Trees instead of graves

For the Sake of Our Future

Nobody sees what lies ahead, and nobody is thinking about solutions for those who are now living on earth and those who will be living in the coming generations.


Salman Masalha ||

Trees instead of graves

What’s the first thing that meets the eye of those stuck in traffic in the bottleneck at the entrance to Jerusalem? Those entering the gates of the city are greeted by a city of the dead looking down from the mountain. In the holy tongue, such a site is called a House of Life, an Eternal Home and a Home That Awaits the Living.

Maybe it’s a metaphor for the state of the holy city and the land. Not a city or land of many days, but a city and land of many graves, which take up every good corner of nature. The metaphorical “tree of the field,” from the biblical verse and the popular song, is uprooting every sapling, eliminating the greenery and destroying nature. And all in the service of the dead and their sanctity.

Whether it’s the way of the world since man was created, or it’s the nature of those who fight over this fortified land, the dead are constantly multiplying. And because the dead have long since taken over the mountain and don’t rest for a moment, they are creating a necro-demographic and necro-topographical problem.

Recently we’ve been reading about a grandiose project in the advanced stages of construction. Across Har Hamenuchot cemetery they are digging tunnels to be used for future burials. Those in charge explain that it will provide burial places for the next 20 years. None of those responsible is asking the obvious question: And what next? Should providing for the needs of the dead be our only major concern?

Nobody sees what lies ahead, and nobody is thinking about solutions for those who are now living on earth and those who will be living in the coming generations. This land is so small, and it’s becoming more crowded from day to day.

That’s why this is the time to think about the future. Not about the quality of death of those who are gathered to their forefathers, but about the quality of life of this generation and those to follow. Just as there is a need for denser construction and for encouraging development that leaves open spaces, we have to think about an optimal solution for burial. In a small and crowded country like ours, we have to think about a green solution. It’s called sustainability. We have to think out of the box and to find another way to absorb, store or recycle human waste, which is generated by human beings on their journey to the “House of Life.”

In a place where the multiplying dead will settle all over this small and crowded country, as cities of the dead are built for them that spread and blight nature, the governmental authorities must impose regulations or pass laws forbidding the takeover of areas of land for cemeteries. Instead, the government must promise to provide cremation services for all the dead. After all, it already says in the Book of Books: “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

For that purpose, citizens would be asked to register a will in which they would choose a species of tree that the state would plant in their name after their death. The hole in which the chosen tree was planted would be their grave and their ashes would be placed in its soil.

Everyone would profit from such a solution – the dead who have returned to dust, those who are alive today and those who will be alive tomorrow. In that way it could well and truly be said that the words of the poem were fulfilled: “With their death they commanded us life.”
Haaretz, Jan 15, 2018

For Hebrew, press here

Iran’s Messianic War

The importance of Iran's involvement in Syria is rooted in Iran's vision of the Shi'ite apocalypse
Messianic meeting - Tehran

Salman Masalha ||

Iran’s Messianic War

Iran's involvement in Syria's civil war did not grow simply out of its strategic interests in the region. The importance of events in Syria transcends mere worldly matters and is rooted in Iran’s messianic vision of the Shi’ite apocalypse. Iranian religious leaders believe the Islamic revolution that founded their state paves the way for the appearance of the Mahdi – the Shi’ite messiah – who will bring final justice to the world.

The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders. For this purpose they made Palestine and Al-Quds their first priority. They turned the name Palestine into a club with which to bash the incompetent Arab leaders.

The ayatollahs wanted to use the Palestinian cause to gain the support of the Arab masses, which are sympathetic to the Palestinians’ aspirations. They learned to use the Palestinian issue from other Arab rulers. Since Sunni Islam’s rise to power in Turkey, Iran’s leaders have been embroiled in a lively competition over this issue with Sultan Erdogan.

But Syria is important to Iran for messianic reasons because according to Shi’ite traditions, the Mahdi’s reincarnation is associated with a bloody civil war that will take place in Syria and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. It begins on a small scale then escalates. Every time it seems to be calming down in one area, it bursts out in another, until the Mahdi appears.

Shi’ite traditions based on statements of Shi’a founder Ali ibn Abi Talib also refer to the yellow-flag carriers, who come from the west and take part in the war in Syria. Some even link this tradition to the color of Hezbollah’s flags, as did Iranian parliament member Roh Allah Hosseinian, whose statements were cited by the Iranian news agency.

The message was clear: When the yellow-flag carriers fighting against the Shi’ites’ enemies in Damascus are joined by the Iranian forces, it’s a sign of the Mahdi’s imminent appearance.

Messianic meeting - Jerusalem
The Islamic Shi’ites couldn’t care less, from the religious point of view, about Palestine and Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque carry no religious significance to the Shi’ites. The Shi’ite interpretation of the Koran proverb mentioning Al-Aqsa says it means “a mosque of above” located in the sky rather than in Jerusalem. For the Shi’ite faith, the Great Mosque of Kufa, in Iraq, is holier than the one in Jerusalem.

