By S. V. Kirubaharan –
For a long time I dreamed of visiting the Holy Land and observing the Palestinian – Israeli conflict at first hand, a dream which eventually materialized. Recently we visited where Jesus began his ministry, giving birth to the then new religion, Christianity.
One can’t by-pass Israel’s formalities – the immigration procedures, Jewish cities, currency, etc. when visiting the Holy places. It was both nerve-wracking and wonderful. Before setting off on our journey, some of our friends said they were concerned asking whether this trip was so important at this critical period in time. After travelling for about four hours we arrived at Tel-Aviv’s airport, named after the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion. In the queue for immigration, some new arrivals seemed to panic a bit. But we didn’t notice any abnormal situation during our time there. Yes, of course departure from Tel-Aviv airport is more fraught.
Having travelled extensively in the Middle East, except to Oman and Iraq, my observation is that Israeli immigration procedures and formalities are better, more polite and more acceptable than in other Middle Eastern countries. I still remember how customs officers in Saudi Arabia go through baggage and throw into the bins any non-Muslim religious objects they find. Also they confiscate Mark & Spencer items of clothing. I could write many pages about my experiences at various airports in the Middle East.
In Jerusalem our place of residence was one of the convents. We entered the old city through Lions Gate and were able to see the old city of Jerusalem from the roof top of the convent. During our stay we walked around many areas of the old city including Via Dolorosa, Damascus Gate, Western Wall, Dung Gate, and Jaffa Gate.
Israeli Army and Police were to be seen at every nook and corner of the old city. The composition of these forces seems multi-ethnic, some from Africa. We did not witness any disturbance during our stay in Jerusalem or in any part of the Palestinian territory.
Old City of Jerusalem
In the old city of Jerusalem, we visited the Jewish Western Wall – Kotel ha-Ma’aravi (Wailing Wall). The Hebrew expression is that (these) ‘Walls have ears’. In fact, this is where Jesus prayed and worshipped.
The third holiest place for Muslims after Mecca and Medina is the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple of the Mount in Jerusalem. Here, non-Muslims are allowed only on Sundays, and only for two hours. When we were inside the compound of the Temple Mount, a Jewish family was visiting and Muslims gathered to pray in the compound, started to shout, ‘Allahu Akbar’ (GOD is great). Foreign visitors who have no knowledge of the day to day happenings in the old city, may consider all these things to be disturbances in Jerusalem.
On Fridays, walking the “Stations of the Cross” is led by the Franciscans, starting from Via Dolorosa in the Old city and ending at the Holy Sepulchre. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is identified as standing on the place where Jesus was crucified and where the tomb of Jesus is. Pilgrims from all over the world can be seen there.
We went by coach to Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan – the Baptism site. In Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation is venerated as the place where the angel Gabriel told Virgin Mary of her conception of Christ. Jesus spent his childhood in Nazareth.
Next to the Sea of Galilee also known as Lake Galilee, is the home of St Peter. In the late 4th century A.D., the ‘White Synagogue’ was built on the remains of the “Synagogue of Jesus”. In Tabgha, on the Northwest shore of Lake Galilee, stands the Church of the Primacy of St Peter.
In fact, the authentic site of the baptism of Jesus is in Jordan, not far from the Dead Sea. A few years ago when I attended a UN conference in Jordan, I went there. The conference took place at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre – KHBTCC, next to the Dead Sea in Jordan.
The authentic site of the baptism of Jesus, in Jordan, is not maintained by the Jordanian authority or by the Christians. It was very interesting to see the difference between it and the River Jordan in Israel. The river in the Jordanian side has minimum water and is very narrow. The Jordanian guide told us that the water in the river Jordan is diverted for farming in Israel and so the Jordanian side has poor water flow.
Our visit to River Jordan on the Israeli side confirmed what was said by the Jordanian guide. It is much wider and has good water flow. Mango trees and banana plants can be seen in those areas.
St Anne’s Church near the Lion Gate, on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, is believed to be the birth place of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The church is owned or managed by the French. A French flag was flying inside the compound. In Jerusalem, French influence can be seen in many places.
We went by foot to Jaffa Gate, Mount Zion and the last Supper room – Cenacle, and visited the City of David which is in the ancient city of Jerusalem, dating from the pre-Babylonian era.
