Christmas festivities in Bethlehem

Christmas festivities in Bethlehem

Bethlehem, West Bank (AP) – Palestinians are preparing to host pilgrims from around the world in celebrating Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, crossed an Israeli military checkpoint from Jerusalem on Monday ahead of midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Hundreds of locals and foreign visitors gathered in Manger Square as bagpipe-playing Palestinian Scouts paraded past a giant Christmas tree.

Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya says “the whole world is looking toward Bethlehem” and the Palestinians are ready to host them.

The Christmas festivities traditionally bring a boost of holiday cheer to Christians in the Holy Land, who make up just a small percentage of the local population.

Christmas in Palestine

December 22nd – December 30th 2018

During the Christmas season, Bethlehem in Palestine welcomes Christian worshipers from all denominations from all over the world. An estimated 10,000 were in the Square on Christmas Eve last year!  It is an exciting, colorful and lively time during which a message of hope is broadcast around the world by the large number of media agencies covering Manger Square in which the Church of the Nativity is found.

What will we do?

You are invited to take part in this unique experience with To Be There. We have a well-planned a program providing you with opportunities to enjoy the Christmas season as well as gain an understanding of ancient and recent history, and how the occupation affects the lives and the future of Palestine and its people.  Topics which will be covered during your visit include Palestinian refugees, their  legal status and the hardships they face; Israeli settlement colonies which contribute to the forcible displacement of Palestinians and land theft; the treatment by Israel of Palestinian children and the documented violations of their rights; Palestinian political prisoners and their treatment under military law; the Israeli infrastructure of occupation and apartheid – walls, security zones, check points and much more.

Why should we come?

Palestinians enjoy welcoming foreign guests to participate in the procession to the Church lead by Palestinian scout groups from all over Palestine and Israel accompanied by the music of horns, bagpipes and drums. However, Christmas is experienced differently Bethlehem, providing an example of how Palestinians enjoy such occasions while living under the Israeli military occupation which imposes sever hardships on the people, restricting their freedom of movement, their livelihoods and economic and social well-being.  Sadly, the occupation and its policies have turned Bethlehem in to a ghetto around which Israel continues to tighten the noose with its encroachment and development of settler colonies, ‘Jewish only’ restricted roads and security zones, checkpoints and military installations.  In fact, Israeli controls 90% of tourism into Bethlehem.  Christmas in Palestine is an opportunity to visit Palestine, to make a contribution to this vibrant community during the Holiday Season and witness the reality of occupation.

May we all have a Merry Christmas.

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Barring all Palestinians from Investing in their Country

Barring all Palestinians from Investing in their Country

It is ironic that a country that was masterminded after the Great War as one to receive all dispersed Arab populations of Palestine (1) to make room for the yet to be born Jewish homeland as Israel should not have second thoughts in barring all Palestinians from investing in their country by preventing their contribution and participation in any enterprise on its territory.
Al Monitor’s PALESTINE PULSE in an article written by Adnan Abu Amer is summarised as follows :
Jordan reportedly excluded Palestinian investors from the West Bank from investing inside the kingdom, which some analysts link to the talks about finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, namely by creating a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation.

Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki (R) greets Algerian parliamentary speaker Abdul Qadir bin Saleh upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, March 28, 2017. KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

Jordan excludes Palestinians from foreign investor concessions

Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki (R) greets Algerian parliamentary speaker Abdul Qadir bin Saleh upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, March 28, 2017.

An official Jordanian source said Sept. 23 that his government excludes Palestinian businessmen living in the West Bank from economic concessions recently granted to foreign investors in terms of streamlining investment procedures and reducing the time of obtaining the necessary approvals, without explaining the reason for this exception.

The same source told Al-Quds Press on condition of anonymity that after Palestinian investors are denied the concessions, they would not be able to set up their own projects in Jordan because of the complexities they would face when applying for a permit to do so.

Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki had announced Aug. 3 that he would issue one security clearance per foreign investor, and this document would serve as a permit for any action or service needed to invest and reside in the kingdom.

