Hamas promises peace

RamallahThis week a group of journalists and opinion leaders had a conversation with spokesmen of Fatah and Hamas on the Westbank. Fatah and Hamas have reconciliated and the two men presented themselves as a political unity in Ramallah. The conversation led to one unclear outcome but also to some clear conclusions that I am happy to share with you.
The unclear outcome was the answer to the question as to how Hamas felt about the deal between Israel and Turkey on the Mavi Marmara ship. Although this deal involves action points to be taken by Hamas, the Hamas spokesman was clear: this is between Israel and Turkey, Hamas has got nothing to do with it and has no opinion about it. The news that  there was some disappointment about the deal in Turkey because the hopes were the Gaza bloccade would be alleviated, made no big impression: Hamas is not involved here and has no comments on the deal.

Then the questions that WERE actually answered…
1. Is Hamas ready to accept a 2-state solution in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? The answer was a loud and clear: yes! This is something that I never heard before and that opens new windows for the future, as the 2-state solution means that the parties involved recognize each other so Hamas is ready to recognize Israel.
2. How does Hamas see the position of women? Hamas wants a democratic state with full rights for women in all positions. Women have the same rights as men and Hamas will work within the framework of international laws set in this respect. The way the society was described here sounded like paradise, certainly more than the Netherlands where we do struggle with some men-women issues in daily life!
3. How about a free press? Hamas admits there is no free press now but they are motivated to have a free press. However it is difficult in the actual circumstances because of (their perception of) the Israeli oppression. The answer is, give Hamas a free Palestinian state and free press will be realized in that new state.
So after this conversation the conclusion can only be: Hamas promises peace. Hamas just made peace with Fatah, and they will make peace with Israel and with international rights like the rights for women and the rights for free journalism.
You can imagine that the group that witnessed this conversation, was excited and ready to give congratulations.

Maybe this blog interests you too: Sderot: 15 seconds to run for your life

 

Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…

chalcolithic child

 

Today I was very moved when I saw the estimated 6500 year old remains of a buried child in the Archaeological Museum  Amman, at the Citadel. The museum shows many artefacts, neutrally placed on glass or wooden shelves. However, this child got special care: it was placed on a soft, warm cushion. Is there a better way for a museum to show that they care? is there a finer way for Jordanians to express their culture of respect?

Culture is not a matter of big flags and statues, although I admit they can be part of it. Culture is often recognized from little, tiny details in daily life, such as the care for a child that has died not just centuries but thousands and thousands of years ago. This museum shows that even after so much time, it is possible to surround a child with love. Wow Jordan… It really touched my heart!

archaeological museum ammanThe museum has some spectacular pieces that in Western museums would be presented with lots of pooha. However here in Amman they are shown in a very modest way. This is a pity because if you do not know, you might overlook the uniqueness of the findings. I spoke very enthusiasticly to a Jordanian woman about the museum and the artefacts I saw there and she thought deeply and said in surprise: ‘I was there but I must have missed that, I do not remember at all’.

So if you go pay a visit to the archaeological museum at the Citadel of Amman, do your homework beforehand and you will enjoy your visit tremendously because nowhere in the world you can find older statues than here: really! And while you’re there, don’t forget to pay your respects to the chalcolithic child that most probably had loving parents and is now taken care of by loving Jordanians.

The sign in front of the child says: ‘The burial of infants in jars was a common custom in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine. The jar was generally placed under the living room floor, possibly to keep the child within the family circle‘. (Ghassul, Chalcolithic).
Chalcolithic means: 5500-3500 BC.

One other real old, real interesting museum: Archaeological Museum Gaziantep, Turkey
And this one, also in Gaziantep: Medusa Glass Museum
And this one, in the Netherlands: Archaeological Museum Haarlem

Forget about the rules. Be human.

forget about the rules   Forget about the rules, be human. That came to my mind this week. Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…

A blog you might find interesting: 500.000 Syrian refugees in Gaziantep
Or this blog: Perceptions of Power

 

Mensa Fonds Awards: why?

