Thursday, May 24, 2007

African Diaspora in the Holy Land

In a spacious, mellow room in Jeruaslem's Old City, a crew of Arabic-speaking youngsters chats about football, oud, and Allah.

Although these young Jerusalemites at the Qalawun Center consider themselves wholly Palestinian, there is something noteworthy that distinguishes most of the people in this community center from their coreligionists in East Jerusalem – African origin.

"We are proud to be Palestinians of African descent," said Haithan Jaddah, a Political Science student at al-Quds University and a local boxing champion.

Haithan motions towards a few of his friends who are playing ping pong a few meters away and sweepingly affirms, “Although you would not expect to find our community here, we have been in this land for hundreds of years.”

Indeed, small concentrations of Afro-Palestinians are found in Jerusalem's Old City, the Gaza Strip, Akko, and several other locales, but the largest cluster by far is in Jericho.

Holy City

The Old City's Afro-Arab community resides next to Ba’ab al-Majles (the Prison Gate) and numbers about four hundred. Most members of the community live in fourteenth-century Mamluk-era buildings on either side of Al'a ad-Deen street – a block from the Temple Mount entrance, just north of the Western Wall, and adjacent to the Via Dolorosa.

The current generation is largely descended from male pilgrims from Chad and Sudan who remained in Jerusalem to guard the al-Aqsa Mosque after completing the hajj to Mecca – many of whom later wedded Palestinian Arab women.

Both the Mamluks and Ottomans commissioned African Muslims to guard al-Haram al-Sharif - the Temple Mount - in addition to Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Some Afro-Jerusalemites arrived as laborers during the early part of the British Mandate period. Others fought with the Egyptian Army during Israel's 1948 War of Independence and then remained in East Jerusalem.

“For the most part, we are well-integrated into the broader Palestinian culture,” said Yasser Quos, the cultural affairs coordinator at Qalawun Center, who also works at Al-Quds University's Centre for Jerusalem Studies. His brother, Nasser Quos, serves as the Afro-Palestinian community's leader.

The Qalawun Center promotes African cultural solidarity with recreational activities and events that highlight distinctly African clothes, food, and music.

The group's logo is an altered rendering of the African continent, inclusive of Israel and a prominent Dome of the Rock illustration.

Though he considers himself a Palestinian, Quos said he feels kinship with the rest of the African diaspora, from Brazil to Iraq.

Quos emphasized that the Palestinian identity is not monolithic. “Just as we understand the Israeli identity to encompass a range of ethnic origins, so too can Palestinians be of Bedouin, African, or other origin.”

“Yet, many other Palestinians are unaware of our relatively assimilated community’s existence,” said Quos, who also alluded to the traditional stigma of dark skin in Arab society.

May 16th marked the 40th Anniversary of Jerusalem's unification by Israel and thus the continuation of legal limbo for the Old City Afro-Palestinians.

Despite the tumultuous political situation, Quos said that he and other Afro-Palestinians "would readily welcome a multiethnic, democratic solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict."

City of the Moon

A half hour drive eastward from Jerusalem, in a desert clime with placid oases 400 meters below sea level, resides the biggest Afro-Palestinian community.

The first Palestinian city to achieve self-rule and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Jericho is a sleepy, scorching, and tourist-starved town these days. Hisham’s Palace, the Mount of Temptation, and Tel es-Sultan attract far fewer tourists than in the days prior to the 2nd Intifada. The once-booming Israeli-run Oasis casino remains closed.

Nestled between the Judean Mountains and the Jordan River, the calm city remains distinct from the rest of the West Bank, not least due to the prevalence of African heritage.

"Jericho is different because of its beautiful nature and its people's attitudes, and we try not to get involved in the political mess," said Nasser Hassan Ermelia.

Ermelia is an Afro-Palestinian from Ain Diouk, which along with Nuweima, forms an area of predominantly Afro-Palestinian settlement at the north end of Jericho. The approximately 4,000 people are comparatively poor and tend to work in agriculture.

