Sunday, March 31, 2019

Things about Gaza that Israel does not want you to know

I am writing this in response to some comments I saw on Facebook from friends of mine about Gaza. 

I grew up thinking that Palestinian lives don't matter. The reason for my belief was that while growing up I saw many people in my town and my country get killed by Israeli soldiers (and they still do). These were teenagers mostly.  Nothing was done to punish the killers and nothing was said about it in the Israeli media. If something was said, it was a story that did not resemble reality.  

For example, when an Israeli soldier dropped a big brick on Idmon's head (who was 17 years old) killing him instantly, the Israeli media said that a wall collapsed and caused Idmon's death. Idmon was a family relative from my town, and after his death, in 1987, Israeli soldiers imposed a military curfew on my town. The soldier who killed Idmon suffered no consequences.

Anton was my cousin's classmate in college. When a soldier "thrust his automatic weapon into the young man's back and fired three rounds of rubber bullets into Anton's body, ... then dragged him down a flight of steps" and left him to die. Nothing was done to punish the soldier. Source: (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1992, 38, 87)

On my way to my grandparents' house, I personally was shot at by an Israeli woman when I was 14 years old.  I survived because I ran and hid behind a wall. Had I died, no one would have been held accountable. Why? Because Palestinians live in the State of Israel, but we are NOT Israeli. We are not citizens there and therefore have no rights!

I grew up in a depressing situation and wanted to die. In fact, I stood still in the line of fire hoping an Israeli bullet would end my misery. Many Palestinians these days feel the way I felt as a teenager. Mostly because they lost everything, their land, their rights, and their identity.  

To help Americans understand what happened to my country, let me relate it to their lives. As there seems to be some out there who really don't understand the truth until they live it.

Suppose that one day Russia decides to occupy half of the USA. Sorry for choosing Russia, it is just for illustration. Russia occupies all the Eastern side of the US. Half of those who live in the Eastern side flee the country and become refugees and half of them, including you, move to the west. You were among those refugees who had to leave their homes and move west. In fact, they killed your father and told you that if you don't leave, they would kill you too. You were forced to leave your home, land, work and everything you owned and make the trek west. You live in a refugee camp in Idaho for a few years and start to settle there.


19 years later, Russia decides to occupy the rest of the United States. Now you live in the country of Russia and the USA does not exist on maps. There is no America. Your passport is not valid, your nationality is not valid. When you try to raise your American flag, the Russian soldiers make you take it down and burn it. 

During that war to occupy the west, you are again forced to leave your home in Idaho. They actually make all the population of Idaho (about 2 million people) leave and you all settle in Salt Lake city. Notice that means that there are now about 20,000 people per square mile living in Salt Lake City. (this is if we assume for the sake of argument that SLC was empty to begin with). Here is the new map of your country. Aside from a few Americans that managed to stay in Russian areas, the rest of the Americans are forced to leave or live only on the green areas. 

As for the city that you now live in, they block all exits out of Salt Lake, build fences in certain areas and walls in others and place checkpoints all around the city. You are not allowed to leave Salt Lake City and no one is allowed in. You were separated from some family members and you don't know where they ended up.  Sadly, there are no water sources in Salt Lake city and so 90% of the water available is not clean. Electricity is hard to obtain, and so you only have electricity half of the day. 

Now some rebels who are living in your town build some home-made missiles and start firing them at Russians outside SLC. In response to that, Russian F-16 plans go in the air and bomb your city. 60,000 homes are damaged (20,000 completely destroyed). Hundreds of thousands are left homeless. Sadly, you can't rebuild homes in Salt Lake City because you run out of supplies and nothing is allowed into the city because of the closure Russia has imposed.

Because of the rockets those Americans in your town fire, your people are labeled as terrorists. The whole world sees Americans as terrorists. So, other countries in Europe start funding Russia and giving them weapons so they would fight against you and protect themselves.

Now, luckily for you, it didn't happen to your country. It happened to mine. Half of my people live in the State of Israel (the rest are refugees in various areas of the world). We live in Israel, but we are not Israeli.  

What I mention about Salt Lake City is exactly what happened to Gaza. Gaza is a city of 2 million people who are not allowed to leave and who live in poverty. Refugees constitute 75% of the population of Gaza.  Their lives matter! Because there is no international law that allows you to hold 2 million people hostage in those situations and expect them to do nothing to liberate themselves. 
Here are some facts from the UN about Gaza that you may find useful:
Click to read UN facts on Gaza

Notice, I am not trying in any way to justify any terrorism. And I am not claiming that Palestinians have done nothing wrong. I am against killing innocent civilians whether they be Israeli or Palestinian. 

I think Palestinians should stop firing rockets at Israel. My dear friend Daphna is Israeli and her family lives close to where those rockets are landing. I don't want to see her family, or any innocent Israeli, get hurt. But, I also think there is a solution other than bombing innocent civilians in Gaza to respond to the rocket attacks.  I have seen many images of Palestinian children being dug out of the rubles of homes in Gaza or those that are burned alive or those that are bombed to pieces.  I would not like to include such images here, but all you need to do is google those images if you want to be horrified.