The Shi’ite end of days plot also has a twist – the Arabs won’t get any joy from the Mahdi’s coming, because when he appears, “only the sword will talk between him and the Arabs.” Can these religious traditions explain the atrocities committed by the Alawi regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, against the Syrian “Arabs,” who belong to the Sunni faction?

Wonder of wonders, when the Shi’ite Mahdi appears, he will bear God’s explicit name in Hebrew. He will also hold Moses’ staff, wear Solomon’s seal and carry the Israelites’ Ark of the Covenant, in which the Divine Presence (shekhina) dwells. With the ark with the Divine Presence he will conquer cities and countries and impose law and justice in the world.

If this is the state of affairs in the end of days, it seems all the commotion between the Tehran regime and the Jerusalem regime is over nothing. All that remains is to call for an Israeli-Iranian messianic convention to sort out the dispute between the Shi’ite messiah and the Jewish one.

It appears the disagreements are not significant and the gaps can easily be bridged. Surely the Jewish messiah’s followers can explain to the Shi’ite messiah’s followers that they came to the wrong address.

And with such wacky rulers in the region, go build a modern state!

Haaretz, Jan 5, 2018

For Hebrew, press here

Make way for Barghouti

The Palestinian president, who comes from Safed in present-day Israel, will forever be seen as a foreigner in Ramallah and the West Bank cities

Salman Masalha ||

Make way for Barghouti

Mahmoud Abbas has often threatened to resign, dismantle the Palestinian Authority and hand the keys over to Israel. The threats, as always, blow over and he stays there at the Muqata in Ramallah, playing the president of Palestine.

Arab leaders don’t quit and clear a path for new leaders. They will never utter a phrase like “I cannot go on any longer.” Moreover, a man like Abbas is someone who never leaves the Muqata for anything but meetings with leaders abroad.

He hasn’t toured Qalqilyah and Tul Karm. He hasn’t visited Jenin or walked around Hebron. He hasn’t gone to Bil’in to be with the protesters against the separation barrier, as did Salam Fayyad, who briefly served as prime minister until he was removed. Fayyad did so because he’s a son of the place. Not so Mahmoud Abbas, who comes from Safed.

This is about the perception of the homeland in the Arab and Palestinian experience. Unlike the broader Zionist view, the Palestinians see the term “homeland” in a narrow sense. The Palestinian approach limits the homeland to the community’s boundaries, to the tribe’s borders, no further.
To understand this issue we should consider the words of Mahmoud Darwish, often considered the Palestinian national poet: “I come from there and I have memories / Born as mortals are, I have a mother / And a house with many windows, / I have brothers, friends, / And a prison cell with a cold window. / ... I learned all the words and broke them up / To make a single word: Homeland ....”

And what is Darwish’s homeland? It’s not the entire Palestinian space. Darwish’s homeland is very restricted. Darwish was born under the British Mandate in what is now Israel. In an interview with The New York Times in 2001, he admitted: ‘’I had never been in the West Bank before. It’s not my private homeland. Without memories you have no real relationship to a place.’’

In other words, the Palestinian national poet’s homeland is different from the homeland in the Zionist sense. The Palestinian homeland is personal and limited to the village, the clan and the tribe. This perception may be the biggest obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As long as Abbas bears the title “president of Palestine,” he will keep sitting there praising Palestine. But he will be bearing this name in vain. Abbas, who comes from Safed, will forever be seen as a foreigner in Ramallah and the West Bank cities.

So Abbas won’t quit. To him, to quit means leaving Palestine. He won’t go to Jericho or the Jordan Valley to make the Palestine wilderness bloom. Abbas knows that if he quits, he has nothing to look for in Ramallah and he will leave Palestine to one of the Gulf states, or perhaps to Jordan, to be with his family, with his personal homeland that isn’t there.

If the Palestinians had a developed Arab imagination they’d act differently. In the present situation they have two options – one is to throw the keys onto the Israeli government’s table, let it handle the occupation, and fight for one state with equal rights for all citizens. The second option is to organize broad protests against the “corrupt” Palestinians who signed the Oslo Accords – who were brought in from afar as leaders subordinate to Israel’s whims. They should make way for authentic leaders deeply rooted in the place.

Such leaders exist and they’re doing time in an Israeli prison. The Palestinians must elect Marwan Barghouti as Palestine’s president while he’s sitting in an Israeli prison cell. They must appoint Salam Fayyad, an honest, reputable man, the prime minister of occupied Palestine.

Only Palestinian leaders deeply rooted in their personal homeland can make decisions on an agreement between Palestine and Israel, about peace between two nation-states.
Haaretz, December 17, 2017

For Hebrew, press here

For Arabic, press here

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Boston Community Gospel Choir ||

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source: Terezin Music Foundation

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