Monday, August 25, 2014

Love Bucket

I have been noticing so many bad things happening in the world around us. How sad it is that human life seems to matter less and less to people. People seem more concerned about themselves more than anything else. I think they are missing the point, because true happiness comes from loving and serving others. It comes from losing your life in the service of God.

I started something on Facebook and hope that it would really make a difference. The Ice Bucket ALS challenge has been successful and raised a good sum of money for ALS research.  My idea is a Bucket of love and light...I am not trying to make money here. I am just trying to give hope and love to others... When it seems like everyone has given up on everyone else.... When Christian children in Iraq line up to get food (the only food they get) and then go spend the rest of their day outside homeless in the blazing sun...When families and children continue to get killed in Syria (almost 180 people every day!!!)...When thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are homeless and have no access to drinking water or electricity...

There seems to be so much darkness all around us. Darkness is just the absence of light, so if each of us can spread light and love, we can fill the world. I challenge you to share positive things with those around you whether it be on Facebook, or in person.  Try to make what you share uplifting so it can strengthen others and give them hope. I challenge you to serve someone every day.  Do it as often as you can. I am going to attempt to do it daily if I can. For example, what you do could be as simple as showing gratitude for one of your blessings. Just make sure you do something.
Here is what I shared today:
"One day, years ago Israeli helicopters were bombing areas in my town. The electricity went out and the phones were dead. We were worried about our relatives in town and had no way of knowing if they were OK.  While my parents were on the roof watching what was going on, I went down, knelt by my bed and prayed to Heavenly Father. In the thick darkness with the sound of bombs and gunshots ringing in my ear, I felt the most amazing peace.

My thought today is that the Savior IS the “Prince of Peace” like Isaiah called Him. Through Him and having faith in Him we can find peace even during times of war.  Heavenly Father is also real! He is there and He loves you. He is willing to help you and is only a prayer away. If you are having a hard time standing and facing your difficulties, kneel!"

The Savior tells us that He is the rock. That if we build our lives centered on Him we cannot fall. No matter what storms come our way, no matter how strong the wind, we will remain standing.

Some may think that they can't possibly make a difference. If you think that, then remember the starfish story. As the girl was throwing starfish that have landed on the shore...the task seemed endless as there were thousands of them. She could not possibly save them all...But, she was not discouraged and said as she held a starfish in her hand and threw it in the sea, "I can make a difference to this one." 

The below story is very inspiring of an Australian woman who made a difference in the lives of two Iraqi boys. Take a minute to watch this video, it is great...

The young man in the video shows us that anything is possible. Don't give up on yourselves and don't give up on others...there is hope and light out there...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Good Things

I completely forgot to put up a post this weekend. My laptop decided to die (well, it simply stopped charging). I have not figured out what is wrong yet and stopped using it. I was impressed to copy all my data off the laptop just a day or two before this happened. So, I am not worried...if it is can't be fixed oh well.

I am busy applying for jobs and making connections. I am trying not to lose hope of finding work even though it may seem hard to find a place willing to sponsor me in order to work there. It may seem easier for me to find a husband that can get me the citizenship =) But, that is not going to happen with me living in Palestine.  I want to thank everyone who has done their best to help me with job connections and passing on my resume. It is nice to know that I have so many good people out there willing to help.

I have been watching the news about what is going on in the world and getting depressed.  I see people from ISIS killing Christians and torturing people without even thinking twice. And children and families in Gaza homeless with no jobs and no supplies.  I see also so many other injustices in the world.  I wonder 'how can the world stand still while these things go on?' Have we all become numb and only care about our lives and could care less about other lives? I have seen a few demonstrate for Gaza, but have not seen many stand up for the Palestinians in Syria, or others being killed in Syria or Iraq.  When I look at the world I feel we are heading towards a 3rd world war. People's hearts have become so hard...

Sometimes even remembering our blessings (when many have so little) is at least a step forward. Praying for those people and remembering they are human beings too. We can't judge others and we are not better than anyone even though we certainly are more blessed than many. 

A friend of mine who is American married to a Palestinian just moved back to the US. From the minute she got there she has faced persecution by her own people.  She was told to go back to Palestine and that she does not belong there. Those people said bad things about Palestinians and mean things to my friend and her family.  People were not willing to listen or hear the other side of the story. Those are people who were brain washed by the things in the US media and all the misunderstandings out there about what really goes on in the Holy Land.  

No matter what we hear and what many may think, we have an obligation to know the truth before casting judgement. And even then, we shall not judge others.  Sadly, many Christians in the world side with the Jews because they think the "Israel" in the bible is the same as the "Israel" today! It is NOT. The people of the Lord "Israel" were a covenant people who obeyed God. The State of Israel today is doing nothing of the sort.  I love this verse that clarifies it from the book of Mormon:
"For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel." (2 Nephi 30: 2)
Even Christ himself said to the Jews that they should not boast about being children of Abraham because He can 'make out of these stones children unto Abraham'.

