The Black Live Matter Debate From a Traveler’s Point of View

For the past weeks I have been engaged in several discussions about racism and black lives in the USA. I did discuss primarily with republicans. Here are some of the arguments I encountered and my answers to them.

Image of Rua de Banana Street. The first street built by European owned enslaved people from Africa. It made it possible for Europeans to "train" their slaves before sending them to the Americas.
This is the Rua de Banana Street. It was this street in Cape Verde that kick-started the worst chapter in human history: The colonialism. This was the first street ever built and settled by European colonizers (with help of slaves) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Racism is not the only problem

“Racism is not the number one problem we have in the world anymore. What about human trafficking? What about Palestine? What about Yemen? What about black on black violence? What about abortions? Did you know the number one threat to black peoples lives are abortions?”

Yes, there are many problems in this world besides racism. However, I would like you to research a term called “whataboutism”. Basically, when you throw a “what about” argument, the underlying motive is to run away from this particular problem by pointing out something else wrong, that you think I would not support. So yes, there are many “what abouts”, but if we for a second only focus on racism in the American system and society, you might learn something very valuable that you can use to fight other problems that are nearer to your heart.

“Fine, so let’s focus on that. Did you know the biggest threat to black lives are other black criminals way more than police?”

Before I answer you, I want you to reflect about whether this question really has anything to do with the subject of racism in the USA? Because by asking this, you are diverting the problem we are addressing from “racism being a threat to black lives” to “black lives are a threat to black lives”. So this is also under the category “whataboutism”.

However, now you brought it up: The short answer is, that black on black criminality is just as common as white on white criminality proportionally. When you get angry about the high crime rate in the black community, you should relate that to their social circumstances rather than their skin color. Their social circumstances are dictated by the systemic racism in the USA. More on this later. If you take one thing out of this subject is, do not argue with “what about”.

I believe a decent human being can empathize with more than just one cause. Sure, you might have spent years fighting human trafficking or apartheid in Palestine or famine in Yemen, but I hope you wont be so much into only one injustice, that you cannot see another.

When is it time for other causes to get attention?

“I understand whataboutism, but I still wonder when is it time to talk about Yemen or Palestine? When can we create just as much awareness as the BLM-movement has had? Shouldn’t we tackle the more urgent problems first?”

There are some subjects that get more traction than others. They become more mainstream than others. And it is not always the most urgent ones. We have all been travelling and seen extreme poverty in other parts of the world than in the USA. But let me tell you this:

Now, we are lucky to have started a huge movement, which rarely happens for any of the “righteous” issues we like to fight for. So instead of refusing to be part of it, because Yemen or Palestine is more urgent, we should partake. Why?

The BLM is mostly focused on racism in the USA. The USA is also the most powerful nation on earth, and it’s policies (even the internal ones) have direct influence on the rest of the world, even on a personal level. The USA is involved in all larger problems in the world including Palestine and Yemen.

I believe, when the bottom line is lifted in the USA, when racism is just a little bit less, it will also have a positive effect on other more urgent topics.

The statistics are not so bad

“Here is a statistic saying 370 white people were shot by the police last year versus 235 black people”

Without even checking your source, I can already see that the killing of black people is way higher than the population percentage suggest it should be (13%). In fact, it should be only around 66 black people killed, if it had to correspond to the population percentage of black people.

“Oh, well if you compare to the crime rate in the black community, it should make sense then.”

So even here, you are not right. It is hard to make an estimate of how much crime every race makes, because not all crimes are reported or investigated, and most white crimes are financial fraud by mostly white Americans that never get caught. The very thing we are opposing; is that police are harsher on black people than white people. And the police are the ones making those statistics.

But let us play your game:

According to the OJJDP black people count for 26,5% of the arrests in the USA, while white people count for 69,7%. Let us for a second ignore the fact that cops are prone to arrest black people more than white people, and apply those numbers to your above killing statistics:

(370/69.7*100)*0.265 = 140,7 people

So even if you compare the crime rate in the black community, only 140 people should statistically get killed by police, not 235 people. That is 95 human lives statistically unjustifiably killed by the police every year.

