The Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival

I mentioned that I was working for the festival, but I didn’t talk about what that was like.  It’s been oddly familiar in the “chaotic NGO atmosphere” sense, but oddly unfamiliar in the “getting death threats from a radical newspaper” sense.

Actually that’s not true, the RCF has been threatened plenty of times, but usually those threats are vague intellectual blatherings or clearly idiotic rants. This time I couldn’t really tell, because it was in Turkish and I certainly wasn’t going to go out and BUY a copy anyway.  I was busily doing this or that in the office last week when I overheard people talking about threats being made against the organization because of the film festival.   It seems one of the radical Islamist newspapers in town has taken offense at the pornstars-turned-serial killers content of one of the films (really). Even some of the festival organizers have admitted the film in question is a bit extreme; by their descriptions I would assume even our radical American fundamentalists would take offense.  But suddenly one can feel very exposed and vulnerable when the threats are coming from the much demonized, but often disembodied and distant seeming, “Islamists” who are openly doing their thing across town.  As a bleeding heart, prone to questioning venom spitters from WITHIN my own country first and challenging their constructions of who my enemies are, this gives me pause.  Apparently both film festivals and newspapers enjoy similar free speech protections here as they do in the US. Too bad the same can’t be said for “the only democracy in the Middle East”(my apologies if you’re not already familiar with this case)  I didn’t really want to see the movie anyway though, which is also my right in this Islamic republic.

Interview: Najwa Najjar

I’ve been working the last few weeks in Ankara for the  13th annual Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival. Flying Broom is a small women’s rights NGO that hosts a flagship festival each year juried by European film honchos.  Because of my interest in the subject, they asked me to work on gathering content for the two Palestinian films being shown this year, “Amreeka” by Cherien Dabis and “Pomegranates and Myrrh” by Najwa Najjar. “Pomegranates and Myrrh” follows the story of newlywed Kamar as her husband Zaid is taken and held in administrative detention.  While her new family’s olive orchards are occupied by Israeli settlers and threatened with unjust confiscation, Kamar learns about the land and returns to her own passion of dance to reclaim her life.  Her interest in a diaspora dance director, Kais, and her visits to Zaid in ‘prison’ underscore her personal struggle with the complexity of the occupation.  I interview the filmmaker by Skype from Ramallah yesterday.

What inspired you to make Pomegranates and Myrrh?

It’s been an idea in the making for a long time. During the second uprising in Palestine, it was a really really difficult time for us. It was very dark and it was my first real experience of being in prison. We couldn’t move, we were locked in the the house. From that place, where do you find the will and the desire to continue life, where do you get that spirit? Where do you get hope? The violence was everywhere, there was so much violence. It was a pretty black time. People were being killed all the time. Not being able to move, being locked in. And then you slowly see how, despite the curfew, despite everything, people go out. You go out even if it means staying at a checkpoint for 8 hours. You are careful of course, but I guess it’s just of way of resistance. That’s maybe where the hope comes from, that you continue your life. I would go to this dance studio, where this troupe that I love, Al Founon, practiced. They’re the dance group in Palestine that crosses the traditional with the contemporary. I’d see that they would cross the road where there was shooting from the settlements and they’d go into the studio, close the shutters, put on the music and life would start again. That was very inspirational. In that period, seeing people’s resilience and desire to continue life fed my own desire. If you give in it’s like what’s happening to you has won, but if you continue loving and dancing and singing and being happy, then you’re alive and that’s crucial.

Do you hope to inspire other Palestinian filmmakers, especially artists or women or young people, through making this film?

I think it’s inherent. I don’t have to do it, they do it by themselves. But yes, this film has been around to all the major festivals, about 60+, and I’ve gotten a lot of good response. At the Edinburgh film festival a woman came up to me, held me really close and said “Thank you, now I know that your people will survive” In Dubai a Kuwaiti actress came up to me and said “You’ve shown us how people live” So the reactions outside, whether inspiring or whatever, at least show an understanding of the situation. But like I said, inspiration is often inherent in the people, they’ve got it and it’s something that can help them continue on with life.

We’re particularly interested in your experience as a female director in Palestine. Do you receive more attention and curiosity as a woman doing what you do in Palestine or abroad?

