on the walls of the ground floor. Some was in Hebrew, but much was naively written in English: “Arabs need 2 die”, “Die you all”, “Make war not peace”, “1 is down, 999,999 to go”, and scrawled on an image of a gravestone the words: “Arabs 1948-2009”.

There were several sketches of the Star of David flag. “Gaza here we are,” it said in English next to one.”

Dear reader, I am sure you think,” So what? These are childish behaviors of young men and they do not express the general feelings of Israelis toward the Arabs!” I will now share what some of Israel’s most influential men have said about the Arabs and the Palestinians only as examples of how they real feel about us.

“One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” – Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, Feb. 27, 1994 in N.Y. Times, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 1.

“All of the Palestinians must be killed: men, women, infants and even their beasts” – Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director Tsomet Institute, Israeli ‘Haaretz

“We must use terror, assassination, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population” Israel Koenig, ‘The Koenig Memorandum

“Let’s hope for a new war with the Arab countries so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space” Moshe Dayan, ‘Israel’s Sacred Terrorism’

“It is important that the Palestinians are made to understand, in the deepest recesses of their consciousness, that they are a defeated people.” – Moshe Yaalon, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces in 2002

Finally, I’d like to quote some comments made by Israel’s former chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. He is the spiritual leader of Shas party which is the 3rd largest party in the Israeli parliament and is participating in the current Israeli government. According to Wikipedia he is “generally considered one of the most important halakhic authorities. In particular, he is widely considered as the ultimate halakhic authority for Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews.”

Now let us see what that great leader and religious scholar said:

 “It is forbidden to be merciful to Arabs. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable,” and, “The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.” 

“In the old city of Jerusalem they [Arabs] are swarming like ants. They should go to hell — and the Messiah will speed them on their way.”

Rabbi Yosef also generated controversy in 2000 when he declared that Prime Minister Ehud Barak has “no sense” because he is trying to make peace with the Palestinians, which he likened to another senseless act, attempting to make peace between a human and an animal such as a “snake”, which is motivated by instincts that cannot be overridden, asking, “Will we make peace with a snake?”

I know in the Western media they tell you that Palestinians are teaching hatred to their children. But really who are the ones who are teaching hatred to their children? Do they tell you about these kind of comments made by Israelis? Do you still think that what the Israeli soldiers did does not represent what they are taught in their society?


After too many days of seeing heartbreaking scenes, this verse jumped out at me as I read my Bible this morning.

Proverbs 14:31

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Let’s vow to honor our Maker this year…

I’m just partial to these smiles!

white

This is a rare image that shows an Israeli air strike in a UN school in Gaza with white phosphorus shells!

 

gazakid

Unfortunately a lot of people just don’t know how this war on Gaza is affecting the minds of people in my region! Check out this article:

“I have just returned from the Middle East and witnessed how Israel’s assault on Gaza is radicalizing mainstream Muslim opinion. Shown endlessly on Arab and Muslim television stations, the massive killing of civilians is fueling rage against Israel and its superpower patron, the United States, among mainstream and moderate voices who previously believed in co-existence with the Jewish state. Now, they are questioning their basic assumptions and raising doubts about Israel’s future integration into the region

Many professionals, both Christian and Muslim Arabs, previously critical of Hamas, are bitter about what they call Israel’s “barbaric conduct” against Palestinian noncombatants, particularly women and children. No one I have encountered believes Israel’s narrative that this is a war against Hamas, not the Palestinian people. A near consensus exists among Arabs and Muslims that Israel is battering the Palestinian population in an effort to force it to revolt against Hamas, just as it tried to force the Lebanese people to revolt against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. But Hezbollah weathered that Israeli storm, acquired a sturdier immune system and became the most powerful institution in Lebanon. In so doing it shattered Israeli deterrence, delivered a blow to US Mideast policy and expanded the influence of Iran, Hezbollah’s main supporter in the region.

In my recent travels I was struck by the widespread popular support for Hamas–from college students and street vendors to workers and intellectuals. Very few ventured criticism of Hamas, and many said they felt awed by the fierce resistance put forward by its fighters. Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has effectively silenced critics of Hamas and politically legitimized the militant resistance movement in the eyes of many previously skeptical Palestinians and Muslims. Regardless of how this war ends, Hamas will likely emerge as a more powerful political force than before and will likely top Fatah, the ruling apparatus of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

“No one dares any longer to question Hamas’s right to represent the Palestinian people,” said a 30-year-old leftist Palestinian, a graduate of the American University in Beirut. Why so, I asked. “The Islamist resistance has earned a place at the table with blood,” he told me.

What Israeli officials and their American allies do not appreciate is that Hamas is not merely an armed militia but a social movement with a large popular base that is deeply entrenched in society. It cannot be wiped out without massacring half a million Palestinians. If Israel succeeds in killing Hamas’s senior leaders, a new generation, more radical than the present, will swiftly replace them. Hamas is a fact of life. It is not going away, and it will not raise the white flag regardless of how many casualties it suffers.

