Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Saturday, April 30, 2011

10 Things I Will Never Forget About my Journey...Israel/Palestine/Iraq

This is a reflection on what I 've lived and witnessed for the past 10 months while living in Israel/Palestine and Iraqi-Kurdistan. I thought of putting this list of the things that had impacted me the most on my journey. If you have been following my posts you may be familiar with the details' if not, you can always refer back to previous posts. This list is in no way extensive, rather is just something I was reflecting on the other night before going to sleep. I would need many sheets of paper or many web pages to list all the people and events that have touched me on this journey but here goes a small preview....

1. Living and working at the Tent of Nations, a Palestinian Farm surrounded by all sides by Israeli settlements. Watering the plants, trying to keep the farm despite the daily challenges of the occupation. Working at the summer camp with 60 Palestinian kids was no easy task but will stay in my heart FOREVER. (July 2010)

2. Staying at Al-Arakib village on the desert in Beer Sheeva, Israel after the first village demolition. (July 31st. 2010)

3. The amazing women of Kayan in Haifa, Israel who work with their hearts to empower women in the northern part of Israel. (Sept-Nov. 2010)

4. The pharmacist in Nablus, West Bank, who introduced his sons to us, one next to him, the other one who spend fifteen (15) years in jail for throwing stones when he was 11 and the third one on a picture on the wall, he was killed in the 2000 Intifada by the Israelis. (Oct. 30th, 2010)
5. Being tear-gassed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the village of Beit Ommar, West Bank on a peaceful demonstration over the illegal settlement of Beit Ayn. (Nov. 22nd 2010)

6.Watching the children selling gum in the streets in Erbil, Iraqi-Kurdistan. (Several times, Jan-April 2011)

7. Watching one widow woman in Khabat village 30 km from Erbil, crying because of the poor living conditions she and her children were living and the helplessness of not being able to provide better for her family. (Jan 11th, 2011)

8. Being the only women in the citadel, sitting and sipping my coffee, later I learned it was a men-only area. (Jan 14 th, 2011)

9. Being almost killed in the mountains of the Iraqi-Kurdistan, when our car slipped on a cliff on Massif mountain in the outskirts of Erbil. (Feb. 4th, 2011)

10.Being yelled at by the Sami Abdelrahman Park in Erbil,Iraqi-Kurdistan because we were lying on the grass and then a second time because we were dancing! I yelled back at him in Arabic telling him to bother the two guys next to us who were also lying on the grass. (April 1st, 2011)
Please, if you have been following my journey, or have been part of it in one way or the other, let me know your thoughts by email or by posting a comment into the blog comments section. I'd really like to hear how it has changed your or your community's perspective, life or way you perceived this part of the world. I would like to include these comments on o book project that I am working on. Also please feel free to share with friends, family, at work, or just to open a life changing possibility reaching someone with totally opposite views...

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Individually and collectively, we can raise the consciousness of the people of this planet, so that each of us will be viewed as members of the same family,who are here to claim their birthright of unconditional love and...[ ]. If we don't do it; who will. From the song Sisterlove The Hypnotist, Cafe del Mar Vol. 1.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tales from the Border Krossing--Iraqi-Kurdistan into Turkey, 041411, Between Iraq and Turkey

8:30 am—Woke up… It’s going to be a long, long day and I already started by waking up late!

10:18 am--
--> Left the house but came back shortly after to pick my jacket, the weather forecast for Turkey, Georgia and Armenia was telling me that it was going to be cold for the next week, so better be prepared.

10:26 am-->
-->On the first taxi to Erbil’s garagi shimali to take the first taxi that will bring me to the Iraqi-Turkish border. I like road trips, there is always something interesting and unexpected. I think this one is not the exception since I have no clue about where I am going and how to get there.

10:38 am--> -->Arrived to the taxi station. I have to wait for more people to get into a shared taxi.

11:04 am—I wear my scarf as a veil to avoid the looking on me by all men around. Maybe they will respect the fact that I am wearing it or maybe I will not catch the attention that much. Ok, we are hitting on the road. The man and woman traveling with me keep saying: ya Allah! As a sign of contempt, I guess.

11:27 am – Our driver stopped for gas, I guess we are still in the city.

