Monday, December 27, 2010


I like both traditional and odd Christmas decorations. I like both handmade and store bought ornaments. I like all the many different ways Christmas can be celebrated in our homes- in different ways by different families... Every year I sort through the ever changing hodgepodge of gifts and purchases that are my holiday decorations in order to recreate Christmas anew for my own nearest and dearest.

Charity begins at home they say- in thought, word and deed- and I think that is very true. Start with a smile and a kind word- and move forward from there.

In today's world many different organizations raise funds to help those in need. Bell ringers stand by doorways and hope that Christmas shoppers will be generous with their funds. Even fashionable clothing retailers do what they can to help raise funds for those in need. That is how I ended up with this adorable paper mache "Story Ornament" Elephant this Christmas.

I found him in an Anthropologie catalogue while looking for a fashionable sweater to buy for my daughter for Christmas. I get a HUGE kick out of this little trumpeting elephant covered in newsprint words. Seems a fitting symbol for the deluge of words brought on by the information age- AND I very much like idea of helping Haitian artisans rebuild their lives, their homes, and their country.

(That particular Story Ornament Elephant is already sold out on Anthrolpoligie website)

When in Jordan this past September, one of my husband's relatives (cousin Mohammed's mother- a delightful women I had never met before) gave me a beautiful cross from Bethlehem.

Symbols make our world more interesting and interconnected. Art history books can devote pages and pages to the meanings of a painting. Some symbols are obscure and harder to fathom, others (like the cross, or the star or the crescent moon) are quite well known.

The last cross I received as a heartfelt gift came from my grandmother who gave me a book mark that is made of three book length long strands of narrow white ribbon, each strand of ribbon with a small golden charm sown onto the end. A cross, an anchor and a heart: Faith, Hope and Charity.

Charity is love- and generosity.

Dove of Peace

A friend from many many years ago sent me a link last month to a charity in Jerusalem that I find intriguing and exciting.... Palestinian artisans are making Christmas symbols out of the lambs wool from Bethlehem sheep.

Thanks to the Internet I was able to order some to give as gifts (as well as some to keep for myself) and they arrived here just in time for Christmas...and my heavens are they popular ! Every one who sees them and touches them is utterly enchanted. The workmanship is suburb. Each item is charming- and so very symbolic.

Sunbula is a Jerusalem-based nonprofit Fair Trade organization that supports Palestinian craft producers -- women‘s groups, artisan cooperatives and disabled people‘s organizations. By promoting traditional handicrafts locally and internationally, they support economic self-help efforts of those living in difficult conditions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian minority inside Israel.

Sunbula is Arabic for "spike of wheat," the flower that makes bread. As the name symbolizes, Sunbula helps people provide themselves with the gift of a more dignified life.

Each one of their product is made by hand with care, and in the spirit of preserving Palestinian craft traditions.

Go shop at their 2 fair trade shops in Jerusalem or visit their Online Craft Market for hundreds of beautifully crafted items Palestinian embroidery, olivewood carvings, home decors, jewelry, and more!

These felted wool ornaments feel good to touch- and they are so lightweight, and unbreakable. Although I suspect a naughty kitten might have fun pulling one to pieces... all the more reason so buy more than one just in case!
I like olive wood ornaments too, both for my own home and to give as gifts to friends and family.

Some holiday decorations are simple, others are much more complex, like this music box I got a few years ago- made in Palestine... turn the star and it plays the Christmas carol Silent Night.

In growing a garden for Palestine today, I have to keep hoping for peace, even though sometimes it seems that is getting harder and harder to do, with so many extremists, bigots and imbeciles (on both "sides") dominating the conversation at every turn. Thankfully there are many others- many better, brighter, more compassionate and realistic men, women and children who are hoping for peace too- a just and lasting peace for every one's sake.

There are good and decent people here, there and everywhere, hoping and quietly, gently doing what they can to help make Palestine a reality. A real country with real jobs for real people- not a rally cry but a sovereign nation state where Palestinians are fully free to rebuild their lives and homes... fully free to live in peace- and earn a good living. Fully free to simply be.