Suffice it to say that the so-called moderate Arab states are on the defensive, and that the resistance front led by Iran and Syria is the main beneficiary. Once again, Israel and the Bush administration have handed the Iranian leadership a sweet victory.”

Recently I heard a very interesting interview with a famous Arab journalist. That journalist is known to be a supporter for the Arab peace initiative toward Israel. He said,”The Israeli war on Gaza has killed my old personality. It has burned any kind of seed of acceptance I had in my heart for the state of Israel. When I heard the Iranian president’s comments about Israel, I thought his comments were foolish but now I want to apologize to him. I came to realize that we all turned out to be fools and he is the only wise one among us!” What do you think about that?

update

The war started 20 days ago and so far more than 1066 Palestinians have been killed including 355 children! 😦 Today the Israelis have been indescriminatly bombarding the Gaza City. A UN compound and a hospital were hit by the bombardment.

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Aisha al-Najjar,3,was killed by the Israelis yesterday! She died minutes after this picture was taken!

Check out this new poll that was taken in the US:

WASHINGTON — Forty-four percent of Americans support Israel’s use of force in the Gaza Strip, while only 18 percent considered Hamas’ use of force appropriate, according to a new McClatchy/Ipsos poll. Fifty-seven percent think that Hamas is using excessive force, while only 36 percent said Israel is.

When it comes to who’s to blame for the latest Middle East crisis, Americans blame Hamas hands down.

44% of Americans think that the killing of all of those people is appropriate! The media they are listening to is to blame for that. The media and the politicians in the US are major participants with Israel on its crime against our people in Gaza.

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I wish those Americans read the following letter posted by the Guardian:

We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin. When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. When Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, talked of putting Gazans “on a diet” and the deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, talked about the Palestinians experiencing “a bigger shoah” (holocaust), this reminds us of Governor General Hans Frank in Nazi-occupied Poland, who spoke of “death by hunger”.

The real reason for the attack on Gaza is that Israel is only willing to deal with Palestinian quislings. The main crime of Hamas is not terrorism but its refusal to accept becoming a pawn in the hands of the Israeli occupation regime in Palestine.

The decision last month by the EU council to upgrade relations with Israel, without any specific conditions on human rights, has encouraged further Israeli aggression. The time for appeasing Israel is long past. As a first step, Britain must withdraw the British ambassador to Israel and, as with apartheid South Africa, embark on a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Ben Birnberg, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Deborah Fink, Bella Freud, Tony Greenstein, Abe Hayeem, Prof Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Dr Les Levidow, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof Moshe Machover, Miriam Margolyes, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Seymour Alexander, Ben Birnberg, Martin Birnstingl, Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Ruth Clark, Judith Cravitz, Mike Cushman, Angela Dale, Merav Devere, Greg Dropkin, Angela Eden, Sarah Ferner, Alf Filer, Mark Findlay, Sylvia Finzi, Bella Freud, Tessa van Gelderen, Claire Glasman, Ruth Hall, Adrian Hart, Alain Hertzmann, Abe Hayeem, Rosamene Hayeem, Anna Hellmann, Selma James, Riva Joffe, Yael Kahn, Michael Kalmanovitz, Ros Kane, Prof. Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Mark Krantz, Bernice Laschinger, Pam Laurance, Dr Les Levidow, Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof. Moshe Machover, Beryl Maizels, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Marks, Martine Miel, Diana Neslen, O Neumann, Susan Pashkoff, Hon. Juliet Peston, Renate Prince, Roland Rance, Sheila Robin, Ossi Ron, Manfred Ropschitz, John Rose, Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, Leon Rosselson, Michael Sackin, Ian Saville, Amanda Sebestyen, Sam Semoff, Prof. Ludi Simpson, Viv Stein, Inbar Tamari, Ruth Tenne, Norman Traub, Eve Turner, Tirza Waisel, Karl Walinets, Renee Walinets, Stanley Walinets, Philip Ward, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Ruth Williams, Jay Woolrich, Ben Young, Myk Zeitlin, Androulla Zucker, John Zucker

gazankid

Please read Parsin’s post about the Israeli/Gaza conflict.  He really puts things into perspective in an easy-to-understand way.  Check out where he puts the deaths and injuries into American proportions!  8-(

And — *~*~whoo hoo!~*~* — finally we can celebrate a major American newspaper having the fortitude to publish an article calling it like it is in Gaza!  From the opinion page … thank you, George E. Bisharat and The Wall Street Journal!  It’s about time!!

Maybe we should all write WSJ with our thanks!

Israel Is Committing War Crimes

Hamas’s violations are no justification for Israel’s actions.