Saturday, January 28, 2012

1/28/12: Fatwas, Forced Fattenings, And Wildly Inappropriate Class Discussions!

As my first semester of graduate school draws to a close I can say, whole heartedly, that my last few classes have been... colorful, to say the least. In my State and Religion class we have been dedicating time to talking about the subject of Islamic Fatwas (a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic Scholar), and if you truly want to be entertained I suggest you go online and read some questions and fatwa rulings, because it is utterly astounding to read some of the things that Muslims ask their religious leaders hoping for guidance and answers. In my class each student was asked to chose a fatwa that had been issued by an Islamic scholar and present it to the class. Naturally, this led to rather colorful discussions and some very interesting tangents. 

My Fatwa, while interesting, was probably one of the less outrageous that was presented. I found a ruling on a question of Islam's stance on plastic surgery. There was a woman who had a convert friend who was overweight and wanted to get liposuction but didn't want to go against Islam so she posed this question to Islamic Scholars for an answer. Now, depending on the "religiousness" of the scholar, whether he is a more fundamental Salafist, or a more moderate Wasati, the answer could have more or less room for religious "interpretation". I found a Wasati fatwa that was issued for this question which stated that plastic surgery goes agains the will of Allah but it is acceptable if it is for health reasons and there are no better ways to go about achieving this health. True religious interpretation at work :-) 

Now some of the more colorful fatwas answered questions like "Can I masturbate while my husband is away visiting his second wife?", or "Is it against Islam to drink my wife's breast milk while having sex with her?" Or " Is my wife allowed to peel a banana because she might be tempted to think about impure thoughts?"... the list goes on and on... Reading some of these was a great way to pass time and be thoroughly entertained. 

Anyways, after I read my fatwa on the issue of liposuction it led to quite a tangent on women and being fat which, and I don't remember how we got onto this topic, led to the discussion of the forced fattening of women in mauritania. I had never heard of "forced fattenings" so naturally my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to tune out of the class for a few minutes to research this issue on my computer. I was astounded by what I discovered and encourage everyone to read this article on the issue. It gives a good background into this practice: 

Any concept of "slim" women, or "fit" women being beautiful holds absolutely no relevance or significance in Mauritania, where the fatter a woman is, and the more rolls and stretch marks she has, the more beautiful she is in the eyes of Mauritanian men (who, by the way, are usually stick thin). Because of this it has become a highly practiced tradition to take young women (ages ranging from as young as 7 to 14 or 15), bring them to the middle of the desert, and keep them in tents for months to do nothing but eat and get fat in order to prepare them for marriage. Most girls marry between the ages of 12 and 14. Like previously stated, the fatter the better, so these girls are forced to eat anything from animal fat to soups of thick gruel until the point of vomiting (at which point they are beaten if they can't keep the food down). They are intensively force fed until the reach weights of 200 pounds or more. An interviewee in this article was 5'4 and weighed over 200 pounds after her time in the tents. Aside from the horrible effect this has on the health of these women, it showed that, no matter what a society deems "beautiful" to be, people will go through hell to get there. In the West women will do almost anything to become thin, and it seems that the same happens in Mauritanian though on the opposite end of the weight spectrum. It was fascinating to read about, although painful at the same time to see what these women go through for what they consider beauty to be. It brought up a lot of thoughts nonetheless. 

Anyways, after discussing this issue my professor decided it would be appropriate to tell a rather inappropriate Arab joke involving this issue of being fat. Not wanting to say the joke in English he revealed the punch line in Arabic and left it up to the people who speak the language to translate what it meant for the rest of the class. He began by saying "do you know what "kus (coos) ukhtak" means?" I, of course, knew and said what it meant to a girl behind me who proceeded to announce to the class that it means "your sister's vagina". Anyways, the joke is that an Arab man is about to marry off his sister and she is stick thin so he wraps her in pounds of newspaper to make her appear full figured to please her husband. On the wedding night as the groom is undressing his bride he tries to unwrap the pounds and pounds of newspaper and finally gives up, calls the brother and asks "on what page is your sister's vagina". It sounds much funnier in Arabic but you get the gist! Needless to say it was anything but a dull class! 

