Thursday, July 31, 2014

Being an LDS woman in Palestine


Someone requested that I share my thoughts about being a Mormon woman in Palestine.

First, I feel I need to explain where Palestine is, as I still see people confused about it.  Palestine and Israel are the same place.  Some think Palestine is by Israel and there is conflict going on between the two. That is not true. 

The below map shows what happened in Palestine over the years: 



My country Palestine ceased to exist in 1967. Before 1948 Jews in Palestine lived mostly in the white areas, but everyone in the country was allowed to travel freely. Both people lived together side by side. In 1947 the British gave part of Palestine to the Jews so they can make it their home. In 1967, the Jews occupied the whole country of Palestine and it became what we know now as the State of Israel. The flag changed, the currency changed and everything changed. My country, Palestine was not recognized anymore. It was no longer valid to say I am 'Palestinian'. There was no such thing.  I still refer to the country as Palestine, some refer to it as Israel, but the bottom line is, it is one place. What you call it depends on whose side you are on.  Actually, our church district here which was called the "Israel District" was just changed a short while ago to the "Jerusalem District" because the LDS church does not take sides.  

We (the Palestinian Arabs) still live here in Palestine/Israel under Israeli occupation. We are not citizens of the State of Israel, nor do we have the rights Israelis have. During the wars also half of my people became refugees (lost their homes and land). Some are not allowed to return back to Palestine even for a visit. Those of us that still live here have little human rights. (Read my blog post on human rights written in June, 2014 for more info: Palestinian Human Rights). This is the reason of the conflict. Not the Hamas rockets nor the attacks on Gaza.  We, the Palestinians living here, are fighting to have the basic necessities of life: Running water, freedom to travel, the right for a just trial, the right to raise our flag, the right to live in safety...etc.

Most Arabs/Palestinians in Palestine are now allowed to live only in the green areas (see the map above). This is 8% of the original land of Palestine. This 8% as you can see in the picture above is not connected sometimes. It is actually often surrounded by walls and checkpoints. (a 20-foot concrete wall, as you see in the picture below of me at the entrance to the Bethlehem checkpoint). 



Those living in Bethlehem, like me, are not allowed into Jerusalem and other 'white'/Israeli areas. I was actually born in Jerusalem, but am not allowed to go there. Nor am I allowed to travel to the Galilee, Nazareth and other holy sites. I am not allowed into the only airport in my country (Tel-Aviv Airport). I can only leave the country by land through Jordan. 
Palestinians living here don't hate the Jews nor do they hate the Israelis, but we do hate what the Israeli government is doing to us. It is unjust, unfair and basically not human sometimes.  Anyway, maybe that is enough on politics. Let me share my story...

I was raised as a Christian in a town called Beit Sahour, close to Bethlehem. Despite the fact that I was Christian, I did not understand many essential gospel principles.  Christians are a minority in my country, like 2% or so. But, the town where I grew up was mostly Christian (80% Christian).  There is a limited portion of those Christians, however, who attend church and practice Christianity.  For some, their religion and what church they belong to is more of a culture than a belief. I belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church because my parents did.

Living as a Palestinian was hard. As a teenager I went on demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. I saw many from my people get shot, beaten, arrested or killed often for no reason. I was even shot at when I was 14 years old by an Israeli settler.  We were under curfew (house arrest) a lot during the first and second uprising.  My life as a Palestinian was so miserable that I often wanted to die.  I saw many relatives and friends lose their faith in God as they witnessed the injustices and pain all around them.

I received a scholarship to BYU to obtain a Master’s degree in 1994. I was discouraged from going to BYU by many friends and family members. Yet I felt the Holy Ghost prompting me to go.
I joined the LDS church in Utah in 1996 and returned back to Palestine that year.  Joining the church brought into my life a kind of peace and joy that I had never before experienced. I did not know what peace was and what it was like to be really happy. Those were new feelings that came into my life.

I faced some persecution when I got back home. It was mostly because being different was not acceptable. Sometimes people in my town would refuse to associate with those who belonged to ‘different’ religions like Jehova’s Witnesses and others. Even though quite a few Christians don’t practice Christianity or understand basic principles of what their own church believes they still want everyone to belong to the same church they do.  I did get critical remarks from people, especially from family members, often. “Are you going to Heaven because you don’t drink tea? How can you betray your family and destroy their reputation in town? How can you let the Mormons brain wash you? I thought you were smarter than this!...etc”

When I returned home from BYU I was not aware of any other members in the Bethlehem area. I was the only member of the church in my family and the only LDS woman in the whole area. The only branch at the time was the Jerusalem Branch that met at the Jerusalem Center. Since Palestinians living in the West Bank are not allowed into Jerusalem, attending church services was challenging.  I had to sneak into Jerusalem to go to Church.
Sometimes I would manage to get through the Israeli checkpoints and other times I would climb hills and walls, hide from soldiers and take back roads to get to church.  The trip would take 2-3 hours each way.  As time went by, getting to church got harder and harder until it became almost impossible and very dangerous (I got shot at and almost arrested sometimes).