An official at the Palestinian National Economy Ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The Palestinian Authority [PA] does not interfere in Jordan’s decisions as a sovereign state, but Palestinian investors may see Jordan as a country that encourages investment and into which they can pump money. This is particularly true because they face problems when it comes to investments in the Palestinian territories, such as the lack of trust in the Palestinian economy, the decline in trade with Israel, the small size of the Palestinian market, the rise in land prices and the limited banking concessions — all of which may be seen as a disincentive to invest, although the Ministry of Economy is making vigorous efforts to improve the Palestinian investment environment.”

The Jordanian announcement coincides with a Sept. 26 agreement between Palestinian Minister of National Economy Abeer Odeh and her Jordanian counterpart, Yarub al-Qudah. The agreement aims to establish a joint Jordanian-Palestinian company to export products, remove trade barriers and stimulate the private sector to establish joint investment projects, as the value of trade between the two countries reached $200 million in 2016, a 19% increase compared to 2015.

Nasr Abdel Karim, a professor of economics at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told Al-Monitor, “The Jordanian decision has some political considerations as it makes it harder for Palestinians to move from the West Bank to Jordan, especially in light of increasing talks about the so-called Jordanian option and the alternative homeland, which Israelis are promoting as a substitute to establishing a Palestinian state. Jordan may also be worried about the confederation option with the Palestinians, since the kingdom needs to protect its own strategic interests. The political reason for this decision is most probably connected to Jordan’s vision of a final solution with the Palestinians.”

He said, “In addition to the political incentive, the Jordanian decision has serious economic motives to keep the Palestinian businessmen’s investments inside Palestine and support their steadfastness. Naturally, the kingdom wishes to manage its economy with the least possible competition in the local Jordanian market. Although the Palestinian investments create job opportunities for Jordanians, they also compete with Jordanian investments.”

Abdel Karim added, “The Jordanian decision takes the PA’s wishes into consideration as well, since the PA does not favor businessmen leaving its territory; it prefers to keep their investments confined to the West Bank.”

Regardless of the real reasons that drove Jordan to take the decision, such a step could urge Palestinian investors to turn to other countries where they would be welcomed and provided plenty of opportunities and concessions, as they no longer wish to remain in the Palestinian territories where they have no future.

Al-Monitor asked a number of Palestinian businessmen and investors in various industries what they thought of the Jordanian decision and most of them expressed dissatisfaction.

Adel al-Jabbar, a Palestinian investor in the construction business from the West Bank, told Al-Monitor, “The kingdom was motivated by political considerations but we, as Palestinian businessmen, should not be part of this. We have nothing to do with either Jordan’s internal issues in terms of economy or its foreign issues regarding its relationship with the PA. We are businessmen and we are in no way connected to politics.”

Jabbar added, “The situation in the Palestinian territories is not suitable for us to invest our money there. Meanwhile in Jordan, the conditions are very encouraging. We go there, invest, create job opportunities for Jordanians, then come back to our homeland. We will not settle in Jordan; we can never leave Palestine for good.”

The Jordanian Securities Depository Center reported that the Palestinian investments in the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) had increased significantly by the end of the first trimester of 2017 — an increase of $67 million compared to the end of 2016. The volume of Palestinian investments in the ASE jumped from $401 million in 2016 to $468 million by the end of April 2017, bringing the Palestinian investments to the ninth place of the total foreign investments in the ASE.

Maher Tabbaa, the director of public relations and media at the Chamber of Commerce in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor, “The Jordanian decision may be due to the kingdom’s desire not to empty the West Bank of its businessmen, which perhaps stems from its keenness to keep investment inside the Palestinian territories, despite the lack of an encouraging environment and in the absence of a political agreement and security stability in the Palestinian territories.”

The Jordanian decision to exempt Palestinian investors from economic concessions coincides with growing talks about Israel rejecting the two-state solution once and for all, and opting for options that both Palestinians and Jordanians refuse, such as the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. Such a scenario may be pushing Jordan to take pre-emptive measures by limiting the Palestinian presence on its territories.

Found in:ECONOMY AND TRADE

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science and Media Department of Umma University Open Education in Gaza, where he lectures on the history of the Palestinian cause, national security and Israel studies. He holds a doctorate in political history from Damascus University and has published many books on the contemporary history of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He works as a researcher and translator for a number of Arab and Western research centers and writes regularly for a number of Arab newspapers and magazines.