The Mount of Olives is not far from the old city, situated in the East of Jerusalem. The ‘Church of All Nations’ there recalls the agony of Jesus. There is a huge Jewish cemetery nearby, with the Muslim cemetery just opposite it.
In 2004, the Palestinians wanted to bury the body of the President of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque or anywhere in Jerusalem. But then Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon refused this burial to take place in Jerusalem. Eventually Arafat was buried in Mukaata (Arabic word for headquarters or administrative Centre) in Ramallah in the Palestinian territory.
We attended a Mass at the altar of Calvary in the Holy Sepulchre. We walked around in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian quarters which provide a wealth of information about the old city of Jerusalem.
Our visit to Bethlehem was one of the saddest among our visits to the Holy places. The Church of the Nativity is said to be the oldest church in the world and the birth-place of Jesus. We visited the spot believed to be where he was born and a few yards away presumably where he was cradled as a new-born baby.
The people in the birth-place of Jesus lack of all sorts of freedoms, lack of business, lack of employment, etc. The wall built by Israelis around the Palestinian areas, even around individual houses are causing tremendous hardship among the population.
The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is near the Damascus Gate. It is maintained by Protestants and has a slightly different narrative compared to that of the Holy Sepulchre.
In Israel and Palestine, there are no “price tags” for items sold in shops. Prices start very high and through good bargaining, items can be bought for much lower prices. This is the advantage of bargaining. But when we consider ‘Chamber of commerce’ policies, in places where the whole world visits or comes on a pilgrimage, a standard price should be displayed. That would be better for the country as well as for the shop-keepers and customers.
Visit to Palestinian territories
Our visit to Bethlehem and Ramallah speaks of the actual political situation between Jews and Palestinians. The old city consists of all four communities / denominations / religious groups – Jews, Muslims, Christians and Armenians living in close proximity.
The gigantic Wall, constructed from anti-explosive cement, is earning sympathy for the Palestinians. It is a wall which speaks of agony, aggression and slavery. One could talk for hours or write pages about what the people within the walls undergo.
We paid our respects to the veteran ever-loving freedom-fighter Yasser Arafat. His tomb is well-guarded and honoured by the Palestinian security forces.
There are two different number plates for vehicles in Palestine and Israel. The one for Palestine has ‘P’ and the one for Israel has ‘IL’. There are strict regulations on using all these vehicles. We could not see any vehicles with ‘P’ in Israel, but there were many vehicles with ‘IL’ in the Palestinian territory.
When we were talking to some Palestinians in Bethlehem, we found they are not aware of international awareness of their issue. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has a full day programme during every session on “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”. This gives an opportunity to the majority of UN members to raise their concerns on behalf of the Palestinians. Also they enjoy the full support of the second largest inter-governmental organization, after the UN, namely the “Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – OIC”. It has a membership of 57 states.
The Palestinians are very clear in their international policy. They are very well aware that there are aggressive states who refuse to respect the rights of other ethnic groups in their own country, hiding behind the pretext that they are supporters of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians say that they don’t need the support of anyone who suppresses other communities and nations. We acknowledge the Palestinians’ clear policy and identity.
This may be a good message for the Palestine solidarity group in Sri Lanka, especially to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his so-called academics. How can they genuinely support the Palestinian struggle, while they suppress the other ethnic groups and practice extreme racism in Sri Lanka?
sbarrkum / April 10, 2016
>The composition of these forces seems multi-ethnic, some from Africa.
I dont know if Kirubaharan is uninformed or dissembling. If he is uninformed, pretty sad who is International face for the “Tamil Cause”.
They are all of the Jewish Faith. The “Africans” are from Ethiopia, the Beta Israel. There are also Indian Jews, the Bene Israel and Cohin Jews.
However, even with same religion and claimed descent from the some of the 12 tribes, the dark skinned Jews from India and Ethiopia continue to face discrimination.
The genetics of Bene Israel from India reveals both substantial Jewish and Indian ancestry and with sex bias involving mostly jewish male and Indian females. respectively.
So does Kirubakaran think the paternal ancestry of the “Tamils” is from the elsewhere and maternal ancestry is local, i.e. Sri Lankans.
sbarrkum / April 10, 2016
>The Palestinians say that they don’t need the support of
>anyone who suppresses other communities and nations.
