Sunday, February 27, 2011

Teaching the language of Occupation in the best school: Hebron

Hashuhada Street, H2 sterile zone.
Tomb of the Patriarchs, Hebron,

Ghost town

A private outing in Hebron, following the education minister's decision to encourage schoolchildren to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs

By Gideon Lev, Haaretz, 25/2/2011
The skies darkened, the wind howled and a hard rain began to fall. Three people walked along a deserted street: two heavily armed soldiers, and between them a young Palestinian, blindfolded, hands bound behind his back. Without a word, they hustled the youth into a military jeep and disappeared up the alley. What had the Palestinian done? How had he transgressed? We will never know. He was seized, and disappeared.
Not far from there, Palestinian workers unloaded food packages from a truck, a gift from the International Red Cross to the thousand or so needy families here. Soon the children of poverty will appear, load the rice-pasta-flour-sugar-oil onto their ramshackle carts and take it home. The Red Cross spokesman in Israel, Ran Goldstein, says that about 78 percent of the neighborhood's residents live below the poverty line. It's a disaster area.
 With walking stick and backpack, we drove to the Tomb of the Patriarchs on a rainy winter day for a private outing, following the education minister's decision to encourage Israeli school children to visit the holy site. Holy, for sure. How do we know? On the bulletin board at the entrance to the holy cave we read: "If your cellular phone's battery goes dead, there is a charitable box of chargers in the yeshiva in Yeshanei Hevron hall." Charitable charges, only in Israel, only in Hebron.
When were you last here? When were your children here? Thanks to Gideon Sa'ar, who just had to correct his leftist image in the Likud Central Committee, they will soon be visiting here. So here's a preview of their next school outing.
Drive through the Valley of Elah, or through the tunnels road to the "Gush [Bloc] intersection." Look right, look left at the sea of settlements all around, cruise along a road, parts of which were once lush Palestinian vineyards - that's something worth telling the pupils - and turn right off Route 60 into Kiryat Arba.
A checkpoint, entry to Jews only, and of course also to the Palestinian workers who are widening the entry road to the community, which was conceived by Yigal Allon, a man of the Labor Party, the left and the peace movement. The place has since been developed by all his successors from Labor and Likud. More than once I was asked here: "Are all the passengers in the car Jews?" That's a question your children would do well to hear, and to reflect on its implications. Be that as it may, we will cross the huge settlement of Kiryat Arba from east to west, pass another checkpoint and turn left down the road.
The picture changes in a twinkling. The well-kept (relatively ) and busy (relatively ) streets now give way to ghost streets. The lower down the slope we drive, the more deserted they are. Hundreds of locked, sealed stores, hundreds of abandoned apartments, blinds shut, windows barred, ancient stone homes that could be Palestinian heritage sites but are now desolate. Welcome to Hebron H2, under Israeli control, the way to the caves of the patriarchs and the matriarchs. The feeling of a vast cemetery strikes the visitor, a cemetery of property that was plundered and rights that were trampled. Welcome to the scene of the crime.
The school children should look out the window. Maybe one of them will pluck up the courage to ask the teacher: Where are the people? Where are the shop owners? Why did they run away? Who frightened them? Where are they now? But the pupils will probably be preoccupied with their own interests, and anyway, no teacher will tell them, for fear their tender souls will be corrupted.
You might want to know, though, that in 2007 the human rights organization B'Tselem counted 1,014 abandoned apartments and 1,829 locked stores in a quarter from which thousands of owners scattered every which way, terrorized by rioting settlers and the endless curfew days - 377 days of full curfew in the three years of the second intifada, 182 of them in succession. One of the pupils might want to know what curfew means. It means being imprisoned at home, day and night. And is it imposed on everyone in the neighborhood? No, dear pupil, only on the Palestinian residents.
Isn't that apartheid? Of course it's not apartheid. Nor is the monstrous phenomenon by which only Jewish cars are allowed into the neighborhood. No Palestinian vehicle has entered this area for years, not even to transport a sick old woman or load a broken refrigerator. Only by foot. By foot? Palestinians are not even allowed to walk on adjacent Shuhada Street, which the Americans spent a lot of money to refurbish. Only Jews, of course.
And how, one of the pupils might ask, how do the people who live on this street get home? They sneak in via the roofs from the back. But don't worry, most of them fled long ago.
 Another Border Police checkpoint and we have reached our destination. The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a spectacular Herodian structure with a ragged Israeli flag flapping in the breeze in front. We walk up stone stairs, are checked by metal detectors and enter the holy temple. Just before you enter, grab another look from the high platform at the desolate neighborhood that lies below. You're young, so you don't remember what a bustling place the city center used to be, how lively was the market that is no more.
