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…

Writer’s block

Why is it that writer’s block only hits when you actually have something terribly important to get done? I can dash off a carefully crafted blog post in minutes, yet a 350 word article in my old job could take me hours (or even days, depending on how much procrastination was going on).

This Sunday I’m preaching. I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase before!
My mother’s booked me to speak at her church’s World Church Sunday on the subject of Palestine.

I have several issues:

1) I’ve never done this before, though I don’t generally mind speaking.
2) I keep being asked complicated questions like, “do you want to choose the hymns?”; “what Bible passage are you using for your children’s address?”; “how are you going to connect with the themes in the lectionary readings?”… [I’m not choosing hymns; the children’s bit is going to be fun not an ‘address’ and I’m ignoring the lectionary.]
3) This church is in Belfast, where the Israel-Palestine conflict carries a different resonance, making it lots more complicated.
4) I’m speaking in a church context that’s totally different to the one I choose to worship in, which is always interesting.
5) I’ve got to be good, as my mother will be watching!

I think I’ve written half the talk, but I’ve stalled and I leave for Belfast early tomorrow morning. I still haven’t sorted out my children’s thing and I’m really in need of some good ‘stories’. Usually, this topic is something I can speak fairly coherently on for ages, but today I’m really struggling.

You’d have thought someone who used to work in Mission Education would be good at this sort of thing…apparantly not!

I’m off to pack my bag (I’ve got a list this time) – at least that’s a productive activity & might get my brain going.


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.

Bits and Pieces

I’m having a bit of a web 2.0 evening, so thought I’d share a few things…

In the last few days I’ve rediscoved, a community of amateur journalists who contribute articles, photos & video on a whole range of topics – from world affairs to celebrity gossip.

I first came across it just after I got back from Israel/Palestine in 2007, when one of its members wanted to use some photos from my trip (found via flickr) with an article. I liked the concept, so joined but did nothing more until I had another photo request for an article about the Gaza protest at the weekend.

I think it’s a great idea. The standard of journalism (from what I’ve seen so far) is pretty good and there are some interesting discussions in the comments. You get points according to what you contribute, which I find terribly motivating in my slightly competitive way. Worth a look if you’re an aspiring writer/photographer.

Also, it’s one of the reasons why I keep my flickr account going. Whilst facebook’s great for sharing my eclectic range of photography projects, flickr’s where I put my more serious efforts and I like the feedback I get. So far that’s led me to NowPublic and has seen two of my New Zealand photos included Schmap online travel guides for Auckland & Wellington and one published in an Auckland magazine.

You may also have noticed my strong interest in the Palestinian situation at the moment. When I came back from there, I wrote up my journal on a blog (it’s linked over on the right hand side) and it’s one of my favourite pieces of work. Afterwards, I kept it going for a while as a way of keeping friends from the trip informed on what I was doing, but because the situation moves on so quickly, it soon became harder to update.

But, at the moment I’m writing it again. I’ve been duplicating posts on this blog too, but I actually have more that I want to write on Palestine than would suit the random nature of this one, so this is just a suggestion to look out for updates to it on my blog-roll if you’re at all interested.

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.