For these reasons being a Palestinian Mormon was somewhat hard--persecution and restrictions preventing me from attending church services and being with other members. Yet being a member of the church helped me find real happiness and peace. During the 14 years when I sneaked in to go to church I felt happy. I felt the Holy Ghost comfort me and strengthen me. I was lifted by my Heavenly Father and often literally carried to church as I saw miracles happen to help me get to church. By joining the church I had become a different person and saw things through different eyes. I was able to forgive and love the Israeli soldiers and that feeling was liberating. I was able to let go of anger and hate and thus was able to have personal peace. I believe that this is the only way to peace in this country, forgiveness, love and respect for others.

After 14 years of sneaking into Jerusalem to go to church, I was blessed with a job with the UN in Jerusalem. That job provided me with the proper papers so I can enter Jerusalem freely.  A few years after that, we were all blessed when a branch of the church was organized in Bethlehem.
There are now 4 main branches of the church in Palestine/Israel: Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel-Aviv and Bethlehem.  The Jerusalem branch is mostly constituted of BYU students and faculty with very few local members.  The locals struggle due to the complete turnover every semester when all the BYU students leave.  The Galilee branch is very small and many members live far from the meeting house and thus can’t attend services due to the unavailability of public transportation on the Sabbath.  The Tel-Aviv branch as well contains few local members of the church. The majority are in Tel-Aviv area because of work for a short time.

Because of the current restrictions on Palestinians, Palestinian members like me cannot travel to any of the other branches (unless they have an Israeli citizenship—very few). So, all Palestinians living anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza belong to the Bethlehem branch (even if they live 15 minutes away from one of the other branches).  I go to church at the Bethlehem branch. Our Branch covers the entire West Bank and Gaza areas. Because of the separation wall and checkpoints, the distance members have to travel to get to church is often far. We have members that live 4 hours away, some 2 hours, some 1 hour from the meeting house…Those members are often the only LDS people in their town. Visiting and home teaching is a challenge especially as many members in our branch are poor and don’t have cars. Because of that members often don’t have the support they need from other members and from the church. Most members in the Bethlehem Branch, like me, joined the church in other countries and returned home to Palestine as members. 

Another issue we have is that we don’t currently have strong Palestinian members of the church in our branch. Thus, the branch president is usually American.  This produces two main issues. First is the language, as our Branch President can’t communicate with many members without the help of a translator.  Second, our branch president has to follow BYU rules which prevent him from traveling freely to Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities. He is not allowed to visit members in their home. This has nothing to do with safety issues as Bethlehem is much safer than Jerusalem (in case you were wondering). There are reasons that BYU has that I am not aware of.

If you live in the West Bank, living your faith and keeping the commandments is different for you. You are alone, often the only one in your town, and you are the only representative of the church in your area. A lot depends on you; how you act, how you live and what you choose to do every day is essential.
Here we don’t keep our faith, our faith keeps us going. As the support is lacking from a strong church organization and from strong church members, our hearts and minds often turn to God. Heavenly Father is someone who is always there for us. I have been able to find strength and have found support from the Lord often during difficult times in my life. He has literally carried me and I have felt His loving arms often surround me.
  
What we really need in the Bethlehem Branch are strong members who speak Arabic. We need especially people who hold the priesthood that are willing to serve. We need those who can be good examples on how a husband should treat his wife and how to be a good father. We need those that can live in Bethlehem, get to know the people and culture and serve to strengthen the members here. We need visiting and home teachers that are willing to travel far distances to visit people.  I don’t see that happening unless we start getting missionaries who live here and speak Arabic. The church signed an agreement with Israel regarding teaching Jews. However, as part of that agreement we are not allowed to talk about the church to anyone (Jew or non-Jew).  I have had many friends who are interested in our church and I wish I could explain to them and teach them.  I hope that someday we would be able to teach Palestinians and non-Jews living in Palestine the gospel.  I don’t think that breaks our agreement with the Israeli government, but of course this requires study and effort. Palestinians have been through a lot, they are humble and ready to be taught the gospel. We should seek recognition as a church here and start teaching the Palestinians.  This is my dream…










Monday, July 28, 2014

What you may not know about Hamas

This is in response to the comment on my blog about Hamas.
Before I start I would like to mention that I don’t belong to Hamas, neither do I support terrorism in any form.

