Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad Omens, Part I

What I failed to mention in my previous post is the reason behind my abrupt early-morning wakeup. Before falling asleep that evening, I had a cup of tea. Rather than getting up to wash the glass cup, I placed it on my bedside table and left the task for the morning.

I awoke to the sound of shattering glass, which I thought was just an imagined element of my dream. I turned on the light next to my bed and checked the right hand side. No broken glass. I looked to my left. Yep. There it was, the glass cup in hundreds of glorious pieces strewn all over the ground.

When I stepped out of bed to retrieve the garbage can, I noticed a large black dot out of the corner of my eye. A closer, more focused look revealed the spider waiting patiently and motionless. My immediate, 4 am reaction was to blame the spider for the broken glassware. It was my hand that broke the glass, but it was the spider’s presence that invoked the destruction. I quickly reconsidered this position, and thought better of it, but various events throughout the weekend lead me to entertain the possibility of a bad omen.

I woke up several hours later on Friday morning tired from the interruption of my sleep. I went through the motions of getting up, showering, brushing my teeth, getting dressed. As I was packing up my backpack, however, I experienced the first mishap of the weekend. I lifted my backpack from the bed, and from a peripheral pocket fell my external hard drive. It landed with the strongest conviction possible onto the tile floor. It did not sound good. My lament over damage to my external hard drive may sound nerdy, but keep in mind that this piece of hardware contains all of my photos from my Birthright trip. If I am unable to recover the data, I will have lost many of those photos forever.

The day progressed as usual. I sat at my desk and ate some hummus. Read through some ANERA data and pretended to compile it for a survey. I left midway through the day in order to attend a presentation at the Jerusalem headquarters of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The presentation was only an hour long, but it was informative nonetheless. The lecturer addressed the humanitarian impact of Israeli restrictions on goods entering Gaza, and exports leaving the West Bank. She spoke of the network of transportation within the West Bank, and made the interesting point that there now exists separate highway systems for Israelis and Palestinians. Here are some more facts that I noted during the presentation:

- 80% poverty rate in the Gaza Strip (avg. income $2.8/day)

- 3,000 Gaza housing units destroyed during the 22 day siege in December-January leaving 260,000 Gazans either homeless, or in need of repairing their home (a task impossible with the embargo on construction materials).

- When the Israeli blockade on the West Bank is complete, 126,000 Palestinians will be entirely enclosed by the wall, 360 degrees.

The best part about the presentation, were the free maps that OCHA offers of governorates in the West Bank and in Gaza. They are the most accurate maps to date, and detail every checkpoint and crossing, every settlement and Palestinian village, and they also indicate the territories entitled to each side by the Oslo Agreements.

To be continued...

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