So yes, there are a lot of statistics supporting the claim of police brutality against black lives. In all this, we have not taken into considerations the following:

  1. Police under-counts the number of police killings in official reports (sources: The New York Times).
  2. White crimes are often of another type, namely financial, which is rarely investigated, rarely exposed, and rarely put to justice
  3. One thing is police brutality, another is sentences black people get for a crime are much higher than for white people.
  4. The numbers do not reflect whether the victims of police killing were armed or not, or under what circumstances they got shot. There are many reports of unnecessary killings, when it comes to black lives.
    • Unarmed black people are more than 4 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white people (sources: The Washington Post).

You should fight from within the system

“We have built an amazing country, although not perfect. This country will allow you to fight injustice from within the system. Going the legal way. That is the only way I will support a movement to deal with racism. I am against any kind of rioting.”
could be talking about the USA or another majority white country.

While I sympathize a lot with this argument, I do not believe it is always true. And definitely not the only way. While some might work for the cause in silence, let others speak up.

If you are not white:
Basically, you are trying to infiltrate a system that in the same time is trying to hold you back as it favors white people. If you are very skilled and capable, you might succeed of course. However, the impact you can do for the cause personally will not be significant, in best case incremental, in most cases very local.

Obama became the president of the United States, and even he could not change the system. There are two things, that will hold you back:

  1. You will have to compromise your integrity and belief system to reach that high, when you are not white. This is because you will have to appeal to the average white person who is unaware of their racial biases.
  2. You will start to care more about being a role model for the non-white kids than doing an actual change.

So yes, accumulated talent working for the cause will work in the end, but it is a very very slow approach that will take ages to achieve. On the other hand, the BLM movement can accelerate all of this. 40 years worth of work could be achieved in a few months. Do not put your own career before your values, even if it feels hampering to your career to speak up.

If you are white:
You can certainly use your position and white privilege to fight racism, do work from within. No one is keeping an eye on you as much as they are on non-white people. However, do not stay silent. We have a momentum now to enforce systemic changes, and that we should take advantage of.

“But if I speak up now, it might hurt my chances to get to a better position, where I can make an even larger impact”

Again, there is no certainty you will. If this is about your own career, then do not use your career as an excuse for your silence. However, if you work to achieve a better world, you should know that it is more valuable to speak up now, loud and clear. We need as many white voices to normalize anti-racism.

Indeed, all this is of course my own opinion. I really think we need people to speak up and not be afraid.

I don’t agree with removing my Africa pictures

“I do not agree that my pictures of smiling children I took in Africa is portraying racism. These were pictures from real life, and I did not just take random pictures of poverty, I actually had a special connection with those kids I met and asked for permission to take their pictures. It is a valuable memory of my visit and a personal experience, and I know very well I am no savior to them, even if I volunteered.”

First of all, you are not a bad person for taking those pictures. If you absolutely want them on your Instagram or Facebook profile, then most people would not even notice. And those who do, would not judge you based on only that.

The problem with the pictures is, that they portray a continent in desperate need of your help to save them. In desperate need of tourists and volunteers and your old clothes. If you have been to Africa, you would know there is much more progress in the continent, and we should rather promote this narrative to flourish it even more.

So if those pictures mean so much to you, you can keep them in your private photo album. It is not enough, that you do know you are a savior. We do not need others to think that you are.

To someone who has never heard about this debate:

There are many morally questionable aspects of taking pictures of and with poor smiling African kids. You can read about it on those links:

Expat Panda: Stop Using Black And Brown Children as Photo Props

Sacred Footsteps: Orientalist Travel Photography: ‘Creating’ the Native

No more white guilt!

“Why do I have to feel bad for something I did not even do? No one agrees with slavery anymore, we would never want that back. But I do not want to live my life in guilt for something that happened hundreds of years ago.”

I agree, you should not live in guilt for what happened back then. If you feel guilty for that, I am truly sorry, I really do not see why you should feel guilty. I hope it goes away.

I understand it, because I feel the same thing about terrorism and wars fought in the Middle East, being from there myself. It is not my fault, but I found myself in constant blame by spectators.

