Sunday, August 27, 2006

By this time next year, I could be in...

So here are my top ten choices on my personal bid list as it stands at the moment:

1. DC - Operations Center
2. DC - INR Watch
3. LUXEMBOURG- Public Diplomacy (PD)
4. BERLIN - Political (POL)
6. KIEV - PD
8. GENEVA - Management Officer
9. MOSCOW - Staff Asst./POL
10. BERN - GSO

Rounding out the top twenty (we are required to submit 20 bids) are other positions in Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Vancouver, Ottawa, London and Dublin (that's for you, Cat). If any of these slots get knocked off, I have some back up bids in Australia and New Zealand, but they aren't top on my list because of the quarantines they have on pets.

Of course, my primary goal is to come back to DC, and the top two jobs are the only DC jobs I am allowed to bid on as an Entry Level Officer. But if I can't come back to DC, some nice comfy post in Europe or Canada would be nice. So we'll see what happens.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Bad Month for Pets

One of my co-workers went in today to get the mid-level bid list (which got posted yesterday after the end of our workday), and one of the guards told him to call me because "Mama Cat" was sick.

Jerusalem, like most places with large muslim populations, has tons of street cats. The Prophet Mohammed allowed cats to be around him even when he prayed, something considered quite an honor, because they were clean. That coupled with the belief that spaying and neutering is "unnatural" (I have argued with our staff that the street cat situation is unnatural because these are the descendants of pets and not wild animals), and you get a city that is overrun with street cats. They are in every dumpster, at every restaurant, in every alley.

We have a few street cats that hang out at the consulate because we put out food and water for them. Three of them are regulars who will let us pet them and have "names," or at least what we call them. "Mama Cat," by far the sweetest and most affectionate, is the mother of the other two, "Handsome" and "Little Girl." Mama Cat got sick a couple weeks ago, and I thought we would lose her. She disappeared for a couple weeks and when she returned, she was emaciated. She could barely walk. I put soft food and water by her head, and she would eat and drink, and slowly she improved. But since then, she has started looking pregnant, not an uncommon appearance for street cats, but Mama Cat was spayed.

So I suspect a serious problem. I went by today to check on her and she was under a truck breathing hard and crying occasionally. She looked awful. The vets are all closed today for Shabbatt, but if she is no better tomorrow, I will take her in. But honestly, I don't expect her to make it through the night.

Mama Cat in the Consulate garden

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Suicide bombers and traffic

Before the AC fiasco yesterday, I took M to work. We both thought it was a holiday of some sort because there was NO traffic. The trip that normally takes 20-30 minutes took more like 5.

I discovered last night that the reason was because the Israelis had intelligence that a suicide bomber was going to attempt to get into Jerusalem. So they shut down the whole West Bank. So nobody could get into Jerusalem, hence no suicide bomber, but also no commuters going to work.

I feel bad for our local staff, most of whom are Palestinian. Our senior FSN didn't get in until 10:30 because of the closures, and she is the one that usually intimidates the border police so much that they let her through! (She's not a big woman, and not much taller than me, but she has such a force of personality that they don't dare bother her. She is fearless, and when they yell, she yells right back! I just love her!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Meanwhile back at the war

The ceasefire is still holding, despite an IDF raid on the Bekaa Valley town of Boudai on what it said was Iranian weapons being smuggled by Syrian guerrillas to Hezbollah. I don't know much about it, because, as I mentioned earlier, I was at the beach.

There is word today that Turkey denied access to its airspace to Iranian and Syrian airplanes flying to Lebanon. This is a good thing if it keeps weapons shipments out of Hezbollah hands. Even so, the IDF is predicting the fighting could flare back up in a few weeks. And still the Lebanese army is not at the border.

So who knows what will happen? I heard a helicopter this morning and looked up, expecting to see one of the ones that searches for suicide bombers and their accomplices when there has been an incident in town. But this looked like an IDF gunship of sorts. It is the first time I have seen one here.

hmm, I wonder if they have vacancies at Taba for this weekend. :)

My Dad Rocks!

