January 2, 2014
The Trials and Hopes of a Jordanian Named Yitzhak Rabin

TEL AVIV – Yitzhak Rabin Namsy is, by all appearances, a regular Israeli teenager. The 17-year-old wears a Jewish skullcap, keeps the Sabbath, and upholds many of the faith’s other commandments (mitzvot). Like many Israelis his age, he dreams of enlisting in the Israeli army and fighting as a combat soldier on behalf of the Jewish state. Yet there is nothing normal about Namsy’s life story, beginning with his first and middle names, given to him in memory of the former Israeli prime minister, who was assassinated in 1995 just a few months before the boy’s birth. Then there’s the fact that Yitzhak Rabin isn’t even officially Jewish, let alone Israeli, but a Jordanian Muslim. Forced to flee his country of birth when he was a baby, Yitzhak, along with his parents, has been living as an exile in Israel for nearly 16 years—all because of a name.
These days, Yitzhak and his mother, Miriam, are waiting for the Israeli government to follow through on promises and extend them permanent residency in their adopted home. Since their arrival in Israel in 1998, both mother and son have been living as temporary residents—a status subject to periodic renewal and an unsettling state of affairs given that a return to Jordan is, for them, literally a matter of life and death.
Responses to the family’s petitions from the Israeli Interior Ministry have dragged on for years, but a positive resolution is finally, according to the family’s lawyer, expected soon. The ordeal has made headlines in the local press over the past couple months amid Yitzhak’s efforts to enlist in the military. When reached by phone recently, Yitzhak seemed tired of the press attention.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The Trials and Hopes of a Jordanian Named Yitzhak Rabin

TEL AVIV – Yitzhak Rabin Namsy is, by all appearances, a regular Israeli teenager. The 17-year-old wears a Jewish skullcap, keeps the Sabbath, and upholds many of the faith’s other commandments (mitzvot). Like many Israelis his age, he dreams of enlisting in the Israeli army and fighting as a combat soldier on behalf of the Jewish state. Yet there is nothing normal about Namsy’s life story, beginning with his first and middle names, given to him in memory of the former Israeli prime minister, who was assassinated in 1995 just a few months before the boy’s birth. Then there’s the fact that Yitzhak Rabin isn’t even officially Jewish, let alone Israeli, but a Jordanian Muslim. Forced to flee his country of birth when he was a baby, Yitzhak, along with his parents, has been living as an exile in Israel for nearly 16 years—all because of a name.

These days, Yitzhak and his mother, Miriam, are waiting for the Israeli government to follow through on promises and extend them permanent residency in their adopted home. Since their arrival in Israel in 1998, both mother and son have been living as temporary residents—a status subject to periodic renewal and an unsettling state of affairs given that a return to Jordan is, for them, literally a matter of life and death.

Responses to the family’s petitions from the Israeli Interior Ministry have dragged on for years, but a positive resolution is finally, according to the family’s lawyer, expected soon. The ordeal has made headlines in the local press over the past couple months amid Yitzhak’s efforts to enlist in the military. When reached by phone recently, Yitzhak seemed tired of the press attention.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

December 18, 2013
What Happens When a Millennial Becomes a Refugee?

Where the divergent lives of American and Syrian 20-somethings intersect.
Read more. [Image: Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

What Happens When a Millennial Becomes a Refugee?

Where the divergent lives of American and Syrian 20-somethings intersect.

Read more. [Image: Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

December 17, 2013
The Middle East’s Snowstorm, Viewed from Space

We’ve seen the amazing photos of the uncharacteristically early and intense snowstorm that blanketed the Middle East last week (and if you haven’t, head on over to In Focus), but sometimes you just can’t beat the view from 440 miles above Earth’s surface. On Monday, NASA released the image below, taken by Terra, a more than 11,000-pound satellite roughly the size of a small school bus.
Read more. [Image: NASA]

The Middle East’s Snowstorm, Viewed from Space

We’ve seen the amazing photos of the uncharacteristically early and intense snowstorm that blanketed the Middle East last week (and if you haven’t, head on over to In Focus), but sometimes you just can’t beat the view from 440 miles above Earth’s surface. On Monday, NASA released the image below, taken by Terra, a more than 11,000-pound satellite roughly the size of a small school bus.

