UPDATED | What’s Going On at the Siloam Pool?

All the current hoopla surrounding the Pool of Siloam is unfolding in the midst of a traditionally Arab-Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Silwan. In this view looking southeast, the two pools of Siloam — yes, there are two — lie below and beyond the minaret. The lush green garden area (middle distance, lower right) is the parcel presently under contention.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, on 27 DEC 2022 various Israeli government entities and settler organizations made a surprise announcement: Jerusalem’s lower Pool of Siloam is to be excavated and exposed in its entirety in the coming months, and ultimately opened to tourist traffic. Beginning in 2004, the northern section of the pool has already been excavated and connected with adjoining ancient features — stepped streets, an underground drainage channel and, most notably, Hezekiah’s Tunnel. All of these have been open to tourist access, under settler control, for several years, while the greater (southern) extent of the pool remained in the hands of its longtime owners, the Greek Orthodox Church — until now. Now, based on some supposed “agreement” with the Greeks — as yet totally opaque — the state and its settler agents have forcibly taken control of the place.

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Posted in Antiquities, Archaeology & Politics, City of David, Issues in Archaeology, Jerusalem Antiquities, Palestinians, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

VIDEO | Why are Palestinian Christians Leaving Jesus’ Birthplace?

Christmas in Manger Square, Bethlehem

Will you invest 12 minutes in a deeper understanding of the everyday realities facing the native Christians of Jesus’ homeland, particularly those of the Bethlehem region? Their numbers have been shrinking steadily over the past seven decades, and the reasons may not be self-evident.

Hint: It’s not due to persecution from their Muslim neighbors — that is a red herring and a mostly invented narrative, promulgated both by the State of Israel and, sadly, by many Western Evangelical Christians. In fact, all Arab Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza — Christian and Muslim alike — face the same basic existential challenges: Living as a state-less people, burdened under a 55-year-long belligerent military occupation (the UN’s term, not mine), and hemmed in since 2002 by a detestable Separation Barrier, with all the elements of control and creeping dispossession those conditions imply.

On-screen you’ll meet a young Palestinian theologian, an artisan and shopkeeper and other ordinary residents, the pastor of Bethlehem’s foremost Protestant church — and visitors from overseas who’ve dared to take an honest look behind The Wall and take to heart what they see there.

Also highlighted is the Nassar family and their 30-year ordeal to retain possession of their ancestral family farm a few miles southwest of Bethlehem. I’ve written before about the Nassars and their Tent of Nations project, and their perseverance and inspired creativity in the face of unimaginable state-sanctioned oppression.

Well, if you’re ready to invest, here are the 12 minutesCLICK HERE to view the video.

AND… Related Resources:

As another Christmas dawns, Grace and Peace to all…

Posted in Bethlehem area, Christmas, Occupied Territories, Palestinian Christians, Palestinians, Religion, Separation Barrier, The Occupation, VIDEOS | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dead Sea Update: It’s Still Dying…

Dead Sea Sinkhole. (Photo courtesy Israeli tour guide– and good friend, Shmuel Browns, at https://israel-tourguide.info/

An interesting photo essay published online by NPR the other day provides a reminder that the Dead Sea, a truly unique geographic feature and ecosystem, is still on the path to oblivion. Its shrinkage still stands at an alarming one meter or more per year — that’s the actual vertical drop in the water level, not the advance of the shoreline, which is greater.

Several solutions have been suggested over the past few decades, including canal-pipeline schemes (Med-to-Dead, Red-to-Dead) to connect the lake to other regional bodies of water, but none has been pursued thus far. The only real solution, in my opinion — which has never been seriously considered — is to restore the Jordan River/ Sea of Galilee system to its natural, free-flowing status, instead of ruthlessly tapping it to meet the water needs of the surrounding countries — Israel, Syria and Jordan — which was already well underway by the mid-1960s.