There must have been something in the air that day because in my next Arabic class, when we were translating, there was a verb that meant "to blow" and you can guess where all of our minds went... and then of course it had to be discussed publicly. It was quite a day! The night was just as crazy and random. I finally had the pleasure of spending time with a friend from university who has been so busy with work the past few weeks. We both share a love for Arabs and Arabic music so it was a night full of hookah, Arabic music, sushi, random hawaiian parties in the middle of winter,  a rather sketchy trip to Allenby where we met some very interesting gentlemen, and then back to smoke more hookah, relax, and enjoy some more Arabic music. Despite this research paper (which I am one editing session away from being done with) I have my last weekend in Israel very booked up, and it has been one of my best yet. 

Yesterday I was out with another friend from university, another person who shares a similar love of Arabic and the Middle East, and it was another great chance to continue building relationships and getting to know the brilliant people I am fortunate enough to be studying with! Tonight it is out to dinner with an Israeli friend of mine followed by meeting another friend, and tomorrow I am having dinner with a very dear friend in Medical School here followed by a trip to Jaffa with my former roommate for some hookah and Arabic practice. After all of that it will be Monday before I know it, and I will only have two more days until I travel back home to California! It's been one hell of a last week here! 

More updates soon including my travels back home <3,
Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1/24/12: Far From The Eyes, Far From The Heart

The best group of girls anyone could ask for

A friend of mine in Israel told me when something is  "far from the eyes" it is  "far from the heart,  and when I first heard this quote (which was told to me in Hebrew) it took a minute to process. I don't think I really understood it's meaning until quite recently due to the rapid speed at which my trip home is approaching. I have been away from California, from my family, and from my friends for over a half a year, and this week was the first time I felt even the slightest bit sick for home. With no prospect of going home in sight it is so easy for me to put a multitude of other things at the forefront of my thoughts, however, with home being only a week away I find myself pining for familiarity and thinking of little else.

It hasn't really registered that it has been over a half of a year since I have seen the United States, but despite the time that has lapsed I know that my beautiful desert with her plethora of Palm Trees and tall mountains will be waiting for me in much the same state as I left her (minus the fact that it won't be 118 degrees outside) when I return home in a weeks time.

I really can say I live in two paradises, and I consider myself so lucky to be able to call both my Palm Springs Desert and my Tel Aviv Coast home! Aside from my overwhelming excitement to be back in a place where winter doesn't exist and it is still 80 degrees outside (which is a nice change from the absolute shit (pardon my French) weather Tel Aviv has been experiencing), I am so excited to be back with my family and friends! The thought of seeing them so soon has made me realize just how much I miss them, and I can't begin to describe how amazing it will feel to fill the void that has been made due to their absence. I am blessed to have the most amazing group of friends back home and we never miss a chance to have the greatest times together. We don't have to do much but we always have so much fun. My nights won't be filled with the crazy partying that has consumed much of my time in Tel Aviv, but they will be filled with something much more intimate and special with people who I have known since I was practically a baby.

The best groups come in 4's!  
My bubble and me


We've come a long way together 

With me from 4-24!! 

Add caption

It's not a proper get together without bubble, MD, and Jare

I'm pretty sure it is a given that I miss my parents, grandparents, and sisters, but there is another member of my family that I probably miss more than all!!! yes... My DOG!!! I can't even describe how much I have missed canine companionship since being in Israel, and nothing in the world is going to be better than walking in my front door to the sound of my crazy brother's excited barks. Yes I call my dog my brother since my mom treats him just like one of her children (even better sometimes!). He may be pretty fat and useless, and only interested in eating my food, but I love him more than anything and I'm so excited to finally see him again!! One thing to note about me is that I'm the biggest "dog" person in the world so naturally this excitement is expected.