Read more. [Image: NASA]

September 25, 2013
Jordan: China’s Gateway to the Middle East

AMMAN, JORDAN—A pair of golden dragons crowns the inflatable red archway in front of Amman’s International Motor Show Center, guarding the entrance to a exhibition ground featuring more than 32,000 square feet of machinery, solar panels, car seats, wind turbines, LED street lights and gas station equipment. Inside, Chinese salesgirls march around the booths with clipboards, dressed in black skirts and high heels. Arab men in business suits, accompanied by their wives, stroll about in small groups, stopping every once in a while to look at the assembled products and give out business cards. Chinese, Arabic and English buzz through the air: “Ya salaam, I need the NC double cutter,” “We make visa for your engineer to come,” “You know Hebei? Hebei very cheap!”
Welcome to the 10th annual China Fair Jordan 2013, an event proclaiming itself the “Largest China Fair in the Near East.” Set in two weeklong sessions in September, the exhibition features over a thousand Chinese suppliers displaying 12,000 made-in-China products for customers from across the Middle East.
The fair coincides with King Abdullah II’s trip to China this week, which is the Jordanian monarch’s 7th official state visit to the country since 1999. As the world negotiates over neighboring Syria and the Jordanian people worry about refugees and chemical attack, Abdullah is touring the Huawei research center, Shanghai’s Jinqiao economic zone, and the first China-Arab States Expo in Ningxia, a northwestern province known for its sizeable Muslim minority. King Abdullah’s interest in China reflects the closer ties between the two countries; Chinese-Jordanian trade has grown at steady double-digit rates in the last decade and China is now Jordan’s 3rd largest trade partner, all while war and political instability have thrown Jordan’s neighbors into turmoil.
Read more. [Image: Feng Li/AP]

Jordan: China’s Gateway to the Middle East

AMMAN, JORDAN—A pair of golden dragons crowns the inflatable red archway in front of Amman’s International Motor Show Center, guarding the entrance to a exhibition ground featuring more than 32,000 square feet of machinery, solar panels, car seats, wind turbines, LED street lights and gas station equipment. Inside, Chinese salesgirls march around the booths with clipboards, dressed in black skirts and high heels. Arab men in business suits, accompanied by their wives, stroll about in small groups, stopping every once in a while to look at the assembled products and give out business cards. Chinese, Arabic and English buzz through the air: “Ya salaam, I need the NC double cutter,” “We make visa for your engineer to come,” “You know Hebei? Hebei very cheap!”

Welcome to the 10th annual China Fair Jordan 2013, an event proclaiming itself the “Largest China Fair in the Near East.” Set in two weeklong sessions in September, the exhibition features over a thousand Chinese suppliers displaying 12,000 made-in-China products for customers from across the Middle East.

The fair coincides with King Abdullah II’s trip to China this week, which is the Jordanian monarch’s 7th official state visit to the country since 1999. As the world negotiates over neighboring Syria and the Jordanian people worry about refugees and chemical attack, Abdullah is touring the Huawei research center, Shanghai’s Jinqiao economic zone, and the first China-Arab States Expo in Ningxia, a northwestern province known for its sizeable Muslim minority. King Abdullah’s interest in China reflects the closer ties between the two countries; Chinese-Jordanian trade has grown at steady double-digit rates in the last decade and China is now Jordan’s 3rd largest trade partner, all while war and political instability have thrown Jordan’s neighbors into turmoil.

