(Deutsch) SW #111

Muawiya personified ‘hilm’, the wisdom and patience of the Arab sheikh: “I apply not my sword when my lash suffices nor my lash when my tongue suffices. And even if but one hair is binding me to my fellow men, I don’t let it break. When they pull, I loosen, if they loosen I pull.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, “Jerusalem. The Biography”.

Gunter Voelker, owner of "Deutscher Hof" Erbil, Irak

Gunter, the German Cook in Iraq

Gunter Voelker, owner of "Deutscher Hof" Erbil, Irak

This is Gunter, he owns a German restaurant in Iraq, in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Ordering a beer in his restaurant was a small home-coming for me. Because the beer was brewed 10km away from where I grew up. The food Gunter cooked was the same my grandma always prepared for me.

Gunter comes from a small town in Thuriniga, in the middle of Germany. Him owning a restaurant in Iraq was not a propect he could have fathomed some 25 years earlier. It was the fall of 1989 when he went for “a walk” and demanded freedom of movement, when he demonstrated against the government of the German Democratic Republic. In a childish move of vengeance this government enlisted him for military service. A couple of weeks later the Wall came down and the East-German forces were reunited with their West-German counterparts. Gunter stayed in the army and did what he had learned. He cooked. In Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Kabul. It was in the Afghan capital that he opened his first restaurant in 2003. Times were good at that time in Afghanistan. Everybody was optimistic, Gunter recalls. With every bomb attack this optimism vanished further, making him closing his restaurant in the process. 30.000 Euros were lost. He started again in Iraq. Same story here: many Internationals, optimism, no competition. This time it worked. Gunter wants to open his next restaurant on the island of Sri Lanka.

When I was asking Gunter what he thinks of Germany, if he would go back, he replied: “What could I possibly want there?”

Shoeshine Boy in Dohuk Iraq

Get rhythm – Shoeshine Boy in Iraq

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street

Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues

He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Shoeshine Boy in Dohuk Iraq

– text by johnny cash –

Before the Storm

Tower of David, November 2012

IDF soldiers block the way for Palstinian Olive farmers near the village of Salem in the West Bank, October 2012 (1) (6)


IDF soldiers block the way for Palstinian Olive farmers in the West Bank, October 2012 (4)

One of the soldiers we encountered at the Olive Tour, caught my attention because he looked like a big boy with a gun. He was born in Chicago and described his job in the West Bank as follows: “I protect the settlers from the Palestinians and the Palestinians from the Settlers.”

Hat Tip: While I was busy taking pictures and keeping my distance Vanessa just started talking to the soldier – and shared his story afterwards. Danke!

(Deutsch) SW #94

Landscapes, in childhood’s dream, were so vast and silent. We looked backward through our memory for the prototype upon which all men had walked, between walls, toward such an open square as that in front where the road seems to end.

T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) describing Wadi Rum

(Deutsch) SW #93

Greeting me sternly, [Lloyd George] remarked that complaints of me were reaching him from Jews and Arabs alike. I answered that this was all too probable, imagining for a moment from his tone that he was leading up to my resignation. “Well”, he said as we sat down, “If either side stops complaining, you’ll be dismissed.

Sir Ronald Storr, britischer Gouverneur von Jerusalem in den 1920er Jahren

Eliaz Cohen – Poet, Settler, Leftist

This is Eliaz Cohen, a remarkable man. A religious poet, a settler, a leftist. He was the reason I went to Kfar Etzion: I wrote a portrait of him for Zeit Online. My favorite poem of him:

Snow on bleeding Jerusalem
as though bandaging her wounds
all rests in tranquility now
filling the cracks of yearning in the Wall
children in your streets, Jerusalem
the sons of Isaac and Ishmael
are staging white wars
(and their blows are soft)
even the pigeons are hurrying today
cooing because they have found new footprints
on the way leading up to the Gate of Mercy

Good Morning!

2012-12-27 14.51.44-1

Petra, Jordanien, 2012

(Deutsch) SW #88

Once you retire from the service, you become a bit of a leftist.

Yaacov Peri, former chief of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic secret service that is responsible for the Palestinian territories. Quote from the documentary “The Gatekeepers”. 

(Deutsch) SW #77

All the players in the Middle East do [moral double bookkeeping]. They keep one set of moral books, which proclaim how righteous they are, to show the outside world, and one set of moral books, which proclaim how ruthless they are, to show each other.

Thomas Friedman, “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, Anchor Books 1990, p. 165