My beautiful Ari Simon

He really does just want to eat... ALL THE TIME

This is how much I love him... I stoop this low :-) 

Now all that is standing in my way is finishing this research paper of mine, which, thankfully, is almost done! After that I have a few social activities that I'm greatly looking forward to this weekend, including a much overdo trip to Jaffa, and then it is on to packing and getting ready for a month home filled with good food, family, friends, and lots and lots of sunshine!

Tisba7 3ala khier ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

1/21/12: Control What You Can And The Rest Falls Into Place

I've always been a true believer in Karma and the idea that what you put into the universe, be it good or bad, you get back tenfold. I really like to think that these thoughts help me, everyday, to conduct myself in such ways that help me keep this amazing streak of positive energy I seem to be having. In fact, just today, a friend was asking me if I ever argue or say "no" because I seem so positive and agreeable (my parents are probably rolling on the floor laughing at this point, especially my dad!), but recently I have found that it is so much nicer to just... be nice, easy going, and, most importantly of all, happy.

Realizing that this is easier said then done I really have to thank my dad for this new found personal mantra of mine. He has been drilling into my brain for years this seemingly simple idea of keeping an open mind, focusing on what you have control over, getting done what you need to get done, and limiting, as best as possible, any hindering restrictions. Again, as simple as this sounds, it took me about 23 years to really understand what he meant, and I am only starting to realize how amazing life can be when you worry about what you have control over and let the rest fall into place.

Before this whole "starting a new life" ordeal began, I feel I was focusing on all of the wrong things. Whether it was guys, partying, how I looked, etc. I was always focused on things that brought me more frustration than anything else, and that really is no good way to live. Now, however, I'm focusing on school (and working very hard I might add), travel ambitions, meeting amazing new people, all of which are things I have control over, and things that bring me so much joy and pleasure, and in the meantime the other things are working themselves out beautifully while I am busy enjoying life. I'm not waiting on the things I can't control to make me happy, I'm making myself happy and distracting myself so that when the other things work out it only adds to the beauty of this crazy life of mine! It really is brilliant; make your life enjoyable and then, whether or not the other things work out, at least you will still be having a great time!

Me and my birthday twin enjoying a night out with our MAMES peers! 

Despite the fact that I have a research paper taking up much of my life these days, I'm finding that as long as I budget enough time to dedicate to work then there is no reason I can't play just as hard as I study. It's proved to be a rather good method thus far! As far as everything else goes I still feel more and more blessed with each passing day because of my amazing apartment, my crazy amazing boys (who, for the most part, I will miss terribly while I am home for a month), school, and life in general! Running away from home was the best decision that I have ever made, that is for sure! I leave one week from Wednesday to fly back home to California for a month and as much I will miss Israel I am so excited to be home. I can't wait to see my family and friends who I have missed so much. The 80 degree Palm Springs weather is not going to be too bad either ;-).

Until we meet again ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1/17/12: Something Must Be In The Air + The New Sexy

I don't know what it is about this time of the year but in the last week I have had 4 different friends get engaged, 3 start new relationships, and 2 or 3 others express their desires to be in serious relationships... all in 1 week! A bit overwhelming if you ask me! I don't know what it is, but there must be something in the air! All of these occurrences got me thinking, naturally, about relationships, attractive qualities in potential partners, and so on, and though I am happily, or mostly happily, single, I won't deny that the "something" that is in the air has perhaps started to effect me as well.

Today, as I was sitting in the library researching for my paper due in two weeks, I had the pleasure of sitting across from an extremely attractive Israeli man. We exchanged a few looks, exchanged even fewer words, but there was just this "something" that was so attractive about him. Disregarding, for the moment, the shallow, superficial fact that he was simply a gorgeous Middle Eastern man, I found myself far more attracted to the fact that he was in the library studying over anything else. As I get older I am finding intelligence to be a far more attractive quality than mere looks, which is radically different than how I felt a mere few years ago. In fact, in my mind, the killer combination is a drive that can rival my own and someone who can formulate a coherent, intelligent thought, even if he might not know so much about the given topic. An educated, driven person is a powerful and wonderful thing!!