Soldiers bundled up against the cold stand at every corner, settlers whiz by in their cars and a handful of Palestinians pass the checkpoints quickly, with looks whose meaning is unfathomable, on their way home or out of this hell. Praise be to God, today is not a Jewish holiday or day of assembly, so they are allowed to move about. Try visiting here on Purim or Pesach - curfew. When you grow up and become soldiers, maybe you will serve here. You shall not rest, guardians of Israel, in protecting these settlers.
A worker from the Tribe of Menashe, from the Burmese border area, collects cigarette butts at the entrance. Someone decided that he is a Jew, so he's here. A Gemara lesson is underway in the yeshiva at the entrance to the cave. About a dozen old men listen to a rabbi who is peeling an apple and giving them the Word. "What happens if the letter yod is too long and looks like a vav? That does not invalidate a Torah scroll."
This must be what the information pamphlet published by the Jewish community here, which is handed out at the entrance, means when it says, "Jewish spiritual life is flourishing here." A group of settler children sit on a long row of plastic chairs and recite in chirpy voices a passage from Tractate Megilla, while their rabbi is immersed in a phone conversation on his mobile. They have long sidelocks and big white skullcaps, some of which are inscribed with the "Nachman from Uman" incantation.
On one occasion, when I passed this spot with Yehuda Shaul, a religiously observant Jew from Breaking the Silence, a group which organizes true heritage tours here, the chorus of settler children shouted: "Yehuda Shaul the murderer, we won't let him win!"
Neglect, refuse and schnor: as a group of Polish pilgrims enters, the charity box that will save you from death is whipped out. One of the Poles gives a dollar.
 Two Border Policemen stand next to a radiator eating lunch from a tray. "Are they all Christians?" a policeman asks a guide leading a group of Italians. Lucky they didn't understand.
"To all our brethren of the House of Israel who lost a coat, a tallit or other objects in this structure of the Tomb of the Patriarchs: You are invited to leave a text message and detail the type of loss and identifying marks. If we find the lost item, we will get back to the number you left in your message. If not, please consult the book 'A Prayer to Moses,' p. 271. There you will find a tried and tested remedy for finding what you lost. Blessings." Another note on the bulletin board.
"Good morning, I am your guide today." A group of soldiers comes in, Samson's Foxes, in their purple Givati infantry brigade berets. They are now serving in the southern Hebron hills and have come here for a day of "educational additives" as guests of the settlers. Not only Gideon Sa'ar visits, but the IDF too, and their educational additive includes not only a visit to the cave but also to the settlers' homes, where they will undoubtedly be served a particularly sublime pedagogic poem. Why should they get an educational additive from the settlers and not from Breaking the Silence?
The metal detectors beep nonstop at the array of pins on the soldiers' lapels, one of which bears the image of a fox. They are elite soldiers, immaculately turned out; one of them says he is from Kibbutz Hahotrim. They sit in Jacob Hall and listen attentively to the settler-guide: "There are three places that the nations of the world cannot deny belong to the Jewish people: The Temple Mount, Joseph's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. They were all bought with money and therefore are ours throughout the generations." Satanically, all three are in the occupied territories, but why get bogged down in trivialities?
Exactly 17 years ago, in nearby Isaac Hall, the Goldstein massacre was perpetrated, but that of course is not included in the educational additive. Instead, the soldiers hear about how Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the army's chief chaplain at the time, ordered his driver to come here immediately after he liberated the Western Wall, and how the rabbi fired a number of shots into the air in the face of local residents who were waving white flags and sheets and were surrendering unconditionally. Any questions? No questions. The Samson's Foxes know everything.
To dispel any doubt, a few of them, all ostensibly secular, hurry to put on tefillin (phylacteries ). As they leave the cave, heading, in the wake of their guide, for the settlers' compound known as Avraham Avinu (the patriarch Abraham ), one of them asks, "You call this operational walking?" "Anyway, it's dangerous to wander in a skulk of foxes," his buddy chuckles as they disappear between the settlers' homes, where I did not dare to join them.
 In the meantime, the call of the muezzin is heard, one of the last expressions of the neighborhood's disappearing Palestinian presence. His booming voice, carried by loudspeakers, infiltrates the cave, drowning out for a moment, but just for a moment, the exhortations of the rabbi, the chants of the children and the voice of the guide of the Polish pilgrims. The last time I was here, last summer, I accompanied the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa, who said to me, in the face of the ghost city and its savage masters, "This is the other side of Israel and it is very sad that so few Israelis visit here. They don't know. It is so close to Jerusalem and they do not have the slightest idea of what is going on here. It is important to make them aware, it will help very much." His words echoed in my mind like a tolling bell as I watched the soldiers disappear into the Avraham Avinu compound, amid the graffiti of hatred for the Arabs, most of whom no longer live here.