“I personally treat all people the same, whatever their nationality,” said Ermelia, who has spent most of his life working on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Ermelia said he is currently a taxi driver because it is difficult to find decent employment amidst closures resulting from the 2nd Intifada.

An avid fan of Israeli folk music and an eager Hebrew speaker, Ermelia said he has a natural affinity for Israel. He suggested that many Afro-Palestinians feel similarly and added that Israeli soldiers tend to treat Afro-Palestinians more favorably than other Palestinians.

Locals suggest that Jericho's Afro-Palestinians, like many other Afro-Arabs throughout the Middle East, are descended from Ethiopians and Sudanese brought by Bedouins as slaves many centuries ago. Indeed, Afro-Palestinians are still generally considered Bedouins.

Some Palestinians continue to refer in Arabic to Afro-Palestinians as "abid" (slaves), but the term "sumr" (black) is more polite.

While some scholars speculate that the blacks at the foot of the Judean Mountains in Jericho are the city's indigenous inhabitants, other historians contend that the community descends from Nubian warriors who fought against the Assyrian empire.

Though rather distinct from each other, the Afro-Palestinian communities in Jerusalem and Jericho have primarily fulfilled manual labor and military roles.

Several Jerusalemite Afro-Palestinians said they had strengthened relations with the Jericho community in recent years.

"Generally, despite some discrimination, we identify as Palestinians with a unique cultural identity", said Quos. "Many of us have spent significant time in Israeli security prisons and are inclined to feel more Palestinian than African."

Meanwhile, Quos said that the Qalawun Center will continue to strengthen ties with black Bedouins, Ethiopians, and the Dimona-based black Hebrews.

"We aim to establish relations with other African communities that share our roots," said Quos." He added, "The things that connect us are stronger than the political differences that divide the African diaspora."

Haaretz Article Link
Chad English-language news site

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Temple Mount Disengagement & the 3rd Temple

PEACE سلام שלום

I will start off by proclaiming 3 truths about metaphysical, physical, and political reality, as it pertains to the everlasting conflict between the 3 monotheistic faiths in Jerusalem.

1. The Messiah will never come.

2. The Muslim claim to the Temple Mount complex will never attenuate.

3. All holy places were contrived at some point in time.

These truths being rather self-evident, a new Disengagement solution has become necessary to implement. If Jews are serious about making the 3rd Temple a reality, which I believe could materialize sucessfully, then they must take heed of the above facts. The status quo for Jews is focused upon worshipping a retaining wall with weeds throughout, bird excrement above, and angry Arabs on the other side. Judaism, the faith of the Judean polity, is undoubtedly a tribal, visceral, and earthen faith at heart. Yet, the time has come to cease worshipping a wall of somewhat inane significance. The physicality of the Western Wall is proof of the 2nd of two temples that existed upon the Temple Mount during the period of Roman rule over Judea. The consecration of this stone wall in contemporary times is highly indicative of the pain and suffering with which Jews yearned over the years to return to the Promised Land. There needed to be some concrete focal point for the diasporic aspirations. The wall symbolized infinite longing, unending lamentations, and eventual gathering of the exiles. It also united Jews in their belief in the sanctity of one location and created a sense of historical awareness in the prior dominion of the Jewish people in the Holy Land.