I was actually able to get out of town this weekend. As I might have mentioned, the key to maintaining your sanity in Jerusalem is to get out early and often! And this weekend, we made it to Taba, just across the border in Egypt.

If the name Taba sounds familiar to you, it is because that is the resort terrorists blew up a couple years ago. We stayed at the Hilton Nelson Village, which is next to what was blown up but was not damaged in the attack. Security there is pretty tight now, and they have basically erected a small mountain around the back side of the resport and no cars are allowed near the front side. So we felt perfectly safe.

I have to say that crossing the border there is a bit different than our experience crossing into Jordan at the Allenby Crossing. While Jordan and Egypt both have peace treaties with Israel, Jordan does not officially recognize the crossing at the West Bank as a border with Israel. So you go through the Israeli side, which is very efficient and straight forward, then you drive through a long DMZ before hitting the Jordanian side. That side you could basically drive right past, but hey, since you decided to stop, let's have tea while we stamp your passport.

At Taba, the border gates are right next to each other. There is a space of about one car-length between the gates, basically so you can have your car checked by the side you are crossing into. The border guards chat with each other easily, and interestingly enough, in English as a common language, wandering back and forth across the line. And the Egyptian side is more organized than the Jordanian side at Taba, though as a diplomat you still get escorted through (often, but not always, guided to the head of any lines) and you have the feeling tea could be offered at any moment (have I mentioned how much I just love Arab hospitality? And I can't tell you how many times I heard "Diplomat from America? I LOVE America!" As "the consul" (vice consul actually) I got really good treatment because they know consuls give visas!).

Anyway, back to Nelson Village. The resort is right on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. Now this is why I had to mention that my dad rocks. The water immediately in front of the resort is full of coral reefs. A while back, my dad got me a snorkle and mask because I had said it was something I was interested in doing. I had never had a chance to give it a test run until this weekend. It fit great and according to a friend who went with us (who snorkles a lot and is a certified scuba diver) it is a really good quality mask (Thanks Dad!!). It was awesome, and made snorkling an amazing experience! The fish we got to see were incredible. The colors were stunning! I can't wait to go back and do it again. I may even get an underwater digital camer to take some shots.

I did take some pictures of the hotel and of the fish coming right to the edge of the water.

A word to the wise though. Always use lose track of how long you have been in the water watching the fish and can get a really nasty sunburn that hurts like h*ll. Don't ask how I know that.

This is the view from our hotel room.

These are the fish that come right up to the edge.

Even the camel thought it was hot!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Life here... weird. My boss told me once that he liked 3-year tours because it gave you time to deal with culture shock. Those who have lived overseas know that Culture Shock is a very real thing. My boss said that with a three year tour, for the first year, you're stupid. The second year, they're stupid, and the third year, it all sort of sorts out.

I don't think it works that way here. I hit culture shock within two months after I got here. After my apartment was robbed, I hated them all. Since then, I have noticed a cyclical pattern of ups and downs regarding being here. One of our local guards asked me the other day, now that I have been here a year and a half, how do I like Israel? (we don't consider Jerusalem to be in Israel because that is a final status issue for negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis, and when you have lived here you can see why we have that policy. Parts of Jerusalem are definitely Israel, but parts are definitely not. And parts like the Old City, well, it depends on where you are in there and the direction of the wind. But I digress).

Anyway, the guard asked me that and I told her I was having a good Jerusalem week, so I was content to be here. And she said that even for people who are born here and live here their whole lives, they go through these cycles of thinking Jerusalem is incredible to Jerusalem is awful. So I guess my cycling is normal.

Just last night, I was content to be here. I pretty much have been for a couple of weeks, but last night, I was even content to be in my present job for the next 9 months (some visa days are worse than others). But today, I am feeling a bit homesick. I really miss the states. Living overseas teaches you how American you are, and how you probably like everything we do better than practically anything anyone else does. I really hope I get to come back to DC next tour. I miss my condo in Arlington and I miss the beaches in SC. So I am putting them both in this entry so I can look at them!