Drive and passion are two other crucial qualities that surpass mere physical looks in terms of attractiveness. I know how driven I am and to see people who are just as, or more so, driven holds an attractiveness in my mind that can't be rivaled. Passion is another thing that is extremely important for me. It doesn't matter what impassions someone, but the mere fact that there is something that exists that can motivate and move someone as much as, let's say, Arabic or the arts does for me, is so unbelievably necessary in terms of qualities I'm looking for a partner to possess. Now, of course, there MUST be some sort of physical attraction when it comes to forming romantic attachments to people, but that aspect can only be radically amplified when a person possesses the other qualities mentioned.

And lastly, as much as this shocks people to hear, especially with my Arab obsession, I really don't think, at this point, I could ever seriously date someone who wasn't Jewish; and not just any type of Jewish... Conservative or Conservative+ (someone between conservative and modern orthodox) is how I would like to define what I am referring to. I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home, and though we didn't keep Kosher (it isn't the easiest thing to do in Non-Jewish Palm Springs) we observed holidays, kept (most) Shabbats (in the conservative sense of lighting candles, going to synagogue, Shabbat dinner etc.), and were an extremely traditional family.  Maybe traditional is more the correct description for what I am hoping to find. Someone who can say Kiddush on Friday nights, lead a passover Seder, and someone who can be a partner in faith (forgive the cheesiness, but my best friend Stephanie would understand this).

So, in essence, whenever a handful of my friends decide to get engaged or into relationships I think about how I need a well educated, driven, passionate, traditionally Jewish, preferably non-American, Mizrahi (Jew of Arab origins, but I'd be fine with Sephardi as well!), darker skinned man who lives in Israel... And I really have to wonder why I'm still singe??? :-)

Other than that I have two more wonderful weeks in Israel before returning home to beautiful, sunny, warm Southern California for a month. I am well on my way to finishing my research paper, have 1.5 more weekends (and I say that because I am only allowing myself to go out one night this weekend in order to finish this paper) to enjoy crazy Tel Aviv, have a week to attempt to teach myself how to cook an actual dinner (not my type of dinner which usually consists of either scrambled eggs or turkey sandwiches) to reciprocate the kindness of a dear friend, and then have to find time to mentally prepare myself for a month away from the Middle East! It will be a busy 2 weeks but once they are behind me I will get to enjoy a whole month of time with the best family and friends, amazing food (especially mexican food, bacon, and my grandfather's tuna salad), hours in the sun, re-reading Harry Potter, and teaching myself a new, French song on the guitar (a task that I promised to have completed upon my return to the Holy Land)! It's going to be quite a month!

Well that is all for now! Updates soon
Tisba7 3ala kheir ya habibis <3,
Jordana Simone

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1/12/12: A Picky Ear And A New...Like??

I should have guessed that with all of the French people coming in and out of my apartment, along with the fact that one of my roommates is French, I would eventually be exposed to elements of this culture that would, so to speak, grab me in. Lucky for me I have a friend who, not knowingly, exposed me to the one thing that could entice me to fall in love with any language, culture, or religion if it sits well with me; music. I'm sure I have heard French music before, but was never exposed to anything that resonated with me, until recently when I was introduced to the singer Corneille. I don't know if it was the specific song, or his voice, but I instantly fell in "like" with the beauty of the music and the gorgeous sound of the language. I say like because, unlike Arabic, this isn't a love at first listen language for me; however, in time I think it could grow into a language that I love. Knowing what you know about me it should be pretty easy to guess that I love languages, but have really never connected to or had any interest in any of the major European languages; I'm really all about the semitic language family (obviously)! However, since being exposed to French, and since learning that to be competitive in a field of work related to the Middle East I will need to learn a major European language that is prevalent in this region (French being the obvious choice due to their massive colonization of  North Africa, Lebanon, etc.), I have started giving the language a great deal of attention.

Like with Arabic, my interest in French is beginning with the music, and I'm sure it will only grow the more I expose myself to the language (though it will never replace or really even come close to the relationship I have with Arabic! Nothing can come close to that :-p) Here are the few songs that have helped in my self discovery of this gorgeous language (and the ones that I have been listening to on repeat for about a week now!)

