How to Understand the Middle East in 2 Minutes

Things can change in the Middle East in a minute or a day 

or as seen in the Arab Spring in Egypt and Syria…

one can never predict the timing of change.

Last week in Jerusalem a few things caught my attention

that you may have missed.

The media gave much attention to Palestinian hunger strikers, 

but in the open area near the Israeli Supreme Court,

"picture tent" , "photo hunger strike tent", "Image protest tent"

there was a tent for another hunger strike, by those who supported a law

against destroying the Ulpana houses of Beit El.

"picture ohel", "photo hunger stride", "image hunger strike tent"

On Sunday MK Daniel Hershkowitz arrived with his security team.

"picture Daniel Hershkowitx", "photo Daniel Herschkowitz", "image MK Hershkowtiz"

First he chatted with the “settler activists” working in the tent

"picture Hershkowitz and Katz", Photo Knesset members", "image Israel politicians"

and had a discussion with MK  Yaakov Katz, known as Katzeleh.

"picture Hershkowtiz" , Image hunger strike tent", "photo table protesters"

Then MK Hershkowitz, the Minister of Science and Technology,

 sat and spoke to the crowd.

But on Wednesday, after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

 he did not vote for the bill and thus kept his job as minister.

The politics involved are way too complicated for me to explain. 

Also on Wednesday, at Ofer Military Prison,

there was another trial for Shchada Aved Shchada Shata.

He has been convicted of stealing the gun from Asher Palmer‘s body.

Shchada stopped his car, climbed down from the highway

to reach the site where the car had crashed and stole the dead man’s gun.

He is a 47-year-old father of eight with sick relatives,

who wants compassion from the court,

though he showed none at the time of the crime.

In contrast, a Israeli military court had previously permitted

"photo Asher Palmer", "picture Michael Palmer", " Israel Palestinian"

 Palmer supporters to hold photos of Asher and Yonatan,

the infant son who was in the car and also died in the crash 

at the trial of those who threw the large rock from a moving car,

but not at this past Wednesday hearing.

Michael Palmer, the victims’ father and grandfather was allowed  

to enter a written statement as a victim of terror.

Meanwhile back in Jerusalem, 

"picture German flag",. "photo German flag", "image flag Germany"

the German flag was still flying after the visit of the

President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck.

President Gauck thinks the problem in the Middle East is the “settlers,”

wonder if he ever reads Khaled Abu Toameh?

"picture Jerusalem", "photo flags in Jerusalem", "image flags"

As they were taking down the German and Israeli flags, 

"Jerusalem Park image", "picture Palestinians Jerusalem", "photo Jerusalem Arabs"

 this Arab family was enjoying an outing in the park below,  

"picture Jerusalem", :"photo Jerusalem", "image wreath"

near a memorial and wreath in memory of the bus bombing

on February 22, 2004 where 8 Jews were killed.

Understand the Middle East in 2 minutes?

… impossible.

Light in Jerusalem 2012

Thousands of people attended the opening of the

Jerusalem Festival of Light in the Old City last night.

It is one of my favorite events to photograph

"PHOTO Jerusalem", "picture Jerusalem","image Jerusalem"

so I arrived at Jaffa Gate early, before sunset .

There were three colored trails to follow,

I started with the “Orange Trail”

"picture Tower of David", "photo Migdal David", "image Jerusalem"

 which went past The Tower of David and through

 the Armenian Quarter along the Armenian Patriarch Street.

"picture Jerusalem light festival", "image face", "photo Jerusalem"

Workers were finishing up the large art piece “Faces of Jerusalem.” 

"picture Jerusalem", "photo light festival", "image lights"

A series of lights called the “Light Line” lined Misgav Ladach Street

"picture light festival", "photo harp", "image Jerusalem"

and ended at the harp-shaped, “The Visual Piano.”

It was hard to photograph, but impressive to hear and see.

"picture kosel", "image kossel", "photo wailing wall"

At sunset, both the lights at the Kotel, the Western Wall, 

"picture Silwan", "photo Silwan","image Silwan"

and the views of the area are a favorite even without art light displays.

In the Rova,  the plaza of the Jewish Quarter,

"picture light art", "photo Jerusalem", "image art"

 there was a fascinating piece called “Meeting Composition.”

"picture light" , "photo Jerusalem", "image light festival"

  It changed with the motion of people under it.

"light photo", "picture Moslem Quarter", "image Al-Guds"

From the Jewish Quarter I picked up the “Blue Trail.”

"picture fire", "photo fire torches", "image fire"

Last year I was so impressed with performers using  fire torches 

that I watched for a long time and took dozens of  photos.

Last year they were on a small side street,  

but this year they were a main attraction in Muristan Square.

Determined to see all the routes, I did not stay to watch, 

but started on the “Green Trail.”

"Mosque of Omar photo","picture Mosgue entrance', "image Omar Mosgue'

There was a light coming from the Mosque of Omar,

but the sign says “For Prayers Only”.

"picture Old city", "image Arab market", "photo Jerusalem"

The “Green Trail” went through areas of the Old City

where  I usually do not go, certainly not alone at night.