(C) Photos Quique Kierszenbaum

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts about the future - Graffiti in the West Bank 01

A Banksy graffiti in Bethlehem, not a new one, but one of my favorites.
Always so relevant.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Talking about a revolution song

All around the nation
the word is liberation
the poor are fucking tired from this discrimination
by the people who are trying to bring us down
From Washington to Tel Aviv to Teheran
you better pick your shit up and start to run
because we are raising our head like an Akbar lion
Gaddafi, Abdullah,Ahmadinejad
we’re gonna kick your ass out in a storm of Jihad
salamat, bye,bye, you ain’t never gonna see them
they may take our lives
but they will never take our FREEDOM

by Shmemel

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Our lives became something we'd never dreamt': The former Israeli soldiers who have testified against army abuses.

'Our lives became something we'd never dreamt': The former Israeli soldiers who have testified against army abuses


Former Israeli soldiers who have testified against army abuses have for the first time given up their anonymity, to make their voices all the harder to ignore. Donald Macintyre gets an exclusive preview of a powerful new book
Sunday, 12 December 2010
For anyone who has covered Israel, the West Bank and Gaza over the past few years, reading Occupation of the Territories, the new book from the Israeli ex-soldiers organisation Breaking the Silence, can be an eerily evocative experience.
A conscript from the Givati Brigade, for example, describes how troops in the company operating next to his inside Gaza during 2008 had talked about an event earlier in the day. After knocking on the door of a Palestinian house and receiving no immediate answer, they had placed a "fox" – military slang for explosives used to break through doors and walls – outside the front door. At that very moment, the woman of the house had reached the door to open it. "Her limbs were smeared on the wall and it wasn't on purpose," the soldier recalls. "And then her kids came and saw her. I heard it during dinner after the operation, someone said it was funny, and they cracked up from the situation that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall..."
A second-hand story, of course; one without names, dates or supporting detail. Except that it stirred a memory I had of reporting the death of a Palestinian UN schoolteacher east of Khan Younis. Wafer Shaker al-Daghma was killed when the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) commandeered her house during an incursion in May 2008. Her husband had been out at the time. When we came to the house five days later, another incursion was under way and we could hear, uncomfortably close, the gunfire from Israeli armoured military vehicles while Majdi al-Daghma described his wife's death at the age of 34. When she realised troops were nearby, she'd ordered ' the children, Samira, 13, Roba, four, and Qusay, two, into the bedroom, put on a headscarf and prepared to open the door. "Samira heard a loud explosion and there was a lot of smoke," he explained. "She looked for her mother but couldn't see her."
It was surely the same incident. You have to assume that the laughter alluded to by the conscript was a nervous reaction, a manifestation of delayed shock from the soldiers. They had, after all, had the presence of mind to cover Mrs al-Daghma's mutilated body with a carpet, and to keep the children confined to the bedroom for the five hours they had remained in the house. Samira said she had asked one of them, "Where is my mother?" but had not understood his reply in Hebrew. She explained how, when the soldiers finally left after nightfall, "There were still tanks outside our house... I tried to call my father on my mother's Jawwal [mobile phone] but there was no line. I lifted the carpet and saw a bit of my mother's clothes. She was not moving. I did not see her head."
The point of this is not just that the soldier's story is shocking, but that it is so apparently corroborated. Especially given that the conscript's short account – unlike many others in the book, some every bit as disquieting – is based on hearsay, it is powerfully suggestive of the testimonies' authenticity as a portrait of a 43-year-old occupation. These testimonies, checked and cross-checked, of young Israeli men and women struggling to come to terms, sometimes years after the event, with their military service in the West Bank and Gaza, add up to an unprecedented inside account, as the book's introduction puts it, of "the principles and consequences of Israeli policy in the [Palestinian] territories".
Breaking the Silence is a unique organisation. No other country – including those with recent and problematic military histories, such as the US and Britain – has anything comparable. Since it began in 2004, it has collected 700 testimonies from conscripts and reservists, spanning the decade since the beginning of the second intifada. In July last year, it made its greatest impact by publishing accounts from around 30 combat soldiers involved in the onslaught on Hamas-controlled Gaza only six months earlier, challenging the military's assertion that it had done "the utmost to avoid harming uninvolved civilians".
Breaking the Silence has since taken two more decisive steps. The Israeli military has long complained about the anonymity of its witnesses. In July, the IDF even questioned whether all the testimonies were genuine. Anonymity was understandable; the soldiers risked alienation and heavy criticism from their own communities as well as from the state itself, not to mention the possibility of proceedings brought by the military. Now, for the first time, 27 of those who had testified have allowed the Jerusalem-based photographer Quique Kierszenbaum to take their portraits, and use their names, along with summaries of why and what they testified.