Satan is very powerful and his ability to deceive is great. We who follow the Master, the Savior of the world cannot be deceived. We must stand for truth and righteousness. It is us, the very few, that must stand against all that evil. We can do it, we must do it. We have on our side the Savior Himself and all the hosts of heaven. We cannot lose! I invite you all who have even a little bit of faith left to use that faith to do some good in the world. We must do good, so that the power of good can overcome the power of evil. Smile, be grateful, share what little you have with another, comfort someone, share your testimony of the Savior on facebook, accept others that are different than you, educate yourself about other people in the world, learn a few sentences from another language...etc. The opportunities are many...please do something today.  

Remember who you are a child of God. Everyone else is a child of God and He loves them just as much as He loves you. He loves Palestinians and Israelis, Africans and Iraqis just the same. 

You are here on this earth for a divine are not here to make money, to have a great job, to have children that are good in sports or are here to learn things that will make you more like your Father in Heaven. You are here to save make sure you qualify to return back to Heavenly Father and to make sure others are as well. 

I testify that as we take the Savior's hand and move forward that we can win. We can establish justice and peace in this won't be an easy task, but it is not an impossible task. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reflections from the Past

My grandmother, Milia was from Nazareth. Both her and my grandfather Issa grew up during the first world war. They both suffered terribly living here during that difficult time. My grandfather lost all his family members at age 9. He was left alone being raised by a blind relative...He worked and put himself through school and became a well known author and teacher. 
Here is my grandfather and grandmother and their family:

My father was born in 1929. He grew up in a large family in poverty. He would tell me that he never knew what it was like to be full. He would simply eat until all the food was gone.  Below is my father's birth certificate. It was in Arabic, Hebrew and English issued by Palestine as that was the name of the country then (see the top of the certificate):

When the state of Israel was established inside of Palestine (in 1948), my mother, Fawz, was a teenager. She remembers clearly some of the events.  Below is a copy of the Palestine Post newspaper at the time:

My mother was one of the few Palestinian girls that got to not only go to school, but to get higher education (teaching certificate).  This was not common at that time.  Her class consisted of students from all over Palestine (one student from Nazareth, one from Haifa, one from Jerusalem...). She often mentions one dear friend of hers who went to school with her. This friend was killed in Deir Yassin when Zionists entered the village and killed Palestinians there. My mother's friend was teaching in Deir Yassin. The soldiers killed her and all her young students.  My mother said many other Palestinians fled their villages when the Israeli soldiers used go into the village saying in loud speakers: "Leave, or we will do to you what we did to those in Deir Yassin." Those who fled became refugees, a people without a home.

In 1967 my country ceased to exist. Israel occupied it all during the 6-day war. I was born in 1971 and grew up in what became the State of Israel.  Our Palestinian flag was banned. We could not raise it without the soldiers coming to make us take the flag down and burn it. 

Our currency ceased to exist and we started using Israeli currency. Here is an old Palestinian pound: 

What bothered me the most was not having a nationality. I traveled in 1990 and the person at the airport asked me what my natioality was. I just stared at him...I had no answer. I couldn't say "Palestinian", It was not valid. There was no Palestine anymore. I longed for that belonging to a country, to a soil to a government...

But, when I was born in 1971 things here were really good compared to what it has become now. I have fond memories of traveling with my whole family to the dead sea to swim, or to the Mediterranean, to the Galilee, to Haifa, to the Red sea...We would just get in the car and drive anywhere in the country freely...(the good old days!). Now there is a wall! A 25-foot concrete wall that separates us from those places making even dreaming about going there hard.  If our car is caught inside Israeli areas it would be bombed! If we are caught inside Israeli areas we are arrested or shot...What are Israeli Areas? Well, basically 92% of the original Palestine. We, the Palestinians that still live here in the West Bank are only allowed to live on 8% of our whole land. We can't go to the Galilee, the Red sea, the Mediterranean, Haifa, Jerusalem...etc. These places are now off limits to us Palestinians living in the West Bank behind the wall...

I love the sea..I have always loved it. My favorite childhood memories are our family vacations that involved swimming mainly...Our family was so united and we did something together almost every week during the summer. Where would we go now for fun? To another Palestinian city (and spend 2-3 hours on the way)? Why, what is so fun in that?

What saddens me is the new generation. They who have never seen the sea, who don't even know what it was like to look and not see the separation wall...who don't know what it is like to be able to get on a bus from Bethlehem and be in Jerusalem in 15 minutes without passing through checkpoints and being turned be able to just drive to the airport and fly out! (we are now not allowed to fly out of Israel--we must travel by land to Jordan to fly out from Jordan). 

What also saddens me is the fact that this new generation does not see Jews/Israelis. Because we traveled throughout the country in the past, we associated with Israelis a lot, we shopped at their stores, they shopped at ours...but now, we are so separate...The wall has broken up our country and caused hate to increase between both people. We have become what South Africa was. We have areas for 'blacks' and areas for 'whites' and both sides can't imagine living together...