(1)   The Arabs of Palestine by MARTHA GELLHORN,

 

How has Palestinian traditional clothing changed over time?

How has Palestinian traditional clothing changed over time?

Quora requested me to answer this question of Mark L. Levinson and 3 others. How has Palestinian traditional clothing changed over time?  My answer is here below and I would be happy to have all views and comments, experts in the subject included.

I am no expert in anthropology neither in sociology but I shall endeavour to give what I learned from the multitude of friends I encountered whilst staying and working in the Gulf countries.

The Palestinians like all other peoples around the Mediterranean basin, dressed throughout their history in a wide range of cloths, fabrics and designs. These had variations according to the specifics of the region or town and were of course under the influence of every power that ruled them to date.

There were times of rebellion and times of conciliation and / or reconciliation. For instance, during the times of the presence of the Jewish tribes loitering around well before the advent of nation states, one could not tell a Palestinian from a Jew; they had the same accoutrement. And we are told that they do share the same DNA characteristics.

This went on for some centuries but after the people of the latter as mesmerized by the power and wealth left for Europe in pursuit of the retreating Romans, the fashion had reverted back to that of that of the pre-Roman times.

The following Byzantine period shone little bit in the same way but in a much sterner extravagance. This was soon to be followed by the successive Arab Kalifates with a total departure from the above through a more oriental vista onto the world.

More recently, it is the Ottomans that left an indelible mark on the men and women of the region with their floating robes, headdresses, shoes, etc.

The British didn’t have time to bear any pronounced mark but they did influence the rich and the wealthy in opening the routes of emigration to Europe and later on to America.

The Israelis today being themselves from as diverse an origin cannot imprint a definite style. Could this be at the root of the on-going conflict? Europe is not that far off and its eastern and central regions from which most of these originate from come second to their western counterparts in terms of numbers. Hence a more adversarial attitude that is not conducive to a more effective influence.

Asia with all its ICTs is just around the corner. Social media carry the load in the latest fashion in investment ideas swaps.

America is on the other hand on the other side of the world, but Hollywood isn’t, with all those brave action films heroes in fatigues, baseball caps and all, lambasting each other mercilessly with oversized machines. Closer to us still, there is this multitude per the above, that is housed, looked after relatively well in all GCC countries, but that is another story that could be told on a different occasion.

New Relationship between Local Authorities of the Middle East

New Relationship between Local Authorities of the Middle East

The British mandate inspired and the UN executed 2 states solution of the early 20th century, reserving the newly baptised Jordan country for all Palestinian populations seem to have turned the corner with what is happening these days. The transhumance of populations consequent to the on-going upheavals in the nearby appears to have given birth to a positive and productive new relationship between local authorities of the Middle East neighbouring countries. Hence this article of the World Bank on municipalities as these hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees,  rate
  • Safe garbage disposal their most pressing priority. 
  • A state-of-the-art landfill in the West Bank provides a new regional example of sanitary garbage disposal. 
  • Mayors from Jordan and Turkey say contact with their Palestinian peers showed them ways to manage the impact of population on public services.

Municipalities in Jordan and Turkey look to Palestinian example of waste disposal

February 22, 2017

It is 9:30 pm on Tuesday 25 October, 2016. A bus stops in front of a hotel in Jerusalem. Mayors from the Jordanian municipalities of Mafraq, Sarhan, Hosha, and Rabiet Al-Kura step off it, along with 17 of their peers. They are under some pressure because, at the end of their two-day visit, they have to leave by 8pm, when the bridge at the Jordanian–Israel border closes. Most of them are coming to Palestine for the first time, and are to be joined by four Turkish officials who share the same interests and concerns.

Since the Syrian crisis began almost six years ago, these 25 Jordanian and Turkish mayors have faced a similar challenge: how to manage the impact of Syrian refugees on their municipalities? In host municipalities, population increase has had a huge impact on infrastructure and the delivery of public services. Mayors from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey have had to set out their priorities in terms of waste management, housing, and social cohesion.