Folly Beach, SC in April

Arlington, VA in January


Yesterday as I was leaving the office, mouth full of falafel that one of the local staff had just handed me, I was thinking about how this place is not a good place for weight loss. Eating is a communal activity, and the FSNs (Foreign Service Nationals, our locally-hired staff) bring in some sort of food almost every day. Usually it consists of falafel, kike (a local bread), pita, hummus and labeneh (a yogurt dip or sorts). On Fridays, we have a full breakfast and stand around in the file room eating and laughing together.

Yesterday wasn't falafel from a full breakfast, but just one of the random servings of falafel that crops up around the office with an FSN standing nearby telling you to help yourself. Good thing these folks are our friends...they could poison us easily!

So I got in my car to head to Post 2 still eating my falafel, when I saw the people begging at the intersection. Palestinians are proud people, so you seldom see begging. And when you do, it is usually the random kids tap tap tapping on your car window trying to get a few shekels for "cleaning" your windshield or for selling you packs of tissues or other items you don't need. We are discouraged from giving money to these kids, because most of them are essentially being pimped out by an older boy or man who takes almost all of the money they get. So you shake your finger at them, a sign here that the discussion is over.

The beggars yesterday were different. The woman is an observant muslim woman in a black dress that covers everything from her wrists to her ankles and a white hijjab covering her hair. I imagine her husband is dead, in prison, or has abandoned her, because I can not fathom the pride of the husband of an observant woman letting her beg. She is carrying a child of maybe two. He was an infant when I got here. With her is her older son, a boy of maybe 6 or 7 with horrific scars on his face that look as though he has been badly burned. I have given to them in the past, but yesterday I didn't have any coins. Then I noticed as they walked away that the older boy is much thinner than he used to be. Painfully thin. They had walked to the next car by the time I noticed, or I would have given them something. Anything.

Suddenly my falafel didn't taste as good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Canaan Dogs

I saw a Canaan Dog at Independence Park today while I was waiting for M to come out of Post 1.

Canaan dogs are indigenous to this area, and there is evidence of them from ancient times. I saw a special on tv a while back about a woman who is trying to increase the genetic diversity in the ones that are being bred by breeders by going to some of the Bedouin camps and borrowing the males they use to herd their sheep.

There are still wild packs of them around, but because they were domesticated once and have sort of remained near people, especially the Bedouin, they are only semi-feral. The pack in the picture below lives near my house. They bark when you come by, but they neither run at you nor away.

We Made it to Day 3

The cease fire is still holding after three days. The port of Haifa has finally resumed normal operations as a result. This may not seem like such a big thing to folks not here, but it is a very important thing for those at the consulate, especially all the new arrivals and those who will be arriving soon. All our HHE goes through that port.

For those not in the foreign service, HHE is acronym-speak for Household Effects, or, in English, all your "stuff." You get two deliveries of "stuff" when you come to post, your UAB (unaccompanied baggage) and your HHE. Your unaccompanied baggage is about 250 lbs of all the things you think you will need immediately minus the weight of the packing material. So maybe 225 lbs of "stuff." You are supposed to receive it within a couple weeks of arriving at post. Mine included lots of clothes that I discovered I would not use here, plus my tv and stereo, some dishes and pots (like I cook...I was here for over a month before I realized I didn't know how to turn on my stove!). Your HHE is the rest of your stuff, and usually there is a lot of it. There are usually two categories of things in there: the stuff you didn't realize you needed immediately until after your UAB arrived and the stuff you could throw away and never miss.

Getting your HHE can be like Christmas, especially if you packed out a long time before you get it. One of my friends here can attest to that, as it was 9 months between when she packed out at her last post, Djibouti (which she assures me that the fun of making your family say that name is not worth actually serving there) and when she got her HHE this week. M was in Baku a good 6 or 7 months before she got hers (she was there 4 months before she got her UAB, the stuff you need immediately!).

The stuff in your HHE is often sentimental and makes your apartment feel like your place (particularly since it goes with the government-issued furniture that looks exactly like what you had at your last post). Receiving it is lots of fun, plus you get a couple admin days to stay home and unpack it all. So imagine how distressing it is to think that all your stuff is either sitting on a ship that can't come into port (daily increasing the likelihood that the ship will either sink, throw your stuff overboard, or leave and deposit your stuff in a unknown and undocumented port, never to be located again) or worse, is actually IN the port waiting to be aired out by a qassam rocket.

