Friday, January 09, 2009
  Responding to systematic brutality
How does one respond to a state that systematically uses its power in the most brutal ways seeking to subdue a people.

When one is partisan the answer is simple. Outrage, anger and protest. Since visiting the Karen people on the Thai-Burma border that's how I respond to each month or day's shocking new episode. (If you want the last month's atrocities read the latest "Last Month in Burma" but be ready for the contents, the rape and murder of a seven year old, a political prisoner comits suicide...)

But how to respond when one has friends and aquaintances among the aggressors, or at least among the citizens of the aggressor state, wh are not disenfranchised or in open rebellion? That's my problem as I read the reports from Gaza. I respect and like so many of the Israelis I have met, I've enjoyed their hospitality, and sympathised with their fear of terrorist attacks and their worry about sons and daughters in the army. I have no Palestinian friends, to provide "balance", I have not eaten in Palestinian homes... I am non-partisan, or through the chains of friendship implicated in the actions of the Israeli state.

Should I respond to the indiscriminate brutality of the current attack with silence? After all Israel has suffered Hamas attacks for years... My colleague George sent me a short paper by Alex Awad, Dean of Students, Bethlehem Bible College. Alex offers a compassionate appeal, one which recognises the pain of Israelis, accepts their right "to live in peace and security" but claims the same right for the innocent inhabitants of Gaza.

I emailed Alex and he has given me permission to reproduce his text here:

Regarding Gaza

By Rev. Alex Awad, Dean of Students, Bethlehem Bible College
December 31, 2008

One hundred tons of bombs are Israel’s way of saying to the captive citizens of Gaza, Merry Christmas, Happy Eid (feast) and Happy New Year. These “gifts” that were showered from US-made F-16 fighter jets demolished government buildings, mosques, a university, hundreds of homes and snuffed out many lives – among them scores of children. Like many in this part of the world and around the globe my heart aches when I read and see pictures of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip and likewise when I see Israelis killed or injured by Qassam rockets. However, I have a special love for Gaza and its people. Before the strict closure of Gaza, Bethlehem Bible College used to have an extension there. I went to Gaza once every Thursday to teach our students and often I stayed the night there. Interacting with Gazans in class, in church and in the community, I learned much about the kindness and the hospitality of the people of Gaza, both Muslims and Christians. The majority of the people of Gaza are not Hamas militants. They are people like you and I who long to live in peace day in and day out. Regretfully, everyone in the Gaza Strip--men, women, children, civilians and fighters alike—is now feeling the horrible impact and devastation caused by the newest and deadliest Israeli incursion over the Strip in many years.

There is no doubt that the Qassam rockets launched against the western Negev and Ashkelon by Islamic militants linked to Hamas cause great pain and anxiety for many Israelis. Most people agree that Israel, like any other country, has the right to defend itself from outside attacks. However in this unequal conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel, as usual, has overdone it. When it comes to dealing with its enemies, Israel has a pattern of being extreme. “An eye for an eye” does not satisfy. It has to be more like one hundred eyes for one eye and one hundred teeth for one tooth. When the Israelis attacked Lebanon in June 2006, they sprayed the country with millions of cluster bombs (which are internationally banned) and these bombs continue to kill innocent people even today. What troubles me most in this current war is that most of the victims of this Israeli incursion on Gaza are average people-men, women and children--who are struggling to just to survive under the extreme and harsh conditions that the Israeli siege has created. For 40 years the Gaza Strip has been under Israeli occupation and during the last few years, although the Israelis redeployed their troops from Gaza, they never withdrew the symbols of their dominance and occupation. They continue to control the borders, which mean controlling food, medicine, fuel and goods going in and out of the Strip. In essence, they have turned Gaza into the largest open-air prison in the world.

If the Israeli leaders assume that they can assure the security of their citizens by the might and the power of their superior army and air force, they are mistaken. The outrage caused among the peoples in the Arab and Islamic world by these horrible attacks will most likely blow dark clouds over the skies of Israel or elsewhere in the world.

Israel should learn to negotiate with its neighbors in good faith. Negotiating in good faith means implementing UN resolutions, ending the occupation of the West Bank, opening the borders of the Gaza Strip to the rest of the world and stopping military incursions into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The rise of Hamas and militancy in Gaza is directly related to a vacuum that Israel and the United States have created by dragging their feet in never-ending and fruitless peace negotiations with moderate Palestinians. As long as Israel continues to place obstacles on the path of the peace process and as long as the US continues to allow it to do so, we can expect new outbursts of violence in the Middle East that will cause more horrors and waste more lives on both sides of the political divide.

The Israelis have the right to live in peace and security and so do the people of Gaza. I call on you, friends, to pray for the civilians on both sides who are caught in this nightmare. In addition to praying, let us protest these lethal bombs with a barrage of our own letters to our elected leaders calling for an end to this human tragedy.

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Friday, September 07, 2007
  Bee keeping at Tel Rehov

This undated photograph made available by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows an archaeologist next to an opening of one of the ancient beehives found in excavations in Tel Rehov in northern Israel. Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found. (AP Photo / Amihai Mazar, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Image and text from AP

Science Daily seems to have the best coverage of the find (from Tel Rehov, in the Beth Shean valley) of an apiary with straw and clay hives. The find dates from around the 10th century (according to Carbon 14 dating). The hives are similar in design to pictures of beehives from ancient Egypt, though these are the earliest actual hives discovered. Previously baked clay hives from the Graeco-Roman period were the earliest known. Remains of bees and wax make the identification of the straw and clay cylinders pretty sure.

The hives were found in rows three hives high, which suggests that a good number, possibly as many as 100 hives could have been situated in the room that was excavated. This means that honey and wax production at Tel Rehov is likely to have been on an industrial scale. This find therefore means that references to honey in the Bible that have often been understood to refer to syrups made from figs or dates are more likely to intend bees honey.

According to Science Daily:
Cultic objects were also found in the apiary, including a four-horned altar adorned with figures of naked fertility goddesses, as well as an elaborately painted chalice.
The connection between these finds is unclear, but may suggest something of the religious practices of the inhabitants of Tel Rehov at that time.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007
  Negev flash flood video ::
Todd Bolen (of the superb has a link to this cellphone video of a flash flood in the Nahal Zin, about 60Km south of Beersheba in the Negev. If you have ever wanted to see why psalm 23 delights in being led by "still waters" just imagine sheep drinking from the pools you see at the start of the video!

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