Among these, the disposal of ordinary household garbage or solid waste is the most acute issue; if not done properly, it has a negative effect on people’s wellbeing, as well as on economic activities and environment. But waste management is very costly, and often delivered by municipalities with very limited financial resources.

Mayors in Jordan and Turkey wanted to find out what they could do. Now, on this October evening, they were all set to hear how Bethlehem and Hebron governorates had gone about disposing of solid waste, particularly within the fragile political context in which they operate

Palestinian experience in disposing of household garbage

A field visit to Al-Minya landfill showed how garbage can be disposed of safely. Al-Minya is an old landfill, now rehabilitated with support from the World Bank Group and run as a Public Private Partnership. Sanitary and modern, it has two waystations for waste transfer. These serve all the local authorities in the Southern West Bank, an area with a population of 800,000.

The most important thing about the project is that it controls the amount of pollution emanating from random, unsanitary dump sites spread across both governorates, and by doing so improves the environment and creates a sustainable system for managing solid waste.

Organized by the World Bank Group and the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), the two-day visit included a workshop in Bethlehem with about 80 Palestinian mayors. Other municipal representatives from Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan participated remotely.

Ibrahim Dajani, the Bank’s leader on the project, said he hoped the visiting mayors would be inspired to provide a cleaner, better quality of life back home.

Networking to help municipalities facing the same issues

We didn’t expect to see a state-of-the-art dumpsite here in Palestine,” said Osman Senaydin from Turkey.

The project provided lessons about overcoming obstacles encountered along the path to its success, as well as about recycling waste for revenue, and the recovery of gases for generating electricity.

Much of the emphasis, though, is on continued networking. “The municipalities tell us their needs and, in an online forum, we will continue to help them address the most critical issues caused in their communities by refugee influxes,” said Janette Uhlmann, Senior Program Officer at the CM. “We see this network as a valuable resource to exchange useful information across cities and countries in the region.

It is now 4:30 pm in Bethlehem on Thursday 27 October. The Jordanian mayors step back onto their bus in a hurry: they have to get back to the bridge by 8 pm. But, later, they will have plenty of time to reflect, and to exchange views on what they have learned. They will also prepare for another peer-to-peer meeting in Sanliurfa, Turkey, where the topic will be the next issue on their list, that of social cohesion in municipalities hosting refugees.

 

 

Middle East 1 in 20 displaced people from their homes

Middle East 1 in 20 displaced people from their homes

As highlighted in this WEF latest article written by Emma Luxton, Formative Content, on human displacements in the world, most are from the north-east end of the MENA region.  This is due principally to a certain lack of good governance that is coupled to and / or consequent to the prevailing historically defined under-development of the majority of the nation states of the region.  The title of the WEF quotes 1 in 100 but adds later on in the article that in the Middle East 1 in 20 displaced people from their homes is the current picture. 

One objection, though, could be the huge numbers of expatriate workers displaced from their original homes in south Asia, the Philippines, Nepal, etc. and number up to 90% in some of the GCC countries are also displaced for this time obvious economic reasons.  Would not they count as displaced as well?  Meantime [. . .]

Nearly 1 in 100 people worldwide have been driven away from their homes

refugee-camp-life

Syrian citizens account for one in five of the world’s displaced people.

 

There are more than 65 million people displaced from their homes, a record high since World War II.

This amounts to 0.8% of the global population, or to put it another way, roughly the population of France; or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has been collecting data on displaced people since 1951, and in recent years it has seen numbers increase drastically. In 2015 alone, 5.8 million people were displaced.

Conflict, persecution and human rights violations have driven people from their homes in search of safety. The UNHCR Global Trends report looked at the figures for 2015 and found that 24 people were forced to leave their homes every minute.

Image: Pew Research Center

Image: Pew Research Center

The UNHCR’s definition of a displaced person includes those who still live in their country of origin (internally displaced people), as well as those who have fled across borders (refugees and asylum seekers).

The Middle East is hosting many of the world’s displaced people, both the internally displaced as well as refugees and asylum seekers.

In fact, as this chart from the Pew Research Center shows, more than one in 20 people in the region are displaced. Many of them have fled the Syrian conflict, which has been a major contributor to the steep rise in people driven away from their homes.