So Haifa being back open in really good thing!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 2 of the Cease Fire

I find it interesting that only minor news outlets are really talking about the Fox reporter and camerman who were kidnapped in Gaza.

Monday night, American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, were apparently seized by masked gunmen near the Palestinian security services headquarters. I saw the story about it on either or, I don't remember which, Monday evening, and shortly after that, they said something about it on Fox. But now it is not on Fox, not on any of the Israeli news sites. If you google it, you find minor news outlets reporting that the PA has condemned the kindnapping and are negotiating for the journalists' release. But nothing in the bigger news outlets. Interesting.

There continues to be fighting in Gaza and the West Bank. There was apparently four bombs thrown at IDF forces in Jenin last night, and a house in Gaza was destroyed, injuring some people inside. And the Israelis arrested 108 Palestinians yesterday for being in Israel without a work permit. Some of those were probably our visa applicants...they regularly pick folks out of our line to check their papers.

And Sharon is getting worse. I know it sounds awful, but I really hope for the sake of my weekend that he at least makes it until Monday. I really need to get out of town!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

24 hours and counting

The cease fire has held for almost 25 hours now. The IDF is now withdrawing from Lebanon. There has been some gunfire between the IDF and Hezbollah fighters, but nothing serious.

It is not the same in Gaza, where some more qassams were fired and two journalists from Fox were kidnapped last night. The journalists should be okay though...usually the Palestinians serve their captives tea and then let them go!

And in even better news, I may actually be able to get out of town this weekend! Now THAT would be a miracle!

Monday, August 14, 2006

That was fast

A Hezbollah gunman attempted to open fire on the IDF, who returned fire and hit him. But the cease fire is still holding over the big guns.

From what I hear, some of the Lebanese who evacuated the south of their country are heading back. I hope for everyone's sake that they get to stay.

Cease Fire

The guns allegedly went silent 2 hours and 15 minutes ago. I was listening to the news this morning at 8 when it began, and even then, no one was all that optimistic. There was fighting right up to the moment of the cease fire, including Hezbollah sending a couple Iranian-made drones with explosives across the border. And even though the fighting has now stopped, both sides are still rattling their swords.

Haniyeh, the PA Prime Minister, is offering a truce with Israel as well. With all that has been going on in the north, the news has practically forgotten Gaza, even though the IDF has been stepping up their assault. But since Islamic Jihad hit Ashkelon this morning with one katyusha and one qassam rocket, there isn't a lot of optimism on that front either.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My A-100 Class

I found a link this morning for a friend's old blog. He did a great job of chronicalling our experiences in the 118th A-100. Now I can feel less guilty about not going back and writing all about that (it was in my old journal, on the laptop that was stolen).

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Today we drove out of town a few miles to Castel on Mt. Moaz, the site of a major battle in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Basically, the Israelis took the hill without a struggle. Then the Arabs, realizing the strategic importance of a hill overlooking the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fought to take it back. Essentially the Arabs finally took the hill, after a siege and 27 Israeli soldiers were killed. But after they retook it, the Arabs returned to their homes and the Israelis went back and took it again without a struggle. Having Castel helped enable them to keep supplies going to Jerusalem.

For me, M and our friend Tiffany, it was a nice chance to get out of town. M hasn't had a weekend off in forever, so she really needed the break. Plus, it was a chance for her to play with her camera. I'll post some pics to snapfish in a bit.

The view from the top was stunning, and a nice breeze and warm sun made it a really pleasant outing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Easing a Little

As people here sort of settle into the idea of the war, post is easing some of the restrictions they put in place just after all the violence kicked up. Most of it doesn't now and didn't then affect me. For example, they canceled all travel to the West Bank. Now we are back to being able to go there if it is neccessary for our work here. But I never need to go into the West Bank anyway unless we have really important company from DC, so that doesn't affect me!

