Our summer vacation…..
June 12, 2017
Jacob Schor ND, FABNO
As many of you are aware Dr Bloom and I have been in Israel this last week visiting our daughter Sophie who has been living here for the past three years completing her Masters Degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and currently working as an associate editor of the Journal of Levantine Studies published by the Van Leer Institute.
In fact I’m sitting in Van Leer’s beautiful lobby, enjoying their air conditioning, fast WiFi and beautiful view of the city as I type this. Sophie plans to return to Denver this summer and then begin a PhD program in international relations at Denver University this coming September. This was our chance to share the life she has created with us. And share it she has.
Our trip of course has coincided with the fifty-year anniversary of the 1967 war in which Israel took control of the city of Jerusalem and the West Bank territories. Some would say occupied the West Bank. Language is complicated here and my choice of words is often inappropriate and draws rebukes from my daughter. Suffice to say that this is an anniversary that is either celebrated or mourned depending on who you are and on which side of the line you live.
Sophie has grown to be a dedicated political activist and has taken us to meet various friends, colleagues and associates in the West Bank. Let’s just say Rena and I have been on something of an adventure these last few weeks. While much has been interesting, one of the lasting impressions has been listening to Sophie argue with our Ramallah taxi driver in Arabic.
The other was a walk we took with a man named Fadel Aamer across the land where he once lived and grazed his sheep before being evacuated by the Israeli Army so they might use the area as an artillery range. Sophie and her cohorts have been staging an ongoing ‘political action’ to restore Fadel to his home, actually a series of caves that his family has lived in for several generations. How odd it is for we Americans, the most mobile of peoples, to listen as someone points out the location of where “…. my grandfather and father were born. And where I was born, in this cave.” I don’t have the experience in my life to identify with a specific place in this way. So for me, this has been interesting.
Fadel, once he understood that Dr. Bloom and I were ‘herbal doctors’ took us walking across the desert pointing out the various plants that he used as medicine, explaining how he prepared them and what conditions they were useful in treating. The Arabic names escape me I’m afraid; none were familiar to me so I now wish I had photographed and recorded the information as we walked.
Perhaps the deepest impressions left from that tour were the destroyed wells Fadel pointed out. It has been two decades since explosives were used to collapse the wells and no one has had permission to dig them anew since then. There are many symbols of oppression scattered across this land, some that go back thousands of years, but this simple image of destroying wells in a desert landscape now haunts me.
Dr. Bloom was more moved by the simple vandalism of road signs.
Blue roadside signs identify communities and towns in three languages, Arabic, Hebrew and English. There are people who vandalize these signs, covering over the Arabic names of places as if this might obliterate and alter claims to a place and even the history itself.
One of our most inspiring visits has been with Mazin Qumsiyeh, a scientist, author and, in this context, the founder and director of the Natural History Museum of Palestine in Bethlehem.
Sophie had written about Mazin and his museum in her blog a year or so back, and this story had left such an impression on us that we wanted to meet this extraordinary man in person: http://www.sophieschor.com/jaffa/2016/7/27/palestine-museum-of-natural-history
He and his research assistants took time off from their work to speak with us and talk to us about both their research and vision for the future.
Suffice to say, we have been busy. I am still hoping to paddle a kayak in the Mediterranean. We have not missed a single opportunity to eat a Mediterranean style diet and have sampled no end of extra virgin olive oils that are each professed to be among the best oils in the land.
We fly home toward the end of this week and in theory I will again start responding to individual emails over the weekend.