DAY 137: Back

July 25th, 2015 § 0 comments

800px-RozdestvoHristovo_RublevBlagSoborMKNativity (Rublev)

Yes, comrades and friends who’ve surely been missing these reflections while I’ve been sunning myself for two weeks in the West Bank (noon temp. 32 degrees most days).  Here is a selection of my holiday snaps.

(I soon realized that with a selection of 100+ photos of variable quality, my best bet was to make a slideshow of the ten or so best and embed that. But while making a slideshow in iPhoto is almost easy for the 76-year-old, you just try embedding that in WordPress. The internet is flooded with the tears of those who have run into the brutal rules about what file format you can use; and something you’d have thought was childsplay turns out to involve: (a) turning your slideshow into a quicktime movie; (b) uploading the movie to Youtube; (c) embedding the link to that. And then they put an idiotic soundtrack on the slideshow, I ask you. I naturally replaced it with the Goldberg Variations, but still.)

I didn’t get to demonstrate against the proposed demolition of Susya – a bit far,

YI019053Activists march to Susya, July 24th

and I didn’t want to get teargassed. But more power to those who did; and here are Amira Hass’s reflections on the campaign’s international profile and distinguished support. [Including our own diplomats - if not the PM.] “The British Government’s position against displacement of communities in Area C is clear,” wrote the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem last month following a Ramadan iftar meal in Susya, attended by Consul-General Alastair McPhail. “Demolitions of property and the evictions of entire communities from their villages cause great suffering to ordinary Palestinians and are harmful to the peace process. They are, in all but the most limited circumstances, contrary to international humanitarian law.”.

I should interpose, though, that I was shocked to hear almost immediately on arrival that my country had been struck not only by the habitual rain, but by a plague of middle-class alcoholism – as if the threat of Daesh bombings wasn’t enough to worry about. I was used to the middle class starting the day with sherry (as my father did) at 11, so it must be something worse to make the headlines of the Daily Mail. Luckily, we have a system of controlling who buys drink tightly enforced in this country; and it shouldn’t be hard to extend it from banning the youth to banning the middle class.

289652AE00000578-3078260-Middle_class_women_are_drinking_to_excess_to_join_in_with_a_mach-a-7_1431436779887Fake photo of actors posed by Daily Mail

There are any number of places where your class can be worked out, I suppose the BBC is as good as any (readers will be pleased to know that I’m ‘technical middle class’, but I won’t reveal what that means). So the supermarket can, in principle, find out if you’re middle class and refuse to sell you vodka if you are. If the supermarket is Lidl they should reckon you’re prima facie working class I would imagine. Eventually everyone will carry an ID card which broadcasts their class; which, again, would make it easier to know who to line up against a wall come the revolution.

Anyway, back to Beit Sahour. I thoroughly recommend it (or Bethlehem for that matter) for a holiday; excellent reliable weather, good food, reasonable prices, and you know your money is going to a good cause. NB I think that Basil from Ilforno restaurant featured in Tripadvisor is the IT graduate-cum-pizza chef who fixed my iphone when it had developed an appalling syndrome which I won’t bore you by describing. I have to say that I didn’t run into the brutality of the occupation, as probably many of my hosts did daily.

As for the Palestine Museum of Natural History, where I was ‘working’, here’s their mission statement:


The Palestine Institute of Biodiversity Research and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) will work to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, culture and heritage and use knowledge to promote responsible human interactions with our environment.


  1. Explore and research the diversity of the fauna, flora, and human ethnography via collections and research.
  2. Environmental protection and responsible interaction between people and the environment. This includes building environmental awareness and encouraging conservation of natural resources including connecting this to Palestinian heritage.
  3. Use the knowledge gained and the books and databases and collections to promote science education so that this institute becomes one that helps all segments of society in areas like biology, ecology, technology, archaeology, ethnology etc.
  4. Cataloging and building a physical and an electronic data base of all animal and plant species existing as well as beginning to catalog and preserve objects/specimens related to natural history and biodiversity (including human diversity and history).
  5. Develop respect a) for ourselves (self empowerment), b) for our fellow human beings (regardless of background), and c) for all living creatures and our shared earth.

By the way if you visit the museum’s home you’ll find not only the above statement, but a much more professional slideshow than mine. I wonder who did it.

While on the subject of museums, here’s a poem:

In the Museum of Lost Objects

BY Rebecca Lindenberg

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee; 
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage.
Ezra Pound

You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
an empress’s bones, a stolen painting
of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag-draped spear.
A vellum gospel, hidden somewhere long ago
forgotten, would have sat on that pedestal;
this glass cabinet could have kept the first
salts carried back from the Levant.
To help us comprehend the magnitude
of absence, huge rooms
lie empty of their wonders—the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and
in this gallery, empty shelves enough to hold
all the scrolls of Alexandria.
My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest
representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept with others
in the poet’s gallery. Next door,
a vacant room echoes with the spill
of jewels buried by a pirate who died
before disclosing their whereabouts.
I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces
for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.
I make a habit, if not a principle, of being completely irrelevant here; so ignoring the temptation to play something which has to do with Beit Sahour or museums (Carnaval des animaux?), I’m using the fact that a friend got tickets for a Joan Baez concert in the packed amphitheatre at Lyon last week. Here, a fond hope, she’s singing ‘Forever Young’


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