I’ve been kind of careful because I think that sometimes this point could be used [in a negative way]. You know, I’m a woman and I’m doing this and I think that being a filmmaker under occupation is much more challenging than being a woman filmmaker. I know that only 7% of filmmakers in the world are women and by itself that is something to be commended because women have double and triple jobs as they enter filmmaking. It’s not like they can pursue filmmaking by itself. In Palestine, women have always had a pretty strong role because men are in prison or they’re killed. It’s a situation where women have always had a big role. So I didn’t find that I was particularly looked upon in a special way, but in some ways it could be easier because you can ask someone and say “do you mind doing this?” and things can get done. In outside festivals it was asked quite a bit, it was one of the first questions usually. The important thing is the conception. It is the conception of the Arab world. It is the stereotypical conception that Arab women don’t do much, that they’re just subservient, docile, have no opinion of their own, can’t run a crew, can’t deal with men. With that also comes the perception of terrorism, like for all Muslims of the Arab world. There’s also big interest in the fact that it’s a Christian woman from a Christian family. I found that really a lot of the questions that came out of international festivals where questions of people’s own stereotypes, of women in the Arab world, Christians in the Arab World. But I think these are all really important issues: being a woman filmmaker, and having a strong woman character in my movie, actually a lot of strong woman characters in my movie. It’s been an interesting kind of journey actually. But I found that these were the things that were really brought up in festivals outside.

Please tell us more about your background and family. Is your family anything like either of the ones shown in the film?

The film was based on a lot of research,and people around me. There are things that come through, things that you’ve lived, though of course it’s not a documentary. Research, what you know, your experiences, other peoples experiences and what you’re trying to say all come together in a fictional movie. But for example I was questioned about the men in the movie and I said “I can’t give you what you want to see, these stereotypical aggressive men, because for me personally, I’ve never experienced this” I had a dad who was just an amazing man, he’s kind of like her (Kamar’s) dad. My brothers and the men in my life are just not the stereotypical men that have been portrayed forever in Western media. So yes, the families are similar, the customs that take place, the weddings, the relationships, it’s all very familiar to me.

In the film, Kamar and her mother-in-law visit Zaid in prison in Israel and say that they represent the whole town because the others were not permitted to come. It is Kamar who has most of the conversations with the lawyer about Zaid’s case. While Palestinian men are singled out by Israeli authorities as political or ideological threats to the state, do women have more opportunity to directly confront the occupation or communicate across its barriers?

Well this is a very obvious case of course because it’s imprisonment, it’s dealing with the lawyer. But confrontation with the occupation is on a daily level. In one way or another, whether it’s the patrols of the roads, children, young men and women being shot, arrests on whim, it’s violence against everybody. It’s everywhere in the West Bank. You know when you’re confined to a Bantustan, we’re in a completely confined area. Whether it’s Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, wherever it is, every small town is completely closed in. The roads between them are patrolled by Israelis. If you want to go to a village near Ramallah you have to pass through what’s become an Israeli patrolled road. Or course that doesn’t mean that Ramallah is safe from any kind of incursion, or Jenin, or Nablus. So there’s a daily confrontation with the occupation. Whether it’s soldiers, whether it’s things like your electricity being cut off (note: Our interview was interrupted four times in 40 minutes by power cuts) or your water being taken, whether it’s the wall that you have to pass, whether it’s your crops being taken, I mean it’s every single day. It’s a confrontation every day with the occupation. And it can vary from different levels but it’s there all the time. In the movie it’s very direct and obvious where she has to take an active role now that her husband is not there, the town can’t come. She’s the one that’s in charge because the mother’s too old and she’s the wife and she has to take care of things. And for me that was also just a development of the story, it wasn’t just to tell what’s going on. For me it was this woman that comes from Jerusalem, this city, to Ramallah, which is more rural, and she doesn’t understand the land much and he doesn’t understand her dance much. For me it was her going back and fighting for his case and fighting for the land and working the land which made her understand him more. And him being in prison, being away from everything that he loved, that made him understand her more. So I didn’t want to just keep the story on the very political in terms of Palestine and the country but connecting it within the arc of a story. It was important for me, the relationship, and to survive these circumstances were also important to me. It’s that combination of the two.

Could you speak more about the significance the harvest as a symbol of Palestine and connection to the land? How common is land confiscation as it’s depicted in scenes in the film, where settlers move onto the land and the military supports the action with a confiscation order?