I think we need to step up and not let what we hear on the media dictate what we think. There are always two sides to any story. If you hear only one side, you will be tempted to think a certain group or nation is 'bad' and another is 'good'. An example of that is what the media in the US is trying to do to make people think Muslims are bad.  If you think Muslims are 'bad' even if you don't know any Muslims, then you are a victim of the media.  If you think Palestinians are 'bad' even if you don't know any Palestinians, then you are a victim of the media. 

"God...hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." Acts 17:26

We are all brothers and sisters. Why do we let the media dictate what we think or how we feel about each other. Let us forgive and love one another. All human lives should matter to us.

The solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem is not violence. It is love, forgiveness and equality. When we advance to seeing all people as children we of God, equal in His sight and beloved of Him, then we can start to break down the barriers and establish peace.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

By Divine Design

I had a good trip to Utah last week. I gave two talks and visited with some dear friends. It was great to see Carolyn who is here visiting and to see Tony and Emily and the Gunthers. I need to go to Utah more often. I know too many good friends that live in Utah and I always there for a day or two giving talks and I never see anyone. I am so glad Emily messaged me, because I was not going to tell her I was in Utah. I thought I would go to Logan and back to Rexburg and not go to Orem to see her. 

It was fun to spend time with the Azars and have some Palestinian food. I think all we need in Rexburg is a Palestinian store and a Middle Eastern restaurant or maybe a faster way to get to Utah so I can visit people as well. I'm still thinking I need to find a millionaire to marry who owns a private plane.  That would solve all my travel problems.

I did a presentation on Palestine for the boy scouts last week. They had a room for each country and the kids had to visit each room and get their passport stamped then learn about each country. I brought zeit w zaatar for them to try. Some kids really loved it and others hated it. 

I apparently still have not taught people in my church enough about Palestine. So, they asked 'on your stamp, do you want "I" for Israel.' I said 'NO! P for Palestine.' Then they asked, "Do you have an Israeli flag?" I said: "NO! why would I need an Israeli flag if I am talking about Palestine?"  I guess it may take some practice for them to get it right. Even Alexa knows where I live. I ask her where is Bethlehem located and she says: "Bethlehem is a city and a district of the West Bank in the north eastern part of Palestine."

The picture below came up in my news feed from 6 years ago. I can't believe I was on my mission 6 years ago!! It seems so long ago now. But, this reminded me of the sweet brother Suleiman who came from Jordan to England to receive his own endowments and go to the temple. He was 83 years old and was so happy to be in the temple. The day after he received his endowments, we looked for him early in the morning and found him back in the temple where he spent most of the day. He died a short while later. But, he was able to be sealed to his beloved wife (who I acted as proxy for) and to his parents who were on the other side of the veil.

This picture was taken in London, and it was a very cold windy day. I have never been that cold! Even Rexburg rarely feels that cold. Suleiman didn't have a coat, but he had a blast. He wanted to stop and take a picture everywhere. He was so excited to be there.

Here is a better picture of him and me...

I feel really blessed living here. Quitting my job with UNRWA and going on a mission was the best decision I ever made. In a way, it led me here to Rexburg, Idaho. Seems random, but God had everything planned. He knows where we need to be and makes things work out. 

I spoke at a family home evening group on Monday. And while I was speaking I said, "I don't know why I am in Rexburg, but I know that the Lord wants me here at this time," one of the ladies listening said: "Well, you are here because we needed a speaker for tonight." And someone else said: "You are here to remind us how blessed we are in this country." 

However, that day I personally knew exactly why I was asked to give that talk and be at that specific place. It was because I got to meet a man who knows the congressman really well. And he was willing to talk to the congressman and have him help me with my green card application. I actually have not prayed for help with my case until last month. I started praying that things would move faster. Now I have a senator working to help and I have the congressman helping as well. They said that it takes a month for them to get some word back about the case. So, we will see what results they manage to get. 

We had the ward auction the other day to raise money for our youth programs. I donated a Palestinian dinner. Last year it was quite popular and so I thought I would do it again. I decided to actually sell two of them this year because people wanted it. I sold two for $60 each. I am looking forward to having people over for dinner now.  

Sunday, March 10, 2019

You are special

My book is apparently a best seller in the Rexburg Deseret Book. If you look carefully, you will see that the top 3 best sellers are not even books, but are journals. So, I can say I am the #1 best selling book. 

You may have read on Facebook about my trip to Meridian. It was an amazing day. I had a pilot waiting for me at the airport to pick me up, then he took me on a nice comfortable plane just for me. With chairs that were as comfortable as a couch not hard airplane seats. When I was done with the fireside the pilot was waiting to take me back and even waiting until I got in my car before he flew away. 

When I got to the Meridian stake center, the Stake presidency and Stake RS presidency were all lined up waiting for me. They all seemed so thrilled to meet me.  I think for one day I felt what it would be like to be someone famous.