There are still some tensions here. While we are allowed to go into the Old City again (they told us not to for most of last week), I am not sure it is a good idea. A tourist from Italy was stabbed to death there yesterday by a Palestinian kid. They say the motive was nationalism and the IDF has already made arrests. All the same, I don't go to the Old City all that often and I don't think I will start now.

Another change is the shabbat siren. They normally sound off this siren at sundown to let observant Jews know that shabbat has officially begun. But the siren sounds like the air raid sirens up north. But we have a lot of refugees from the north down here, and the siren scares them. So tonight, they played music instead.

Jerusalem Gay Pride

World Pride was scheduled to be here last August, but they postponed it a year because of the pullout from Gaza. It has been going on this week, though quietly. You occassionally see the stereotypical white lesbian couple with their African American children, but that is the only hint that pride is afoot.

There was supposed to be a march. The police nixed it because they said it was too much to handle security-wise with the war going on up north (and in Gaza, though people keep forgetting that). So the organizers asked to have a "protest watch." The police nixed that too, even though they allowed a protest last week because of the anniversary of Gaza disengagement and even though they agreed to allow a protest of the "protest watch" that they were not allowing to happen.

The protest happened anyway.

I had heard it was going to happen tonight at Liberty Bell Park, but I had no idea where that was (and we aren't allowed to go to such things anyway because crowds are targets). But as I was driving home, I happened to pass it (so THAT'S what that park is called!). According to, there were about 200 protestors and the police didn't break it up. It only got violent when some anarchists decided to join in (aren't they supposed to be in Seattle?). But in all, it was a successful protest, and the haredi (the ultra orthodox) didn't have a counter protest.

It was nice seeing the rainbows.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Super Deal

There is one grocery store on the west side that I like to shop in, Super Deal. It is about two blocks from my house, and it caters to Israelis from the West. I went last night to pick up some milk and salad.

One of the discomforting things about this place is the tendency of Palestinians to speak to those they perceive to be in positions of authority in Hebrew instead of Arabic. This is particularly true of Arab Israelis, who are legally full citizens of Israel but tend to be relegated to the jobs no one else wants. So much like in the states, where a bi-product of racism meant that you used to see only African Americans (and now Mexican Americans) doing jobs such as garbage collection or jobs in the service industry, here those types of jobs are held by Arab Israelis. Almost all of the road construction crews, fast food employees, etc., tend to be Arab Israeli. And they always address you first in Hebrew. (M went to Ofer Prison yesterday to watch their procedures, and Arab women wearing the hijjab were saying "shalom" to her. When she responded with the Arabic "marhaba (hello)," they beamed and responded "ahlain!" (welcome).)

It is no different at Super Deal. The cashiers and managers are Jewish Israel and the butchers and cleaners are Arab Israeli. For the longest time, they spoke to me in Hebrew. But I try to make a habit, when I know someone is Palestinian (contrary to what people here think, you can't "tell them apart" from Jewish Israelis) to speak to them in Arabic (or at least the five words I know in Arabic). So there is one butcher there, a young guy, that I always say hello to in Arabic and it makes him smile. But last night, the older butcher was there, and I wasn't sure if he was Palestinian or not. So I spoke to him first in Hebrew. And apparently I have shopped there long enough that they know I am not Israeli and will try to speak to him in Arabic. So when I pointed to the meat I wanted and said, "one please" in Hebrew, he said the word "one" in Arabic. Being tired and I bit slow on the uptake, I said yes in Hebrew. So he said to me "wahad is one." That is when I realized he was trying to teach me some more Arabic. You would never see him do that with the Israeli customers, many of whom are settlers (the one draw-back to Super Deal) and therefore pretty nationalistic.

Of course, I do know Arabic numbers (up to the number six anyway!), but I was pleased that he is comfortable enough with me to do that. And I thanked him in Arabic.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I saw the Bird of Peace yesterday...