The latest turmoil in Gaza has been defined by the media mainly as a fight between Hamas and Israel. This is really not the case. Innocent civilians are suffering and it must end.  Hamas could choose to stop firing rockets, this of course would cause Israel to stop bombing Gaza. But to me that is not what I mean by wanting this to end. Living a life of oppression and persecution is not the solution for Palestinians. Peace is not just having no one shooting at you.   

Let us make sure people understand what Hamas is. The reason for the Hamas rockets is the injustice, poverty, occupation and imprisonment of the entire Gaza population. Why didn't this kind of stuff exist in 1980? Because Palestinians were free to travel anywhere and they had 'some' human rights.  Palestinians have been resisting the occupation, first as peaceful demonstrations which brought nothing but more problems, then by throwing rocks, then by armed resistance like Hamas. To solve any problem you need to remove the cause.

Let me explain to you some facts about Hamas.

Some believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization which is mainly militants bombing civilians. This is incorrect. Of course this is what Israel wants you to believe, but the truth is different.

First, I have even heard some valid arguments that Hamas was created by Israel (to divide the Palestinians--as part of a divide and conquer strategy). I don't know how true this is, but here is one video to support that:


And this article:

(note that those who make this claim are not Palestinian—so it is really not something we are using to defend or justify ourselves)

Actually, it does not really matter who created Hamas, or why it was created, but what matters is the fact that now, Hamas, like Fateh, is a Palestinian political party. Just like there are democrats and republicans in the US, in Palestine there are various political parties: Hamas, Fateh, popular front, and others. Just like there are two major parties in the US, Hamas and Fateh are the two major parties in Palestine. They are pretty close in the number of supporters. The Hamas party supporters are greater than the supporters of Fateh in certain areas, like Gaza for example. If we look at the history, we will see that Hamas actually won the Palestinian elections last time. So, the majority of the Palestinian population seems to support the Hamas party. Hamas was not allowed to gain power however and all foreign aid to Palestinians stopped until Fateh regained power.

So, just remember when someone mentions Hamas on the news, then they are referring to half of the Palestinian population living in Palestine (like 3 million people). The majority of those (like over 90%) are not militants, nor are they terrorists. They are civilians: Palestinian men, women and children that live a hard life in Palestine under Israeli occupation.

Hamas (minority in the Hamas party):


Also Hamas (Palestinians that may belong to the Hamas party--Majority in Hamas):



Left homeless, parents may have been killed...Those that suffer most are the children of Gaza.

Just like any other political party, Hamas has it’s political views. I have many friends that belong to the Hamas party. Yes, I agree, there are some in Hamas who want to destroy the State of Israel. But, honestly, if you come and live as a Palestinian here, you would want to do that too. Read my blog post about living in Palestine/Israel then decide:

Being an LDS woman in Palestine 

And don't you think Israel is doing the opposite by bombing Gaza? You think those children who have watched their parents get blown to pieces by Israeli soldiers won't grow up wanting to destroy Israel? 

Attributing terrorism to a whole political party just because a few of that party do terrorist acts is not right. This is called capital punishment and it is not acceptable.
So, blaming the entire population of Gaza (About half of the Palestinian population) for those terrorist acts done by Hamas is like blaming everyone who is a democrat in the US for the Oklahoma bombing just because the person who did it was a democrat. And Israelis bombing Gaza to target ‘Hamas targets’ is like US forces charging the whole state of Oklahoma bombing civilian residential areas to try and kill the person in charge of the bombing.  Then justifying their attack by saying: “We are defending ourselves.”

Is it a surprise that such extremists exist in Palestine? If you knew how Palestinians in Gaza lived, you would not be surprised that they use any means to fight back their oppressors.  Those in Gaza have been under siege for years. Palestinians living in Gaza are not allowed to go in and out of Gaza, they have very few supplies that come in, many of them have been arrested or shot by the Israeli soldiers, they have very few fresh water sources, and almost all of them have had their family home taken from them by the Israelis in the year 1948 or 1967.

As I listened to the news the other day, one of the relatives of an airplane victim spoke. When the reporter asked him how he felt and what he would say to the person who caused his daughter's death, the father said: "If I saw him in front of me, I would kill him!" Do you think that father who lost his daughter is a terrorist for having these thoughts? Of course you would agree that he is angry and if he happens to kill, he would be justified (maybe even can claim ‘insanity’ during court). Right?

Why then do we automatically judge a Palestinian who kills before knowing that his son was killed in front of him, his house has been taken or demolished and he has been tortured by the Israeli soldiers? Why do the Palestinians get called terrorists all the time?

I listened to an Israeli mother on TV the other day. She said she was not able to forgive the Palestinian who killed her son (who served in the Israeli military) until she heard the story of the Palestinian. This Palestinian ‘terrorist’ (as others may call him) saw his uncle killed in front of him by an Israeli soldier, and his other two uncles were also killed by Israeli soldiers.  Should we call this 17-year old Palestinian a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘victim’?  I don’t support terrorism or murder of any sort, but sometimes to eliminate killing you need to know the reasons behind it. Causing more pain, killing more Palestinians, and imposing more restrictions on Palestinians will not stop the rockets being fired into Israel. If anything, it will increase them.

