Dixiane Hallaj's Blog

January 26, 2017

"Khalil was shot and killed by Israeli guards at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah after he allegedly tried to stab one of them on 22 November. No Israelis were injured during the incident."

Anything about Kalandia catches my attention, regardless of the way the word is transliterated. This one stood out with vivid clarity. That could have been Muhammad. Sometimes the characters we create in novels become real enough to appear in news articles. Muhammad, at least the hero of my novel Checkpoint Kalandia , never really existed. He never really had to be held down to keep from attacking the soldiers at the checkpoint, but his is the background I ascribed to Jihad Khalil. A situation that should never happen continues to be repeated…and repeated…and repeated for years, decades, and generations.

The people of Gaza live under even more repressive conditions than those on the West Bank, yet they continue to make art. They paint, they write, they produce plays, they make amazing music. The video below was one I found on the same website, electronicintifada.net. I find it great fun to find that hip-hop music has found a home in Gaza.
The English subtitles are hard to read, but the words are very uplifting. I have taken some liberties with their less-than-perfect translation:

We’re tightening our strength to be the people who never kneel down to death.
We give the mute dream persistence and voice.
We’re tightening our strength to be the people who never kneel down to death.
 Time passes fast. We still hold faith in our hearts
Immigration is not even an option for us
so we will resist the humiliation until we return
We still hold dreams in our hearts
Tomorrow they will be facts.
The bitterness will change to love
And carry the meaning of liberation.
Come sing with us. Let us fly.
We build the love of the land deep in our hearts
And keep it safe within us.
 Sing with us. Let’s all fly. Let’s all fly. Let’s all fly.
 We’re tightening our strength to be the people who never kneel down to death.
We give the mute dream persistence and voice.
We’re tightening our strength to be the people who never kneel down to death.

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Published on January 26, 2017 17:00 • 47 views

January 30, 2016

Americans think of hummus as a dip; Arabs think of hummus as a meal—especially at breakfast time. Early in the morning, children scurry down streets in their pajamas, or with a dress or jacket thrown over pajamas. Each child carries a plate and a few coins, and all heading for the nearest hummus maker. Nothing beats good hummus with fresh pita bread for breakfast—unless you add falafel.Breakfast doesn't last all day, but hummus can. For many families in the Arab world, the main meal of the day is at midday. If someone, or several someones happen to visit at meal time, a quick trip to the local hummus maker can stretch every meal to accommodate everyone.  Unfortunately, where we live, there is no local hummus maker. So... I make my own. We haven't found a pre-made hummus that suits us, but it isn't hard to make.
  Add a can of chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, and a little garlic in a food processor and let 'er rip. Make sure it is a smooth paste and not grainy. Canned chickpeas work just as well as cooked dried chickpeas, although there are purists who disagree. Don't forget to keep out a few chickpeas to use as garnish.

Finish the garnish with sumac and parsley. Top with extra virgin olive oil, and it's ready to go.

I did say hummus was good anytime, didn't I?

Ever have a day with no inspiration for dinner? Try this: Crumble some ground meat in a skillet, add some pine nuts that have been lightly browned in olive oil. Instead of the sumac and parsley, put the meat on a dish of hummus. Top with browned pine nuts. Serve with a veggie platter—and add some pickled turnips, or dill pickles if you can't find turnips.

If you want to top your hummus with some of the best olive oil in the world, try some made from olives grown in Palestine. I buy mine from Canaan Fair Trade. They sell all kinds of great food. https://www.canaanusa.com/shop?code=USC

This video shows a Palestinian woman making hummus with a blender. While she doesn't use as much tahini as I would use, I love watching the family eat. Notice that they use little snippets of bread and pop the whole thing in their mouths. No double dipping, just sharing.