I have learned something very interesting about myself from this whole "let's try and love a new language thing". A) I really can't love another language quite as much as Arabic, although I have a feeling that French will be a close 3rd to Arabic and Hebrew, and might even tie with Hebrew as I begin to actively learn it, and B) I have a really, really, really good ear for Arabic, and not so much of one for French. Even before my active study of Arabic I could learn the entire words to a song in about 2 days or so, and most of the words to a whole album in about 2 weeks (maybe less) . With French, I have been listening to the same three songs on repeat for over a week and I barley know the chorus to one of them... A bit frustrating that my "linguistic ear" is so picky, but at least I know that once I get it down I will be in command of the accent (that part of my "ear" luckily traverses many languages thank goodness)!

In other exciting news our landlords stopped by today to fix some things in the apartment, and their visit included the installation of blinds in our rooms! Finally I can change clothes without worrying whether or not the workers in the office building across from me can see everything! That and the sun won't wake me up in the early hours of the morning :-). 

The combination of the blinds, the fact that I am now done extensively outlining over half of my research paper, and the fact that it is now weekend, make this a fantastic day thus far!

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend and stay tuned for weekend updates soon <3,
Ba7abkum iktir!!!
Jordana Simone 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1/10/12: Birthday Miracles and Morocco!

The Gnawa of Morocco 

Well the age of 24 keeps getting better and better with each passing day. The actual birthday was amazing, the next day and night were even better, and the day after that I found out that my class on the foundations of Islam was being given a week extension on the final research paper! Though I am still proceeding as if the paper were due on the original date, the extra week will be so useful for extensive editing which will hopefully ensure a polished final draft. I'm almost positive that I mentioned this in a previous post, but if not, I am writing this research paper on the Gnawa of Morocco, who are an Islamic Mystic group originating from Sub-Saharan Africa. With each passing day I discover the most amazing things about these people, and I am so glad that I decided to branch away from my focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict so that I could gain exposure into different regions, people, and religious practices. 

A main feature of the Gnawa is their music which combines more traditional Sufi music with pre-Islamic African styles. In my paper I examine both the Gnawa music and how they use this music in their Islamic rituals, and then examine how these rituals and practices compare and contrast to Islamic traditions of native Arab-Berber Moroccan Sufis and West African Muslims. Once the paper is complete I will afford more detail, but take my word that it is fascinating to learn about this group of people and how they incorporate both Islam and pre-Islamic, African shamanism into their religious practices and rituals. Just to give you all an idea of what the music sounds like here is a clip for your enjoyment :-) I am so fortunate that I will be able to see them perform live this summer when I go to the Fez Music Festival in Morocco! Just one more exciting adventure soon to be had!

In other exciting news, I was able to register for my seminars next semester which just adds to my excitement for the spring. For one, I am so ready to be done with this cold weather... Not only am I seriously lacking vitamin D, but now people, instead of thinking I'm from Lebanon,  ask me if I'm Russian... NOT OK ON ANY LEVEL... Thank goodness I'm going home to beautiful, sunny Palm Springs in a month so I can reclaim my Arab skin tone! However, aside from excitement at the prospect of returning to a much warmer Tel Aviv come March, I am so excited about my upcoming seminars. I am taking a course on the History and Historiography of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which, for those of you who know me or have been following this blog, will be very relevant for what I want to focus my academics on, I will be taking a seminar on Gender, Age, Sexuality and Health in the Middle East which is bound to be fascinating, and then my last seminar will, at the advice of my wonderful advisor, be on the Origin and Evolution of the Arab State system (yet another fascinating topic that should give me wonderful insight into the Palestinian-Israeli issue). 