What seems lost also is the beauty of children's smiles. Children who have no concerns and can play in innocence are being wiped out. Look at the smiles of me and my cousin pure and so innocent. Not a care in the world...

In contrast, one kid in primary today brought a sling shot to class. He said he is learning how to use it to defend his home and throw rocks at the soldiers. Another primary child at church prays for the children in Gaza and for their protection.  One child I saw, Jihan, donated her money in her piggy bank to the children of Gaza. She said she is so sad by what has happened in Gaza. She says when she plays, her heart is not there and she can't be happy. She says her heart is burdened by the suffering of the starving, homeless children in Gaza. 

Those I mention above are children!! Where did their childhood go? These burden free years that you get to enjoy before responsibility and trials hit you...Our Palestinian children are being denied the right to enjoy that childhood. When over 70% of the Gaza children want to die to defend their home against the Israeli soldiers, then something is wrong with that picture...They should want a doll, a new bike, a boat ride in the sea, new clothes....I hope there are those out there who can make a difference...If all you can do is pray for justice and peace then that is enough. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Life goes on...or does it?

The death toll in Gaza is now 1850 Palestinians dead with almost 10,000 injured. There are about 60 Israelis killed so far as well. More and more people get killed every day. Hospitals in Gaza have no room left and people have to sit on the floor sometimes.  A Palestinian teenager in Gaza writes that her sister screams and covers her ears when she hears the sound of the planes and bombs. Some Gaza children are asked by reporters: "What do you want to do when you grow up?" They often answer, "I am not sure if I will live until I am grown up!". When pressured to give an answer they mostly want to be doctors (to help the injured people), or Journalists (to tell the world what is going on), or soldiers (to defend their people from the attacks).  It is really sad.

I have been watching horrible images and hearing sad stories. It gets depressing after a while as there is nothing to do but pray. I did send a few bags of clothes though. I hope the red cross can manage to get those through the border.  It is not much, but it felt so good to do SOMETHING. I wish there was more I could do.

I admire doctors in Gaza who are doing their best with very few supplies...I wish I were a doctor, I would go without a second thought to help in hospitals there. My sister Samar, who is a nurse, is actually considering going to volunteer in Gaza. It is scary as some hospitals have been bombed, so it is not safe. One of her friends went and took some medical supplies with him, but what he brought didn't last long. They lack a lot of things...I told Samar that if she goes we can send 5 suitcases of medical supplies with her if they let her bring them. Anyway, I doubt she'll go, it is really not safe there.

One of the sisters in my branch at church lost an aunt in Gaza. Her uncle's house in Gaza was bombed. Her aunt was torn to pieces and killed instantly. Her cousin lost both his legs and one hand.  Her uncle and other cousin were on the roof and were blown down to the ground, but miraculously survived.  The father managed to get a permit for him and his injured son to receive treatment in a hospital in Jerusalem. So they both managed to leave Gaza. The other son was not permitted to leave Gaza. His permit was denied by the Israeli authorities.  The son remains all alone in Gaza while his father and his injured brother are in Jerusalem. That sister and the rest of her family hope they could go visit their injured cousin in the hospital, but they are not allowed into Jerusalem and getting a permit from the Israeli authorities is almost impossible. The grandparents house in Gaza was also bombed, but no one was home at the time so no one was hurt.

That family is probably one of the very few Christian families left in Gaza. 

I actually happened to ask them if Hamas fired missiles from an area close to their house. The answer was no. They were not in any way used as human shields, how could they?! They were in their home! I hope that those hearing such things (Hamas using people as human shields) on the news can start questioning what they hear! The Israeli army had no reason to bomb these two Christian homes. What justification is there? Bombed by mistake? Well, that is two homes belonging to one family, so did the Israeli army commit the same mistake twice?

The world seems to have gone crazy. It seems like it is going down hill, and fast. We see more and more violence. More and more people are taught to hate and kill. The people from Da'aish in Iraq don't even act like humans. It is so shocking! They torture and kill Christians without a second thought.  Over 170,000 were killed in Syria throughout this conflict period.  Where is the world heading to? Has everyone gone mad?

There seems to be no hope, no peace anywhere in sight...But, actually there is...We just need to look hard. When we search and look carefully we will find hope and we will find peace. But, it is not going to come from outside sources. Just give up on the world, it is not going to give you what you need.  These feelings of peace, joy and hope come from within. We have to hold tight to the Savior. He is the only source of peace in the world. Following His commandments is the only way to stay safe amidst this craziness. He will comfort us, lift us and strengthen us during these difficult times. 

The smile on the face of the below boy from Gaza is amazing. Despite his pain and injury, he was able to smile.  This is the look of hope that we all need. We should all smile in the face of adversity. Because of what happened in Palestine 2000 years ago there is hope for everyone. Our Savior provided that hope when He suffered and died to give us hope of eternal life.  One day we will be with Him again and, like Brigham Young said, at that day we will look back at our earthly life and say: "What of all that, it was but for a small moment, and now we are with our Lord and Savior."