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Published on January 30, 2016 16:43 • 69 views

December 23, 2015

© 2010 jeffreyw, Flicker from Wylio.com
Arabic bread is more than just a food. It is an integral part of the culture across the Arab world, and no wonder, since historians believe that wheat and barley were first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago. At that time the first grinding stone was invented in Egypt, and the first grain was crushed. The first bread was flat and thin, similar to tortillas. ("History of bread," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=History_of_bread&oldid=696359727(accessed December 23, 2015).     It is widely thought that the Egyptian skill with brewing beer and the warm climate led to the discovery of levening. Around 2500 BC, the first leavened breads were made in Egypt. (Encyclopedia of Food and Culture | 2003 | Franklin, Peter S. COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group Inc. as quoted in http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/bread.aspx)     Ever since that time, Bread has been part of each meal. The soft flat loaves can serve as a plate. Its soft, pliable texture make it perfect for dipping in liquid or semi-liquid foods. It can be folded into a scoop to pick up anything solid or semi-solid. Endlessly adaptable, it is the plate, the utensil, or the meal itself. Often called aish, which also means life, it is clear that for Arabs, bread is truly the staff of life. With a ten thousand year history, is it any wonder Arabs say that Bread is Life?
     Food plays a large part in my novels, Born a Refugee and Checkpoint Kalandia, just as in real life.  It truly is part of the culture. (http://sandhpublishing.com/Kalandia.html)
     Pita bread, also known as pocket bread, can be made from any standard bread recipe. When it is time to shape the dough, shape into balls about two inches in diameter. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise. After the dough rises, roll each ball into a disc a little less than a half an inch thick and let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Baking will puff the loaves into shapes resembling improperly inflated footballs. After the bread cools, each loaf will flatten out into its characteristic shape and there will be a pocket in the middle.

© 2010 jeffreyw, Flicker from Wylio.com     Although everyone thinks of pita bread when the topic of Arabic bread arises, that is not the only kind of bread native to Palestine. Taboon (or tabun) bread is named after the domed stone ovens that villagers used to build. The ovens resemble stone igloos. On baking day, a fire is built inside the oven. As the fire subsides into embers, the village women slap the thin rounds of dough onto the oven walls. When the dough begins to fall off the wall, it is done. At least that is what I remember from a conversation with an elderly relative who lived in the small village of Burhahm. Today there are other ways of getting similar results. I have seen people bake the bread on an inverted wok over an open flame. It can also be approximated at home. http://arabianmama.com/2013/03/31/palestinian-taboon-bread/that suggests preheating a flat baking dish covered with small rocks or pebbles to duplicate the texture of the original.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/pitabreadhttp://www.backwoodshome.com/middle-eastern-breads/http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-pita-bread-at-home-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-90844All recipes for good pita bread. It is easy to make at home. Some people use ovens, others used large flat frying pans. There are many videos available that walk you through the process. Here are a couple of my favorites.

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Published on December 23, 2015 14:50 • 64 views

June 19, 2015

Palestinians are the largest and longest suffering group of refugees in the world. One in three refugees world wide is Palestinian. There are about 6.5 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. More than 3.8 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents displaced in 1948 are registered for humanitarian assistance with the United Nations. Another 1.5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents, also displaced in 1948, are not registered with the UN. About 263,000 Palestinians and their descendents are internally displaced i.e. inside present-day "Israel".
     Descendents of refugees are included in the total population because they are still unable to realize their basic rights. About 20,000 Palestinians were internally displaced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2001, some 3,000 of whom were newly displaced during that year. At least 26,000 Palestinians left the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Jordan and did not return between June 2000 and July 2001. Such transfer of the Palestinian population driven by hard econmic and discriminatory conditions continues today.  auphr.org/index.php/resources/factsheets/refugees/15-how-many-palestinian-refugees-are-there-todayThe refugee camps began as tent cities in 1948. The inhabitants expected to be returning home in a matter of days or weeks. It has now been a matter of generations. In many places they are refused permission to work. In others, access to available work is restricted by checkpoints. Political conditions and restrictions as well as  frequent outbreaks of violence conspire to keep the inhabitants from gathering the resources needed to move out of the camps.
(See http://www.unrwa.org for this and other photos of refugee camps and refugee life.)
http://sandhpublishing.com/Kalandia.htmlOne such checkpoint is Kalandia (often spelled Qalandia). Checkpoints Project on Youtube has a series of 6 videos focusing on the checkpoints. The first is Kalandia: A Checkpoint Story that shows the evolution of the checkpoint.

My novel, Checkpoint Kalandia, shows the impact such a checkpoint can have on the everyday life of a refugee family.