why give awards for high intelligence

Mensa Fonds Awards

In 2012-2013, Mensa the Netherlands worked with great enthusiasm to create a ‘daughter’, the Dutch Mensa Foundation. It was inspired by the American Mensa Foundation www.mensafoundation.org that was founded in 1971 already. Somehow no ‘Mensa country’ followed that example so Mensa the Netherlands decided to be the first one and hopes for more Mensa countries to do the same and create a worldwide network of Mensa foundations. Every country has its own motives and issues to fulfill the overall Mensa mission that highly intelligent people cooperate ‘for the benefit of humanity’. What the benefit is, differs by country and that is OK.
In the Netherlands, one of the things we started to do from the very beginning in 2013 is giving Mensa Fonds Awards in the fields of Education, Society and Work. The awards are not given ‘for’ high intelligence; they are given for the role a person played, the example that person shows or the product or service a person invented in that field. We need that in the Netherlands because we have a culture that is rather focused on the ‘average’ and ‘fitting in’ and much less to be ‘out of the box’ and ‘stand out’. Dutch society will benefit a lot with awareness of HIQ potential and active measures to use and develop extraordinary talent. This is why the Awards were created.
Everybody can come up with proposals for nominations – a jury chooses 3 candidates per field that receive an official nomination from our Mensa Foundation. This week, the names of the nominations for 2015 will be published. November 7, everybody is welcome to join the meeting in Leiden where the names of the Mensa Fonds Awards winners will be made public and nominees and winners will be honored! And we are happy that Mensa member professor John Grin will speak at the event about ‘creativity, setback and inspiration’. More info at http://mensafonds.nl/index.php/awards. It is in Dutch but for anyone joining, we will do our best to make you feel home also if your Dutch is limited. Talent and intelligence are transnational indeed, aren’t they! Let’s go for the benefit of humanity in all its aspects…

Another blog that might interest you: Professor Mönks receives international Mensa Award

Read also: Perceptions of Power
Or: Left Handers Day and High Giftedness

Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees

dheepan movie

 

 

Dheepan is somehow a ‘neutral’ movie about refugees as it concerns refugees from Sri Lanka; I worked with many of them in the ’90ties but today we concentrate on other regions as every reader knows. Technically this choice in the movie creates a healthy distance to emotions in actuality. And practically, it makes no difference.
Refugees run for a reason, most often a quite serious one. And yes, they are surrounded by luck-seekers, criminals who have other reasons to flee and economic migrants. Making the difference between one and the other is an ideal but in practice not very easy. However the movie is not about asylum policies and dilemmas, it is about how people flee and become a refugee and how they experience the country in which they arrive.
In this movie, the Sri Lanka refugees find a house and a job in the banlieu of Paris, in one of the worst banlieus – I think the movie maker even wanted to point out that the refugees run from a war to end up in another one. It is as much a complaint against the ‘drugs in banlieu’ situation as about the refugee situation. Specifically, the total lack of law enforcement (no police or authorities at all) surprises the public.
I think the movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the refugees. I recognized every emotion, both in daily life and in the history of violence and resistence that refugees from war and conflict areas bring with them – not as a choice but as a fact. My experience with that is both friendship and work and I found the movie Dheepa shiveringly realistic and very strong in the way of showing the emotional side.
As a former French teacher, I regretted that the refugees end up in England – to their satisfaction – and not somewhere else in France, a country I love. This is, of course, a biased view 🙂 Anyway the movie ends well, which in a world of problems is nice and more encouraging to go and watch the movie than the opposite.
What surprised me is that nowadays every discussion and debate in the Netherlands is about refugees but we were only 8 spectators: 8! in a large cinema. Sometimes I wonder how much indepth knowledge people want about reality – I see loads of over-emotional people and few people able to handle the complexity that comes with refugee issues. Let’s face reality even when it is not simple. Go watch the Dheepan movie, warmly recommended!

Other blogs about refugees:
500.000 Syrian refugees in Gaziantep
Best practices refugees at work
Lore, a movie that silences the public

Amsterdam Heritage Days

amsterdam heritage days

 

Today many ‘hidden’ monuments opened their doors, their treasures for the public in Amsterdam on the occasion of Amsterdam Heritage Days. Most of those monuments look like museums but they are not, they are used in ordinary working or private life every day. Imagine to live in places like that! For example the one on the picture (left), that by the way was only recently found: a ceiling dating back to 1585 (!), one of the oldest in Amsterdam and not comparable to anything that you have seen before…
Or the spectacular walls, mirrors and ceilings in the backpart of the Bartolotti house (1755) that is being restaured now to function as a museum and a place to gather.
huis bartolotti amsterdam heritage days  huis bartolotti 2 amsterdam heritage days Ok it was a very very rich guy who built this – he inherited loads of money from an uncle in Italy, this was not for everybody in Amsterdam at that time. He spent the money well, leaving us a heritage that makes people happy. We stood in a long row to enter this place…. but it was worth it. If you visit Amsterdam, keep an eye on this; most problably it will be officially opened as a museum somewhere in 2016.
hammerstein advocaten amsterdam heritage days Another spectacular monument is the Hammerstein Lawyers Office in the 17th century ‘Golden Curve’ of the Amsterdam canals. It is difficult to describe the beauty of that place. Imagine it was your office! 17th and 18th century paintings, mirrors, doors and fireplaces… The marble entrance to the stairs is completely original from the 17th century.hammerstein advocaten 2 amsterdam heritage days  hammerstein advocaten 3