That’s exactly how it happens. Palestine generally is a rural society. It’s mostly a peasant-based society. Historically if you went through the streets there were merchants, there was commerce, but the bulk of the population were peasants. That means that they lived by the land which is their whole livelihood. Now from original Palestine we are left with 8% and the 8% is dwindling into this little cut up pieces of land that are connected by these roads that I’m telling you about. And then there are these Israeli settlements. The settlements are there for two reasons. One, they are there to take the water. And even the way that the wall is built, the wall is built around the area’s major aquifers which are mostly in the West Bank. You see the wall goes in a very funny way, it’s not right on the 1967 borders. It’s done in a way where Israelis can get at our aquifers and suck all our water and sell it back to us. The settlements are built on hilltops and it’s one, to take our water, and two, to take more land. And actually it’s that simple. And Lea Tsmeal, who is our Israeli lawyer in the film, deals with administrative detention and land confiscation cases. We were very precise, and we had Lea say it, because we wanted this to be very precise. And it’s exactly how it’s done. I mean it’s all they have to do, they can come in with a confiscation order and they can say ANYTHING for security and take the land exactly like it happened in the movie.

You’ve mentioned that you intentionally meant to downplay the “spectacle” of Kamar’s final dance performance. Dabke has been portrayed as a reclamation of Palestinian heritage and culture, though the final performance’s score wasn’t a traditional composition for example. Are you saying that even within Palestinian society reclaiming culture doesn’t have to be spectacular or explicitly traditional to be important?

The whole subtext of the dancing for me was a place of freedom of expression, a place where you can move yourself and you can create. The person who’s in charge [the older dance director] is kind of a bureaucrat, you know, he doesn’t want change, he’s very stiff. And that’s were you have Dabke shown in this very kind of militant way, stomping and following orders and things like this. The troupe:wanted to change the steps and make them fit more for today, maybe more fit for this generation. That doesn’t mean that you lose that tradition or essence, but it also means that it’s conforming to today’s way of life. It’s having the freedom, the place where you are free to do whatever you want. So for me the last dance was more about the relationship which developed within the dancing. It was where Kamar was at first part of a troupe, very rigid, very regimented, even though she wanted to make change. And when this other dancer came in, what drew her to him was his ability to create something new. That’s what she wanted to do. And then when you see her at the end and she looks… you know, happy. She’s dancing and there’s this kind of happiness about it, Zaid comes and he sees this. That last dance wasn’t that much about the dance itself, it was more about what was going on in the dance. Zaid sees and understands her, he understood what she was going through. When she leaves Kais in the final scene, this is the freedom that’s needed and the understanding that that triangle has come to a close.

It also wasn’t entirely my choice. I worked with Michal Danna and Amertha Vaz. Michal’s one of the top cinema composers in the world. He’s done Little Miss Sunshine, Kaputt, 500 Days of Summer; he’s pretty major and we were very lucky to have him. In our discussion we were looking for more of an emotional piece at the end and I think it works for what I was trying to say in the story. I know that the expectation was to have a fabulous, all out dance, and that just wasn’t the story.

Kais seems to represent a diaspora voice that is more interested in modern forms and only does the “traditional moves” because he’s asked to in the dance studio. Are we reading too much into that?

He’s a character and that character is part of what makes him who he is, living in the diaspora, never coming to the country. When he comes he shows a common feeling, that feeling of love for a country you’ve grown up so far away from and you’ve only heard about from your parents. Maybe being outside, living between Lebanon and Paris, having that exposure to something that develops more can make it really hard when you get here…. (laughs) I mean, we do live in a very closed environment. You have that right though, it’s something about the diaspora and the things that they can bring with them, it’s that as well.

We’re curious to learn a little more about the logistics of casting and filming. You clearly chose your cast very intentionally. Does the occupation force you to make certain decisions about cast based on who has access to various locations?

The auditions yes, I was extremely careful. If I wanted to bring a Tunisian actor, an Egyptian actress, no way. Syrian, no way. Getting actors from outside the country was very difficult unless they had the foreign [Western] passport. But even, for example, if I wanted a Lebanese with a foreign passport then their being Lebanese would create difficulties. It’s all kinds of things, there’s a lot of considerations that you have to take into account. I wanted a lot of Palestinian actors of course because it’s a Palestinian movie. We did maybe 100 auditions, from everywhere in the country to Jordan, Egypt, New York, Paris. I cast it fairly wide but ultimately even the Palestinians that live in Haifa, Yaffe, Jerusalem have blue ID cards and a blue ID card cannot enter Ramallah. Ramallah has a green ID card. Green ID cards can’t go to Jerusalem where we were going to do some of the location scouting. We had some people from Gaza, they have orange ID cards. They’re not allowed in Ramallah and they’re not allowed anywhere like Haifa, Yaffe, or Jerusalem. So where we were going to shoot was very critical. We had six members who came from Europe and there was a question about whether they could enter the country or not. It was just…Ah!.. a logistics nightmare. But ultimately everyone came in and we had to be very very careful. We had to tip toe and do whatever we needed to do. It totally affected everything.