Many of these families still rely on the generosity of others
to survive. In honor of World Refugee Day, please consider making a donation to help them. 

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Published on June 19, 2015 20:17 • 53 views

February 1, 2015

The first thing that penetrated my sleep-fogged mind this morning was the announcer on the television set telling me that a ticket near the 50-yard-line of today's game would cost about $15,000.

I was suddenly wide awake and filled with a mix of strong emotions--outrage, sadness, and a feeling of helpless frustration. I was yelling at the television set,
HOW MANY BLANKETS FOR FREEZING REFUGEES?" http://en.tempo.co/read/beritafoto/12... can't hear you. You know that, don't you?"My husband, always the voice of reason. I know he was talking about the television, but it holds true for a much broader audience. They can't hear me--yet. One of the reasons I started writing novels is to reach an audience that has little or no knowledge of the plight of refugees, how they live, or what desperate efforts they make just to have a touch of normalcy in their lives.
http://amazon.com/dp/1633200183/ http://www.amazon.com/dp/1633200035/R... are just like us. They have families they care about, have hopes for their children to have a better life. They do what they can to survive and try to boost their children into a better world. Each family has a story; each story has moments of sadness and moments of triumph.

Yes, I understand that nobody ever said life was fair, but understanding and accepting are very different. 

What can you do to make a difference? http://www.endtheoccupation.orgYou can stay informed. Listen to what's happening in other parts of the world.Be compassionate. People are people regardless of the flag flying overhead.Remember the less fortunate, and give what you can. United Nations Relief and Works Agency
http://www.unrwa.org International Rescue Committee
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Published on February 01, 2015 10:09 • 102 views

September 8, 2014

International Literacy Day
September 8, 2014
  "Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection."Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan- See more at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/literacy-day/#sthash.xl208HWW.Hay7bl2e.dpufhttp://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/literacy-day/#sthash.xl208HWW.Hay7bl2e.dpuf
Today is International Literacy Day, a day to celebrate and encourage literacy. All over the world tremendous strides are being made in literacy and education, but there are many notable exceptions. There are even places, such as Gaza, where literacy is moving the wrong way. Children are being hampered in their learning by external forces.According to the New York Times, there are 648 schools in Gaza with 421 of the buildings being shared in double shifts. Since the recent violence, 34 buildings have been damaged beyond repair and dozens more need major repairs. Add the addition of 60,000 people whose homes were destroyed that are being sheltered in school buildings, and you have an insurmountable problem. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/06/world/middleeast/broken-buildings-and-bruised-psyches-complicate-start-of-gaza-school-year.html?_r=0)
Schools are already three weeks late, and an opening day is not in sight. Even if schools were to open tomorrow, how many children would be able to study and learn? Democracy Now! Gives August 21 numbers as: 500 kids dead, 3,000 injured (over 1,000 of whom will suffer from lifelong disability), and 373,000 traumatized. Pernille Ironside, chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office said, “There isn’t a single family in Gaza who hasn’t experienced personally death, injury, the loss of their home, extensive damage, displacement, The psychological toll that has on a people, it just cannot be overestimated, and especially on children."http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/21/a_war_on_gazas_future_israeli

Sadly, many of these children may never reach their full potential, yet there are ways we can help.
You can help UNRWA rebuild schools in Gaza Click here to donate
***DONATE TO THE GAZA EMERGENCY APPEAL TODAY*** UNRWA must repair, rebuild, equip schools and they also provide food and counseling when they can.

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Published on September 08, 2014 15:24 • 51 views

August 21, 2014

Blogging about Palestine is not easy, especially lately. I have plenty of material, but I had no words to express what was in my heart. I still don’t. But I’m a novelist. It’s my job to find the words to express emotions…words that will make the reader feel the sorrow and the desperation of the character. I cry as I write because that’s the only way to make the reader feel the pain. But after the hero has been challenged beyond endurance, he or she dredges up the last bit of strength and will to make one last push to overcome and triumph. That makes a satisfying novel. The hero (and the reader) are satisfied. Unfortunately, what has been happening in Palestine is not the stuff of novels. The people of Gaza have been pushed beyond endurance, but that last shred of strength and will may only serve to help them survive. There has to be a shred of hope somewhere. Maybe there is just a glimmer, like a lone firefly on a hot summer night. Protests from around the world showed up on Facebook. In New York they marched over the Brooklyn Bridge.Then there were pictures from New York from Jewish Voice 4 Peace NYChttp://pic.twitter.com/guQkq7lTuJ