However, the wall shall no longer be the focal point of Jewish ritual observance. Jewish folks, though perpetually united in their connection to the land of their ancestors and the land of their current nation-state, deserve better than to worship a mere wall. The wall signifies the ongoing battle for geopolitical domination over the Temple Mount and juxtaposes the black-hatted Hasids below davening towards the east with the prostrating Mohammedans atop the mount directing their fervor southeastwards. The situation is ridiculous at best, warlike at worst. The conflict over Jerusalem's heart has led to the death of many heathens and believers. Prior to the Israelite conquest over 3300 years ago, Mount Moriah was revered by the Jebusites as the shrine of their favorite god Shalem, and this spot will always be revered. The site has thus changed spiritual hands many times, most recently as a result of the Arab conquest. It will change hands again one day. Either way, there is a better way to arrange this Holy City for the time being. There is a way to relinquish Jewish claim to the Temple Mount. The Holiest of Holies exists no more. Time for a drastic change. Jews must stop directing their collective spiritual energies towards a void, towards something that existed previously but that has since disappeared. The time has come to stop praying for some ridiculous eventuality. Messianic dreams, while encouraging to the faithful, are in vain. They are a reflection of idolatrous desires, anti-humanistic yearnings, and irrational prayer. Belief in the future arrival of a Messiah are primitive, ignorant, and misguided. Perpeuating messianic ideology is a boon to the faithful, for it gives them a reason to wake up in the morning and a teleological sense of inspiration. I cannot deride folks for having faith in something or someone that uplifts them. This is not my aim in critiquing the messianic ideology. However, I do intend to dislodge reliance on this mode of thought. Granted, messianic Jewish groups are somewhat fringe, but there is no doubt that mainstream Jews use the religious fringe to carry out the religious mission of the state of Israel. Religious-Zionists and Haredim are bestowed with the ability to do the Jewish people's religious bidding, and secular folks have consented to this arrangement. It is up to the religious folks to fight explicitly for the goals that mainstream folks are afraid to engage. It is time for an end to this age-old messianic element of Judaism, and it is time to carry out another Disengagement, on the psychological and physical fronts. The faith must evolve, and I will readily support belief in some sort of messianic age or idealized world. But, the hijacking of Judaism by messianic proponents must end.

Muslim domination of the Holy Mount exists presently. Although the area is under Israeli sovereignty, Jordanian religious authorities exert control over the buildings and the spiritual infrastructure of the site. Although security control is supremely in the hands of the Jewish political leadership, this dominion takes the form of colonial overlordship and does not actually translater into influence over how the Islamic holy sites operate. True, Israeli military officials can limit the number of worshippers in the event of security problems. True, Israel's government can unilaterally (with severe consequences) decide to undertake digging at the periphery of the Temple Mount. Yet, for all intents and purposes, Muslim holy sites are not going anywhere. The Muslim world would not stand for any type of challenge to their religious dominion over a place where Shalem, Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed (and also numerous ordinary folks with Jerusalem Syndrome) have flexed their spiritual muscle. Regardless, Muslims aren't relenting. They've built two incredibly beautiful religious structures atop the Temple Mount. Let's admire the spiritual and aesthetic value that these buildings add to the Holy City. Jews need not challenge Muslims for control over this sacred space. Leave the Temple Mount to the Muslims. They've done nice things with the area. Though it was indeed taken by force and though Muslims often have not respected the holy sites of other faiths, it is time to respect the permanence of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa. While Islam, like all religions, is deeply flawed - the Muslim Temple Mount is worthy of tremendous respect.

Next, I must clarify that there is absolutely no problem with creating something entirely new in Jerusalem. The time has come to build a 3rd Temple in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. If need be, the walls of the Old City can be expanded to include the expanse of the brand new temple complex. Think universal, think tribal, think eternal! This renaissance of temple life is concurrent with the reJEWvenation of Israel itself. Jews are entitled to be proud of their creations in the political and spiritual spheres. Jews should not attempt to wrest control of the Temple Mount from the Muslims, even if it was the location of oh-so-many, oh-so-central historical-mythological events. Jews should triumphantly erect a new, 3rd Temple in the part of the city that is currently theirs. I am in favor of importing a huge quantity of dirt in order to raise the elevation of the Western Wall Plaza and adjacent sections inside and outside the Turkish-built Old City walls. The 3rd Jewish Temple should be at least as visible as the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount. History is all about reinventing identity and place, and now is the perfect time to revitalize Jerusalem and renew the value of the Jewish presence in the city. Enough of yearning for something that will never happen. Time to create a majestic temple once again.

