Sunday, May 25, 2008

Poppies & Palestine: 60 years of forced exile-Time for Return

Early this morning as the sun started to touch the summer green leaves in our back garden, my eagle eyed husband, comfortably ensconced in his big black lazyboy recliner glanced away from his riveting Formulae 1 race on the TV to say "A poppy!"

I jumped up from my computer which is a few feet from his chair, and dashed out into our garden my nightgown as I always do when dawn has brought a new gift.... and there up in the wild flower garden was a bright blaze of one red poppy opening up to greet the day.

Poppies... such a symbol for so many people, for so many reasons. Palestine Calender has a well known painting of Palestinian Poppies painted by Tamam Al-Akhal:

Soon enough many more poppies will hopefully be blooming in our garden. Certainly not a field full, but even a single one is glorious. And what joy and pleasure this one poppy has given us this morning.

Our youngest son noticed that a humming bird has been visiting our garden and so last week my husband put up the hummingbird feeder that is filled with a special sugar water colored red. So there are now two splashes of poppy red in our back yard.

With any wild flower garden you never know what will come up where. Our very red poppy has come up by a bunch of bright daises. Once long ago my mother in law told me the story of when she met her husband (my husband's father). She mentioned that she had daisies tucked into her hair at the time and I've never forgotten that. It was the way she said it, with the good memories warm in her voice, and all the many years of marriage and raising their children, all the good and bad added into the fresh first perfect glimmer of connecting and falling in love with someone intriguing.

Children grow up and away so fast! Our oldest son is about to graduate from high school. He'll be going off to college at the end of this summer. I've always thought that my children are a gift- simply being able to know them and love them is the present. Every child has their own thoughts and emotions, and each seems to find their own way into being an adult. You can't control them but you can hope you have helped them grow up to be decent people willing to build good lives of their own.

A few weeks ago our oldest son Miqdad TOTALLY shocked me by coming home with a trophy he won for drag racing up at Maple Grove Race Track. Its an hour or two north and he had gone up for the weekend to help out a friend who races there. He likes to tinker with cars and is very good with cars. He dreams of someday owning a racing team. (I dream that he gets through college and finds a good steady job and a nice woman who will love him and appreciate him.) The car he won in was his friend's car and apparently my son is a very good race car driver! Please notice in this photo, behind my son is the lilac tree (actually a very very big bush) and around the base of the lilac tree are Black Irises in bloom. Those are some from the orginal bulbs that my mother-in-law brought from Jordan. We have them tucked everywhere as every year they multiply.

Who we are is always an intriguing mix of then and now, as well as what might be ahead. If we are lucky we have had good parents and a loving, safe home. Our children grow up with symbols of what we were and what we want to remember- what we want to treasure and preserve.

This watercolor sketch of Black Irises is from The Black Iris Festival in Jordan "The American Women of Amman (AWA) is welcoming the blooming season of Jordan’s National Flower, the Black Iris, and celebrating International Family Day with a fun-filled Black Iris Festival for the whole family."
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I like that women's clubs everywhere have so many creative, interesting, life enhancing, family friendly projects. Before the miracle of the Internet we could not so easily see what far away friends and family were up to. Watching the news it is easy to lose track of the fact that the world is made up of many people, many blendings of cultures everywhere. Most people simply do the best they can with what they have and who they are.

The Global Information age is a modern miracle with many magnification ramifications. Thanks to the internet, we are able to keep in close touch with people we know, and we are able to learn about the lives and dreams of people we don't know.

This week on Al-Awda News Elena posted a link that thrilled me for it is an initiative to bring real meaning to the Universal Declaration of Human rights from 1948. "We urge you to embrace the values and goals of the Declaration. To protect the rights of your fellow global villagers. And encourage others to do the same in your communities, workplaces and schools."

Universal Declaration Our governments wisely signed it 60 years ago... Now it is time for the people to empower it:

Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, believe in it, then SIGN IT & take inspiration from the pledge...

I choose to sign this declaration because:

I wish to take responsibility for upholding the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in my daily life and in my community. I will do my best to speak out to protect the freedom and rights of others in my community.

I affirm the following principle: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

I believe Every Human Has Rights.

I really do believe that every human being has basic rights, inalienable rights- and for every one's sake it is vitally important to respect those rights. To respect human dignity- and promise.

As my son grows more and more eager to leave home to go to college, it occurs to me more and more how choice is so crucial. We can freely choose to move somewhere and be happy making a new home in a new place. But if someone forces us away from home- we never ever forget.

Palestine is a very precious home for many people. All the people of the book cherish it, and many want to lay claim to it.