Thanks to organisations like the National Musical Instrument Fund, the Hendrick de Keijser association and Hammerstein Lawyers, both tourists and locals could enjoy many hidden treasures in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Heritage Day is a great tradition.

More Heritage in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank House

Amsterdam-Tel Aviv twinning at CIDI: pffff….

amsterdam tel aviv I got an invitation to a meeting at CIDI about Amsterdam-Tel Aviv as potentially twinning cities, quite a heavy debate at this moment in Amsterdam because the leftist parties in our city council have turned against it out of fear to introduce the problems of that region to Amsterdam. A matter of overconfidence in the city council’s powers, by the way, because the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision…
The main reason for me to go to the meeting was that CIDI invited Eytan Schwartz, the senior political advisor to the mayor for this issue, and Mickey Gitzin, member of the left-liberal Meretz party in the Tel Aviv city council. So this was an opportunity to get direct information from people involved, an opportunity not to be missed.
Arriving at the CIDI was the first painful moment. I pass the Anne Frank House and the Hollandse Schouwburg several times a week, and here I saw the same thing: the police protection unit that is now, in Amsterdam 2015, permanently there (see the picture above). A reality that does not become normal in our city that is so free in general…
Moreover I had to pass a guard, a special fence, a double door at the entrance and then I was in… and nobody seemed to bother. I expected some kind of reception but there was none. So as a new person I decided to direct towards the coffee corner just to give myself an attitude and I was not disappointed there, like in many places the women do the hospitality, they were very nice and made me feel more at ease.
The meeting did not disappoint me in the sense that the guests were brilliant. They explained very clearly what Tel Aviv is like, how they work, what they want to achieve (a great city for their citizens, not creating peace for the whole world but building a better day-to-day life which contains also ‘boring’ aspects like the sewing system). They showed that Tel Aviv is a vibrant and tolerant city that could exchange in many aspects with Amsterdam to the benefit of both cities. Their aim is not to do diplomacy but to come to practical solutions that work.
Also they impressed me with their explanation of how they deal with the complexity of the region they live in: they got very, very critical questions from the public at the CIDI meeting and they were capable to explain their private moral standards, dilemmas, decisions in a way that is rare to hear. I learned more from them in an hour than I learned in the whole last week and maybe even month. I love to learn so they made my day. I could have learned more, though…
The meeting did disappoint me when it comes to the point ‘public’. There were some people in the public who already seemed to know what they thought and approached the guests from Tel Aviv with questions that were not meant to get information but to make them ‘accountable’ for all Israeli politics. This was not just tiresome, it was also offensive and I felt embarrassed at several occasions. Two things they said surprised me in particular. 1. that Tel Aviv would have a right wing majority of 51%; a factual statement that anybody who prepares meetings would have looked up in advance but apparently that guy didn’t mind to do the preparation effort – so the guests explained, 31 seats in the Tel Aviv city council, 2 for Likud, 3 for religious parties, 5 seats in total, not exactly the alleged 51%. And 2. blaming Tel Aviv, a city of 450.000 inhabitants, for being inadequate in dealing with 60.000 refugees, while at this very moment the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, is showing a hard attitude in European negotiations to invite just a few thousand refugees from the Mediterranean – some self reflection is useful at times!
What impressed me also emotionally is the remark of Eytan Schwarz about how he works on good things for citizens and ideals and many positive steps to make this world a better place and then is often confronted with negative emotions about Israel that are projected on him as a person; his self awareness and also his strength of vulnerability to say this in public. Wow. And the remark of Mickey Gitzin, short and to the point among all these prejudices of life in the Middle East commented on (my wording, not his) from Amsterdam sofas: talk less, listen more. So true. And it would have made this meeting so much more interesting because the guests had a lot to tell but not everybody was ready to hear, to listen, they just wanted to make their point about their opinion about Israel versus Palestine, and about perceived immorality of Israelians, even the guys in front of their nose, no dialogue nothing, very strange.
Thanks Cidi for organising. It was only 2 hours but I was dead tired after this meeting – not their fault and I learned a lot and also got inspired. But I also worry because of what I saw.
As I said above, the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision, the meeting made that very clear… So the best the city council can do is to make sure that we will not loose the dialogue Amsterdam-Tel Aviv and to organise that we will meet as humans: not to discuss the big issues of world peace as long as we are not the UN-president, but to make the daily life of our citizens better with practical projects and solutions found across borders.