Moving away from the academics, life in Israel is continuing to be amazing above and beyond anything I could have ever expected. I can't believe it has almost been a half a year since I left the states to start a new life in the Middle East. It honestly seems like I have been here 5 minutes, yet when I look back on all that I have done it seems like a lifetime has passed. In 3 weeks I will be journeying back to California for a month, and, as excited as I am to see my family and to be home with friends, I know that I will miss Israel, and this region, terribly. I am beyond overjoyed to say, however, that upon the completion of my month at home, I will be returning to Israel as an Olah Chadasha (New Immigrant). I will soon be an official citizen of this amazing country!! I will finally be legally Middle Eastern :-P. 

I don't know how much excitement will be going on between now and my return home due to this looming research paper, but I will be sure to post updates every 2-3 days on what is going on here in the Holy Land! Luckily I'm pacing myself well with this paper so that I can try and keep up with my social life a little bit ;-) 

Until we meet again!
Lilah Tov ya Chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone

Friday, January 6, 2012

1/6/12: Happy Birthday To ME!!!! Celebrating 24 As An Expat :-)

Finally 24!! 

It seems, at least to me, that after 21 people don't really look forward to tacking on additional years to the description of their age. Before 21 people can't wait to say that they are older, for example, when I was 20 if someone would ask "How old are you?" I would respond "I am 21 in 3 months (or however many months). Now people ask me how old I am and I say 21 + a few years :-) However, I have heard from many people, both older and wiser than myself, that 24 is one of the greatest years, and I must admit that my first day as a 24 year old has proven that this might, in fact, be true! 

Anyone who knows me knows that I really don't put overwhelming importance on holidays, but when it comes to my birthday I tend to place great emphasis on the day. Birthdays are very important to me for whatever reason. Luckily this just happened to be a birthday where everything, by the grace of God, fell into perfect place. I have never really had an actual birthday party, and in the past it has really only been little get togethers with friends, so as a newly, self proclaimed, Tel Avivit, I knew I had to do something worthy of the day ;-). My wonderful roommate Gary happened to know a promoter at one of the clubs that I love and she took great care of me the whole night. I was given a table, 2 bottles of champagne, and unlimited amounts of fun for a relatively low cost. But before we got to the club I decided to host a little pre party at my apartment.

My balcony and view that I love to show off 

After taking an inordinate amount of time to get myself ready and get the apartment cleaned, I was finally able to relax a little bit before everyone arrived around 9:45. There was a great mix of people from my program and friends from Israel, and I had so much fun showing off the apartment and getting the celebrations going. After about an hour or so of pre-partying we all headed out to the club MAD for the party to begin. We entered the club just in time for the clock to strike midnight which signaled the official start to my birthday! It was an extra special occasion because a guy from my class was born on the 6th as well so we were able to double the celebration. It was a wild night of dancing and partying but I had one of the best nights in Israel thus far. I had such an amazing time with everyone who came out, and am so thankful that so many people were there to make this an extremely special birthday.  It was also good that I planned to have the party the night of the 5th because that meant that the next day was still "my day"! 

Needless to say I did not get much sleep, but nonetheless I woke up around 9am for an hour long spoken Arabic lesson. How I pulled that off I have no idea, but I had the lesson, came back home, went back to bed for a little while, and enjoyed a nice relaxing day of being completely spoiled by my amazing roommates (Bar, Ben's girlfriend, is included when I say roommates). Firstly Ben and Bar cleaned the apartment (which should have been my responsibility since it was my day on floors and I hosted a party last night), then they made pizza for lunch (which was amazing since I have no food), then I was surprised with a gorgeous birthday cake and beautiful present from both Ben and Bar (although I have to solely credit Bar with the cake making), and then my roommate Morgan cooked me an incredibly delicious birthday dinner! It was really a perfect day and Bar, Ben, Morgan, and another friend of mine who went out of his way to come out with me for my birthday made it a million times more special. 

My beautiful cake and bracelet from Ben and Bar

Morgan's 5 star birthday dinner 

I really couldn't have asked for a better birthday, and so far 24 has proven to be quite the amazing age (though I've only had a day to enjoy it so far :-p). This year is bringing many new things for me from a master's degree, to Israeli citizenship, to a new home, new life, and new friends, so I really don't see how this can be anything but one of the greatest, and most adventurous years! 