Have you received feedback from Israeli audiences or been invited to screen P&M at Israeli film festivals?

We decided to do distribution a little bit differently. We opened the film in the Palestinian theaters in Haifa. So it was available. I’m sure some progressive Israelis did go to see it. I think it’s really important to support the Palestinian institutions that exist because they receive very little funding. A lot of these Israeli festivals have government spending from a government which occupies Palestine, so it’s difficult to go to them, and it’s a bit ridiculous to take our movie to Israeli festivals when people who live in the West Bank can’t go to see it, have never been to Jerusalem, can’t go to their original hometowns. So the way that I see this is that cultural cooperation is not going to end the occupation, but maybe the end of occupation will make it possible to cooperate culturally. But to go to these places that everybody can’t access, supported by a government that has occupied so many people, that just seems illogical and unacceptable.

Book Review: A Tale of Love and Darkness


In my last few days in Jerusalem I had one of those dangerous freetime windows on Ben Yehuda street. It’s the busiest pedestrian street in downtown West Jerusalem and idle hands quickly found diversion. Down a little side street marked with the graffiti of a Hasid changing into a punk rocker, I ducked into the used English bookstore. Feeling broke but dangerously committed now that I was inside, I asked the nice lady behind the counter if she could recommend a book by an Israeli author. She informed me that her boss threatened fire any staff who didn’t read A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz.

She said she liked it, and I loved it. Oz is one of Israel’s most respected authors and part of what made this memoir so amazing was how much of modern Israeli history Oz has experienced firsthand. Besides being born shortly before the end of the British Mandate and witnessing the creation of the State of Israel, Oz’s family were connected with many of the important historical figures that shaped the new country. (Yet the nation building he describes seems almost like a village meeting) His descriptions of his family and the strange people in his childhood are both touching and very sad. He places his present perspective in the narrative and often looks back on his idealistic and difficult childhood with profound insight into the worldwide importance of that time. The valiant Jewish victories he imagines with matchsticks and cutlery as a child are mournfully reflected in glimpses of Israel in 2000.

One of the most amazing passages is when he describes the walk he, his mother and his father took every Sabbath to the home of his famous Uncle Klausner in Talpiot. I spent most of my time in Jerusalem in Talpiot, now a quiet residential neighborhood on the way to Bethlehem that before 1948 was home to intellectuals and authors. He talks about walking to the edge of Jerusalem and looking out across the “wild frontier” beyond, where between British barracks and “Arab villas” lay Talpiot.  Just past that, the romanticized Kibbutzniks were “carving out a new nation.” He gives such amazing details of the sights and sounds of a journey that now breezes past in a 20 minute bus ride from Ben Yahuda.   When they finally reach Talpiot, it is remarkable how much is still recognizable. He even mentions that after his uncle’s death a street was named after him, the street I passed while walking to the bus. When the buses started again on Saturday evening after the Sabbath in the 1940’s, the family would take the number 7 bus back to the city center. The number 7 bus still follows that route.

While this living history may seem inconsequential compared to the ancient stories that make up Israel and Palestine, I am so moved by a person who can so eloquently share their place on that continuum.

The last month

I’ve been completely lax on updates and can’t even use the excuse of being to busy. It’s actually been rather relaxed the last week in preparation for the Ben Gurion gamut coming up here shortly.

This trip has been completely different than my last here. Last time I visited, I saw some of the most traumatic places and heard some of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever come across. I returned home shocked and shaken.

I can’t say that the reality I experienced then is somehow different or even better now, so I’m convinced that a part of the change has been in me. I’m much more solid now than I was just a little more than a year ago. I’m still not sure exactly what I’m doing with my life. I’m still not sure how I might choose to plug into this part of the world, for sure. But I’m not scared, withdrawn… on guard in the same way I have been.

I realize that on my last trip I made an incredible effort to stay open and attentive to what I was experiencing, placing all that I saw onto a heart already broken. My instinct was retreat, but I forced myself head first into a situation with no more space for the broken hearted. It tore me up and it’s taken me a while to recover.