PS In 2017 I visited Tel Aviv, in these two blogs are some impressions:
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2016/07/05/recycling-plastic-tel-aviv/
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2016/07/01/security-tel-aviv/

Taxi Teheran

taxi teheran  Taxi Teheran

How to make a movie that is only playing in a taxi and does not bore any minute? Taxi Teheran is a succesfull try-out of that concept although not by free choice alone. Jafar Panahi, maker of the movie and also its main character has a history of struggling with censure and oppression in his country Iran. He is not allowed to make movies during 20 years and this movie, Taxi Teheran, was made secretly and smuggled out of the country.
The movie is very funny with many surprising moments, and it has a groundtune of sadness underneath. As such, it is very Iranian: Iranians usually are well developed, social, bright and full of life, they know how to make the best out of difficult circumstances. But that does not mean that they do not feel the difficult circumstances, especially the oppression.
In Taxi Teheran we see a wonderful mix of people entering and leaving Jafar Panahi’s taxi. Even the concept ‘taxi’ in Teheran is different from other countries and that in itself creates unexpected situations. Taxi Teheran shows a lot of interesting interaction between a variety of inhabitants of Teheran. And it gives some great insights in the well developed double face of Iran, in survival and creativity against the odds.

Other movies I wrote blogs about and that you might like:
Banana pancakes and the childres of the sticky rice
Visages villages

A tribute to Charleston victims

tribute to charleston victims

Tomb unknown slave New Orleans Made out of chains

Tribute to Charleston victims

Yesterday we were shocked by the death of 9 black people who were shot for the very reason of being black. This is the kind of tragedy that cannot be put into words – it is the downside of humanity, or should I say inhumanity. We cannot believe that it happened, but it did in Charleston, USA today.

As a tribute to the victims, I re-publish a part of my diary about the international diversity conference in New Orleans 2006 (yes, shortly after hurricane Katrina). May the strength of people who were slaves, who protested against slavery and who protest against the remaining infections of that period, be blessed and reinforced. May their tears be dried by soulmates and friends.

tribute charleston victims

Tomb unknown slave New Orleans

Building by remembering (New Orleans, June 11, 2006)
By coincidence we walked into a church, just because the door was opened. It appeared to be the only door where in the time of slavery, banks were bought by free black people for slaves to sit upon. Outside of the church we find, unique in the USA, the grave of the unknown slave (the photo on top). A place that makes you silent. A sign of resistance, a sign of hope. It confirms the thesis of the Museum of Art, that the future is built by commemorating the past, not by forgetting it. The power to rebuilt a town like New Orleans can be found in that concept. Because it is sure that people will rebuild the town. And the question of the future is for whom they will rebuild the city (black or white).

I remember that we asked who was in the grave of the unknown slave. The answer was: no one in particular. So many slaves died here, they were buried all around so all of the ground in New Orleans is sacred, the church people said. This made me as silent as the Charleston murders did yesterday.

A blog that might interest you: Who tells your history? and other questions
Or this blog: White Anger
A publication related to this subject (in Dutch): Zoek een filantroop voor Slavernijmuseum

 