Today, here in America we can find and buy Palestinian crafts and souvenirs- but in time we might also be exploring sophisticated computer programs or security advice made in Palestine. There is no limit to what might be.... New inventions and new technology or new ideas that radically change our world and the way we do things can not be predicted. But we can help create an environment where more people are more able to make the most of their time and talents.

Lamb's wool angel floating on a puff of lamb's wool cloud

If you are an American citizen looking for ways to invest in a real Palestine be very very careful about what you invest in- and (who and) what you promote. Spend both your energy and your money wisely.

Times change- and life moves on. Sometimes it is in very unexpected ways. Sometimes the change is shocking- but sometimes it is barely noticeable.

And sometimes it is REALLY hard to find a family photo where everyone is actually looking towards the camera!

Christmas Eve dinner at my mother's house 2010

Every year we celebrate any holiday, no matter who we are or what we are celebrating, it is at least a little bit different than the last as our children grow up and we age... Some years the change is huge- loved ones die and we miss them horribly, wishing they were still with us.

Fact is money can not buy the best things in life.

For all the ornaments and decorations that I very much enjoy, my favorite Christmas ornaments are actually the birds in our garden.

A tree full of bluebirds

Friday, November 12, 2010

Internet Tourism

Nablus... Old City by Afaf Arafat

Al-Diwan - Old Nablus by Afaf Arafat

Afaf Arafat is a Palestinian artist who was attracted to art as a young child, when she would try to draw the jasmine tree which climbed all the way from her father's Diwan to the first floor of the house.... As evident in her pictures the Palestinian countryside figures prominently in her work. So does the old city of Nablus. Other pictures display the splendor of Palestinian heritage whether in costume or architecture.

I discovered Afaf Arafat's beautiful artwork while poking around the Internet yesterday- looking for beauty. I have This Week in Palestine bookmarked on my computer, easy to click on and from there I often discover unique and interesting ideas and web sites to explore.

Building a Positive Brand Identity for Palestine in the Media
It is good to see so many different people taking positive media efforts for Palestine seriously. We all have a part to play- each in our own way. Each link we click helps make it more popular- and more likely to be noticed by others.

Different pictures, different tones, different colors- different types of stories and art and adventure appeal to different types of people. There is no one size fits all. There is however a mainstream, a very large middle where more people are more likely to hear and be influenced by what you have to say. It is as simple as that.

The Golden Rule [Do unto others as you would have them do unto you] really is a good rule of thumb for navigating the mainstream if you want more competent and capable people to become interested in Palestine and peace...

"A walk in the wondrous Old City of Jerusalem with all of its fragrances and colourful shops, or a short trip to any Palestinian city can expose a lot of the demographic mix to the discerning eye. I personally see this as strength and an added value to the Palestinian fabric. We are able to offer a diverse and varied culture in such a small country like Palestine." Raed Saadeh

The Dome on the Rock from a 19th century print

An 19th century impression of the land around Hebron

A view of ancient Tyre from a 19th century print

"Imagine cycling from Jenin to Hebron- passing Jerusalem and Bethlehem on the way. Immersed in the breathtaking Biblical landscape, taking the ancient roads of pilgrims and warriors- from the quiet of the Jerusalem Wilderness desert to the majesty of the Dead Sea." BIKE PALESTINE

"Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Explorations of the Holy Land 2011
Participants in this tour will explore the religious diversity and cultural richness of Israel and Palestine. We will investigate holy sites, listen to devotees, observe religious practices, delve into group beliefs and values, and ponder the religious experiences of the peoples of Israel and Palestine. Special attention will be given to the diversity of Jewish life, the vibrancy of Islam, and a selection of the indigenous Christian communities of Israel and Palestine. How have such lusciously flowered religions survived, adapted, and blossomed in the ‘desert’? Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies"

"Reconnect the Human Family - Step by Step Abraham's Path is a cultural itinerary that inspires and engages travelers to journey on the national and local trails of each nation of the region. Some of these national and local trails we have directly helped design and open — others are purely in the domain of national governments. Abraham's Path honors the laws, traveler-related directives, and nomenclature of all government partners."
Or, for the more secular and scientifically inclined arm chair tourist, who is seeking a more global perspective there are fascinating self guided tours through The World At Night (TWAN) where one can star gaze....

