There IS Such a Thing as a Free Lunch in Buenos Aires

The afternoon sun shines on the narrow strip of Puerto Madero, a trendy Buenos Aires, Argentina neighborhood situated near the banking district's sky scrapers. Tourists stroll down cobble stone streets, admiring a bank-sponsored art exhibit of decorated cow statues.  Argentines with money to burn sip lattes on shaded patios. At first glance, the prosperity is overwhelming. Yet in Buenos Aires, particularly since Argentina's financial collapse at the end of 2001, poverty and wealth have become unlikely neighbors.


A History of Disaster: Land and Religion in Israel and Palestine

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
When the sun sets on the holy city of Jerusalem, the thick limestone buildings are cast in a shimmering gold light. The ancient Old City contains the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian Quarters, and the religious mood is palpable in every alleyway. On Friday nights the air is thick with Hebrew singing welcoming in the Sabbath, mingling with the Arabic call to prayer from the mosques, and church bells peal through the dusk. The interconnection between land conflict and religious conflict is clearest in the Old City of Jerusalem where the Western Wall borders the Dome of the Rock. The Western Wall which stands today is part of the second temple complex which was gradually rebuilt by the Jews upon the ruins of the first temple when they returned from exile. After a period of rule by the Greeks, Jerusalem was incorporated into Roman-occupied Palestine in 63 BC, and when the Jews revolted against the Romans in 70 AD the second temple was destroyed. The part of the Western wall which remains standing is believed to be the closest place to the Holy of Holies that Jews are allowed to go.


Movement Control: Navigating the Checkpoints of Palestine

The desert sun slants down, filtering through the dust and car exhaust. We shift our weight from one foot to the next, babies from hips to shoulders. Packages are set on the ground in resignation. Women in brightly embroidered thobes, traditional Palestinian dress, discreetly loosen their headscarves to allow a little air to pass over their throats. We are trying to get from one place to the next, and have been bottlenecked into a checkpoint. There are more than fifty-seven checkpoints in Palestine's West Bank, each one with a series of metal detectors and narrow cattle-shoot passages that one must pass through to reach the Israeli soldiers who staff them. Leaning against their sandbags, guns and ammo hanging from their chests, the soldiers lazily flip through each person's passport or ID card and then make the decision; to be let through, to be questioned further, or to be pulled to the side for a full investigation. It is a wild card every time.


Palestine: A Tale of Two Families

In June, 2005 I visited the Hope Flowers School in the town of Al Khadr, located in the West Bank territory of the Middle East occupied by Israel, also known as Palestine.  Six kilometers outside of Bethlehem, the school implements a peace and democracy curriculum and was developed in response to the high level of violence the region has experienced.   I interviewed two peace activists whose stories highlight the different realities the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel created for Jews and Muslims.


Israel-Palestine: Solutions in the Midst of Crisis

International media has failed itself in covering the conflict in Israel and Palestine.  Following the standard tenet, "if it bleeds, it leads," newspapers, radio, and the internet have continued to showcase the gore and ignore the solution-oriented work that many people in the region have dedicated themselves to.  During a recent trip to Palestine, I stayed in the home of Fatima Khaldi in Qarawa Bani Hassan, a town in the West Bank continually threatened with the construction of the separation wall.  Fatima founded and directs the organization Women for Life in the village of Biddya.  Her group has a range of purposes, which revolve around empowering Palestinian women to take charge of their lives and become involved in politics. [Photo: Doors recovered from bombed homes, painted by children's art therapy group, Nablus, West Bank]