The second step change, having in the past let the testimonies speak for themselves, is that Breaking the Silence has been emboldened by the sheer number of them to offer a broader analysis of what it believes they expose: in part that, while Israeli forces have indeed had to deal with "concrete threats in the past decade, including terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens", their operations, especially in the West Bank, extend beyond the solely defensive and "systematically" lead to the "de facto annexation" of occupied territory "through the dispossession of Palestinian residents".
In arguing that Israel exercises a measure of control over Palestinians that extends beyond its own security needs, the book (published in Hebrew on 21 December, with an English version to follow in the new year), takes four technical terms in frequent use by the Israeli military and tries to show in its introductions to the testimonies what Breaking the Silence sees as their real, as opposed to ostensible, meaning.
The first of these terms is "Prevention" [sikkul in Hebrew] which, it argues, has become a "code word" that allows almost every form of military action, offensive as well as defensive, to be classified as "prevention of terrorist activity". It says the principle, first enunciated by the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon of "searing it into the consciousness" of Palestinians that violence does not pay, translates into "intimidation... and indiscriminate punishment of the Palestinian population". The examples given include: sending a military truck into the village of Tubas at 3am in 2003 "with stun grenades and just throwing them in the street, for no reason, waking people up [to say] 'We are here. The IDF is here.'"; shooting ' a visibly unarmed man walking on a roof in Nablus in 2002 ("The company commander declared him a lookout, meaning that he understood there was no threat from the guy, and he gave the order to kill him"); and halting stone-throwing in Tekoa by using a "moving human shield" – a Palestinian man tied to the front of a vehicle – before driving round the village.
The second term is "Separation" [hafradah], meaning the separation of Palestinians not only from Israelis but from other Palestinians (within the West Bank and between Gaza and the West Bank) and their own land by using checkpoints, separation barriers, Israeli-only roads used by West Bank settlers, and a strict permit regime enforcing "isolation" of many communities. While much of this "separation" – including loss of land – is permanent, in the past two years, post-intifada, some obstacles have eased. But Breaking the Silence insists the "paradigm" is unchanged. "It's obvious Israel relaxes its grip when things are easier," says the organisation's Mikhael Manekin. "But it always has the grip. It can relax or tighten it as it chooses."
There was the "separation" of Nablus in 2003 from the surrounding villages: "You have to understand the proportionality. A person between the ages of 16 and 35, who lives in Nablus has not left Nablus in the past four years, even to go to a village next to Nablus." Another example was the Qalqilya area in 2002: "Someone whose fig grove they uprooted came in tears, and he said to me: 'I worked for 30 years to buy the land, I worked this grove for 10 years, I waited 10 years for it to bear fruit, I enjoyed it for one year and they [the IDF] are uprooting it.'"
Next is "Fabric of life" [mirkam hayyim], the term used by the IDF to underline that it does its best to ensure as normal a life as possible for Palestinians – a proposition strongly contested in the book. It claims that Israel controls the passage of civilians and goods into Israel and within the West Bank, the opening of private businesses, transport of school-children, university students and medical cases. "[Property] can all be taken at the discretion of a regional commander or a soldier in the field... troops will burst into the house in the dead of night and arrest one of the inhabitants, only to release him later – all in order to practise arrest procedures."
Among the examples is the story of a Palestinian truck driver trying to bring milk containers into Hebron from Yatta during a curfew in 2002, who was detained, handcuffed and blindfolded on a hot summer morning. He had some 2,000 litres of milk – all of which spoiled as he sat all day, restrained. "When I look at it [now]," says a former soldier, "I feel embarrassed... Did it contribute to the security of the state? No."
Another example concerns illegal workers and their families trying to get into the Wadi Ara of northern Israel from the West Bank. One former soldier recalls "Pouring out the kids' bags and playing with their toys... They cried and were afraid." The adults cried, too? "Of course. One of the goals was always: I got him to cry in front of his kids, I got him to crap in his pants... from being beaten for the most part."
Finally, in examining the term "Law enforcement" [akhifat hak], the book highlights the dual legal regime in the West Bank, whereby Palestinians are subject to military rule and courts while Israeli settlers are answerable to civilian courts. At the same time, it argues, Israeli settlers are effectively allies of the military – and they have a common enemy.
The book's stark – and inevitably highly political – conclusion is contrary to the view that "Israel is withdrawing from the Palestinian Territories slowly and with the appropriate caution and security". The IDF soldiers quoted "describe an indefatigable attempt to tighten Israel's hold on the territories, as well as on the Palestinian population".
Not surprisingly perhaps, Manekin acknowledges that those who have – as he deliberately puts it – "come out of the closet", by allowing themselves to be named and photographed, are among the more activist of the 500 individuals who have testified to the organisation. It is no coincidence that this parallel project has happened at a time when Breaking the Silence has decided to promote its own analysis of the past decade of occupation. Manekin says it wasn't easy to be photographed. "We didn't do this to be heroes," he says. "Really, the political significance is the only reason for doing it."
Donald Macintyre is The Independent's Jerusalem correspondent. For more from Breaking the Silence:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Memories of Hawara Checkpoint in the West Bank