.... Owning Palestine

Everyone wants to OWN

It's the tourist event of the century
snatch up what you can

Name it for yourself
play it like clay
to suit your ideological needs and agendas-

Create an entire industry of pilgrimages
where the lost can be found

build it into sky scraping modern towers
mirrored glass reflecting
I Ching
splinters of wood
and puddles of mud

Extremists on every side
pull it like taffy

into the tug of war

It's JIHAD !
It's OURS !

As in mine- not yours

stir up anger with it-
concoct a combustible brew

play it
punch it

Claim ownership- define it
make it into a lucrative charity
a cause -
nickeling and diming your way into prosperity

wage war with it- or on it
same difference really

make targeted "others" other
and increasingly uncomfortable...

erase "them" if you can- in any way you can
make them puppets to dance to your tune

Have them be echo and excuse-
anything but real people


An iris blooms in my garden
my home

it knows Arabic- although I really don't

Oh Palestina
Roman ruins are only part of your history
your being- your brush stokes that touch
murals everywhere, all throughout the ages
every denomination and every mood
rich and poor

every migration and intermarriage
every child born, growing up to wonder

Who to believe?

Poem Copyright ©2008 Anne Selden Annab

I have spent the past seven years writing letters to our newspapers, primarily focused on doing what I could to reach into America's mainstream to try to help explain Palestine and the Palestinian refugees' inalienable legal and moral right to return to original homes and lands.

This year, the sixtieth year of the Nakba, there have been some amazing initiatives, rallies and photos plus reams of stories and narratives and web sites to help bring attention to the very real plight of the Palestinians. The most eye catching tangible symbol I can think of is a HUGE metal key symbolizing the Palestinian refugees' very real right to return. And everywhere worldwide people who care about Palestine released black balloons symbolizing the hundreds of Palestinian villages destroyed by Zionist terror.

On my favorite blog umkahlil i left this comment in response to her post

531 Balloons Over Frankfurt Commemorate Destroyed Palestinian Villages

"Thanks for posting these thought provoking photos

Ran HaCohen, in his most recent "Letter from Israel" on begins his column by saying "Christians – the ancient self-designated heirs to the Jews – commemorate Christ's tormented way to resurrection and redemption in the weeks leading to Easter. Zionists – the modern self-designated heirs to the Jews – have their Lent after Passover, commemorating what they construct as their via dolorosa leading to the "Jewish State."

Your photos here of the Nakba commemoration in Frankfurt seem to me to be especially poignant as something HaCohen mentioned in that recent column still echoes in my head.... "The real Holocaust survivors, by the way, do not earn that much attention, nor public investment: out of 80,000 survivors still alive in Israel, one third live in poverty. Some of those elderly people even emigrate back to Germany, where financial aid to survivors is much more generous – a march of the living"

"A march of the living". That phrase sticks with me- means so much.

The more I find out about what was- and what is now today, the more I believe the phrase "anti-Israel" is not such a bad word at all:


as eusocial insects scamper
to regroup


pheromone trails now lead more and more
simply away into


King Zion is after all
not God, nor G-d

nor good

not even nice

There are better ways to be

Better parties and parades
Better groupings

Better ways to picnic

in this gamble called life

being one... or maybe simply being pro-people

Pro-home & hearth

Pro-rule of fair and just laws

Pro-tried and true recipes

Pro-basic human rights and dignity...

Pheromone trails now lead more and more
towards a feast of real freedom

Promoting and protecting human rights and social justice

Promoting and protecting creativity
and potential

Promoting and protecting you
& me

Promoting and protecting US

an osmosis of ideas

into one very civilized key

unlocking Eden- deciphering the apple and the serpent and the tree

as the chatter of boards everywhere type 194... for ever 8

Poem & Picture Copyright ©2008 Anne Selden Annab

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 affirms: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country."

UN General Assembly Resolution 194 has been affirmed by the UN over 130 times since its introduction in 1948 with universal consensus except for Israel and the U.S. This resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirms in Subsection 2: "the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return." Al-Awda fact sheet: The Right To Return, a Basic Right Still Denied

My children live comfortable lives here in Pennsylvania. I can not fathom how difficult it must be to raise a child as a Palestinian right in the middle of the divisive, segregated, monstrous mess Israel has made of historic Palestine. Israel is very violent, cruel and callous towards the people of historic Palestine. But somehow the Palestinians still living there manage- and they manage to tell their children all about their true heritage- a Palestine where people were free and able to go anywhere. .. and free to grow gardens and live in peace. A beloved Palestine that reaches back to before recorded history. A Palestine that belongs to the people from there... the living links to an amazing history of religion and civilization.

Meanwhile all around the world in a wide diaspora there are millions of families connected to historic Palestine. Many of these sons and daughters of Palestine are growing gardens of their own- and remembering- and honoring their parents and grandparents and great grandparents all the ways back through the centuries to a time long before passports. A time that we in the West call Biblical times, and even before that.