Being practical is acceptable nowadays. Jews should settle for what makes rational sense and what minimizes geopolitical conflict. Muslims have no right to dictate what Jews do with the Jewish quarter of the Old City. The golden rule is supposedly at the heart of the Jewish faith, and so, in order to be a light unto the nations, Jews should renounce all desire to return to the Temple Mount and shift their focus to a new temple. The current Western Wall can continue to be a retaining wall for the new Jewish Temple Mount complex to the West of the Wall. The Wailing Wall can continue to divide the Jewish section of the Old City from the Muslim Quarter. Enough of these rabbinical, ministerial, and ridiculous visits to the Temple Mount. Jews should act as a mensch for the rest of the world. There's a Jewish Quarter that can be expanded, emboldened, and heightened to proportions befitting a 3rd Temple. Israel should not constantly challenge Muslim control. Instead, it should disengage from the struggle over the Temple Mount and build anew.

The recent Jerusalem Day national-religious parade through the Arab areas of Jerusalem renewed my antagonisms towards rightwing Zionists. These folks truly enjoy flaunting Jewish domination over Arab people. I resent the way that these fanatics give Israel a bad name. By recklessly asserting Israeli rule over Arab East Jerusalemites, these festive extremists make life difficult for security forces, mainstream Israelis, and all Arabs. There is no problem with Jews being proud and patriotic. However, these national-religious paraders thought it fit their day's duties to bang on the doors and walls of homes and businesses in the Arab sections of the Old City. Jewish chauvinism and Islamic chauvinism are close kin. I feel highly uncomfortable when exposed to either one. Clearly, both forms of fundamentalist expression are in response to the other. However, the existence of reactionary Islamism is no excuse for the emergence of callous, disgusting religious Zionism. The blatant disrespect that these folks displayed was unfathomable. I had not thought that Jews were capable of showing this sort of attitude towards fellow Jerusalemites. Clearly this was possible only due to the massive security presence, which enabled taunting and other absurdities. The time has come to limit the power of these extremists and build anew a temple that buttresses the power of the proud, spiritual, and respectful folks that belong to the civilized world. This region cannot be dominated by polarized factions of immature fanatics whose world is one of primal fantasy and tribal strife.

The 3rd Temple's architecture should be a combination of styles. Though the construction process will be the most highly contentious building campaign ever undertaken, I think the Temple should be a hybrid of Cubist-Modernist, Moorish, Jerusalemite, Byzantine, Turkish, and Expressionist-Futurist influences. Let the design competition commence.

The 3rd Temple period shall last for time immemorial and shall usher in a new era of justice, unity, and humanity.

PEACE سلام שלום

Friday, May 18, 2007

The 3 State Solution

Canaanism rocks...
The time has come to announce what you've all been waiting for. The answer is now at our collective doorstop. Golgotha meets Gethsemane meets Goliath. Goliath was a Philistine, and the Philistines have spoken louder than words may speaketh. The proper time has arrived to detach proper Philistine from Canaanistan, since these two entities cannot continue to exist as part of the same imaginary, future, mythical nation. Palestine does not exist as it is intended to exist. Palestine is derived from ancient Philistine, but only Gaza is truly the descendent of Philistine. The West Bank has absolutely nothing to do with ancestral Philistine and should not be confused with it. The West Bank shall henceforth be called Canaanistan, to capture the sense of Biblical trauma with which the latter day Heebrews are afflicted.

There goes. I said it. Three states. Supposedly two peoples. One mandate.

Philistine, Israel, and Canaanistan.

Philistine is Hamastan, and Fatah needs to give up their fight for control over Philistine. Biblical Philistine stretched from Rafah to Ashdod and was home to the Philistines. Shaped like the Strip is still shaped, this stretch of land hosted a number of seafaring peoples who docked for the long term. These folks came from elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. The real Philistines predated the Arabs by 2000 or so years. The latter day Arabs have no reason to claim inheritance rights to the Philistine state. They have no connection with the Philistines, other than that of forcible intermarriage with many of the folks who had comprised the local polities many years prior.