 I also got to see the Tanners again. Jeff Tanner was over the BYU scholarships when I first got to BYU 23 years ago. I later saw them when they served in London at the same time I was there. It surely is a small world. Sister Tanner gave a tour of the Meridian temple. It was the shortest temple visit, but I was glad to see the inside of the temple.

I got to meet many people. This is always my favorite part of speaking. I gave a talk to the women in the stake. I loved to visit with the amazing sisters who have donated hours and hours of their time to make quilts that will be given to poor families in the area. There were amazing quilts all over the church building to display the work of these women.

After my talk, one of the women that came up to talk to me was an Israeli. I always worry when Israelis want to talk to me because I sometimes get comments like "you are not telling the truth" or things like that. But, this woman was so sweet. She said she has two boys that served in the Israeli army. She apologized so deeply and kept saying how sad she is about what is happening to my people. In response to her apologies, I said: "It is OK" to which she responded with tears in her eyes, "No, it is not Ok. It is not OK for your people to suffer like this." I hugged her. Just another proof to the world that peace can exist between enemies and hearts can be softened. 

I wanted to visit with every sister in the audience, and I almost did until the Tanners sneaked me out because it was getting late and pilot was waiting for me. 

I wish that we all knew (for more than one day) how special and important we all are. We are all so special and beloved of our Father in Heaven. 

One of my students (let's call him John--not his real name) shared this with me on Thursday and I thought I would share. He actually has disabilities, so he struggles in my class. But, he told me that while he was on his mission, he was not sure if he was making a difference. So, he prayed for Heavenly Father to give him an experience that would answer that question. He actually went on a service mission. 

One day he saw a 3-year old girl drowning in the pool. Her mother has gone to the bathroom and the girl fell in the pool. He got her out and by then she has been under the water 7 minutes. Her survival was unlikely. But, John got her out and performed CPR, but the child was not responsive and was blue. Finally he paused and said a prayer, and told Heavenly Father that he wanted this child to have a life, to play and see colors and go to school and get married...then he gave her a blessing and said: "Heavenly Father, by the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, please heal this child..." The minute he said that, the girl coughed up all the water and started moving.

The doctors later asked him what he did because they said that medically it was impossible for her to be healed and have no brain damage. He told them simply "I prayed!"

Heavenly Father cares about us and our needs. He can use even the weakest of us to perform miracles if we put our hand in His and do our best.

I am heading to Utah at the end of the week. I have two speaking assignments. I am looking forward to those. But, it will be a short trip.  

Sunday, March 3, 2019

You are of great worth

I gave two firesides last week, one for the youth and one for the women in one of the stakes in Idaho Falls.
The thought that kept coming to my mind was the worth of souls...and how much Heavenly Father loves us and cares about us.

On Thursday, I met the most amazing women I have ever met. Each of them is unique and each is a special beloved daughter of God.

I have seen so many women who get abused and then stop thinking they are good enough. That their efforts are not enough, that they are not a good mother or wife.

If you take a $100 bill and step on it and crumble it, then it is still worth one hundred dollars. Similarly, even if people say bad things about us and call us ugly, or fat, or short or tall or whatever...that does not lessen our worth. We are still daughters of God and are still worth so much in His eyes.

Every year my family and I picked our olive trees. When my siblings got married and moved away, my mom and I did most of the work. Because my mom is old, it was my job to climb the tree to reach the olives that are far from reach. I almost fell many times trying to reach them. I often had many scratches on my arms and hands because I struggled so much to reach those olives.

Each of us has someone who has chosen us and picked us. Someone who has marks on his hands and wrists to show the amount of sacrifice he has done for us. Our Savior Jesus Christ loved us enough to die for us and to suffer for our sins.

Sometimes when we are abused we blame ourselves and think we somehow were the reason for it. You deserve to have someone who treats you the way the Savior would treat you. Someone who honors and loves you. If that is not what you have right now in your relationships, I encourage you to do something about it. Talk to your Bishop or someone else and make things change.

We made some Palestinian food for the fireside on Thursday. I helped only with the hummus (I have never made that much hummus in my life). We had good baklava and other stuff. Jen whose house was flooded that day got everything ready even though she was carrying water all day in the mud trying to get the water out of her yard. Then she remarked to me: "I should not complain for my situation because there are others who have it worse." 

On Tuesday, I will fly to Boise (on a private plane) to give a fireside for the sisters in one of the stakes in Meridian. They really wanted to do that on a week night and since I am not able to drive 5 hours each way to Boise, they are going to send a plane to get me. I am looking forward to that since it will be something I had never experienced. I don't know if I ever will have someone willing to fly me on a private jet to give a talk again. I guess small planes are a little scary, so if you don't hear from me next week come searching for me in the fields outside of Idaho Falls.  

All the snow we had last weekend mostly melted. It is amazing how fast it melted. Well there is a strange yellow thing in the sky that is causing warmth. That could be the reason. I mean I got so used to seeing my driveway wet or full of snow that I actually wondered the other day why my driveway was this color. When I looked closer it was just the color of dry concrete which I have not seen in months.