Most actual protest for Palestine is simply remembering and honoring a very precious heritage in quiet ways. It is not large rallies and radicalized voices... it is simply good and decent people remembering.

A compelling poem by Aida Hasan of Al-Awda explains so much:

Because it is our right

Anayat Durrani outlines plans to mourn 60 years of tragedy

Sixty years on
against the occupiers wishes
We Exist
sons and daughters
of Ramleh, Haifa, Nasira
Jimzu, Imwas, Deir Yassin
We Remember
the villages destroyed
towns stripped of Arab names
manufactured, renamed, disguised
our homes filled with Palestinian memories
painted over with foreign colors
a bridal shop in Ramleh
selling strangers their happy dreams
in my house on our land
the house great grandfather Ali built
We Continue
We will always continue
Because the land longs for us
Because we long for the land
Because home is a Right
Because it is our Right
We Exist
Because We
We will not stop
Until Return.

-- Aida Hasan

There are endless efforts to remember and support Palestine in positive ways- a fully free Palestine. It won't be exactly what it was, nothing ever is- but it will be home- a real home for many people.

This week I have started looking through old pictures of my own family these past twenty years and I find it fascinating how much I have aged and changed through the years. These past few years have been hard on me. But I am happy with my choices- glad I stepped up to try to speak out to help Palestine, and very grateful for the love and support and inspiration from family and dear friends.

And I am very glad that this morning in our garden, the garden so carefully tended by my husband, there is a bright red poppy....

I took this picture while standing near the carnations- heavens their fragrance is magnificent! The breeze sometimes lifts the fragrance of various flowers, creates an invisible but very real bouquet and brings it right into our home here in Pennsylvania... a good gardener knows how to always have something in bloom. That ability depends on being able to bring or buy flowers from afar. Every garden on earth is a testament to true community through out all time and space as we cherish and share the best of what we have, and it goes on to take root in foreign lands, enhancing gardens everywhere.

My husband who never ever reads poetry plants the flowers for me- his real interest is in the vegetable garden.

He's a good man, an honest man, a hard working man... he is also an Arab and Muslim... and he has a GREAT sense of humor and fun.

He laughed at the idea of a fairy garden, and then he put a fence around it to keep the dog out, and planted little things that will grow and bloom. That is a good man!.

Yesterday I came across some old photos of us from the eighties. Both taken the year we married. I fell in love with him because he knew how to skip stones. I don't know what I was wearing at the time, but I remember the light through the trees and the sound of birds singing, and the water in the creek and how this man named Jaffar searched carefully to find the perfect stone to toss- and each would skip at least seven times. It is a talent he taught our sons down at the Dead Sea. He is also rather good at flying kites...

Jaffar looking timeless during the 1980s (at the beach)

Annie looking very 80s (at a friend's wedding at the John Harris Mansion.)

When we were children in the 1960s our families had our portraits done. We did not know each other. Our maternal grandmothers respectively, living on separate coasts in two very different worlds arranged for them. The styles are totally different. My husband's childhood portrait is in heavy oil, mine is in light pastel- but the colors blend as if they used the same palette. The two portraits work well together I think.

Jaffar & Annie only a few years ago, by our portraits

And our children then.... only a few years ago

and then reaching back anouther year, our children in Jordan with their cousins

And then boomerang right back up into now, our oldest son about to graduate from high school

Our younger son all dressed up too, for a formal party earlier this spring

Our front window in the living room facing south where early each spring my husband starts the seeds for our garden to be: The plant to the side is a gardenia. The fragrance is amazing- but it is too cold where we live to have them outside. The photo by the camel is of my husband and myself at Amu Zuhair's farm, overlooking the Jordan Valley- and Nablus. That is where the name Annab comes from. It is of the land. A heritage that our children are proud of, even though they are not loud about it.

Because of my Christian background, I cherish that all the Annab men enjoy doing carpentry. I find it highly symbolic- even though they don't!

And my lovely daughter is a painter- all grown up and married and building her own life in her own way as we all do.

This photo is from my daughter's new home. She likes to paint things from photos I have taken. This painting is from a photo I took of her years ago down in Aquaba on the Red Sea. She is a very talented artist and has won prizes for her work. Her portrait is looking down at her grandmother- my mother who is an amazing gardener and a very loving woman. Notice the pillows at my mother's back- traditional Palestinian embroidery.

Flowers in our garden

Youngest son and his father

Jaffar in our garden

Annie in our garden with Argos our dog

Argos on the back terrrace using flowers in a pot for a pillow.

Irises out front

My youngest son loves to build things. he spends hours at his father's work bench tinkering with various things. He has built several electric guitars out in our garage. My husband carefully researches every project his children want to do, and is then able to better help them. The kids do most of the work, but its a good idea to have someone older and wiser- and well informed- to help out when needed.