Hamas and Fatah need to undertake a massive demographic exchange. All those sympathetic to the Philistine nation-state must depart from Canaanistan. They shall be welcome to Philistine-on-Gaza. Canaanistan will be ruled by the inheritors of the Fatah crown. I'm all in favor of reversion to historically great circumstances in which some sort of emblematically pure state existed, frozen in the heroics of eons past. Mesopotamia and Babylon cometh forth and rear thine heads once again. The United Republic of Babylonian Mespotamia would be able to eject the Yankees. No Federal Republic of Iraq puppet state will stand the test of time. Similarly, Canaanistan is back. The West Bank is but a fabrication, functional only in a world of arbitrary schemes...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Videos from Canaanistan

Hamas and Mickey Mouse teach kids to start the 'ihad already:

Hasids in Bnei Barak break it down at a tish:

al-Quds anthem:

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Samaritan Passover 2007: the Good, Bad, and Bloody

As the festive community's males aggressively goaded forty-five sheep into the sacrifice pen atop Mount Gerizim, an ancient Passover rite entered its 3645th year.

White-clad Samaritan youths frolicked with bahhing Paschal lambs, on which they would feast a few hours later.

Having defied historical odds, the continuity of the Samaritan culture is baffling.

"We Samaritans are the smallest and oldest people in the world,” said Benyamin Tsedaka, the sect's historian.

The Israelite Samaritans are an extant link to the northern Kingdom of Israel, which, along with Judea, comprised biblical Israel.

Many groups around the world claim descent from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, but the Samaritans precisely trace their lineage to particular Israelite tribes that were vanquished by the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C.

Samaritans cite genetic proof that they descend from the tribes of Levi, Menashe, and Ephraim, the latter two of which are sons of Joseph. Meanwhile, some skeptics claim that the Samaritans descend largely from ethnically mixed Assyrians.

Yefet ben Asher Cohen is the director of the Samaritan Museum in Kiryat Luza and one of many Samaritan priests. Like most Samaritans, Cohen said he "can trace his Levite lineage back 127 generations to Aaron."

Today, the Samaritans retain an intense connection with their Israelite heritage by perpetuating a rite focused on literal interpretation of the Five Books of Moses.While there were an estimated 1.2 million Samaritans in 100 A.D., there are approximately 750 today. The community is split between Holon - a southeastern suburb of Tel Aviv - and the town of Kiryat Luza atop Mount Gerizim, overlooking Nablus in the northern West Bank.

"There is no Samaritan diaspora, since we are all in Eretz Yisrael," said Samaritan Natan Yeshua Marhib, of the tribe of Ephraim.

In 1920, there were just 146 Samaritans in the world, according to a National Geographic report from that year.

Scholars believe that a large number of Samaritans converted to Islam during centuries of Arab domination.

Mount Gerizim, the site of the destroyed Samaritan temple in ancient Luza, is the sacred epicenter of the Samaritan faith – just kilometers away from Sebastya, the political capital of biblical Samaria.

One primary difference between the Jewish and Samaritan Torahs is that the Samaritan 10th Commandment dictates the supreme holiness of Mount Gerizim, in contradistinction to the spiritual and political significance of Jerusalem's Temple Mount in the Judean tradition.

Historians believe that the Samaritans had become completely separate from the Jews by the Fourth Century B.C. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, among other tales, reflects the ill will that existed during New Testament times between Jews and Samaritans.

To this day, the Samaritans have retained the high priesthood, the annual Passover sacrifice, and the celebration of the New Year holiday of Aviv in the spring, in accordance with a distinctly Samaritan calendar. Samaritans do not consider themselves to be Jews, and they employ a number of unique legal texts that interpret Samaritan law.

Traditionally, the Samaritan religious leader is the eldest living Levite. Since 2004, the high priest has been Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq - the 131st Kohen Gadol.

Today, Gerizim Samaritans speak Palestinian Arabic in daily conversation, while those in Holon mostly use Modern Hebrew. For liturgical purposes, Samaritans use Samaritan Hebrew, a dialect of ancient Hebrew that predates Aramaic influence on the Hebrew language.

Samaritan Hebrew is written in a form of ancient Hebrew script whose letters are closely related to those of the ancient Hebrew inscriptions found on both the 1 and 10 New Israeli Shekel coins.

The community's monthly magazine, the Samaritan Times, was established in 1969 during a significant Samaritan cultural renaissance. Holon resident Benyamin Tsedaka is the current editor and the co-director of the A.B. Institute of Samaritan Studies, in addition to his other roles as historian and ambassador-at-large.