Twilight Zone / Good riddance

Bad memories of the Hawara checkpoint, abandoned this week by the IDF: winter and summer, in rain and burning sun, we would stop here and wait.

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 18/2/2011
A few sparrows perched on barbed wire, flew off and settled on another part of the fence - symbols of freedom, chirping and soaring happily in the air. The winter sun drenched the deserted checkpoint; just a few cars drove idly by. In winter 2005, exactly six years ago, a soldier stood here and told a Palestinian ambulance driver that "not even a bird can go through here."
The Hawara checkpoint was removed this week; soldiers left its fortified guard booths. The parking lot, which was always jammed with noisy yellow taxis awaiting pedestrians who managed to cross, was empty. So were the "carousels," where masses of people were packed together like animals; also empty were the isolation booths and the crossing spots for the handicapped. No longer did speakers blare orders ("get out of here" ) from Israeli soldiers, in Arabic. No longer do you see soldiers hurling rocks at taxis that dare approach the crossing point, nor can you see civilians with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded sitting on the muddy ground, waiting for hours, in wind, rain or blazing sun, as soldiers decide their fate. Nor can you spot wheelchairs stuck in garbage-strewn earth, or residents carrying refrigerators on their backs. There are no soldiers holding X-ray photos up to the sunlight to decide whether people really need to get to the hospital.
Hundreds used to attempt passing through this checkpoint each day, to get to work, studies or a medical procedure. Trying to get past it was a routine part of their lives. The peddlers market, where cheap coffee and sweets were sold, has disappeared. Gone too are the police, Border Police and Shin Bet security officials; also missing are the Israeli officials' cheerleaders, the settlers. It looks as though nothing ever happened here.