I saw a white dove yesterday trying to fly towards the Old City. But the wind kicked up and after trying unsuccessfully to fly against the wind, it gave up and flew away.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Possible Good News

As always, I am cautiously optimistic. But my boss today, the consular chief, told me that he was sending a cable via the CG (basically our Ambassador) to recommend me for the Op Center, the job I want in DC. This is really good news, and I think will really help my chances in terms of getting posted to DC. The DPO, second in charge here after the CG, said the CG is also on board with helping me get a desk position, maybe even the Israel-Palestine desk, back in DC if the Op Center doesn't work out.

So keep your fingers and toes crossed!

A Little Embarrassed

We had an award ceremony today, not one of the regular ones that happen twice a year, but a special one since we have had a lot going on.

I got two awards. One is an extra mile award for the work I did on the Secretary of State visit. That's pretty cool. But the second I am a little embarrassed to receive. It is a group Franklin Award for helping evacuate the American citizens from Gaza.

Basically, I did very little. I went and helped out on only one of three separate evacuations through the Erez Crossing. I did none of the background work. So it is sort of embarrassing to be on an award with folks like our ACS crew, who worked tirelessly (actually, they were extremely tired!) to do those three evacuations. Particularly, the special consular services folks in ACS were amazing. I only hope they get a bigger award at the regular ceremony, because they really deserve it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


So according to my bidding rules, I can only apply for posts that don't require a full language course since I already got one (Hebrew). So places like Istanbul are off my list. I am going to argue that I should be allowed the top up in German, so I can still bid on Berlin, Luxembourg and Vienna, but they say you need a 1+/1+ and I scored a 0+/1. Maybe I'll retest. I am also going to argue that I am starting Russian in September and that I am a proven language learner (I got a 3/2+ in a hard language when they expected a 2/2).

Basically I really want DC, and I think I have a good shot at it. But I don't want to end up putting together a bid list of places like Lagos and having them send me there. Or rather, having them assign me there and me resigning.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Yay! Bid List!

First, a thousand thanks to my A-100 classmate, Jim Zix! Our bid list did indeed come out yesterday, and Jim was kind enough to mail a copy of it to me. Yay bid list! Yay Jim!

When I first looked at the list, I was a little dismayed. There are a TON of straight consular tours on that list. (To give you an idea, there were 26 pages of positions, a total of 435 jobs. When I removed all the consular tours, there were only NINE pages of positions!) And I am just not willing to do another straight consular tour. I will have done 27 months of consular work when I leave, most of it visa work. I want some other my cone (public diplomacy) or in political would be nice!

So I sorted out (removed) all of the straight consular positions, and then M and I removed the places we were unwilling to serve. That left me about six pages of places to consider. Then I sorted further to jobs that were in places I'd be interested in going or jobs I thought would be interesting. I think I counted 40 some. And I only have to bid on 25. So I think I am good. And of course, these jobs don't include the DC jobs like the Op Center, which I am allowed to bid on but is not on the list. So I think I am good to go and am pretty excited about the possibilities.

Top on my list: Berlin, Vienna, Luxembourg, Kiev, London, and The Hague. Geneva, Lisbon, Belgrade, and Istanbul are on my short list too. I think I can deal with that!

Bid List Blues

Our bid list is due out any day, practically any minute. I have heard from some sources it will come out today. Of course, it comes out on Washington time, so I checked one last time at 6 pm our time, but that is only 11 am in DC. Guess I will go in tomorrow to check and see if it did. I can't wait to see what the possibilities are...and I am also afraid to see what the possibilities are!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Your tax dollars at work

This is something we have been aware of here at the consulate for a while. Basically, you don't have to pay taxes to get a refund, even if you have never lived in the U.S. If you live overseas, you can make up to $80,000 a year without paying U.S. taxes (except if you work for the government, in which case you pay taxes on every dime). The reason for this exemption is because the U.S. assumes you are paying taxes to the country you are living in, and in most cases, those taxes are substantially higher than those in the U.S. But the reality is that most use it as a means to pay no taxes at all.

So some enterprising attorney here ( has decided to make a living off of explaining to families here, especially the large religious families, how they can get the earned income tax credit for children without paying taxes. These are often duel Israeli-American nationals who were born here or moved here at a really young age. They in many cases never registered their children as American until they realized they could get the money. And once they realized it, they have been registering their children in droves.