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1/4/12: Through The Eyes Of Hamas

Hamas Mujahideen (Jihadi fighters)

I must say that Wednesdays are a bit of a pain for a commuter such as myself. I have a class from 12-1:45 and then a break until 4 which is just enough time to feel like an overly long break, but not enough time for me to go home. Luckily, today I had a wonderful time filler that left me even more confused and conflicted by this ever consuming Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I mentioned in a previous post I plan on dedicated a great deal of time to fully understanding everything I can involving Palestine (the people, the government, the history, etc.) Knowing very little about the Palestinian government I decided to begin this feat by watching a documentary on the Palestinian group, Hamas. Before I go into detail on the documentary, and my thoughts on what I saw, I must implore everyone who is interested in this region and conflict to watch this film (the link is provided here: 

Since anyone who is interested can watch the film for themselves, I won't go into great detail on the specific content. What I will do is focus on providing my thoughts on some very salient themes throughout the hour long documentary which was both eye opening and utterly fascinating. The first thing that really struck me was Hamas's principle of armed resistance in the face of, what they consider, a hopeless situation under occupation. Now, since I have seen first hand the occupation in parts of the West Bank, and can only assume that whatever I saw in places like Al-Walajeh and Beit Jala are greatly amplified in places like Gaza, it was hard for me to do anything but sympathize with their struggle for independence and statehood. Before watching this I would have never believed I would be sympathetic to anything having to do with Hamas, but throughout parts of the film I found myself in complete agreement with some of their arguments. As far as their use of violence, I feel that it does much more harm than good, but again, it is such a hopeless situation that I really don't know if I would do differently, and that is very hard for me to admit. 

Hamas, however, takes "armed resistance" a step father by radicalizing their approach to this way of dealing with the occupation, which brings me to the next theme that resonated greatly with me; martyrdom. The documentarians illustrated many ways in which martyrdom was, and is, used as a primary weapon of Hamas, however, the example that really haunted me the most throughout the film was the story of a Palestinian mother who sent her sons off to be martyrs, and did so proudly and willingly. As a woman I don't understand how a mother could send her child to die, but she was asked this question by an interviewer and her response was both profound and interesting. She said that as a mother, of course, she was devastated at losing a child, but as a Muslim fighting for Allah it is one of the greatest honors to fight and die for the cause of Islam and God, and that brought her great comfort. She has 10 sons, and she said that if she had 100 she would hope they would all be Martyrs. Her son entered a Jewish settlement in Gaza and killed 7 or 8 children at a school before he was fatally shot. 

No matter how hopeless the situation I will never understand, or accept, the purposeful killing of innocent people; this needs to be made clear right away. It is the greatest tragedy in the world when any innocent man, woman, or child (on either side) dies as a result of this conflict. While the ideologies of Hamas make a great deal of sense, their actions, and the execution of their ideologies, are extremely problematic and detrimental to greater peace. So while I condemn to the fullest the use of martyrdom, especially when it targets innocent civilians, I am not against other means of resistance to this occupation. I also should make it clear that when I talk about the occupation I do not do so in the same sense that Hamas would. Hamas views all of Israel as occupied Palestine whereas I see both entities existing side by side with Gaza, the West Bank, and parts of East Jerusalem as Palestine (lands that I consider occupied), and the rest as Israel.  

Unfortunately it is rather late and I just have so many thoughts on this documentary that it is hard for me to adequately make sense of everything that I am thinking, so I will wrap this up here. The point is that I think everyone should watch this film to at least expose themselves to views on this conflict from the side of more radical thinkers. Well rounded knowledge is never a bad thing even if you vehemently disagree with what is being said! 

Stay tuned for a post on how my first birthday abroad turned out :-)
Tisba7 3alah khier ya habibs <3,
Jordana Simone 

Monday, January 2, 2012

1/2/12: A New Year A New Beginning

It is utterly astounding that another year has come and gone, and thought it is now 2012 a part of me feels like events in my life from as far back as 2010 are still recent occurrences. This concept of time is a funny thing... 2011 held some wonderful times for me and some very hard and difficult times,  but everything that happened in the past year brought me closer to this wonderful new life of mine, and for that I am profoundly thankful.