Image: Pew Research Center

Image: Pew Research Center

Since the war began in 2011, almost 5 million refugees have made their way to another country in search of safety, and 6.6 million are now internally displaced within Syria.

Syrian citizens account for one in five of the world’s displaced people.

Countries with the most internally displaced people include Colombia (6.9 million), Syria (6.6 million) and Iraq (4.7 million).

Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees in relation to the size of its population, with 183 refugees per 1,000 citizens.

Overall, Turkey is providing sanctuary to the largest number of refugees – 2.5 million people took refuge there in 2015.

Pakistan has more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have fled the conflict in Afghanistan, and who make up more than half of the displaced population living in the country.

Children are often those most at risk, and the UNHCR estimates that they made up over half of the world’s refugees in 2015.

Many were separated from parents and family, or travelled to a different country alone.

Speaking earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon warned: “We are facing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Above all, this is not just a crisis of numbers; it is also a crisis of solidarity.”

World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations

World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations

There are an increasing number of World Cities and Tourists’ Destinations studies in dedicated websites with eye opening reports generously provided on Cost of Living, Telephone and Taxi charges, etc.   We propose 2 websites with excerpts of each reproduced here.  The sites are UcityGuides.com and Expatistan.com  .  Interestingly, the cost of a picnicking day out throughout the world cities was reviewed and the resulting ranking proposed for everyone’s enlightenment.  According to data collected by Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index, a picnic for two will cost just $22.14 in Dubai, a little over half of that of Paris’ $34.02. 

We propose here only the first 5 cities of the Ucityguides and a short introduction to the Expatistan.

The Top 10 Cities and Tourist Destinations in the Middle East

Although plagued by religious and social tensions, the Middle East is one of the most fascinating parts of the world, with some of the most breath-taking places and wonders anywhere.  Contrary to what may be believed by many in the West, it is perfectly safe to travel to large parts of the region (particularly Turkey, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Israel), and most of it really is a must-see destination at least once in a lifetime.

 

1 | CAIRO, EGYPT

Although it’s currently a place to avoid, at some point the social and political turmoil will die down and Cairo will once again be one of the world’s must-go destinations. There’s the beautiful setting by the Nile, and amid all the chaos is faded grandeur in Paris-like architecture downtown. But it’s as a gateway to the Giza pyramids and the spectacular treasures of the Egyptian Museum that should place Cairo on anyone’s travel list.

2 | ISTANBUL, TURKEY

IstanbulIstanbul, Turkey

It’s in Europe and in Asia and it’s the place that mostly mixes East and West in the Middle East. A great imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, this is old Constantinople, still filled with architectural splendor. There’s the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and other great cultural attractions, but today Istanbul is also a cosmopolitan city that mixes tradition and modern sophistication. End your visit by overlooking the Bosphorus and the entire city from a rooftop bar.

3 | PETRA, JORDAN

PetraPetra, Jordan

All of Jordan (with the exception of the unattractive capital  ) is filled with magic and wonder, culminating in Petra. This ancient city hewn from rock is unlike anywhere else on earth, with great sculpted temples created by desert tribes. This is one of the most remarkable cities ever built, and it’s especially spectacular as the sun sets and at night.

4 | DUBAI, UAE

DubaiDubai, Emirates

The city of the future is already a city of the present. It’s all about the new and the newer, the big and the bigger, and trying to outdo itself and the competition. Hoping to become the great modern metropolis, it’s now one of the world’s main city destinations, home to the world’s grandest hotels on a magnificent waterfront location. Visiting Dubai is getting a glimpse of the future.

5 | JERUSALEM, ISRAEL

JerusalemJerusalem

Being in this fascinating city is going back 3000 years in history. It’s the spiritual centre of the world, holy to the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whatever your religion (and even if you don’t have one), you can’t help becoming intrigued by the life and architecture of the place, as you go through a maze of alleys and bazaars.

The Expatistan.com rendition of its findings follow; the costs of a romantic picnic were calculated for a couple of people, in cities around the world and as you can see, below, differences are quite obvious in the infographic picture.

 

Cost_of_Living-Spring_2016-Expatistan