In response to the comment about whether or not Hamas can be demolished, the answer is no; that is not physically possible. That is what the Nazis tried to do: eliminate the entire Jewish population. That is neither just nor possible.  Maybe if Israel was to throw a nuclear bomb on Gaza and on the entire west bank, then they may eliminate most of those supporting Hamas. I mean they are trying to eliminate 2 million people from Gaza by bombing them, but really, is that practical?

Some think that Hamas is the only thing preventing peace in the West Bank and Gaza. They think that Hamas started this fight and they can end it.  That is such a misconception as I mentioned. Because the fight was never about rockets, or about the 3 Israelis that were killed. 

Did the rockets start this? Again, no. Because the rockets started AFTER the Israeli soldiers bombarded various Palestinian cities killing people from Hamas and arresting over 500 of them.  I think this is what started the rocket attacks from Hamas and then Israel used the rockets as an excuse to go into Gaza and kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians.  

Unlike what Israel tends to publish in the media, the Hamas party cares about Palestinian lives (after all, they are Palestinian). There is a lie that the media mentions often about Hamas using human shields (and that is why many civilians in Gaza are killed). Really? As mentioned, Hamas is a political party. If you attack republicans, republican civilians will be killed. Duh!! Bombing NY city then saying that the reason women and children die is because republicans are using them as human shields is too silly to even mention. I can’t believe that normal, educated men keep saying that on the news!! And people believe it!! A comment by an Israeli on CNN the other day: “What do we do when Hamas uses the entire Gaza population as human shields?” Seriously? 1.5 million people are used as human shields?!! Come on, this is the world news. Even mentioning that on the news makes you look like an idiot.

And let us humor the thought just for the fun of it. How can Hamas use human shields when the bombs are coming down on Gaza from Israeli war planes from the air? How in the world does Hamas know where the rockets will land and do they have time to gather women and children and put them there? And which father would allow his wife and children to be used as human shields.  Again it is like bombing downtown NY city using F16 war planes and saying that the reason civilians die is that they are being used as human shields.
What about bombing UN schools? The UN repeatedly said no weapons were found in their schools. But, let's say there were weapons. Does that justify bombing a school used as a shelter killing women and children? come on!

Can Palestinians and Israelis live in peace? Yes. But, this has nothing to do with Hamas. It has to do with basic human rights. If Israel gives Palestinians their rights as humans then there may be a chance for peace.  This was never a war between Hamas and Israel, it is a war between Palestinians and Israel. Palestinians are however unarmed in most cases while Israel has a huge army funded by the US mainly with the most advanced weapons, tanks, war planes and missiles being used on a civilian population which has as its best weapons rockets that have so far killed very few.

For more info about Palestinian human rights (which don’t exist in the State of Israel) read my blog post:


I am amazed when Israel blames Palestinians for disrupting peace and for lack of peace. Do they expect us to live in an open air prison surrounded by concrete walls, allow them to kill us, confiscate our land, arrest our relatives, torture us, humiliate us while we sit and do nothing? How can an oppressor ask for peace from their oppressed people?




Saturday, July 26, 2014

Heading home

It was sad to leave Utah. It was especially hard to leave good friends there...I really almost cancelled my flight and stayed. 

I arrived in Texas and have been spending some time with my family in Houston. My Aunt has been taking good care of us. Aunt Areej prepared a great dinner for everyone when we arrived on Thursday. 

We then drove to Aunt Hayah's house and spent the night there. Yesterday she cooked Warak Dawali for us and we had a fun day of just catching up and talking and playing games. 

Today we went to Galveston and had a wonderful buffet lunch then rode the ferry back and forth. It was fun to see the seagulls and the dolphins. The weather was amazingly not as hot as I thought it would be. 

We went to a magic show at night with Jihad. I was really tired, but it was a good show. the guy was very funny as well as a good magician. He cut himself in half, disappeared and did all the other usual magic tricks. 

I ended up with too much stuff to take back home. I hope I don't have extra weight. I think I may die trying to carry those bags at the bridge. I may just have to give extra tips and have people carry them for me. I don't need extra back problems.

By the way, regarding my back/thigh...I saw two doctors in Utah. Dr. Peterson was so nice and helped me and even arranged for me to see a friend of his to get a second opinion. The final decision was that there is really no solution to my problem. This is basically caused by sitting for long hours. He gave me some medicine that he said I may have to take for the rest of my life if this does not go away. And he told me I can take pain killers whenever I am in a lot of pain and he said "don't sit!"... Anyway, the medicine really helps, although it does not make it completely better. I have been doing some stretches and I will get a soft pillow when I get home and make sure I sit on it and not sit on hard chairs. 