But this is a venue whose ground is soaked with the blood of the dead and wounded, whose walls once witnessed cries of injustice from the days of shame and years of humiliation. This was perhaps the cruelest crossing point in the territories, the main entryway to the most besieged city on the West Bank.
We entered one of the fortified inspection booths, and for a second, I imagined I was a soldier. Plants and bushes are beginning to climb the iron fences; in recent months, the atmosphere here had become calmer. When the checkpoint was in full swing, virtually no Nablus resident was allowed to go through in his car. The only way through was to walk, and to be humiliated. An Israeli flag still flaps in the air of the abandoned checkpoint, looking particularly alienated. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a soldier turned up in one of the hallways. In a patronizing voice reminiscent of the imperious style of days gone by, he barked: "Get out of here. What are you writing? That it's good we've left the checkpoint? Just one terror attack, and we'll be back here."

We were here during times of want and misery, times of terror attacks or routine, days of closures and curfews. Winter and summer, in rain and burning sun, we would stop here and wait. Hours of waiting, hours of expectation of what might happen under the corrugated roofs. Sometimes we managed to cross; sometimes we had to infiltrate Nablus via the mountains that encircle it.
This week, we stood at the site and remembered. We remembered that 10 years ago, in January 2001, IDF soldiers blocked the transport of 10-year-old Ala al-Salwid to the hospital in Nablus after her appendix ruptured. She died. In September 2008 an infant born at the checkpoint died when soldiers refused to allow its parents, Muayad and Nahil Abu Rideh to to go through and reach a hospital. Army sources later informed us that "the infant would have died in any case;" but due to the disclosure of this incident, the squadron commander was ousted.
Seven years earlier, in September 2001, another pregnant woman, Amana Safdi, 19, was delayed for no less than five hours at the checkpoint; her infant was stillborn. At the nearby Beit Furik checkpoint, which was also abandoned this week, several infants died at birth; we wrote about them in this column. In September 2003, Rula al-Shtiyeh collapsed next to the checkpoint's cement blocks. The baby she was carrying hit a boulder and was killed. Particularly gruesome is the story of two pregnant women who were shot and wounded on two consecutive days at Hawara during the gloomy month of March 2002, when the second intifada reached its peak.
A cancer patient, Taisir al-Qaisi, died at the Hawara checkpoint in the winter of 2007, after the intifada had abated throughout the territories, but not at Hawara. Mortally ill, Qaisi wanted to die at his home in a refugee camp outside Nablus. He was held up for 90 minutes at the checkpoint; he sat in the back seat of a cab, a vehicle defined by a soldier at the checkpoint as an "unauthorized taxi," until he died.
In July 2004, a Palestinian peace activist, Issa Souf, was held up at the checkpoint. Souf has been wheelchair-bound since IDF soldiers fired at him from close range in his home. He described how he was thrown from his wheelchair to the side of the checkpoint, where he waited for five yours in the sun. Souf published a letter to the two soldiers who shot him, saying "I pity you for having turned into murderers." A few months later, he wrote to those who has detained him up at Hawara: "I said to the soldier: my wheelchair is my authorization; I am paralyzed. But he threw me aside, forcing me to wait five hours in the sun."
It's quiet at the checkpoint. A police jeep has started a random inspection of vehicles that entered or left Nablus. A few soldiers can still be found at a watchtower; they hide behind bulletproof windows, and observe what's going on, until the checkpoint is totally abandoned.

In July 2008, I visited the checkpoint en route to the Balata refugee camp in Nablus with a delegation of human rights workers from South Africa, including a Supreme Court judge and several members of parliament. When we reached Hawara, the bus fell silent. The country's former deputy defense minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, was shocked. "What I'm seeing here is worse than what we experienced," muttered this apartheid opponent.

