The Story Behind “Holy Land”

I will be holding 2 talks about the book Holy Land, published in 2012.

As with publishing the book, this is something that I’d prefer never have to do. However, the recent carnage in Gaza has reminded me that there’s still much to do, if we are to find Peace in the land flowing with milk and honey.

The 1st one will be held in HK Readers on 31-Aug (Sun) at 3pm.

The 2nd one will be held in ACO on 6-Sep (Sat), also at 3pm.

Both talks will share the same message and be conducted in Cantonese.

Special thanks to HK Readers and ACO for making available their venues, they’re also the first bookshops to carry the book. Thanks also to 1908 Bookstore and Kubrick for providing shelf space early in the book’s days.

The book is currently available through Red Publish and Google Play as well.

The proceeds of the book are to be donated to the peacemakers in Palestine/Israel after deducting the production cost. The first donation has been made to Moriel Rothman, who contributed the first writing in the book−Detangling the Holocaust from Israeli-Palestinian Politics−and is an avid activist for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

I’m not sure if there will be a second donation because, frankly, the sales has been very so-so. On the other hand, as long as the book can help raise the awareness for the prospect of peace in that particular piece of land, however little, my heart shall suffice.

“Holy Land” in Gaza, taken by Donna West.

Update 2016-Oct-09: The book is now also available through iTunes.

Israel & Palestine from a Distance

Photo: ESA

A friend from northern Israel told me a few days ago, except that the air siren sounded a couple of times in the first days of the war, life had mostly been okay, and the co-workers who had been drafted were returning to work.

Another friend in Gaza, with whom I was able to communicate intermittently, told me in the early days of the fighting he was used to the air raids. Later on when the bombing became more and more intense, anxiety and fear began to show between the lines. Lately I was able to confirm his safety, but he lost his niece, and a relative’s house was destroyed.

In the early-August when the situation was tense, a Palestinian attacked pedestrians with a tractor in Jerusalem. An Israeli was killed. Yet another friend happened to be nearby, fortunately he was safe but still a tragedy nonetheless. Harming innocent civilians is inexcusable, but while living under daily injustices may still be bearable, how could one suffer seeing his fellow people and children being bombed to pieces?

The Palestinian casualties reduced substantially from Cast Lead to Pillar of Defence, and on the surface it seemed things were improving. Then Protective Edge came and caused more deaths and injuries than both wars combined. Still there were UN facilities bombed, still there were hospitals destroyed, still there were many children suffered, still there were many pro-Israel and philo-Semitic extremists trying to justify all the brutal facts. Is it that Hamas must be condemned for launching all those primitive rockets, but the Israel forces must be excused even when they massacre civilians with weapons of pin-point accuracy?

Back then in Gaza I had an opportunity to converse with a teacher at a beach. With the vast sea on one side and his students on the other, it occurred to me that, even though changes would not happen tomorrow or the next, still I wished their next generations could grow up in another environment, hoped that both sides would nurture a new generation who will understand, accept and appreciate co-existance and pluralism. Is there anything we as bystanders can do?

During the war, a German onboard the International Space Station looked at the earth and happened to photograph some nightshots of Palestine & Israel. He saw some “streaks of light going forth and back over a dark Earth, occasionally lit up by orange fireballs” but didn’t know what were them, only to realise those are streaks of rockets and fireballs of explosions. He then wrote the following words:

What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet? How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that.

And when the Creator visits us, how will you and I answer him?

Note: In Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese on Christian Times.

Occupation, Enraged, Kibbutz

The 10th Hong Kong Social Movement Film Festival has scheduled screenings of Occupation 101 (21-Nov), Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment and Enraged (22-Nov)—three movies about Israel/Palestine—among other films on globalisation and oppressed people.

Occupation 101 tries to profile the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the larger context, and expose the audience to other aspects and narratives which are largely missing from the mainstream media.

Enraged is about a group of Jewish Israeli activists opposed to the occupation, and their effort and struggle to bring it to an end.

Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment traces the history of the kibbutz movement—social collectives originally started by some of the Jews immigrated to Palestine in the early twentieth century, they themselves being escapees of the anti-Semitic persecution in Eastern Europe.

The story about kibbutzim is an interesting one. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is usually framed as a religious, ideological and ethnic issue in the mass media, the significance of its economic impact—about money and resources—is largely neglected. Most people probably don’t realise that the occupation is also a profitable business for some people.

At the same time, while there were nationalism, Zionism and occasional religious factors involved in the kibbutz movement, it’s also a movement dedicated to economic equality based on socialist ideals. However, in the past few decades, there’s been a trend of privatisation and decline among the kibbutzim due to economic pressure and other factors—the money has once again changed hands. It is rather ironic when one considers that some of the kibbutzim were built on depopulated Palestinian villages.

As illustrated by the self-immolation in Tunisia which started the Arab Spring, and similar tragedies in Israel and Gaza in this year, something as basic as food and livelihood is still very much a serious concern for many people while some others go on a wasteful living style. And perhaps we all have more in common than we realise, or are willing and ready to admit.

Speaking of food, a restaurant run and staffed by people with hearing impairment has recently been established in the Gaza Strip.

Note: In Chinese on

A Brief Recap of Israel/Palestine in Chinese, Rachel Corrie, and the Lynching in Jerusalem

A Palestinian brings a child from Bethlehem to Jerusalem through a checkpoint.

A short recap, which has been published earlier in Christian Times (and available online, albeit behind a paywall), is reproduced on the Palestine Information Website—a Chinese-language website dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian and related issues, set up by some Taiwanese advocates who’re inspired by Rachel Corriean American peace activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer 9 years ago when trying to stop a Palestinian house from being demolished in Gaza.

She’s then become a symbol of the international solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Her parents have subsequently filed three lawsuits, the first one in the United States, against Caterpillar, the supplier of the bulldozer, for selling the machinery knowing that it would be used in circumstances in violation of international law. The case was dismissed by the court under the rationale that, since the sale was made through the US Foreign Military Financing program, it’s a matter of the Executive Branch’s foreign policy decision and something that the Judicial Branch cannot intrude.

The second one was filed in Haifa, Israel against the Israeli army, for a symbolic amount of 1 USD and legal costs. The court ruled just a few days ago that it’s a “regrettable accident” and, that’s it. The comment sections of various news outlets were pounded by people applauding or denouncing the verdict.

The third one is yet to be heard.

On a brighter note, here’s an enlightening account of a discussion between some religious Jews in a synagogue, about the lynching of a few Palestinian youths by a group of Israeli Jews.