Anyway, I was shocked to learn that The Ein Gedi public beach, traditionally one of the most popular bathing spots on the Sea’s northern basin — has now been completely closed, apparently for some time! The reason: dangerous sinkholes related to the dissolution of salt-beds beneath the shore areas, a phenomenon already becoming a problem 20 to 30 years ago.

One curious fact which I learned in my seemingly long-ago tour guide training: The Sea’s southern basin is today a completely separate body of water, with it’s own dynamics. Consisting solely of a series of evaporation pans for the commercial extraction of minerals, even its floor stands many meters above the surface of the northern basin, with the differential increasing all the time. In other words, it’s actually rising as water is pumped up and out of the northern basin into the southern, simply exacerbating the shrinkage of the former. In the south, the floors of the evaporation impoundments are constantly rising, from the accumulation of unwanted minerals that precipitate out. This situation is managed, after a fashion, by periodically dredging this material and piling into massive salt-berms that serve to contain the ever-rising water level! It’s really quite curious, and rather counter-intuitive.

So, whenever you see present-day photos of hotels near the Dead Sea shoreline, and bathers lounging near the water on a flat beach — it’s the southern basin. At least that was the situation 15 years ago, and I presume it’s the same today.

To view the NPR piece, follow the link:


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Lifting the Veil on the “Four Quarters” of Jerusalem (and a lot more)

A recent book on Jerusalem, focusing on the walled Old City, seeks to not only demythologize the place but shed light on many of its untold stories, both old and new. It is by British journalist, travel writer and broadcaster Matthew Teller and entitled Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City.

For a nice sample of the contents of this work, see the REVIEW published a few months ago on the “Jerusalem Story” web-site. The site is well worth a visit in its own right, offering glimpses of Jerusalem life, culture, history (and politics) you will not encounter just anywhere (you can subscribe to their web-log and be notified of new offerings by email).

Spoiler alert: The notion of the “Four Quarters” Teller traces to a mid-19th century visitor who imposed a British-colonial way of looking upon the city’s mélange of ethnicities, languages and religions. Not only is it an artificial construct, Teller says, but one largely foreign to the people who actually live there, both then and now!

The rest I will allow you to discover on your own. Happy reading!

Posted in JERUSALEM, Jerusalem People, Jerusalem Places | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

VIDEO | 3 Archaeological Reports from the Franciscans

Posted in Antiquities, Archaeology, Gaza, Nablus area, Occupied Territories, VIDEOS, West Bank | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kill the Messenger: Why Israel Labels Human Rights NGOs as “Terrorists”

Youseff Munayeer, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center Washington, recently published an essay in the journal Foreign Policy entitled “The Long Arm of Israeli Repression”. Echoing similar analysis from numerous other media outlets, he deals with Israel’s recent decision to designate several human rights groups as “terrorist” organizations, putting it in league with the world’s other most repressive regimes. Munayeer writes, in part:

Ensuring that European and North American decision-makers hear less and less about Israel’s human rights violations has always been the repression network’s overarching goal. […]

It doesn’t matter if the allegations are entirely bogus, the point is to put human rights defenders themselves on the defensive, smear their reputations, and attack or intimidate their donors. […] As the director-general of [Israel’s] Strategic Affairs Ministry once acknowledged, “We are not fighting with facts. We’re not fighting by telling the truth.”

To read the entire piece, visit the FP website, HERE

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Leftist Israeli Journalist Confesses: “I Finance Terrorism”

The fearless Amira Hass and other writers for the Haaretz newspaper — along with Uri Avnery, Jonathan Cook and others of their ilk — were critical in shaping my political awareness during my sojourn in that land. Haas is still at it, thank goodness, and wrote the following opinion piece for the Israeli daily Haaretz, published 26 October 2021. Toward the end she comments on Israel’s weaponizing of language in their labeling of six Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist” groups a few days ago.