Tsedaka's father was the chief of the Holon community from 1928 to 1984.
As he turns towards portraits of his ancestors on the wall of his modern Holon home, Tsedaka said, "We regard the contemporary nation of Israel as the fulfillment of a historical dream."

Tsedaka is a distant cousin of Sofi Tsedaka, the Israeli actress and singer who converted from Samaritanism to Judaism. Benyamin Tsedaka believes that her recent musical notoriety has attained “positive publicity in a negative way for the Samaritan people."

He is currently in the midst of producing parallel translations of the Samaritan Torah (in Samaritan Hebrew, biblical Hebrew, and English), a seven year project that should be available on the internet by fall 2007.

He has also been preparing for the seventh International Conference of Samaritan Studies, which will take place in Papa, Hungary, in 2008.

Tsedaka speaks optimistically about the Samaritan community's fecundity. Though there is a small pool of potential mates amongst the four families (Cohen, Danfi, Marhib, and Tsedaka), a geneticist approves all marriages in order to prevent genetic illness.

This year's vibrant Passover festivities demonstrate the incredible longevity that the Samaritans have attained.

From 1948 to 1967, Passover was the only week in which the two communities in Holon and Nablus were allowed to see each other, as per an agreement between Israeli and Jordanian authorities.

This year's Passover sacrifice on the eve of April 30th was no exception to the annual celebration of primal, communal spirit. The slaughter and subsequent feast of Paschal lamb remains faithful to ancient Israelite rite. By marking each community member with lamb's blood, the Samaritan tradition holds that the angel of death will pass over every Israelite.

"The Passover sacrifice is just something routine that we do every year," said Rafi Tsedaka, a Samaritan from Holon, who compared the Samaritan Passover sacrifice to "celebrating one's birthday."

Samaritan priest Yafatayem Cohen said, "This slaughter is special for us because of the gradually increasing size of our community and the consequent number of sheep we must sacrifice." He added, "Since we need one per family, this year we are sacrificing 45."

Cohen's niece, 19-year old Kiryat Luza resident Salwa Cohen, studies English Literature at An Najah University in Nablus. She vividly recalls having celebrated each Passover since she was 6.

Salwa was four months old when the community relocated from Nablus to the summit of Mount Gerizim, during the height of 1st Intifada in 1988. Despite the consistently turbulent political situation, she emphasized, "We love Israel, and we love Palestine."

Most Samaritans seem intent on remaining neutral for the duration of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Though the remarkably small Samaritan ethno-religious entity has preserved its heritage for over 2700 years, the uncertain future of Israeli control in the West Bank places the Samaritans' welfare in doubt. While the Holon-based half of the community will remain under Israeli rule, the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim will likely become part of a future Palestinian state.
Gerizim Samaritans do not view this as a problem, since they hold both Palestinian identity cards and Israeli passports. Moreover, the Samaritans maintain friendly relations with the current Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, having negotiated an agreement of mutual understanding the day after Hamas came to power.

For now, the Gerizim community falls under Area B of the Oslo Accords, allowing for Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control, an arrangement instituted in 1995.

Many Gerizim Samaritans still work and study in Nablus, which is the northern West Bank’s largest population center.

The Samaritans, an officially recognized minority, formerly held a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

For his part, Benyamin Tsedaka hopes that the Israeli military will remain on Mount Gerizim.

“Without Israel, the Samaritans could disappear," said Tsedaka. "You cannot find a people more loyal to the State than the Samaritans.”

He continued, “If you want to prove the unbroken settlement of Israel, you can only do so with the history of the Samaritans.”

Tsedaka believes that relations between Israel and the Palestinians will never be perfect, but he envisions a return to the level of rapport that existed prior to the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

“As a peacemaker, I’m talking about the future of my community - working between the raindrops without wetting ourselves,” said Tsedaka.

Samaritan Website Link

Saturday, May 05, 2007

3 Top Heeb Vids

Yalla Ya Nasrallah

Hashish, Hashish, Hashish

Push Da Button

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