Read more. [Image: Feng Li/AP]

September 11, 2013
Anti-Americanism Spreads in Syrian Refugee Camps

ZAATARI, Jordan — For some, it’s the nearby airport. The loud jet engines jolt them out of bed at night. For others, it’s the rat-tat-tat of gunfire common in Jordanian weddings — it’s marriage season in Amman — or the popping sound of firecrackers that went off during Eid and on the night of local elections here. I heard a story about a young Syrian girl who refused to enter a building with a security guard in front. Her father was killed right in front of her eyes by a Syrian policeman, so whenever she sees somebody in uniform, she cries.
There is real concern among aid workers here in the sprawling refugee camp for displaced Syrians that younger generations of Syrian youths will know only violence and war, a sad bookend to the hope and high expectations of the Arab Spring that set off the Syrian uprising two years ago.
The vast majority of Syrian children scattered throughout the region are not holed up in camps, however. They are “invisible,” scattered in crowded apartments, often arranged through family connections. Some are “bailed out” of camps — the term for when local Jordanians sponsor a refugee family. On a recent, blazing-hot day in August, a dozen or so children kicked a soccer ball outside a ramshackle apartment bloc in downtown Irbid, a dusty city not far from the Syrian border. A trash heap nearby was smoldering. Empty water guns littered the entranceway.
Over a million Syrians have fled the war over the past six months, bringing the total outside the country up to 2 million. Half of them are children. Whether or not the U.S. intervenes, that overall figure is expected to climb to over 3 million by year’s end. UNHCR officials describe it as the worst refugee crisis in 20 years. “Why don’t Americans and your media pay attention to this crisis?” Ahmad Hasan, who worked as a taxi driver outside Aleppo until his family fled to Amman earlier this year, asked me.
Read more. [Image: Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Anti-Americanism Spreads in Syrian Refugee Camps

ZAATARI, Jordan — For some, it’s the nearby airport. The loud jet engines jolt them out of bed at night. For others, it’s the rat-tat-tat of gunfire common in Jordanian weddings — it’s marriage season in Amman — or the popping sound of firecrackers that went off during Eid and on the night of local elections here. I heard a story about a young Syrian girl who refused to enter a building with a security guard in front. Her father was killed right in front of her eyes by a Syrian policeman, so whenever she sees somebody in uniform, she cries.

There is real concern among aid workers here in the sprawling refugee camp for displaced Syrians that younger generations of Syrian youths will know only violence and war, a sad bookend to the hope and high expectations of the Arab Spring that set off the Syrian uprising two years ago.

The vast majority of Syrian children scattered throughout the region are not holed up in camps, however. They are “invisible,” scattered in crowded apartments, often arranged through family connections. Some are “bailed out” of camps — the term for when local Jordanians sponsor a refugee family. On a recent, blazing-hot day in August, a dozen or so children kicked a soccer ball outside a ramshackle apartment bloc in downtown Irbid, a dusty city not far from the Syrian border. A trash heap nearby was smoldering. Empty water guns littered the entranceway.

Over a million Syrians have fled the war over the past six months, bringing the total outside the country up to 2 million. Half of them are children. Whether or not the U.S. intervenes, that overall figure is expected to climb to over 3 million by year’s end. UNHCR officials describe it as the worst refugee crisis in 20 years.

“Why don’t Americans and your media pay attention to this crisis?” Ahmad Hasan, who worked as a taxi driver outside Aleppo until his family fled to Amman earlier this year, asked me.

Read more. [Image: Umit Bektas/Reuters]

July 19, 2013
In Jordan, the Arab Spring Isn’t Over

The country’s leadership must realize that growing authoritarianism won’t foster stability.
Read more. [Image: Muhammad Hamed]

In Jordan, the Arab Spring Isn’t Over

The country’s leadership must realize that growing authoritarianism won’t foster stability.

Read more. [Image: Muhammad Hamed]

January 10, 2013

In Focus: Wintry Weather: Middle East Edition

Following up on yesterday’s essay Wintry Weather, I was struck by photographs of the unusually heavy winter storm that just blanketed many Middle Eastern countries in snow. I discovered a wide range of unique images, from Saudis tossing snowballs to Israelis on sleds to the newly white roofs of Istanbul. Gathered here are a handful of those images, showing that, despite the harshness of the storm, some were able to find a moment of joy in the rare snowfall.

See more. [Images: AP, Reuters, Getty]

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