I cannot deny the injustice that I see here. I cannot forget what I have seen and heard. But by healing my hurt and letting go of some of my own pain in the last year, I truly believe I am more able to responsibly move in this land of hurt.


Talking Terra Santa

“But what about the yellers?” It was a question I asked myself as much as Fede before her last speaking engagement.  A regular part of speaking publically about the Middle East, in my experience, is dealing with the various crackpots, quarrelers and raging idealogues poised with attacks for every word you say.

Realizing  peace is about educating people though, OD volunteers commonly spend much of their “time off” in country speaking to as many people as possible about their work.  I’ve attended 2 of these speeches now, not just to provide logistical support but also for the cultural comparison of seeing how Italians react to what they see.

It’s been interesting.  The first speech was in the Northern part of the province, Ferrara, incidentally scheduled for the same day as the major blizzard that swept across here in strange patches.  As we made our way there through a thick blanket of snow, we heard that “the buses” bringing her audience we coming anyway.  Buses?  Whaaa?  Upon arriving we found very little snow but  a whole gymful of kids of all ages playing games.  Apparently this was some kind of Catholic Youth Day with “Peace” as its theme.  Fede had originally been prepped for a talk with a “small group of middle schoolers.”  What it actually ended up being was 15 minutes with the 80 or so kids whose buses actually arrived. Who knows what effect the pictures of dead animals and nonviolent resistance had on them.

Yesterday night was the second outing. We wound our way up into the hills not far away to stop in a charming little village along a medieval wall.  The venue was “The Peacock Tree”, a little old school cafe that hosts leftish gatherings, nonviolence discussions, and poetry readings in the local dialect, Romagnolo. (Selections from Feb lineup:  “Chickenlegs”-Italians do rockabilly/surf “Waltzing Mathilda”- Italians do Irish[?] Man talks about Fungi and climate change, etc)  The mix of down-home cultural revival and political consciousness was cool, surrounded by antique furnishings, posters of Native American chiefs and the various quotes attributed to them translated into Italian, and birdcalls from what must have been quite an aviary upstairs.

Now, the yellers.  They were there yesterday, though not amongst the kids the other day.  It’s amazing to me that even when someone takes pains to explain that their efforts are really not explicitly political, that they only support nonviolence, and that they really are not there to offer any conclusive answers on anything, people still demand answers on politics, violence, and general conclusions for everything.

Overall the event was charming and fun.  I should have asked how to say “yeller” in Romagnolo though.

No Wake Zone

I tried to take Federica out for a sail yesterday in a last ditch effort to get the boat out and impressing women as it is intended.  No go.  As the starter ground and my newly ripped shorts flapped in the ample breeze, I would not be defeated.  I decided we would try to sail off the dock…..into the wind.  Desperate measures only succeeded in rousing all the neighbors from their vessels to anxiously ask if “they could help” [me return to my slip like a sane person, I gathered]  I was defeated.


Having Federica see my life for the last three weeks, including the delightfully exotic (hiking through tropical rainforest munching on strawberry guavas) and the painfully mundane (fretting over whether the Y will grant a FOURTH guest pass in its limited unlimited “special offer” plan,  just wanting a damn shower)  I have felt honored to have her see everything  and apparently accept it all with a remarkable calm I couldn’t imagine mustering.  How is it that some people are so collected, grasping the tiller firmly and staring down their future with a genuine smile?  It may be that we’re all still just tied to the dock anyway, or that the mussels are slowly sinking us from the bottom up, but I just can’t help FRETTING all the time, whigging out over the tiniest things.


Last weekend she and I did two events about Israel and Palestine on Whidbey Island.  People listened politely and asked good questions but I realized at the end of it all I feel so tired getting righteous about injustice these days.  As I’ve bucked and tossed and rolled myself at the helm of some kind of vessel plodding through Israel and Palestine, I’ve burnt myself out.  My starter’s gonna fail if I don’t watch it.  I know very well why I don’t have the tireless energy of some or the uncanny good cheer of others.  I’m just not yet running with everything full ahead yet.  It’ll happen though, and man I’m hoping it’ll be impressive when it does.

My cousin files suit

My cousin Toby just filed suit today against the Selective Service System petitioning them to provide a space on the draft registration form for Conscientious Objectors to indicate their moral opposition to war.  He is supported by the ACLU in this case and we are interested in spreading the word as much as possible to sympathetic people.  Strategically speaking, the best possible outcome at this point is making this lawsuit as public and embarrassing for the SSS as possible, thereby drawing attention to the issue of opposition to war on religious grounds.  So spread the word, my cousin is hoping that his action inspires folks to rethink this issue and make it their own.