To say that my New Years was quite typical and utterly unoriginal would be an understatement. This specific day is hyped up to be this amazing, special event, but in actuality it was just another night at a club (that happened to cost more money). I won't say that I didn't enjoy New Years Eve, but a part of me (a very large part of me) does regret my decision to go where I did. I feel that my disappointment stems from my previous New Years Eve's where I was spoiled with the company of some of the best friends in the world. My tight knit group of friends from both home and Berkeley have been with me for the past 5 or 6 New Years Eve's, and not having the people I love the most around me was very sad and a bit lonely. Instead I got to be in a club with tons of drunken idiots, which, in essence, wouldn't have been bad if I were with a group of friends that were my own. But, on a positive note, 2012 can only go up from there :-). It really wasn't that bad but I feel had I made different choices about where I spent the holiday I would have had a very different experience, and it is a mistake I won't make again.

With that said, I have a great many hopes for 2012 and I can't wait to see what the year has in store for me. From gaining new citizenship, to uprooting my life and starting anew in a foreign country, to getting my masters, mastering (hopefully) 2 languages, and forming new, and hopefully life long, friendships and relationships, I am ready to start this year off running. I would go into my "resolutions" but we all know those last for about a minute before we are back to repeating all of the bad habits we hope to "resolve" come January 1st, so instead I will talk about what I hope to accomplish during this year.

For one, I'm hoping to devote a good portion of my time to my academics and learn as much as I possibly can. Though life tends to get in the way of school I am fortunate to be studying something that is of profound interest to me, and I plan on working very hard to be as successful as possible in my academic endeavors. However, school is not everything and there are many things I want to do in terms of everyday life.

Travel is a big thing for me since I have only ever been to Mexico (which doesn't even really count), Jordan, and Israel/Palestinian territories. My worldwide curiosity needs to be matched by some travel experience and, assuming funds are available, there are quite a few places I hope to reach within the year. Of course going all over the Middle East is essential, but I will not be fully satisfied until I reach India, Italy (and maybe a few other European countries), and Kenya as well.

And lastly, I hope that 2012 brings extremely meaningful relationships into my life on both a friend and romantic level. I have the problem, as my father will attest to, of falling into the trap of getting sucked in by the "glitter" (as he likes to call it), which leaves me stuck in relationships and friendships devoid of the kind of substance that I both crave and need. In a completely non disrespectful way I call this problem the "Jordan" syndrome. Since I'm almost 100% positive my ex doesn't read my blog I'm ok describing it as such. He was a wonderful boyfriend for the 3+ years that we dated but he absolutely exemplified this "glitter" that I am referring to, and the "glitter" that I constantly get sucked into. He was gorgeous, an athlete, loved to party and be social, but, at the end of the day, he didn't have that extra  substance that I really need in any substantial relationship, be it romantic or friendship. I need people who are able to challenge me and I'm hoping that 2012 brings me the kinds of people that are going to push me to be the best person that I can be. This is my greatest hope for the new year, and luckily I am surrounded by amazing people that I am studying with so I am ver excited to get to know each and every one of them better!

Aside from the excitement of a new year beginning I have a birthday to look forward to in 4 days! I am so excited to ring in the 24th year of my life in the Middle East, and I can't wait to celebrate this special occasion. I really don't know what to expect since this will be my first birthday away from home and without my wonderful family and friends, but I have reason to think it will be a fantastic birthday nonetheless; at least that is the hope :-)

Tomorrow and Wednesday will be solely dedicated to work so that I can enjoy my party on Thursday without feeling too guilty for not doing so much school work! I figure a birthday is a pretty good excuse to procrastinate on the paper writing. I haven't written a political blog update in a while so tomorrow or Wednesday look out for a post on something to do with either Jordan or the Palestine/Israel conflict. Maybe even all three ;-)

Until we meet again! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Jordana Simone