This week, we got into the car, quickly sped across the checkpoint and entered the city. Unlike some other West Bank cities, Nablus hasn't returned to itself; the scars of 10 years of battles and oppression are still visible there. We crossed the city quickly from south to north to west, and left via the Beit Iba checkpoint, which is also rife with bitter memories from the not-so-distant past. This week, a group of idle soldiers were stationed here.
Seven years ago, I wrote about a beleaguered Palestinian man at this spot: "He strode with difficulty, resting on the shoulders of his son, one step after another, until he was on the brink of collapse. He had just marched three or four kilometers on foot, on his own trek through the West Bank, via the torments of going from one checkpoint to the next. Slowly his eyes welled with tears. At the end, he burst out weeping: 'Perhaps you can help me, please.'" This week, at the same spot, there was a group of bored soldiers, and almond trees bloomed at the side of the road as though nothing had ever happened here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Another great performance of Na'am this time at Avram Cafe in Jerusalem, on a cold night, great music and atmosphere.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Hace un tiempo tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en Casavalle, junto a la ONG " el abrojo", asi conoci a los gurises del barrio y sus familias. Hoy leyendo La Diaria me vinieron los recuerdos, y decidi buscar las fotos. La descripción del periodista Rodrigo Ribeiro era casi identica a mis recuerdos, por lo que la traje al Blog.
"Casavalle no es el barrio que aparece en los informativos de la televisión. En sus angostas calles de tierra no se escuchan las tenebrosas melodías típicas de crónica roja ni hay sospechosos en cada esquina ni vecinas con lágrimas en los ojos. No. Cuando Casavalle amanece los niños van a la escuela y los adultos a trabajar, y cuando el sol se esconde, los gurises se reúnen en las plazas a jugar a la pelota y los mayores salen a la vereda a tomar el fresco.
Casavalle tampoco es un barrio que sea reconocido por sus índices de prosperidad económica, ni por los de empleo o educación. El 62% de los 24.950 hogares que conforman Cuenca de Casavalle -que incluye parte de los barrios Manga, Piedras Blancas, Las Acacias y Peñarol- está por debajo de la línea de pobreza, mientras que en Montevideo lo está 30% de la población. "

Articulo de Ribeiro en La Diaria

Sunday, February 13, 2011

El dia que los egipcios perdieron el miedo. Pensamientos sobre la revolución en Egipto.

Hacia ya un tiempo que los jóvenes habían escuchado sobre la libertad.
Lo habían leído y escuchado en la internet, en twitter y en facebook...
La tecnológica les traía algo a sus pantallas que en la vida diaria estaba prohibido pensar.
El miedo, se adueñaba de todo, la represión, la violencia y el castigo echaban sus sombras sobre los jóvenes egipcios, quienes no habían experimentado en carne propia la libertad.
Cada uno lo vivía en su pantalla, en sus redes sociales, casi en silencio.
Un día perdieron el miedo, y salieron a la calle a manifestar, y así se dieron cuenta que eran muchos, muchos mas de los que podían imaginar. Y no eran solo jóvenes, había también mayores, había hombres y había mujeres.
Y de pronto el temor desapareció. Quedo la tenacidad y las ganas de luchar por la libertad.
Y cuando aparecieron los tanques y los soldados, los camellos y los caballos, y la lluvia de piedras cubrió el cielo, el miedo ya no estaba ahí. Entonces se enfrentaron. Y mas mujeres, hombres, jóvenes, adultos y ninios salieron a las calles.
Algo nuevo había nacido, mientras el mundo miraba sorprendido.
Y esta vez no fueron encandilados por promesas, ni por cambios cosméticos.
Y así llenaron la plaza Liberación, 18 días y noches....
Hasta que los que privaban de las libertades y su dictador, se dieron cuenta que esta gente había perdido..... el miedo, entonces decidieron cambiar, y el dictador se fue.....
Ahora sin miedo tendrán que construir su futuro, un futuro que comienza con una primera sensación de libertad y de solidaridad. 
No siempre se encontraran todos en la plaza bajo los mismos lemas  y posiblemente deban enfrentarse unos y otros, pero ahora son duenios de su destino, y son ellos los responsables de marcar el camino hacia la libertad.
 (C) Quique Kierszenbaum

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sevastopol, Ukraine

I can think about some options like:
- Half naked women without head, arms and legs are forbidden
- Women wearing underwear are not allowed in
- Black underwear is not allowed
- women with nice bodies are not allowed in

Chersonesus, Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Esta es la historia no oficial
De un Marco Polo made in Uruguay
Que un día cansado de esperar
Se fue para no regresar...
Él cargaba una mochila con las ropas de un pasado
Que se había empeñado en olvidar
Aunque una camiseta
Con el color de este cielo
Se coló en algún lugar...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yemanja - the "Goddess of the Sea"

An unidentified Mae, performs a “santiguado”, the cleaning of the aura of a person from negative energies, during celebrations of Yemanja, , the "Goddess of the Sea", in Ramirez beach, Montevideo, Uruguay. According to Mae Susana about 500.000 people take part in the celebrations, part of them believers of the Umbanda religion, and part of them believers of other religions. Believers pay tribute February 2 to Yemanja, asking for work, love and money.