In Oakland, California, thousands gathered to protest an Israeli ship docking.http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/17/israeli-ship-remains-at-sea-thousands-protesters-gather They kept it blocked for four straight days!http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/israeli-ship-blocked-unloading-oakland-four-straight-days?utm_source=EI+readers&utm_campaign=fbf67c6938-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e802a7602d-fbf67c6938-299155689

The London rally was amazing in size and intensity! http://www.london24.com/news/huge_rally_to_support_gaza_and_protest_against_israel_takes_place_in_london_1_3721166
One of the most impressive demonstrations was in Karachi, Pakistan, where thousands upon thousands of people flooded the streets as far as the eye could see! (Palestine Festival of Literature)

Did it have any effect? The tiniest firefly-glimmer of hope  begins to flicker.
Gallup poll shows young Americans overwhelmingly support Palestine.https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/13203-latest-gallup-poll-shows-young-americans-overwhelmingly-support-palestine
And Uruguay joined Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Venezuela in having an embassy in the Palestine   http://bit.ly/1u5l4Wr
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Published on August 21, 2014 18:46 • 76 views

February 3, 2014

Activists hold flags as they protest latest demolitionsToday another Palestinian village has been hit by devastating home demolitions. Sixty-six people were made homeless, including 36 children in the community of Ain el-Helwe in the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley has been continuously inhabited for 11,000 years. It has been home to Canaanites for thousands of years, and now many of their descendants are being forced from their ancestral homes. 
On Saturday, 1 February 2014, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories said, “I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians… along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year.” (Picture and quote from: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/02/01/U-N-slams-Israel-destruction-of-Jordan-valley-homes-.html)
The Jordan Valley is only the latest of the home demolitions to be publicized on the internet. The demolitions in and around Jerusalem continue in near-total silence. The two videos below show recent activity in home demolition. You Tube has videos documenting home demolitions that date back seven years and more.

The short video shows how one man salvaged what he could from the wreckage of his home and moved his belongings into a nearby cave. In the short interview, he says that a judge forbid him from rebuilding. The man asked the judge where his family was supposed to live. The answer—that’s not my problem.

The next video talks about the very real possibility of new recently constructed apartment buildings being demolished. One local resident claims that no one will leave and the Israelis will have to demolish the building with the residents inside. A representative of a local NGO is quoted as saying, “That’s the way they clear land for future settlements.”
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Published on February 03, 2014 10:07 • 82 views

December 19, 2013

Picture from Facebook - Neil Le RouxJoseph traveled from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, the town of David. He made the trip of about 65 miles with Mary. The trip was probably long and arduous, but they reached their destination. Luckily, they lived before the modern state of Israel decided that Palestinians cannot move freely in their own land. Today that journey would be very different.

Even the three kings would not be able to present their gifts today. Where are today's wise men? Why can't they bring the gift of peace to the Holy Land?

Picture from Facebook - Irfan Iqbal
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Published on December 19, 2013 05:30 • 101 views

November 28, 2013

What better way to celebrate November 29th, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People than to highlight some of the wonderful musicians that find a way to give joy amidst the sorrows and violence of continued military occupation?
Two young talented Palestinian singers performed at the United Nations before an appreciative audience and the following is an excerpt from that performance.

The entire performance lasted about an hour an a half and may be seen at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/other-meetingsevents/watch/concert-featuring-palestinian-singers-on-the-occasion-of-the-international-day-of-solidarity-with-the-palestinian-people/2868976278001?fb_action_ids=3744815116915&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B525950050834553%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.likes%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D#full-text
That sent me on an internet search for more wonderful music. It did not take long to find a veritable treasure chest filled with gems—all ripe and ready for the listener.

My favorite of all the offerings is a somewhat scratchy recording of the music of George Kirmiz accompanied by the wonderful visual images of the art of the late Ismail Shammout.

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Published on November 28, 2013 13:10 • 67 views