In many little ways, subtle ways, gentle ways, civilized ways, sometimes even silent ways we gracefully pass on the word... and it spreads like laughter at a table full of good family and friends...


Friday, May 9, 2008

A good priority

...will return
by Ismail Shammout

Given a choice between blogging about our garden- and simply being in our garden, it is obvious which I choose!

I feel badly not to have posted more here. Every day I do think of it, of different themes I might explore. And then every day there are distractions, too many articles to read, too much laundry to sort, letters to write, poems to dream of, meals to be made, emails to answer, dishes to wash, doorbells, phone calls, errands to run... and family to enjoy... and then there is simply stepping out into our garden and letting go of everything to simply be in the garden- marveling.

It's already May.

Spring in Palestine
by Ismail Shammout

This week many people world wide are commemorating the ongoing Nakba, the huge tragedy where so many Palestinian men, women and children have lost their homes and gardens- and their freedom. There is a flurry of attention on the topic but only briefly it seems, as it is already being pushed aside again by other compelling stories, and a very dangerous status quo remains the same with Zionists very much owning and directing the conversation in America.... Zionists really are talented propagandists. They are also adept at knowing how to reach into America's mainstream to draw in sympathy and support for their "cause". Tragically most Americans simply do not understand what a scam it all is, and how much trouble and sorrow and confusion and suffering Israel creates day after day after day.

On yahoo pictures this week I caught a glimpse of a huge key, a giant key made of metal to symbolize the Palestinian Refugees' Right of Return.

There are also pictures of Palestinians holding keys, wearing keys, making wooden key souvenirs. Its a good theme- simply home and the right to return. No political party or religion can own it- or trade it way. It simply is, and obviously it is getting bigger and bigger.

(Blog Updated 7-20-2009 with new photo from

In our garden here the trees have been blooming. Some, like the lilac are fragrant, others like the dogwood are mainly visually enchanting. I like to stand under a blooming tree, surrounded and surrendered into its charm.

Sometimes, I take my camera out and try to capture at least a little of the beauty that I see. Every day is a little different, and this year I want to remember our garden in detail as best as I can. Every nuance and every nook. Our Black Irises already bloomed and today the taller ink blue Irises are on the brink of bloom, ready to soon ruffle out. And in the corner of the back yard where we had to cut down the Mulberry tree, I put a little flower fairy statue on the stump. This corner is now our fairy garden. My husband planted delicate flowers there for me this year and my mother suggests I add a small marble, as apparently fairies like marbles. So what was simply a stump is now an entire theater, with everyone adding a little something in to make it more even more whimsical and fun.

Our fairy garden is quite a contrast to our vegetable garden which is serous business. Already we nibble on the spinach leaves as a garden snack. The tomato plants went in last week and they have a long way to grow, along with the cucumbers.

Never can tell for sure what will take off and what will wither. My husband plants more than one variety of whatever he can to increase the odds that at least one will flourish. One patch of strawberries on the hillside is flourishing- spreading out and vigorously blooming and already starting obvious berries, while another strawberry patch planted at the same time has all but disappeared.

Our wild honeysuckle is blooming. Cameras can't catch the delicate scent, or the feel of the spring breeze or the sound of our wind chimes. Or the smallest of the small creatures that come to be in our garden. Or the patterns of the birds and the butterflies as they flit about.

It takes a long time to grow a good garden- and it takes constant care as well as a growing knowledge of what works where and when. Plant too early and a late frost might kill the seedlings. We planted the morning glory and moon flower seeds this month. Already they have come up, one thin stem with two leaves that seem to hesitate a bit, waiting, but soon enough they will become long sturdy vines growing every which way with tendrils reaching up to twine into anything they can reach. I adore the wall of flowers that comes with each morning glory seed, and all the many different colors of bloom that might be- but you never know for sure what might be where.

And in imagining a public Garden for Palestine, having walked through the key shaped entry, and stopped to admire the mosaic map of Palestine, and smelling the herbs, hearing splashing water, watching the birds... I'd have a fairy garden too. A small nook. A place for imaginations to simply have fun. But my little flower fairies would hold keys.

I'd have a metal shop somewhere on the grounds - a bit like how living history museums have exhibits where you can watch how things were once made. But this would be a place where large and small garden sculptures and birdhouses and benches could be made, anything really- not only for the formal public Garden for Palestine but also some for sale so that anyone who wants can have a garden gadget or work of art from the Garden for Palestine. Trade routes shaped historic Palestine in many ways all through out the years- for generations. Much of civilization is simply the exchange of things - and ideas...
oil and spice... and flower seeds and bulbs... good thoughts planted and nurtured.

Good thoughts like the rightness of respecting and honoring hard work and home- and every child... every family- and every garden... respecting and honoring Palestine- both the people and the land.