>We acknowledge the Palestinians’ clear policy and identity.
Kirubaharan, goes thru a lot of verbiage, the general idea being how great Israel is etc. Them ends up with solidarity with Palestinians.
Absolutely uniformed about the Arab Citizens of Israel (20%), who may be a good comparison for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Obviously other the one big difference, the Jews are the invaders and the Israeli Arabs the local populace.
Oliver / April 10, 2016
Thank you sbarrkum
For this information, Kirubaharan has to thank Mr. Wikipedia!
Ali Khan / April 10, 2016
Appreciate the Palestinian policy on aggressive States!
Ken Dharmapala / April 10, 2016
S. V. Kirubaharan
“….while they suppress the other ethnic groups and practice extreme racism in Sri Lanka?”
Please don’t generalize. Be specific when you throw terms like “practice extreme racism”. List them out so that the readers can judge for themselves.
This is not to say that there are/may exist issues that are not satisfactory for a multi-ethnic society like ours. Airing them as much as possible, without being vague, is to educate others who may not know of these grievances.
Mr Kirubaharan is clever in referring to Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to project it to imply the Sri Lankan situation is similar. Probably cunning is the right word.
But this day and age people are far more savvy to fall for mere propaganda couched in a travel tale.
Sri Lankan / April 10, 2016
We non-racist Lankans demand an apology from Kirubaharan for his view on racism in Sri Lanka
Menan / April 12, 2016
Before we ask for an apology from Kirubaharan one has to read what he wrote. He says,
……………..Palestine solidarity group in Sri Lanka, especially to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his so-called academics.
How can THEY genuinely support the Palestinian struggle, while they suppress the other ethnic groups and practice extreme racism in Sri Lanka?
It is clear that he has not generalised this issue. He clearly pointing at Rajapaksa and his academics.
getafix / April 10, 2016
Writers like this bestow upon themselves a mantle of learning and knowledge which other followers of separatism and discord use to buttress their views and claims. The anti Sri Lanka campaign is a very well orchestrated and strategically designed psychological operation.
Cacofonix / April 12, 2016
Well said Getafix. This chappie does not know about the riots during Rabin’s time where Black Jews were moved to ghettoes and ignored and the changed. Also he talks about different colored troops. But ALL of them are Jewish. Silly Kiru wanted a Tamil nation where all troops were Tamil.
Israel, with a population little over 8 million, has a minority of Ethiopians Jews which account for approximately 135,000 of its citizens. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Ethiopian Black Jews in Israeli society are marginalized and treated much differently than the majority Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
n 1996, thousands of Ethiopian Jews protested and clashed with Police when they found out the blood they had donated was thrown out because of fear it was contaminated with AIDS. Even more heinous to note is the fact that it has been found that Ethiopian Jewish women have been administered Depo-Provera, a hormonal contraceptive WITHOUT their consent or knowledge, to prevent them from having children. Ethiopians immigrants, when interviewed by an investigative journalist, said they were intimidated and told the injections were just protocol vaccinations. Curiously, this sort of eugenic practice was mastered by none other than Nazi Germany.
On April 27th, a video emerged of an Ethiopian citizen being brutally beaten by two police officers. This led to thousands of Ethiopians marching on the streets of Israel’s capital city demanding justice for not only the police brutality incident, but the general oppression Ethiopian and other African Jewish immigrants face daily as well. Some chanted “Police state, police state” while one Ethiopian man stated last Sunday that “My brother is in Golani [an army unit] and so was I, but I can’t get a job; I face racism when I want to move into an apartment.”
Interestingly, not only have Israeli politicians remained quiet about these incidents, but even the left wing Israeli parties that claim to support civil rights for minorities have refused to utter a word.
It is even more shocking to realize that the State of Israel bases its justification for existence on the historical discrimination the Jews faced as a minority in Europe, yet they don’t seem to have a problem with discrimination as long as they are the perpetrators. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Kiru made me laugh and giggle.
George / April 13, 2016
I feel sorry for Cacofonix and others.
They don’t have the courage to write those comments with their own name.