I have been wanting to write posts about what is going on at home. I just ran out of time...I am heading home tomorrow. I will leave around noon on Sunday and get home Tuesday night (if I am lucky). I wish the trip was shorter and I wish I could fly into Tel-Aviv (well, maybe I don't wish that with things as they are).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Imagine

Imagine that one day you woke up to war. Everyone was running around trying to hide. Then within days your whole life changes..
The soldiers occupy your country. Suddenly the passport you hold is no longer valid. You lose your identity and nationality.  The soldiers force you and others to take down any flag that was hanging high. Then they make you burn your flag. The flag that you honor and respect lies on the ground in flames.  Those who refuse to burn the flag are arrested or beaten.  

As you sit in your home one night thinking sadly about this, you hear a loud knock at the door. Soldiers come in and force you to leave your home. The home you have lived in all your life. The home your parents lived in, and your grandparents before them. You are only able to grab a few personal belongings on the way out, but those mean nothing when all the memories, laughs and good times you spent in that home are gone.



You leave, not knowing where to go taking your little children with you. With the help of the UN, you obtain a tent that you could use to live in with your family. The UN later helps you build a small home and you feel that you can start your life again.  You take your children to see your old home (which now has others living in it) and with tears in your eyes you promise your children that one day they will be able to go back to the home of your parents and grandparents. You share your precious memories with them about that place and hope they will remember...

Years later the soldiers build walls around and in your city and tell you that you are not allowed to leave.  The wall they built was a 20-foot concrete wall which makes it hard for you to travel in your city and prevents you from leaving the city. Because your city is now surrounded, supplies don't come in. Hospitals in your city have little supplies, there is a lack of fresh water, and a shortage of gas and electricity. Life becomes very challenging. You lose your job and so you find it hard to provide for your children. The oldest child you have, who is 13, wants to go begging on the street to find food.  You tell him that things will get better...there is hope.

A few days later you hear shooting close to your home. People running and shouting and you smell tear gas in the air. Suddenly you hear cries, "Oh no, he's dead".  You run to the sound of the cries and you notice a body on the ground. As you approach you start to recognize the clothes, then the face...it is your eldest son, Isaac. You rub your eyes in disbelief thinking this all must be a bad dream. It isn't! Isaac is there lying in his blood, lifeless.  Suddenly you hear the planes in the sky, the soldiers are starting to bomb your city.  "We have to go", your friend says. "But, my son..." you start to say...Even before you finish your friend drags you away as a missile fired from the air hits the area you were at. 

With a heavy heart and with eyes full of tears you walk home to this small brick home the UN has built for you. How will you face your children, what will you tell them? You approach and gaze into your small street shocked at the destruction the bombing and shelling has caused. Your little home lies in rebels. You run towards it, still hoping that this is all a bad dream. Your brother meets you, hugs you, then tells you that your family is in the hospital. Your 8 month daughter, Sara, did not make it, but the rest of the family is ok.





How do you put your life together now with two of your children gone? How do you rebuild your home without any money? How do you even begin to comfort the rest of your family? So many questions come to your mind...One especially: "Why does the rest of the world call me a terrorist after all I have been through?" 

You begin to think: "Why am I so cursed?" and "What can I do now?" 

Well, you have a few choices:
(a) Demonstrate and throw rocks at the soldiers.
(b) Find weapons (any weapons) and use them against the soldiers.
(c) Kill yourself.
(d) Do nothing.

What would you do if this happened to you?

This is the story of many Palestinian families...Many of which still live it every day...Those in Gaza still lose loved ones every day as the bombing of Gaza continues.

If you are NOT Palestinian, I would like to ask you, "What would you do to stop this?" If you are American, I would ask, "Are you OK with the fact that your government is funding the whole attack on Palestinians and supporting what Israel is doing?"
This is not OK under any circumstances. Every human being has the right to live in peace and safety in their own home. Please let the world know what is going on in my home country of Palestine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

News from America

I finished recording the Gospel Principles lessons. It was not as bad as I thought, but it was a lot of work. I finished almost all my talks and firesides except for one. I have one more tomorrow then I am done. I wish I could let everyone know what is going on in Palestine. As I share my experiences people come to understand, but not enough. 

We had a get-together last week and many came to see me. The Petersons were so nice to plan the whole thing and provide the treats.  I posted some pictures on facebook, but here is a great picture with me and the Gublers. Amazing family:



I have been invited by my friends to speak at a stake in California. It has been a remarkable trip. Actually, I have been so busy in Utah that it was nice to be away and actually felt I was on vacation for a change. 
The friends that arranged for my trip and paid for the whole thing were these amazing women that I took on a tour of Bethlehem one day. I did not do much for them, but they have done so much for me this trip (tickets, hotel and food. In addition to a nice tour of the area). From left to right: Natalie, Melody, me and April.




