the Anis Hamadeh Phenomenon

Anis Hamadeh is part of that rare breed known as a renaissance man with heart. He is a singer and a poet, an artist and a journalist, performs satirical comedy, and has an amazing website called Anis Online.

Anis Online is a journalistic art website in German, English, French and Arabic with over 2000 pages. It contains music, poetry and prose, essays, children's stories, satires, interviews, media reviews, Palestiniana, Orient Online, drawings, a Beatles page, and a lot more.

Check out this little promo video for Anis' new stage show. The promo is a work of art all by itself.

Anis was also kind enough to interview Green Olive Tours Senior Guide, Yahav Zohar. The interview is below and can also be viewed in English and German at Anis' website at this link.

Question 1: How did you get involved with Green Olive Tours?

Yahav Zohar: I have been working with Green Olive Tours Director, Fred Schlomka, for many years. Both of us have been involved with ICAHD, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and with political and cultural tourism. The mission of Green Olive Tours is also my professional philosophy, of blending traditional tourism - visiting historical and religious sites - with helping clients develop a deeper understanding of the culture and politics of Israel and Palestine.

Question 2: What is your role in Green Olive Tours and your tasks as Senior Guide?

Yahav Zohar: I plan to be part of the ongoing growth of Green Olive Tours, bringing my special expertise to bear on developing new tours and expanding our reach. My current projects are developing a Spanish language website and also a Hebrew language website to outreach to Israelis. In addition we will soon be offering new itineraries to Christian pilgrims that will combine traditional pilgrimage with visits to Palestinian and Israeli religious clerics, and with peace and justice NGOs.

Question 3: We met in Germany last year when you lectured about the political situation in Palestine/Israel. Can you tell us a little more about your background and work?
Yahav Zohar: I was born in Jerusalem and have lived here all my life. I guess you can say living in Jerusalem means being involved in politics. Growing up in Jewish West Jerusalem we were raised with the vague threat of Arabs who want to kill us and the reality of the Palestinian menial laborers doing our gardening, construction etc.

By my early 20s there was no escaping the fact that Israel was very far from the ideals espoused by my grandparents who had immigrated to help build it.

Democracy was sliding towards fascism and in the West Bank military government was taking on many of the characteristics of the Apartheid my grandmother had been so active against in South Africa.

Luckily, the army rejected me for combat duty, and I was put to work writing and producing documentaries for the Israeli Army Radio, where I got a relatively benign look at the bluntness and arbitrariness of the military system.

After three years in the military radio I was hired by Israel's second biggest daily newspaper, where I finally understood mass media thrives on fear, and that by working there I could only be part of the problem. 

Leaving the newspaper, and in a sense dropping out of the system, I worked from home as a translator of books and academic publications. This allowed me time and freedom to study and read widely as well as seek out ways to help end the occupation and promote a more just and sustainable political solution. 

Over the past five years I've been involved with several initiatives and organizations for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, for non-violent political change, and a sustainable political solution. At the same time I have studied the history, archeology and religions of Israel-Palestine, out of a growing interest in the power of national myths and real and imagined histories in motivating present day strife, and potentially in ending it. 

Since I am constantly trying to understand our situation, I find it very useful to explain what I've learned and discuss it with others. This is what brought me to start giving political tours of East Jerusalem and then the rest of the country, and this is also why I enjoy traveling and meeting other interested people to try and think together of ways of promoting political change. 

We met last year in Mainz when I came to speak at the university there. This was part of a month long trip in Germany, where I spoke in peoples homes, churches, political meetings and even the Human Rights Committee of the Bundestag. 

Over and over again in Europe we face the division between "Pro-Israeli" and "Pro-Palestinian" activists. As far as I can tell, the first means supporting some Israeli fantasy of waking up one day and finding all Palestinians somehow disappeared, and the other means supporting a Palestinian fantasy of Israelis somehow disappearing.

The truth, at this time, is there are about 5.5 million Arabs and 5.5 million Jews in this country, and most of them are not going anywhere. I am constantly trying to shift the discussion to the realm of workable solutions - how can these people live together? 

In Germany I spoke a lot of the German government policies of supporting the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, as well as giving German weapons to the Israeli army maintaining that siege and occupation, as destructive policies that must be rethought.

Question 4: What kinds of people use the service of Green Olive Tours and which of the many tours you offer are preferred by them?
Yahav Zohar: We get a very wide variety of clients, from independent tourists and backpackers who join one or two day tours to get a better understanding of the country, to those who come with us for several weeks to stay with local families. They range from all walks of life, including college students, families, corporate executives, and professionals. Some of our guests join local activists in their work and experience the day-to-day life in Palestinian and Israeli towns and villages. Our seven to fourteen-day pilgrimage and study tours attract groups for whom we combine the normal visits to holy and historical sites with meetings with local activists and encounters with the social and political realities of Israel-Palestine today.

Question 5: What is your comment on the present situation in the country, July 2011?
Yahav Zohar:
Today, as I write to you, the Israeli press is full of reports on the international flotilla to Gaza. I am constantly amazed at the level of paranoia expressed in these reports- a few hundred non-violent activists are seen as a threat to our security. The government is putting out rumors of how dangerous these people are, and apparently conducting secret sabotage operations against their ships in foreign ports. There is virtually no discussion of why Gaza is under naval siege, why the flotilla organizers oppose it, and certainly no discussion of what might be Israel's long term plans versus the huge open air prison that is the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, right wing extremists have been blocking streets and conducting mass protests against the decision to bring charges against a rabbi who wrote that it is permissible to kill non-Jews if they pose any threat to Jews, even a potential economic threat (!)

Fundamentalism and extreme racism is brewing, and the prime minister had disdained to make any comment about this. Instead he keeps talking of the dangers of the non-violent international activists. 

Israel, in short, continues to slip towards fascism and state-sanctioned racism, and the government uses anything to try to distract attention from the actual situation and present the public with imaginary foreign threats.

At the same time, birds are singing in my garden, and, generally speaking, life is peaceful and well provided for most Israeli Jews. I still enjoy almost unlimited freedom of speech, and I still believe there are many Israelis who understand time is working against us, and can be brought into joint non-violent struggle with Palestinians and international volunteers to bring about a state truly based on equal rights and democracy.


Tell your friends. Help spread the word . . . .

Twit it Sphinn it Add To Digg it Add To Google Bookmarks Add To Reddit Add To Technorati Add To StumbleUpon Add To Facebook Furl it Subscribe to RSS


Post a Comment

Please confine your comments to appropriate feedback to the post you are commenting on.