Night of an Ancient Library
Stars of Leo, the Lion, and planet Saturn shine above the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, a city of ancient Anatolia. Ephesus hosted one of the seven churches of Asia, addressed in the Book of Revelation of The Bible. It is also the site of a large gladiator graveyard. Pictured here under the moonlight, the Library of Celsus, whose façade has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was built in AD 125 and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Today's archaeological site of Ephesus lies 3 kilometers south of the Selçuk district of Izmir Province, Turkey. Tunc Tezel.

The World At Night
(TWAN) is a program to produce and present a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks against the celestial attractions.

Last month my husband and I got all dressed up and went down to a glorious Gala at the Ritiz Carlton in Washington DC. Dr. Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine emailed me a picture taken there.

ATFP's Dr. Ziad Asali with Annie & Jaffar

The ATFP Gala was very well organized and very well attended. It was VERY impressive!

BUT what has really awed me the most has been the subsequent followup...

ATFP's Fifth Annual Gala 2010: Building Palestine, the Indispensable State for Peace

A beautifully written quick summary is filled with links one can explore in full- watch videos of great speeches or read the riveting transcripts. One can scroll through photos of the Gala, or stroll through the inspiring art work at the silent auction, or read the program and experience the entire program in full from afar- savoring every perfect word. The introductions are as good as the formal speeches. There is also a collection of articles in the media covering the Gala.

Take your time- enjoy the journey. Times are changing- and we citizens of the world, (regardless of supposed race, religion or nationality) are all part of that change.

This past summer, in training for my own empty nest, I was obsessed with a webcam watching an osprey nest on the Chester River (thanks to Chestertown Spy and everyone involved in supporting that project.) The osprey parents were attentive and dedicated. At first the baby birds were pretty darn ugly- but the scenery there was lovely. I'd often watch the sunrise there on the Chester River.... the river where my oldest son rows.

The webcam showed the nest and the river beyond, with a wide enough angle that sometimes you could see one of the osprey swoop down to fish- a small dark silhouette splashing the surface of the water and then winging its way back in a circle- rising up to land, looming large in the nest to feed.

Time passed and as the baby birds grew their elegant parents changed tactics. Early on one parent or the other would position themselves in the nest so as to cast a cooling shadow on the sleeping chicks, to protect them from the full glare of the hot summer sun. Eventually, as the chicks leaned to move the chicks learned to move into protective shade cast by a parent: Each took ownership of their own well-being... and responsibility for themselves.

Relationships change every day- and we adapt. We go from being a dependent child to a teen to an adult. We age- some more gracefully than others. But no matter what our age, or our state of grace, we tend to keep in contact with people we want to hear from, and we avoid people we don't want to hear from- for whatever reason. Our own behavior helps shape the marketplace of ideas.

In growing a garden for Palestine today- on my blog, there are hundreds of potentially worthy projects to point out- and thousands of worthy pictures and photos that I am tempted to post... plus millions of worthy quotes to quote....

Another day perhaps.

The sun sets over Palestinian fishermen in their boat in the Mediterranean sea, near the beach on the outskirts of Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Adel Hana) Yahoo! news photos


Jericho Mosiac- Leaping Gazelle

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dear Ziad

Dear Ziad,

Thank you and your lovely wife Naila, and all of ATFP for hosting such an inspiring and interesting Gala. My husband and I very much enjoyed all the art- and the speakers... and the gift bag with zataar and olive oil and Nabulsi soap.

Meeting one of my favorite modern poets in person was a moment I will never ever forget. Naomi Shihab Nye is as welcoming and delightful as her poems.

ATFP's hard work and good intentions are obvious, as is the talent, intelligence, dignity and compassion of all the many people who chose to help support the American Task Force on Palestine... I wish you the best of luck in your collective efforts to help shape a just, lasting and comprehensive peace and a real Palestinian state.