The talk I gave was about charity and I was told not to share any politics, but I shared my personal experiences. The questions got a little political at the end as well. But, I think overall it went very well. We had more people show up than we thought. 

We took a short tour of San Francisco area. The weather was amazingly good. Last time I went to San Francisco it was super cold and rainy.



A little Gopher who was sticking his head out at the beach:



Just a pretty house in San Francisco:



Last week I visited Sharon.  Yasmeen and Julie, who were visiting, cooked us a nice Arabic meal. they are good cooks even at this age! Sharon took us to the bountiful Temple and we watched the sunset. It was simply amazing...So nice to be by the temple.




In Bountiful, I also got to visit with Elder and Sister Porter who are getting ready to go to Russia. It was nice to see them again. 

Today Elder Price and his family invited me to go with them river rafting/tubing. It was actually the most fun thing I have ever done. I was a bit scared to sit in a tube by myself and go down the river, but it was not bad at all other than the freezing water...Just going down the river listening to the sound of the water and being surrounded by the pretty Utah mountains and trees was so nice and relaxing. I really needed this...




I have been staying with the Petersons before I left to California (he's a doctor) and they have been helping me resolve my hip problem. I am getting a bit desperate as it has not improved at all despite the medicine and shots they gave me. I may give up and have an orthopedic doctor look at it, which means it will cost a lot of money. I just want this to go away. I am so tired of being in pain. 

I have not had much time, but I have been trying to find employment here in the US. The situation at home is not good and I am seriously thinking of doing all it takes to find a job and move here. My problem is with my visa. I need to get an employment visa and whoever hires me has to be willing to sponsor me and help me get the visa.  I can't work at a university because most universities require publications, which I don't have. My options right now are data analysis jobs, and Arabic teaching jobs, or maybe something to do with programming if I can use my half masters degree in computer science. If any of you hear of a job opening or have any connections, please email me
I would be happy to forward you my resume. I don't know if I can figure out how to post it here, but I will try.  Thanks...


Sunday, July 13, 2014

I want my country back

This post has some graphic images (not recommended for those under 18)

Unfortunately I have been so busy to respond to all the incorrect media out there about what is really going on in Palestine. Everything you hear is mostly incorrect. Please don't think if you hear it on the news, then it is right. If you don't have facts, like from study and observation, then you are misinformed! 
I'll give you a few examples from things I have seen in my life...

(1) While Isaac was hanging a Palestinian flag on top of my university he was shot in the head...
The story in the Israeli (and other media) was: The soldier felt his life was in danger so he shot towards Isaac's legs to stop him.
(2) When 17-year old Idmon was walking down the street in my town an Israeli soldier threw a rock on Idmon's head killing him instantly.
The story in the Israeli (and other media) was: Idmon walked by an old building which collapsed on him.

These are things I have seen and witnessed. So, don't tell me that you are believing all the media out there.

I'll give you some facts below. Please google it (don't listen to news) to verify it.
**Israel is under attack: Hamas is shooting rockets towards Israel. Lets address that topic for a minute...And find out who's attacking who...
This cartoon tells it all... along with some facts. 




How many Palestinians (including women and children) have died since this thing started? Well, I am hearing reports of like 165 deaths and over 700 injuries. How many Israelis were killed by Hamas missiles? Ummm...most reports say none, I saw one report that say 5, but I have no seen anything that had more than 5. This really shows the difference between a military power (Israel) who gets aid from the US in the amount of 8+ million dollars EACH day as compared to Hamas who makes rockets from scratch in Gaza, a besieged area with no real supplies.


**Why would Hamas shoot missiles if they know the response will be like this? Why can't they just sit and do nothing?
Why can't all the Palestinians just stop complaining...so, they lost their land, so what? so, their family home was taken with no compensation and they are not allowed back, so what? So they were arrested and tortured, and they can't travel in their own country, so what? So, your son was killed in front of you, you have another son, just let it go. So, you missed your appointment and lost your job because you stood for 3 hours at a checkpoint, well get a new job.
Your home was demolished? That's ok, just build a new one. Oh your whole family was inside and died, well, get married again and have a new family. Stop throwing rockets at Israel and just sit and watch what will happen to you next. Come on, don't you want peace!
Really? Is that what Israel expects the Palestinians to do? Just sit and let things go? If these things happened to you, would you let it go?

**Israel claims that Palestinians use human shields and that is why so many civilians in Gaza are getting killed. 
Really? How can you use human shields when the attack is happening from Israeli F16 airlines from the air? How does Hamas/Palestinians know where the rocket will land? So, you are telling me that Palestinians know where the rocket will land and they go place children and women in that house fast before the rocket hits? 
See an image of some Israeli rockets landing in the middle of the most densely populated area in the world, Gaza...



