International politics, a recipe and an over-enthusiasm for blogging

Given as I’ve been promising people the recipe for my ‘Palestinian lentil thing’ for ages, it seems appropriate to share it on a day when, yet again, Israel-Palestine is in the news. I’m not going to share my thoughts on the subject here, but I’ve returned to my Palestinian blog for the purpose.

Also on that blog is the story of a community I met with three summers ago on the same trip where I first tasted this recipe, who have in the last few days been threatened with nine demolition orders (from the Israeli government) for various structures on their land. This recipe is a perfect community meal – it makes tons and is really easy – so if you make it, maybe take the time to think of those in the land where it was created as you enjoy it…

Recipe for Mujadara (Lentils and Rice) – Maha Ateek

2 cups lentils (washed and drained)
1 cup rice
1 medium onion chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons cumin
salt to taste

1. Heat olive oil in medium size pot over medium heat. Add onions, cook stirring occasionally until golden brown for 5-7 minutes.
2. Add washed and drained lentils, stir with onions. Add boiling water and let it boil for 10 minutes on medium heat.
3. Add to lentil mixture the rice, cumin and salt. Stir well, let boil for one minute while stirring. Turn the heat on simmer and let it cook stirring occasionally for 20 inutes or until the rice and lentils are soft. You can add more water if the rice and lentils are not soft.

You can eat it with yogurt and tomato salad (chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, chopped onions, olive oil and salt).

It also helps if you serve it in Palestinian crockery – like the bowl above that’s one of pair I successfully brought home totally intact! When I said ‘it makes tons’, it probably serves around 8-10. You can halve the recipe, or simply freeze leftovers and eat it continuously for weeks.

The latest crisis in Palestine has contributed to my over-enthusiasm for blogging in the last 24 hours. Those who’ve spotted the new ‘My Other Blogs’ tab on here may have read that in total I’ve begun 6 blogs, which sounds rather ridiculous. In the last day I’ve updated four of them – this one; the Palestinian one; the very anonymous one and the new anonymous one. That last blog is a new project that some of you have heard about but that I can’t link to because its success relies upon its anonymity – if you’re at all interested (and trust me, it’s not access to my confidential diary or anything!) drop me a line and I’ll send the link on to you.

Is maintaining four blogs, a Twitter account and a Facebook presence excessive? Quite possibly, but it makes me happy…


Since the weekend, I’ve been having the most amazing e-mail dialogue with a total stranger, thanks to the wonders of the internet.

No, I’ve not re-entered the world of online dating! It’s actually something far more sensible and enlightening.

Having posted my protest photos on flickr on Sunday, I received a comment on one of them from an Israeli girl in Haifa, who asked how I had become so interested in the Palestinian situation. It wasn’t a confrontational comment, simply a genuine enquiry, so I replied and every day this week has seen a continuation of the conversation. It’s not angry or attacking, just two people sharing their thoughts regarding a conflict that they don’t agree with, but for different reasons.

I’m not going to say much (because I have other plans for this dialogue in the future and I’ve not asked her permission to show the messages in full), but I just wanted to share with you a few of her comments that have really got me thinking.

Firstly, challenging my belief in pacifism:
“I wish I had the privilege to be a pacifist. I can’t. For every fact that you will raise, I have a thousand counter backs. That only shows you that both sides are right- Israeli and Palestinians. There is not only one truth as there is not only one solution.”

Secondly, an interesting philosophical dilemma:
“Now i wish to ask you a question. Is there a difference between a situation with the same result, but with different intentions? When a terror bomber explodes himself on a bus wishing to kill many people, including children, or when a soldiar wishing to kill someone with blood on his hand mistakenly kills a child, does it count that the first guy wished for it and the second one didn’t?”

I’ve replied to both these comments with my own views and feelings, but philosophically, it’s hard. Pacifism is an idealistic belief which hasn’t yet seen any success in political circles, as many years of studying history has taught me. Similarly, I believe that all killing is wrong, but that God will judge those who kill in the end. But accidents do happen, and I have sympathy for soldiers who kill civillians unintentionally. I have even more sympathy for soldiers forced to be in the military, like those in Israel on their compulsory military service.

The bottom line is that I’m really grateful that this person has got in touch with me and is leading me into a fascinating and challenging discussion about something that I am hugely passionate about. And I’m even more grateful that it’s happening in a peaceful and non-confrontational way.

Standing up to be counted

The political theme continues…

Today thousands of people marched from Embankment to Trafalgar Square showing their support of Palestine, and demanding a response from the international community to the violence in Gaza.

As I write, media reports are concentrating on arrests made at the end of a subsequent protest at the Israeli Embassy and are putting the number of people at the march at around 6,000. In fact, the police this afternoon estimated it at 50,000 – I know, I heard it announced in Trafalgar Square, where I stood in the freezing cold to show my solidarity.

It’s highly likely that today’s demonstration was actually the largest ever to take place in the UK in support of Palestine. It was an eclectic mix of the Stop the War Coalition; Islamic groups; Rabbis for Peace; Socialist Workers and Christian Groups. There were families with small children as well as a diverse range of races. (See the adjacent photo of child’s placard.) It was peaceful and people were cheerful.

To hear on my return home that Israeli ground troops have entered Gaza was rather galling.

At the same time, I’ve also discovered a set of three Gaza related cartoons on Asbo Jesus – this is my favourite:

The praying for peace continues.

Holy land?

I’m almost pleased that the violence in Gaza has erupted during the dead-time between Christmas and New Year – at least it means it gets the news coverage it deserves. At a time when this holy land is at the forefront of our minds, it seems fitting that the unholy conflict taking place there should be brought to our attention again.

There’s almost nothing I can write about it, I certainly can’t be profound.
I’ve not been there, but I know people who have. I also know people whose lives have been directly affected by the conflict. But you don’t need to have been there to be affected by what’s taking place – just look at the stark statistics:

Death toll since bombing began on Saturday – 315
Injured since Saturday – 1,400+
Number of Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza over the last 8 years – 18 (approx)
[Source: ‘Gaza death toll tops 300…’, today’s Guardian]

It’s a time when all I can do is read the articles and watch the reports and pray. If I get the chance I’ll head over to one of the demos outside the Israeli embassy. At the same time, I inwardly seeth when I see that a friend on facebook has become a supporter of Tzipi Lvini, the current Israeli Foreign Minister, standing for PM in their next elections.

I’ve got a request though…
Whatever happens in the next few days, weeks and months; don’t forget about Gaza, the West Bank, the Palestinian people and the Israelis. When it disappears from the news and front pages there will still be people whose day to day lives are being destroyed by this conflict. If you pray, then pray for peace. If you don’t, just stay informed – it’s that simple.

I’m not sorry this has been a bit deep. This is what I’m feeling right now, and if blogging about it makes the smallest bit of difference, then that’s a good thing!