Oh, yes: If you’re an American taxpayer, you may join in Ms. Haas’ confession, since your country sends the State of Israel over $10,000,000 every single day — nearly $4,000,000,000 a year — in 100% military aid, in support of such madness. The article appears below in its entirety (secondary online source HERE):

I am announcing and confessing here that I finance terrorism. Some of the tax money I pay to the Israeli government is transferred to its terrorist activities and those of its representatives, the settlers, against the Palestinian people.

If by “terrorism” one means imposing terror and fear – then what are the commanders in the army and Shin Bet security service doing when they send masked soldiers to raid the homes of Palestinians night after night? Accompanied by dogs and with rifles aimed, soldiers wake families from their slumber, overturn the contents of closets, confiscate property and strike the adults in front of the children.

What are the inspectors of the Civil Administration doing when they wander among communities of shepherds, and check whether maybe a tent or a slide for children was added that should be demolished? What do the surveillance cameras stuck at every checkpoint at the exit from a Palestinian city do, if not intimidate and regiment?

And the male and female Border Police in Jerusalem, who detain anyone who looks to them like an Arab, and the soldiers and policemen who deliver a kick here, a slap there, to anyone who dares to argue with them, or to harvest olives – what is their job if not to instill fear?   And the gangs of masked settlers, with bare chests, holy fringes and “nonlethal” weapons and firearms – what will we call their orgies of attacking people and trees if not terror? Fractions of percentages of the taxes I pay certainly reach them: Perhaps they end up going to the settlement councils that embrace the thugs, perhaps to their officials and to Defense Ministry officials who together planned and implemented the successful model of shepherds’ outposts.

Throughout the West Bank the outposts operate by the same pattern: One family of veteran settlers takes over a plot of Palestinian land, receives a herd of sheep or goats and cattle, and then, using rifles, stones, dogs, young shepherds and drones, threatens the Palestinians and prevents their herds from reaching their grazing areas.

The concept “terror” has long since exceeded the bounds of simple intimidation, and also includes acts of destruction and killing. My taxes, and those of all Israeli citizens and residents, finance them.

Part of my taxes went to the bombing of residential structures and the killing of their Palestinian inhabitants, including young children and women. My taxes finance the bullets that kill and wound demonstrators in the West Bank village of Beita and in Gaza. Our taxes subsidize the settlements and cover the cost of the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Civil Administration and the Jerusalem municipality. Under the camouflage of a law-abiding country and by means of our financing, Israel has perpetrated all these acts of terror and many others. Day by day. Hour by hour.

Those who control the centers of power have always tried and are trying to assume a monopoly over the language too, as a way of perpetuating their supremacy. The patriarchy derived the medical term “hysteria” from the Greek root for uterus, as a way of cementing the inferior status of women. Englishmen made sure that “Irish” would be a synonym for stupid, and later for lazy and a drunkard, as a way of explaining their colonization of Ireland.

“Stupid,” “black” and “terrorist” were also synonyms among the whites in South Africa, used to justify the exploitation, the racial segregation and the terrorist oppression. And that’s how the Israeli occupier decides what “terror” is, and [now] includes in it another six Palestinian NGOs.

The reason for persecuting them is so clear: These civil society organizations have registered several impressive achievements in their opposition to the cruel Israeli occupation. It was they that acted and are acting to prosecute Israelis who are responsible for war crimes and crimes of apartheid in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and urged the Palestinian Authority to take this route. It is they that expose Israel’s system of wholesale detention, including of minors, and the scandal called the military court.

It is they that support Palestinian farmers against the harassment of the Civil Administration and the settlers. They nurture leftist and feminist values, and criticize the Palestinian authorities as well.

They (and not only they) are in a constant battle against the terror of the occupation. And the occupation, through its persecution of those organizations, aspires to terrorize other Palestinians and deter them from mounting any resistance.

This article is reproduced in its entirety

Posted in Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Journalism, Modern History, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, The Occupation, West Bank | Tagged , | Leave a comment