Washington DC: The Lincoln Memorial

“In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.” Beneath these words, the 16th President of the United States—the Great Emancipator and preserver of the nation during the Civil War—sits immortalized in marble. As an enduring symbol of freedom, the Lincoln Memorial attracts anyone who seeks inspiration and hope.

ATFP 2010 featuring Arab Artwork- promoting Palestine & Peace

For the complete text of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Keynote Address at ATFP Gala click here. For the complete text of Ziad Asali's introduction click here. For more information about the gala click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music Therapy

All summer long I have very much enjoyed seeing the humming birds flitting up to drink their nectar at our feeder.

At the end of this summer my husband's father died, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a horrible shock. My husband's father was an amazing man. I simply can not find the words to express how deep our loss is... the world's loss really as he was very much beloved by all family, friends, and associates who knew him. My father-in-law and his best buddy from childhood grew up to be very successful, well respected businessmen. Many different people feel his loss in many different ways. My husband has lost not only a father, but a best friend and trusted advisor. My sister-in-law writes lovingly of him in a blog she started called Baba's Little Girl. I however can not even begin to express in words how much this perfect father-in-law has meant to me. Nor can I even try describe him yet, for I would not know where to begin except to say he was born in Palestine.

Perhaps one day I will find the words to explain what an admirable and interesting and entertaining man my father-in-law was. In time, I hope, in time. He is most definitely a good memory to savor.

Miqdad giving his grandson James some lettuce to taste, Amman Jordan

Jaffar and his father and our kids in Petra

Miqdad and his two oldest grandsons exploring history

Miqdad & Miqdad & James & Jaffar just hanging out

Fathers & sons: Jaffar, Miqdad, and his namesake Miqdad

My father-in-law, who knew all sorts of fascinating tidbits about history and archaeology, giving us a fascinating tour of Jerash

Jaffar and his father

Miqdad & Alma Lou Annab at home

Miqdad, Jaffar & Miqdad gardening in the atrium, Amman Jordan 2009

We flew to Amman as quickly as we could when we heard of Baba's death. My mother came over as soon as she heard, helping us as I orchestrated plane tickets and travel plans for two sons away at two different colleges, my husband, myself and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was visiting us at the time of my father-in-law's death. Her immediate reaction was to remind us that he lived a good life- a full life. I will always be grateful that she was here to tell the news to her son, and to console us all.

Our young niece and nephew met at us the airport in Jordan, they are growing up so fast! We drove to Baba's house and the kitchen was crowded with close family members who had gathered to greet us, and to share our tears.

The Arabic newspapers were full of condolences and announcements about Baba. We had the traditional azza- three days of formal grieving with the men of the family greeting people (men only) in a large rented formal public hall and the women staying in the home to receive female visitors there. All day long people were coming in, shaking hands, sitting down for either a few minutes or hours- depending on how close they were to the family. Arabic coffee in tiny cups and big plump juicy dates and bottles of water were served to all who came. In the afternoon a large lunch arrived- each day brought by someone in the extended family as the women of the house can not be expected to cook during this time. We had delicious lamb with rice and almonds. Chicken. Stuffed grape leaves..etc... the traditional stuff. And on the third day we had knaffieh for dessert- the Nablus specialty.

Miqdad, James, Annie & Jaffar on the front steps of Baba's house Amman Jordan September 2010

Miqdad Hasan Annab, 16 years old
August 1st, 1932- September 17th 2010

Baba's kids: Nasser, Jaffar, Ali & Randa

Baba's grandchildren (Miqdad, James, Feisal, Yasmeen, & Laith) with Randa and Baba's niece Ghada & her daughter Nisreen

I always hoped that one day when Palestine was free from Israeli occupation Baba could take us to Nablus, and show us his childhood haunts and entertain us with his stories. He had a knack for making people feel at home and happy... We all thought he would live a long long time as his father did. I wish he could have lived long enough to see Palestine, his beloved birthplace, free. He was the type of supporter that Palestine needs- a good man and a loving man, and a modest man... and a successful competent businessman. Very much a diplomat- and a gentleman. By the entrance to his library there was a calender open to September 2010- celebrating El-Funoun the Palestinian popular dance troupe.

