Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zen and Palestinian Women's Soccer

Yes, this was a zen moment for me.

I am surrounded by 10,000 screaming Palestinian soccer fans, waving their red, green, and white flags. The same old Arabic song is blaring from nearby speakers. My salivary glands ooze at the faint smell of kabob on the grill. My camera is rolling as two women in hijabs go up for a header.

Yes, I had achieved the managed to combine the things I hold close to my heart, the Jaron Gilinsky Trifecta.

1. Soccer
2. Middle Eastern Street Food
3. Stories of Just, Non-Violent, Political and/or Social Struggle

For 90 minutes on Monday, there was no Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Along with the other 10,000-plus spectators at Faisal Husseiny Stadium in Alram, we had unwittingly entered a holy sanctuary of sport. Sir, Ma'am, please check your harsh social and political realities at the door.

But don't forget them on the way out.

It took me 3 and a half hours to get out of the West Bank that night.

There was bumper to bumper traffic all the way to the Kalandia checkpoint. As I got to the front of the line, the Israeli soldiers simply vacated their posts without saying a word to anyone. Kids began hurling rocks at the empty concrete shells.

I was pissed off and frustrated. The Palestinians seemed to be used to this chaos. The jumble of cars packed like sardines all tried to reverse at once. It felt like a game of high stakes bumper cars.

Nearly four hours after the final whistle, I travelled less than 5 kilometers to reach the other checkpoint at Hizme, said "Mah Nishma?" to the female Israeli soldier, and I was back in Jerusalem.

See the Video Here

Jackline Jazrawi, 23
Left Defender from Bethlehem during Palestinian National Anthem

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama- the New Norse God

Norway, in particular, and Scandinavia in general, are known to be doggedly secular places. So, unlike most people on the planet, Scandinavians are not waiting for a messiah from the heavens to come save the world, but for something else.

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman, who researched religion, or lack thereof, in Scandinavia, was surprised to find that a godless society can be extremely moral, and even more surprised to find Scandinavians to be utterly apathetic to all matters theological.

Could it be that President Obama’s flowing, hopeful, scrupulous rhetoric so mesmerized Scandinavia that the Nobel Prize Committee decided to take a blind leap of faith towards Obam-ism?

I would argue that there is a fundamental need for man to believe in something, anything. Perhaps apathy to religion correlates with a greater need for human heroes. Wannabe demagogues worldwide should pay attention: Where belief in Allah, Shiva, Jesus, or Jah is scant, it may be easier to get people to believe in you. Go find some godless place and start your very own cult of personality. And if there are some preexisting religious institutions there, just follow the Stalin formula and shut them down.

Every journalist and pundit in the world has his or her theory as to how Obama could win the Nobel Peace Prize before ever making peace. Some have called this a down payment on deeds to come, an endorsement of an ideology, lighting a hot flame under the presidential buttocks, but I have another theory.

I posit that Scandinavia has finally found God in the form of an African-American man with an angelic smile and elf-like ears.

Yes, we have witnessed the stunning transformation of an ordinary state Senator from Illinois to a Nordic God in less than 5 years.

Who knew that deification is a quicker process than puberty?

Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr. Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel Committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve".

Come on Thorbjoern, Nordic Gods don’t need your support, your prize, a silly certificate, and some 10 million Swedish Kronors.

Look what happened after you gave the prize to that demigod, the Dalai Lama. It didn’t help him make peace with China, did it?

Not to diminish the reincarnation of the Buddha, but maybe Obama’s full-blown God powers will prove to be even greater. Maybe He really is the change we can believe in. Maybe, somewhere up in the starry Scandinavian sky, Obama and the Dalai Lama are making great plans for peace on earth.

Lets just hope their not being influenced by all the other members of the Norse Pantheon, who all seemed to have something of a violent streak. Especially that former crowd favorite Thor, a barbaric warrior God who refused to put down his deadly hammer.

Thor probably was not the ideal candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, so this year they gave it to the new guy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Turning Rockets into Roses

Check out this report by my colleagues, Reem Makhoul and Isabel Kershner, about a guy who turns Qassam rockets into roses.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Oktoberfest in Palestine

Yes, it exists.
Yes, it is awesome.

Here is the video on

PS. Taybeh also means delicious in Arabic, and the beer is really quite good. I had the regular golden, the dark, and the amber at Oktoberfest. I didn't bother with the non-alchoholic one, marketed towards Muslims, which explains the unsteady camera work that didn't make it in the cut.

Photo Courtesy of David Silverman, Getty Images

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ahmedinejhad a Jew?

Read this story from the Telegraph, but don't necessarily believe it:

This article has inadequate evidence for proving that Ahmedinejhad is Jewish. The only piece of evidence provided by the reporters is this picture.

Assuming the name Sabourjian means he is unequivocally Jewish, how do we know his name used to be Sabourjian?

The reporters Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat write, "The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch. "

Not denying it is a far cry from admitting it.

I also haven't denied that I'm Elvis Presley, which doesn't prove that I am Elvis Presley.

This is manipulative journalism in the sense that they are trying to get readers to make faulty assumptions. First, prove the switch of names, then try to address the reasons and subsequent psychological fallout.

I am also curious as to what the context was behind him allegedly holding up his own ID. And then, how do we know the document in his hand is his actual ID card? Where's the closeup of said document that the entire case rests on?

Editor should also note: There is a small and insignificant typo (missing a d the second time using the word "changed" in the previously cited paragraph)

While I am definitely not Elvis Presley, Ahmedinejhad may in fact turn out to be of Jewish descent.

If this story does ring true, it certainly would explain
Ahmedinejhad's Holocaust, Jew, and Israel obsession.

But the evidence is scant and this story is as sensational and full of holes as Swiss Cheese.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Shalit Video Raises the Stakes

I was happy to learn that a breakthrough has been achieved in this Gilad Shalit saga.

Prisoners have been handed back, and Shalit's video has been released in exchange.

As Isabel Kershner of the NYT writes, he is "thin and wan, but lucid and very much alive."

Through the medium of a television screen, this is the closest the Shalit family have been to him since he was taken away. They will probably sleep better tonight than they have in 3 years.

It was unequivocally Gilad. To make sure, he stated his Israeli ID number and recounted a story that only he would know about a day trip when his Dad came to visit him in his army base and photographed him in an old Merkava tank.

Here is the video:

I just watched it for the fifth time and haven't been able to really glean any extra insight other than the obvious information Hamas wanted to convey. I noticed that the most nervous smiling came at around 2:22 when he is forced to say, "The mujahideen of the Izzeddine al-Qassam Brigades are treating me fine."

It could mean that he is trying to communicate that this is not entirely true. It could also mean that it is mostly true, and he has a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome to the extent that he is bonding with someone behind the camera. Are there any psychologists reading this blog? Is it likely that he has developed some bond or attachment with his captors over his 1000 plus days in Gaza?

If there was such a thing as Vegas odds of Gilad coming back to his home in one piece, then they just went up dramatically. But then again, the Middle East is a place where probabilities turn into improbabilities.

But, this is the necessary first step in securing Shalit's release. Israel needed to verify that he was alive and healthy, while Hamas wanted to prove the same thing.

Gilad's value is higher today than he was yesterday. The problem is that both sides are aware of this.