Do continue to write comments, never mind without courage, one day you will learn write an article.
sekara / April 10, 2016
“This may be a good message for the Palestine solidarity group in Sri Lanka, especially to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his so-called academics. How can they genuinely support the Palestinian struggle, while they suppress the other ethnic groups and practice extreme racism in Sri Lanka?”
If it is a paradox, let us look at another which is as interesting.
How is it that except for a very brief period around the 1980’s (when the PLO trained Tamil militants, but not the LTTE) the Tamil nationalists have identified themselves with Israel, a cruel oppressor of the Palestinians?
The myth of the Israeli model for ‘Tamil liberation’ struck root in the FP after the disastrous ‘Satyagraha’ of 1961. Then the LTTE had training from the very same Israeli military which concurrently trained Sri Lankan armed forces.
How is that except for the cause of Bangladesh, Tamil nationalists systematically refused to support any national struggle in South Asia?
Elsewhere too, it is only US-backed secessionists who are endorsed by Tamil nationalists?
jim softy / April 10, 2016
Palestinians are fighting for their country.
Tamils are immigrants fighting for s Courtney.
Dragos / April 11, 2016
“”If it is a paradox,””
Life itself is a paradox- look at yourself or have you grown a nose as a foot?
M&S has been known for its underwear to a majority from commonwealth nations.
Did they not confiscate it too?? It’s just the immigrant baggage boys taking the piss.
Nihal / April 11, 2016
One day Minister in the North Eatern provincial council always talks about Tamil militancy as he is an authoritian. His writings are with his limited knowledge.
As far as the Tamil militancy concerned, he knows a very little. He fooled India and now fooling Rajapaksas.
Perumal said that he has never seen an opportunist like this gentleman!
Piranha / April 10, 2016
Mahinda Rajapaksa and his support for the palestinians is a load of bulls*t. Rajapaksa obtained the support of Israel for his wars against the LTT and Israel supplied the training, intelligence and military hardware to the SL military.
Rajapaksa used the same tactics on the tamil civilians the Israeli military uses against the palestinian civilians – killing them indiscriminately and on a mass scale. There is no difference between the israelis and the SL government in this respect.
It is a shame that while Kirubakaran was in Palestine he failed to obtain the opinion of the palestinians on the tamils’ fight for freedom and equality in Sri Lanka and also on how the tamils were massacred by Rajapaksa’s military forces.
Plato. / April 10, 2016
The Israelis were training the LTTE and the Srilankan Army at the same time,though at different locations within Israel.
Their role in the decimation of the LTTE,especially in the context of what the Jews suffered at the hands of Hitler is something I am unable to figure out!
Pistachio / April 11, 2016
“”We acknowledge the Palestinians’ clear policy and identity.””
As soon as they become free they would say: Walla O Wackebar Boom!!
Henry Kissinger threatened Indian forces once they had liberated East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
Instantly Mujibur Rahman screamed alla gave us freedom so now they are infringing into Burma.
UK gave freedom to Ceylon- now the world is inundated by choosy asylum seekers.
anotherbuddist / April 11, 2016
If I got a $ for every time I heard the LTTE supporting Tamils say ‘we are the Jews of Asia’ and support every atrocity done by the Zionist Israeli army, I would be a billionaire! LTTE and their supporters have based their terrorist war on the very tactics used by the Zionist when creating Israel. Terror and ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Sinhalese in North and East to the propaganda used.
The Zionist were also terrorist and involved in ethnic cleansing. They terrorised and murdered large numbers of Palestinians prior to creating Isael.
The claims of war crimes against Sri Lanka are similar to the ‘Holocaust’ / ‘genocide’ claims by the Zionist /based on same tactics as the Zionist. While no one can challenge the LTTE Tamil’s claims of ‘genocide,’ it is similar to tactics used by Zionist to use the ‘Holocaust’ to further their aim of creating a ‘home land’.
So Sri Lanka if you buy this type of cunning tale of woe, you will see in the future mass genocide of Sinhalese and Muslims, and an exodus of Tamils to Sri Lanka!
Eelam Tamil Ottawa / April 11, 2016
This Kirubaharan chap[Edited out]
Anton / April 13, 2016
Eelam Tamil Ottawa! Are you sure you write from Ottawa.
Who ever it is and from where ever it is, if you can debate with the author write with your true name and challenge him.
What you are doing all coward and guerrila activities.