Jaffar & Annie at Nancy & Mohammad's for breakfast, Amman Jordan September 2020

Meanwhile life goes on. Our time with Baba was far too brief- and so is life itself. As my mother-in-law reminded us over and over this past month, Baba would not want us to waste all our time mourning.

This year's autumn leaves and autumn weather here in central Pennsylvania are glorious...

Autumn Leaves

Autumn flowers

Wandering in and out to see the leaves I sometimes leave the door open- the air feels so crisp- so clean, and the rustle of dry leaves in the trees as the wind picks up and drops is music to my ears- as is the bird song in our garden.

October Glory Maple Leaf

The other day I was sitting at my computer when I heard a loud ruckus in the garden room quite near me- turned out to be the clatter of squirrel talons/toenails on our Garden room's tile floor as a Mr. Squirrel sprinted over to the far corner of the room and crept under my grandmother's rickety old rocking chair.

I screamed! I screamed and jumped up- and I ran away... in running away my back was turned so I was not sure if Mr. Squirrel scampered out. Mr. Squirrel was no where to be found when my husband and I searched for him. I am now imagining furtive ninja squirrel carefully hiding in my house by hanging upside down somewhere under the furniture- his silhouette pulled tight up against his hiding place in order to better hide in the shadows.


Blue Jay in our back yard

This weekend was Family weekend at my youngest son's college. We had a delightful time spending the day with James, and we totally enjoyed the the '16th annual homecoming parade' put on by his college- and eating cafeteria food... and seeing a very special art exhibit in Elizabethtown College's Zug Memorial Hall.

Professor Gene Ann Behrens is a Music Therapy Professor. During a recent trip to Bethlehem she took some riveting and revealing photographs and has organized them into an exhibit to try to help show America what Bethlehem looks like today, under Israeli occupation- strangled by that awful Israeli made wall.

What struck me most about her exhibit is that she does not bombard her audience with the most painful and traumatizing images she can find. Instead she conveys a sense of hope- and a sensitivity to Palestinian dignity and beauty. Her photos are good- but how she titles them is most revealing; "The Pride of a Palestinian Mother" ... "Children Getting to "Act as Children"" ..."Illuminating Years of Faith in the Nativity Church"... "Ageless Strength"

"Ageless Strength "

"Perseverance Amid the Destruction"

Professor Gene Ann Behrens
Music therapy prof travels to Bethlehem to work with children

The International Center of Bethlehem is an ecumenically oriented institution developed through the Lutheran Church that serves the entire Palestinian community. Professor Behrens worked at the Center’s Dar Al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center, meeting with small groups of children and their parents to see how they are coping with the trauma of war, and developing music therapy protocol for working with the children.

Despair, destruction and hope 'Behind the Walls' of Bethlehem, Professor's photos on display at Elizabethtown College
Read more:

Professor Behrens happened to meander into the gallary right before my husband, myself and our son were about to leave. Heavens what serendipity- she was fascinating to talk with!

One thing she said really struck me- basically, the gist of it is that some researchers are finding that talking about trauma can make things worse for the traumitized, leaving them mired in misery rather than healing them. Music therapy however can reach the child- help heal the child.

There probally could be much more written on the topic of Music and healing- and Palestine, but I am not the right person to explain all that needs to be explained.

This week, here in America, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the ATFP's Fifth Annual Gala 2010: Building Palestine, the Indispensible State for Peace. One of my favorite poets Naomi Shihab Nye will be honored with an award for Excellence in the Arts. ATFP's Gala also has an Artists Corner pointing out that "these talented individuals have spoken volumes, celebrating Arab and Arab-American culture with vibrancy" My favorite artist found there is Helen Zughaib who believes that the Arts are one of the most important tools we have to help shape and foster dialogue and positive ideas about the Middle East. "Hopefulness, healing and spirituality, are all themes that are woven into her work."

Sisters by Helen Zughaib

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt

Growing Gardens for Palestine
The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you