11:50 am-- Entering Kalak municipality. The guy on the front got off at Duhok. After he interviewed me over what I was doing in Kurdistan and mentioned that he knew my boss and other people. He was working as an advisor for the Oil for Food program. I started to be hungry, so I opened a bag of chips. The guy on the back changed to the front, he was a Turkish –Kurd from Silopi and was working in Erbil. He was car sick and started to throw up. The lady on the back was disgusted and putting her veil on her face. The taxi driver was hesitant, almost angry to stop. Men, the guy is sick, do you want him to mess the entire car? I was normal, because everyone can get sick. I passed him my water to him and he went out of the car and washed his face.

2:21 pm-- Entering Zakho, the city at the Iraqi-Turkish border.

2:30 pm -- Me and the guy changed taxi to go to the border because the last with us was going somewhere else and was complaining so the taxi driver put us in another taxi.

2:45 pm-- Ibrahim Khalil border crossing. I followed the guy that was on my taxi, cause I figured, he is a local and he will take the cheapest way out of Iraq. We got into a minibus with other 4 guys. The guy is going to Silopi, and I wanted to ask him what is the deal Silopi - Kiziltepe , but he asks me to stay quiet (on my best interest or his?). I guess we will see!

4:30 pm --After a long negotiation, the two guys controlling who gets to pass to the other side, the guy wanted to let only one car with 4 women, one of them a Turkish girl with a neck immobilizer, the guy

said, one driver, I looked at my driver, a very skinny guy, whose eyes were a mix of sadness and frustration. I refused to leave my newly acquired driver and friends Turkish. The fatter guy let us pass either he was annoyed. My new Turkish friends were very happy and making thumbs up and me. Aghhhhhh, Johanna, always in trouble. I could have taken the direct bus into Mardin, but no, I wanted to check it out, right…….. An endless line of cars was waiting for us.

5:00 pm—Escorted by my thin taxi driver and after talking to three different officials and avoiding the long line of cars thanks to my American passport- didn’t have to do anything, just smile and say: “Puerto Rico, bilyorsun-do you know?- they say that in 10 minutes they are going to let us cross. This is only the Iraqi control and we have been here more than two hours so far. We still have to get the car inspected and move into the other border. The Iraqi customs are blaming it on the Turkish, while I ‘m trying to play the American who needs to get to the other side.

5:18 pm -- Checking our car-Iraqi side still.

5:33 pm-- Still waiting a long cue, I’m not sure why!

5:53 pm -- We are able to pass into Turkey after three hours.

6:27 pm-- Waiting for another control to check our car and then the luggage. Grabbed tea and lahmajun courtesy of the guys. A good moment to open all the secret compartments of the taxi and hide more than a dozen cigarette packs. Even I assisted on the smuggling. I asked Ayaz if he did this everything day, and of course he did not understand me but I guess I know the answer and is “Yes”.

7:45 pm-- Passed the Turkish passports control, finally, but is not over. I have to make it into an 8:30 pm bus from Cizre to Kiziltepe. I have no idea how long it takes to Cizre, so I asked the only guy that speaks a little English, which by the way sneaked in our bus on the Iraqi side, just before crossing into Turkey. “How much time to Kiziltepe”, I asked, pointing to my wrist”. He replied: ”Five”. I was confused, “Five what, minutes?” “Yes……. no”. He looked confused as well by my request. I never got an answer and later there was a sign in the road: Cizre 26 km. The guys in the back were singing Turkish songs of the top of their lungs, while I was worried if we were going to be able to make it.

8:30 pm-- Just made it into the Cizre bus station and got into the bus with some of the guys that were on my taxi. I asked one of them how long it would take to Kiziltepe and he said one hour, which I am going to find out. They are going to Mersin, 15 hours away. So, I shouldn't complain. Now, I remember that on the border, one of the taxi drivers mentioned that it was 2:30 hours. I should trust him because he must travel from here to there so I should be getting there by 11:30 pm.

9:00 pm-- Bus departs from Cizre.

9:14 pm—Stopped for some sort passport control.

9:23 pm- Back on the road.

11:30 pm—finally made it into Kiziltepe after 13 long hours. Safe but tired. Mahir was waiting there for me, even though I was thinking that he was not going to know where I was going to be dropped. End of today’s journey, but the beginning of a whole new adventure.