Does it look like these people below were used as human shields?
And who would even allow their child to be a human shield? Maybe the father who we saw on camera begging his dead boy to wake up saying: "I bought you a toy son, please wake up, please." (the picture is too graphic to show here as the boy's brain was blown off)?
Just google Gaza deaths 2014 and look at other images if you want...
Then after looking at them tell me who you think the terrorist is!








It has been a long day and I am tired, so I will stop here...But, really I want to invite you all to go online and hear both sides of the story. don't watch the news and hear one side only then judge. There are two sides to every story...I am not asking you to take sides. I am asking you to simply stand for human rights...that is all...

Palestinians are now allowed to live on 8% of their land. And this 8% is surrounded in many places by a 20-foot wall. We can't travel from one city to the other without passing through an Israeli checkpoint. We can't even take our trash out of our cities (so it piles on the street) when Israel closes those checkpoints-- like they did a few weeks ago. We live in a big open air prison...would you do nothing if you lived like we did?
I am not justifying rocket attacks, but I am justifying resistance. We have to resist, we have to stand up for our rights. There is no force in the world that would say we can't do that...
Our country ceased to exist in 1967 and it is now called Israel. 



I want my country back. I want to be able to go to the sea of Galilee, to the Mediterranean and to Jerusalem (where I was born). Why can't I go to these places? I am a Christian, Why can't I visit Nazareth where my savior grew up? Or Jerusalem where He died, Or the sea of Galilee where he walked and taught. Is it fair for Israel to prevent me from doing that?

Can I do something about it? Well, I can speak and hope someone out there listens and lets the world know...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thank You..more to come

I want to thank those of you who have been so kind to me while here. It has been a crazy busy week. I have recorded 10 Gospel Principles lessons and gave one fireside. I am a little stressed about the talks next week, but I am sure things will go well.

I have been trying to follow the news back home and would like to post something about it this weekend or early next week. The news has been very disturbing. (well, both the news about what is going on and the incorrect news reported here in the US). I liked this quote by Mark Twain (adjusted): "If you don't listen to the news you are uninformed, but if you listen to the news you are misinformed."

I think there are two major facts the world out there is ignoring:
1. There was no evidence showing Hamas killed those 3 Israelis. In fact they denied it. And from past experience (when they kidnapped the Israeli soldier a while ago), when Hamas kidnaps someone they let the world know. And they ask for prisoners in return even. There was no autopsy report done on these 3 Israelis. For all we know they could have died from an accident or something. Is Hamas guilty until proven innocent? How can you even assume murder without an autopsy report? (was there one and I missed it?)

2. Do you know how many Israelis were killed from the Hamas missile attack towards Israel?? (NONE...yes no one) The last report I read said only ONE person was hurt seriously with 20 or so minor injuries. Now, on the other hand, how many were killed in Gaza? 230 Palestinians! one third of which were children...There are no acts that justify random bombing of densely populated areas killing civilians. Do you think doing that is going to make the missile attacks stop?? Seriously!!?

Also, lets consider who we call a terrorist here...
An Israeli bombing a Palestinian densely populated city from the air killing tens of civilians who have been under siege for years and who have no medical supplies to even treat the injuries caused by the bombing...
OR..
A Palestinian using the only defense method he knows (basic rockets) hurting very few civilians...

If you say they are both terrorists, maybe you are right...but then the US media better start calling Israeli soldiers terrorists! 

Let us all pray for the Holy land and all the people of the Holy Land. 

Yesterday I had dinner with my Israeli friend Daphna. She is amazing! Our friendship still gives me hope that Palestinians and Israelis can live together and can love each other...One day...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Arrived in the US

I am really tired, so don't expect a long post! 
I just wanted to let you all know that I arrived safely in Utah. I had a good flight except for the pain. My trip to Egypt was really nice, but it was too tiring. My pain (back/thigh) got worse and sitting for 20 hours on a flight just killed me. I love taking Air France because they stop in Paris airport. That airport has beds that I could lie on and rest. It was really good for me, but still got to Utah completely exhausted. My feet were twice their normal size too! I could not sleep last night mostly from the pain.
I have a friend here who is a doctor. I am going to see him and see if he could figure out what is wrong. I saw 3 doctors in Palestine and they could not fix the problem. 

I rented a nice car and drove to the hotel. I was glad I was able to find it, and even found stores to go shopping. The hotel is really nice and the location is good. If you need to reach me, the hotel phone number is: (801)523-4174. I have a magic jack number but people have had a hard time with it. That number is (801)822-0664, but I prefer you use the hotel number.