"picture Arab women", "image market" , "photos old market"

So when the green lights stopped here, I stopped…

until an Israeli woman passed me and said to keep going to Damascus Gate.

Really good advice!

"picture Damascus Gate", "photo Damascus Gate", "image Shar Secham"

While recently the Damascus Gate has been in the news as a site of protests,

"picture Damascus Gate", "pinball photo", "image of Damascus Gate"

tonight it was lit up as a giant pinball machine.

"picture walls" "art photo" "image light benches"

Along the walls on the way back to Jaffa Gate were “Light Benches”

"picture Jerusalem", "image light", "photo old city"

and this piece which can only appreciated in video. 

"image Jerusalem", "photo light festival", "picture art"

At the Jaffa Gate the “Cupola” was bright inside and out.

"picture Israeli apartheid", "photo Arabs", "image Jerusalem"

Inside there was a couple dancing to the music,

"arab women photo", "picture jerusalem", "image Jerusalem"

while people were looking up

"picture Jerusalem", "image aparheid", "photo Arab woman"

and many were taking photos.

"photo Jerusalem", "image sign jerusalem","Picture Jerusalem"

Jerusalem, the light of the world.

These are just a few of my favorites from “Light in Jerusalem.”

I have to leave you some surprises, as the event runs until June 14.

If you cannot make it to Jerusalem, Israel this year…

more photos posted on

The Real Jerusalem Streets Facebook page

Photos from my Time in Israeli Prison

 I never thought I would want to be in a prison,

but my week started by spending a morning in Ofer Prison,

which is just a short drive north of Jerusalem.

 I had a chance to observe and take photos in the Ofer Military Court.

 On September 23, 2011,

the day that Mahmoud Abbas was in New York City

 to declare a Palestinian state,

Asher Palmer, a dual American and Israeli citizen,

 and his infant son Jonathan were killed after 

a rock thrown from a moving car crashed through his windshield.

To get into the courtroom where his accused murderers were being tried,

"picture prison gate", "photo security", "Image prison"

 a small group of Palmer family supporters gathered outside

 and waited  to go through the heavy  security.

"picture security door:", "image prison door", "photo check point"

Behind this door were sensitive metal detectors.

 Thanks to my press pass I did not have to undergo a body search.

But no surprise… no photos are allowed in the security area.

"picture jail", "image Israeli jail", "photo prison"

Arriving in a courtyard,

we and other visitors waited to enter the court room.

It was a hot day, the shaded areas may not make for great photos,

but they sure felt good.

"picture jail", "image prison"," Photo security"

No cell phones, bags or bottled drinks are allowed to be brought in,

 but food and drink can be bought in this shop and

"picture cigarette machine", "image smoking", "photo selling cigerettes"

 cigarettes are available 24 hours a day from this machine.

The trial has gone on for some time,  

 more sessions already on the calendar for June and July.

Special for this session was that representatives of the US State

and Justice Departments were in attendance.

"picture Palmer trial", "photo prison yard", "Image Israeli jail"

 They spoke with Michael Palmer, Asher’s father,

 who flew in from the US  for the trial and with his legal consul.

The courtroom, one of many, is seen in the background.

"picture fence", "image security fence", "photo prison"

Finally we were allowed past this last fence and into the courtroom

"picture terrorist", "image Wa'al al'Arjeh", "photo terrorist"

where Wa’al al’Arjeh, the accused driver and ring leader

was waiting for the proceedings to begin.

"picture Adrian Agassi", "image lawyer", "photo military court"

 Adrian Agassi, a retired military judge

who is acting on behalf of the Palmer family, got up on several occasions 

to explain to Michael Palmer what was happening. 

The proceedings were conducted in Hebrew

with simultaneous Arabic translation and much of the time

 it was hard to hear and understand what was happening.

"picture courtroom," "image Israeli courtroom", "Photo trial"

In the last court session it was ruled that spectators 

may hold a photo of the dead father and his baby son,

as was done by Palmer family supporters.

 US officials sat in the row behind them.

When the judges enter the courtroom photos are no longer allowed.

"Israeli military trial photo","picture Ali" "image in courtroom"

This picture of Ali Saadeh, the alleged stone thrower,

was taken just before they entered.

This trial was to hear his testimony against Wa’al al’Arjeh.

In an Israeli military court a defendant has the right to hear his accuser.

Only Ali was afraid to testify, not because of the Israelis,

but because of fear of vengeance against his family by the al’Ajeh clan.

 The six defendants in this case all come from the same village,

their families were noticeably missing from this trial.

So why is this so important? 

 The 47-year-old man who was convicted of stealing Asher Palmer’s gun

could have been sentenced to 3 years in jail, but got 10 months.

 He had the victim’s blood on his hands, and now he can be tried

for desecrating a body, which carries a longer sentence.

 The earlier testimony of Ali will be used

and his terror of future acts of violence speaks volumes.

Throwing rocks from a moving vehicle is a new terror tactic,

this gang met for a month working on a plan to “kill Jews,”

 making this a premeditated murder.

Michael Palmer wants his son’s and grandson’s murderers

to get a life sentence and not get a plea bargain for a lighter one.

Families of victims of terror suffer for life.

Michael Palmer does not want these terrorists to get off easy.