Green Line Nicosia – Cyprus

green line nicosia saray hotel 4   nicosia green line saray hotel 5
Look at the Green Line Nicosia – Cyprus from above in these pictures and you can easily see 2 cities here: the Turkish one, in front and the Greek one, further away.nicosia green line UN post Nicosia Invisible here, inbetween the two city parts lies the Green Line, a 100 meter large strip where the UN rules since 40 years (!) to separate the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots… Easy to understand how bored the UN-soldiers are here, they just ride around in expensive UN-cars as there is nothing else to do. The fighting has stopped long ago and the frontier is even ‘open’ since 2003 at three points at the Green Line Nicosia. Parties make small steps forward that symbolize progress like the abolishment of giving stamps every time a person crosses the transit point; this step was the first result of the new peace negotiations that started 2 weeks ago. It lead to quite some confusion especially at the Turkish side: the protocol had to change but Turkish officials love stamps – clearly that was really a thing to give up for them 🙂 Anyway the international community was investing here at least 30 years in vain, paying for useless UN-presence, boycoting the North / Turkish side without any result. For how long will we continue to do so? And why?
Nnicosia green line greek soil versus turkish sideinicosia green line turkish soil versus greek sidecosia could be a beautiful and flourishing city but it is not because it has no heart but a Green Line, a real wall in the middle of it: see the pictures, where we walk on the Greek side with theTurkish Cypriot and Turkish flags on the old city walls, and the walk on the Turkish side limited by a sudden wall to stop us going to the Greek side: no entrance, no photographs allowed either by the way.
I found the transit point at Ledra Palace the most sad one I have seen so far, although there are several peace seeking initiatives in the buildings there (and also the German Goethe Institut as if nothing happened, very funny). This transit point is at the Greek side surrounded by despair, no investment, no renovation, and even 40 year old remains of fighting (kept there deliberately?):
nicosia green line house at ledra palace  nicosia green line remains of fighting close to ledra palace
Coming from the city of Amsterdam where we love to restore houses and to let original beauty come out at the max, I have to say my hands were itching to take on the job. But well, there is certainly a reason for the non-investment and Nicosia will stay a city without a heart untill the political problems are solved – I hope: soon!

What to do in Nicosia as a tourist? Go to the Museum of the history of Cypriot coinage.

Want to read political stuff? Read about the so-called Freedom Day in Northern Cyprus

Street cats in Adana (Turkey)

street cat in adanaStreet cats in Adana
Yesterday I wrote about the street cats in Cyprus; that they are somehow loved, although the fact that they exist in such large numbers shows that the Cypriots do not deal enough with this problem: http://grethevangeffen.nl/2015/06/02/street-cats-in-cyprus/. For street cats in Adana, however, the situation is worse. It can be seen from tstreet cats in adana - kittenhe street cats’ behaviour, they are afraid. It was almost impossible to take pictures of street cats because they would run away immediately like this very small and sad kitten. It really panicked, terrible; it did not think ‘hey here is a friend that will give me some food’. The only cat I could photograph quitely was a sick cat, also quite sad: street cats in adana
If we think that animal behaviour is an expression of local values, there is quite some development work to do for street cats in Adana – they can learn from Cyprus or from Istanbul where things have developed better already for street cats: http://grethevangeffen.nl/2012/03/03/istanbul-and-its-street-cats/.
When cats are either afraid or ill, local values need reflection!

A blog about the great documentary Kedi that follows street cats in Istanbul.

Elections in Turkey

elections in turkey 0  Elections in Turkey are coming up and it is impossible to overlook them! I went to a trade mission in Adana and Mersin last week with the Dutch ambassador, his team and other entrepreneurs and we saw and heard the elections everywhere. Cars with loudspeakers shout out their messages: ‘Hey Adana’ and then the text of their campaign follows in a volume that forms an interruption for your conversation – just wait untill they passed to continue.
There are flags and banners everywhere, on the houses, over the street, over the river… think of a spot and the politicians did too.

Here some interesting pictures:
elections in turkey 2

 

CHP relatively modest on a roundabout;

 

elections in turkey 2

 

 

The ruling AK party: ‘Now I can go to university with my veil; they just talk, AK party acts‘;

 

elections in turkey 3

 

A big flag from the MHP party (grey wolves, a big party in Adana) and smaller – below the flag – a sign of the Saadet party: ‘not the European union but Islam union‘ (union is the same word as unity in Turkish);

elections in turkey 4

 

A big flag of the MHP over the road – busses and bigger cars can not go under it without touching the flag so it is damaged on the lower side but the effect is there I guess. In most countries this would be forbidden;

 

elections in turkey 5

 

 

Not everybody is good in flags: the wind has frustrated the Salih Demir message here…

 

In the Netherlands it happens that people forget to vote. I don’t think that can happen here. Nevertheless it does not make politics more popular in Turkey than in the Netherlands; most people that I asked did not like the overall political presence.

Other blogs you might like:
Turkish news leaving me flabbergasted and exhausted…
Kurtulus son durak – Turkish film festival