I went to church and had dinner with some friends in Draper today. They did show-and-tell with me today in their ward and even had me speak to the primary children in the ward.  I will have a fireside at their house tomorrow. It won't be a major formal thing, it will be just in their backyard. You are welcome to come if you want. I put the info for that on my 'Updated schedule' link on the right on my blog. (I also copied and pasted it below) Please also note the change in time for the Pleasant Grove fireside in case you had planned to come to that.


The situation back home has been getting worse. My branch president has been forbidden from coming to Bethlehem and so church has been cancelled there yesterday. A Palestinian young boy was kidnapped and tortured to death by some Israeli settlers. Others have been beaten and arrested by the Israeli soldiers. So people in Jerusalem and other areas have been demonstrating. Who knows if things will calm down or not. Israel is threatening a more severe reaction to revenge the death of the 3 Israeli settlers. No one knows who killed them yet, but Israel assumed it was Hamas. As I mentioned on my post, Palestinians are guilty until proven innocent. Don't know if they will find something to prove Hamas did not kill those men...we'll see.


I have been in Egypt too long with flat brown desert fields...it is so nice to see some green trees and mountains around here. It is also strange to see people stop to let you cross the street. I was in shock yesterday and couldn't figure out why the driver was stopping! In Palestine they honk at you and stop only if you are in the middle of the road. In Egypt they don't honk or stop, they just run you over if you don't move out of the way in time.


My schedule here is pretty full because when I don't have something listed, then I am probably preparing for my next fireside or lesson. I hope some of you don't get offended if we can't work out a time to get together. I am hoping for another trip to Utah in the near future (before next summer). I'll keep you posted.


Now that it is 5 am Palestine time, I guess I need to go finish preparing for my lessons and fireside tomorrow and then try to sleep.  



Calendar for US trip --Updated July 7

I arrived in Utah and am really tired still, but I am alive!
Staying at Springhill Suites hotel. Phone number here is
(801)523-4174 in case you need to reach me.

Monday, July 7
Staying in Draper.

Schedule that day:
11:00 am Recording GP lessons 3 & 7 in Riverton.

7:00 pm Fireside at Carpenters’ home. 
Address:14047 Osborne Lane in Draper
Topic: Personal Peace.

Tuesday, July 8
Staying in Draper.

Schedule that day:
10:00 am Recording GP lessons 11 & 15 in Riverton.

4:30 pm business meeting

Wednesday, July 9
Staying in Draper.

Schedule that day:
10:00 am Recording GP lessons 19 & 23 in Riverton.
Afternoon: meeting

Thursday, July 10
Staying in Draper.

Schedule that day:
9:00 am Recording GP lessons 26 & 27 & 31 in Riverton.

Friday, July 11
Staying in Draper.

Schedule that day:
9:00 am Recording GP lessons 35 & 38 & 39 in Riverton.

Saturday, July 12
Staying in Draper.
Schedule that day:
9:00 am Recording GP lessons 43 & 47 in Riverton.
4:00 ME reunion

Sunday, July 13
Staying at: Pleasant Grove with Howard family.

Schedule that day:
Morning:
9:00 am Attending a ward in SLC.
11:00 am speaking to YM/YW of that ward
Address of ward: 2615 Stringham Avenue, SLC

Evening:
5:00 pm Fireside in Pleasant Grove (note the change in time)
Topic: Obedience
Address of Fireside: 1320 West 3540 North
PLEASANT GROVE, UTAH 84062-8776


Monday, July 14
Staying in: Provo with Petersons

1:00 pm meeting with Deseret book


Tuesday, July 15
Staying in: Provo with Petersons

6:00 pm Having a get-together at the Petersons
If you would like to attend please let me know by email before July 10th.

Wednesday, July 16
Staying in: Provo with Petersons


Thursday, July 17
Leaving to California overnight in CA San Francisco Area.

Schedule that day:
7:00 pm Stake Fireside in California.
Topic:  Charity
Address of FiresideLos Altos Stake Center, 1300 Grant Road, Los Altos, CA 94040

Friday, July 18
Return from California.
Staying in Farmington.

Saturday, July 19
Staying in Farmington.

Sunday, July 20
Staying in Provo

Schedule that day:
9:00 am speaking at Holladay 2nd Ward
Topic: Dealing with opposition using faith.

Address of Ward: 4568 South Holladay Boulevard, SLC 84117


Monday, July 21
Staying in Provo.

Tuesday, July 22
Staying in Murray

Wednesday, July 23
Staying in Murray

Thursday, July 24
Leaving to Houston at 9:20 am
flight Delta 4635

July 25-26
In Houston/Lake Jackson area with family.

Sunday, July 27
Departure to Amman at 4 pm
Flight AF 639
Monday, July 28  Travel to Palestine through bridge.