Here is his statement about it in the context of an article posted today in the Washington Post.  Check out his site, post your thoughts or support, let folks know!

Dear friend,

I filed a suit today at the DC federal court house, declaring that I should be allowed to register for the draft only if I can do so as a recognized conscientious objector to all war.

And I can prove it, here’s my article in the post along with a short but fascinating video of yours truly and my lawyer, Art.

If you have the time, please forward this link on to anyone who you think would be interested.  I’ve only sent it out to a handful of my friends, but it’s really an important part of this whole legal venture that word get spread– and especially to young people who’ll be facing draft registration in the near future.

Also perhaps relevant, my website,

Thank you so much for your time!


this must stop

I’m breaking my silent period here partially because I’m disappointed to see my Quaker blogger community quiet.  (with the exception of the Quaker Agitator  Also, because I am disgusted, sad, and completely enraged by what I am seeing and not seeing in Gaza.  There must be a ceasefire.  Now. Yesterday.

1.5 million people live in the 139 square miles of the Gaza Strip.  That’s about a quarter the land of Thurston county were I live, with 37 times the population density.  If, God forbid, Thurston County and its democratic regime were to be attacked tomorrow, where would how would the invading power choose ligitimate targets?  Who would hold them accountable?

When the people of Palestine democratically elected a Hamas government 2 years ago to what is barely the shadow of real national government, the world freaked out.  How could they?  They were punished with sanctions and a complete seal on Gaza, simply for voting for the party whose rhetoric is a strong defense of homeland, the promise of solidarity and strong values to its constituency.  Sound familiar? I cannot and will not justify killing civilians, but Israel has now killed more civilians in the last week than Hamas managed to hit with rockets ever.  There is no way to compare human suffering, but it is easy to follow the bombs back up into their US made jets, back into their US packed crates, back to their US manufactures, paid for by US tax dollars.  The blood is on our hands. I can tell you from direct and personal recent experience that Israel is our sister.  She looks like us, lives like us, and defends herself as we do.    7 million dollars of our tax dollars go to Israel every day, including every day of this massacre.


for those who are interested, a friend of Olympia in Rafah, Fida, blogs at

I’m home

And perhaps you all noticed, due to the steep drop in viewership. (I’m also allowing for the possibility the dead sheep might have had something to do with it.)

Anyway, returning has brought me a reminder of the good and beauty that is friendship, the challenge of little nagging beefs that just won’t resolve themselves and the sharp relief of these things against a “world away”.

It’s good to be home, I am immensely thankful to all of you for your thoughts and prayers, and you should not expect to see much new content here soon.

a Prickly Pear for the road

I’ve had the last few days entirely to myself here. I’ve been at a bit of a loss about how to spend my time, unquestioningly thankful today wraps everything up.

I was very kindly hosted last night by two Italian women who work in peacebuilding here. At least one of them is part of a intentional Catholic community in Italy (sounding pretty similar to the Catholic Worker) with an emphasis on poverty and social justice. This community sponsors Fede and Alé’s work here where they collaborate with CPT as their own team called ‘Operation Dove.’ I mention them mainly because I am so impressed by the thought of an intentional community that not only focuses on intra-community dynamics and Utopian ideals but also that risks so much for the wider world outside. Anyway, good Italian food and restful sleep was excellent too.

A final thought after spending more time in West Jersusalem (the modern Jewish side) is how much it reflects on my own experience at home in the US. As I walked along one of the main roads yesterday my eye caught a banner hanging from an apartment window, in English, that said: ‘Ask me about Land for Peace’ next to a picture of a Native American Chief and a map of Israel with an arrow struck in its heart. I’m not sure I totally get it but I appreciate both that ambiguity and the resonance with my own homeland. I wonder as I walk through these tense and suspicious streets, full of modern buildings, landscape architecture and a Western feel, what it takes to make my lifestyle possible.

Perhaps I’m just paranoid after my less-than-awesome entry into the country, but it seems that folks here are constantly at least subconsciously aware of the contentiousness of every part of their lives. Someone said Israelis refer to themselves as the Hebrew word for ‘Prickly pear’ with a tough outside and softer interior. I wonder if we in the US have exported our own occupation so far away we don’t even prickle with conscience.

I’ll spend the night tonight with a Guilford classmate I ran into randomly in the old city (!) before heading on back to Istanbul tomorrow morning.