It is not uncommon here, especially among the religious families, to have 12 or more children. The husbands get money here in the form of stipends to study at yeshiva and the wives often work. They get extra money from the government the more children they have. So now they are filing taxes in the U.S., claiming the overseas exemption, and getting a check from the U.S. for $1000 per child. And they have never paid taxes in the U.S., and often have never even lived there. They identify themselves as Israeli, and will tell you they just get American citizenship and a passport for their children so they can get the social security card (which they need for the refund).

Your tax dollars at work.

All Quiet Today

There were no more demonstrations at post today, though there was a massive one last night. That was the huge one staged by the folks protesting the withdrawal from Gaza a year ago, and because they marched from Independence Park to the Western Wall, most of the roads in town were closed off. I missed a dinner for a co-worker's 30th birthday because there was just no way to get into town.

There are supposed to be some more protests and demonstrations throughout the week as the Israelis commemorate the destruction of the 1st and 2nd temples, some of them by going up onto the Temple Mount, also known as the Al Aqsa Mosque. Some Palestinians, in turn, have threatened to protest their presence there. Remember that Ariel Sharon going onto Al Aqsa helped start the second Intifada (at least according to the press, never mind that Arafat's security chief gave him clearance and Arafat had been planning the intifada for months and was just waiting for the right moment to declare it...but anyway). And the Israeli protestors are saying that this is proof that they will not give up a millimeter of dirt of the Old City. Sigh.

So because of all of this, we have been warned to stay out of the Old City and away from Salah Eddin Street on the east side until after Saturday. I pointed out that Post 2 is right between the two...the Old City is one block one way and Salah Eddin is one block the other, but they didn't buy my argument that this meant we should get the rest of the week off. Can't blame me for trying!

Sometimes I think both sides would rather see Jerusalem destroyed than in the hands of the other. Where is King Solomon when you need him?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

One of ours was hurt

Several people were injured during the clash between the protestors and police today. When the police brought out the ones they arrested from behind the wall, they took them to some police vans just out of sight from where I was standing. I remember a woman yelling, "They're beating him!" I don't know if it is true.

Apparently the percussion bombs injure people too. I found out tonight that one of our surveillance detail was wounded by one. The surveilance detail people are the nameless, faceless folks that watch to see who watches us, and we depend on them for our safety without ever knowing who they are. I am told he is in the hospital tonight.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So that's how percussion bombs sound...

We had a demonstration in front of our building a few minutes ago. I estimated about 40 people were there, but the police say there were 56. The crowd was a mix of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians and it was a standard, American-style protest...lots of chanting and signs with slogans. I saw one that said, "I paid my taxes and all I got were dead children" (to which I cynically thought, "That's not true. You didn't pay your taxes"), and others that read "Smart Bombs, Idiot Leaders," "No to occupation," and "The US is a fascist state." The chants were a mix of English, Hebrew and Arabic, and I saw at least one sign in Arabic, but I couldn't read it.

The protestors were peaceful, and one even smiled and waved to me when I took some pictures from the balcony near my cubicle. But apparently they were protesting without a permit, so the Israeli Border Police decided to break them up (they have a station near us...we didn't call them). To break them up, the police ran through the middle of the crowd, forcibly dividing it in half. And when they ran through the crowd, tempers flared and I guess punches were thrown...they sort of pushed the crowd out of the way to behind a building, so I couldn't see what happened next. I hear yelling and could see some folks from the protest who had made it to point beyond the building where I could see them again, turn to look. Then suddenly there was some shooting and a bunch of percussion bombs were set off to disperse the crowd (they worked, the crowd scattered...and they succeeded in getting me away from the window as well, because they sound a helluva lot like regular bombs, or at least what I imagine regular bombs sound like!) I think all the shooting and bombs came from the border police, because I never saw any of the demonstrators with weapons.

When it was all over, the police had arrested four people. I saw that one of them was the guy who smiled and waved at me. What bothers me most is that they will blame the U.S., and all of us who were watching are serving partly because we believe so strongly in their right to protest.