Land of Canaan

On 14th of May 1948 after 2,000 years of absence David Ben-Gurion officially established State of Israel. Country which from the very first day of its existence is at the state of war or constant conflict with its neighbours.
Nevertheless modern history of Israel goes back few decades earlier – to the end of 19th century and the birth of Zionism – a movement created in the Russian Empire by the persecuted Jews, calling for the return to their homeland in Palestine and establishing sovereign country. Yet real progress towards their goal came together with Theodor Herzl and his devotion for the case. Thanks to his engagement during first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897 World Zionist Organisation was created. With the growing anti – Semitism inside Europe and Russia the movement quickly became popular between the Jewish Diaspora and Herzl was slowly able to persuade wealthy and influential nationals to support the movement.
The second chapter of the way to sovereign country is written by the then superpowers with many more nations and conflicts of interest involved. In 1917 Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, in which announced its support for creating Jewish state in Palestine. Only one year later, in 1918 with the end of World War I and collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain got the mandate over Palestine and Jewish people could immigrate to Holy Land. Despite Arab state protests the declaration was included in the British mandate and therefore authorized by the League of Nations in 1922. 1920s and ‘30s were times of uncertainty for both – newcomers to Israel and those still living in Europe. Due to disapproval of Arab population influx of immigrants was restricted while their fate in the Old Continent was about to be decided by Nazi Germany and upcoming war. Even USA and Switzerland were putting obstacles for big numbers of those wishing to escape genocide. Regarding the Jews already living in Palestine, they were not welcomed at all by their neighbours. British rule had to be in place until proclamation of independence.
The very next day on May 15th 1948 forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded.
Historians are divided who to blame for the tragedy of the Jewish people and all the aftermaths of the First World War including nowadays terrorism. Pointing finger at Nazi Germany is an easy way to explain the core of the problem. It ignores the rest of the aspects of this complicated issue. Other European nations were also anti-Semitic. After World War I victorious superpowers failed to bring the order to the nations left behind collapsed Ottoman Empire and divided the land the way, which rather contributed to divisions between forming Arab nations than to helping them build their countries. The feeling of betrayal was common between Arabs, who fought alongside British troops, did not want to share their land with the Jews and were not told about European plan regarding Palestine. As a consequence newborn states in the Middle East refused to accept UN two state solution as it was envisaged in 1947. Furthermore none of them wanted another state to get Palestine territory after planned military intervention and supposed retaking it. Long lasting desire of Arab states to recapture Holy Land left Palestinians living with the refugee status quo for generations. From the other hand also the Jews, who from ages used to live all over the Middle East and those from north Africa were forced to leave their homes and emigrate to Israel. And nowadays it seems that Palestinians paid and still pay the price for the new order. Another nation which did not show desire to create their country for 2,000 years started to claim the rights to the land which was home for people of different faith and origin for all this time. The question is also what were supposed to do the Jews after persecutions and genocide they had been through in Europe?
After almost 100 years since the defeat of the Ottoman Empire we still have more questions than answers.

8th of March 2017 Afghanistan 

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. For some just an occasion to meet-up and celebrate, but also good opportunity to talk about difficult issues and being heard, for the others.
Talking about women’s rights in Middle East is not an easy task. It’s hard to be not biased, take into account all the reasons why in some cases women are treated like second class citizens and give a justice to the respective societies. It’s like being torn between those who are trying to explain that we are all the same, children of the same god and those who are much more realistic and know that simple answers are not always the best ones, that cultural differences are not at all easy to accept, that lack of education push people to make wrong decisions, that we speak the same language but we still need translator. My heart is with the first ones, my mind with the second. There is a lot of controversy about how Muslim men treat woman, their brutality and desire to control them . Controversies based on stereotypes and prejudices, which are always wrong but are not based on nothing. Violence has no nation, some wrongdoing and wrong-thinking happens all over the world, but there is something really disturbing when the victim has nowhere to ask for help, no family member or even public institution, where cutting off noses, limbs or picking out eyes is not maybe common but it happens. The kind of cruelty which make us sick to think of. Sadly those are the way of punishment some men use against their wives or other female relatives. And what is even more shocking young girls sometimes do not find any support from other women. Extremely conservative society has awry idea of women’s role in a marriage her modesty and obedience.  
 
Even though situation of Afghan women is not to be envied, thousand miles away we can see some positive changes. The first one, which probably everybody has heard of was people’s reaction to Farkhunda Malikzada death. 27 years old woman was wrongly accused of burning Quran by local mullah and as a consequence beaten to death by furious mob. As it turned out later she was innocent and her only “crime” was to criticise the mullah. During the funeral only girls carried her coffin (in Afghanistan solely men do that) and large crowd paid their tribute to Farkhunde’s courage and her lost life, protesting against cruelty and injustice. The same year, in 2015 just before International Woman’s Day young female artist Kubra Khademi marched on the streets of Kabul wearing armour suit emphasising her body parts in a protest against sexual harassment. Few days after Kubra’s walk a group of 20 men from Afghan Peace Volunteers put on blue burqas and took to the streets of the city carrying poster saying We say “no” to any form of violence – a beautiful act of solidarity and support for women’s rights. Sadly none of it had an influence big enough to save Farkhunda’s life.  
 
Unfortunately it’s not easy to be a women in Afghanistan. But is it’s society going to change? I hope, yes. Better access to education for both girls and boys, changing and enforcing law which would protect victims of violence and not stigmatising them, lessening influence of still very influential and radical clergymen, who use lack of education and play on people’s fears to tell them how to live and treat the others. And above all improvements in mental health care system and psychological support for victims and perpetrators alike. It’s hard to imagine that anybody of unsound mind would be able to cut someone else without getting sick themselves and carry on living like nothing happened.  
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, celebrated also in Afghanistan and marked by annual discussion panels and events to once again bring to our attention all the problems they have to face. But this soaring problem didn’t make the front pages. It was another terrorist attack which took life of more than 30 people. 
Afghanistan is a country struggling with many problems. It’s government doesn’t have full control over its’ people and land. Adding to all that omnipotent corruption, really high unemployment rate, obscurantism in almost every sector of public service, starting from infrastructure and finishing at healthcare system. Life is tough in Afghanistan for everybody, not only woman.