So I also understand, that this feeling of guilt is magnified when you hear about how slavery has had a direct impact on black people’s lives today. History is not told and documented for anyone to feel guilty, it is told and documented for two reasons:

  1. Learning from it and not repeating mistakes.
  2. To understand why the world is how it is today. We are a result of what has happened in the past.

It is not your fault, that things are like this. You were born into a world of injustice. Try to turn this guilty feeling into a driving force to fight racism. You can even use this feeling to easier sense and distinguish racism. I have certainly used this, whenever I encounter an extremist.

As a rule of thumb, anytime you feel guilted as a white person, you can turn it into an understanding of white privilege.

I really really hope that you will not use your guilty feeling as an excuse to stop fighting racism and speaking up against inequality.

Equal opportunities, not equal outcome

“We live in a country with equal opportunities, and I feel black people are complaining because the outcome did not turn out to be as equal, which is none of our fault.”

I do believe that if there truly was equal opportunities for everyone, the outcome would also be equal within statistical uncertainty. However, it is a theory that is hard to prove. The question is rather: Why do you think the outcome would not be equal? Is there something inherently different about black people’s capabilities?

What you perceive as the right to equal opportunities is actually the right to claim equal opportunities. There is no guarantee you will get it. And especially not in the private sector. Especially in the USA, where education and healthcare has to be paid out of own pocket, it is hard to claim that there are equal opportunities. I can advise you to research systemic racism, red lining and even statutory racism in your own country.

There is a strong white bias all over the world. Everyone (non-whites included) prefer to do business with white people solely because of the prestige and reputation. White people favor each other at job interviews and as business partners.

Even in the schools, there is a huge bias. I have felt this on my own skin in elementary school, high-school and universities. The stories are so emotional, I cannot write about them.

I am sure any non-white person, will tell you that they had to work extra hard to achieve half as much as a white person. And when I say “all,” I actually do mean it. Even the ones supporting Trump, I believe would agree although they would add “but stop whining.”

Whining or not, there is no equal opportunity, there is no equal treatment.

“But you can see that Asian immigrants for example are doing very well in society compared to black people, so I believe if they wanted they could have achieved better, but they would rather complain.”

You cannot draw parallel between Asian immigrants and black people. Black people are not recent immigrants. They were brought to the Americas as enslaved people by the white immigrants from Europe who today rule the USA. All those years have developed an inherent bias that hurts black people more than Asians.

Asians came mostly to the USA because they were needed as a work force in recent years. They came to the country with skills and promised job opportunities. Black people have been refused to enter “white schools” until 1964, and they have since been kept in an economical gap by Redlining that prevented them from succeeding. When one black person despite all odds succeeds, he is discriminated against on the job market.

In fact, Asian people do not have it easy either. They are in constant struggle to overcome the stereotypes that white people hold against them.

As with everything, you need to study the history to understand why the world is as it is today. If you just look at a snapshot, you will fool yourself.

The looting must stop

“How does it even help their cause, when they start looting and destroying local businesses. Those businesses are struggling too and not even white. They are just repelling people who would have supported them.”

I do not agree with the looting either. But we must not use it as an excuse to be against the movement. Historically, all revolutions and protests have been exploited by some individuals or even large groups of people for their own benefit. There is no 100% pure and violent free revolution.

So instead of saying_

“It is sad that a black man got killed, but the looting must stop.”

Try to say:

“It is horrible that property is being looted, but killing black people must stop.”

There is also another argument, that has been roaming around since Trevor Noah made a video talking about it, arguing that the social contract that make up society is broken in the USA, making the looting irrelevant. I would really encourage you to watch it.

Unfortunately, peaceful protests have never led to any major change in this world. Modern history books will always pull out Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the two examples for peaceful protests, but the truth is much more complex and much different. As always, history is written by the victorious. In this case, the victorious are using those examples as to uphold the status quo.

The fact is that the media will show more attention when there is some kind of vandalism, which is find very sad.

Black people are naturally more violent

“Look at what is happening in Africa, in countries like the Congo and compare to what is happening in other former colonies who live in peace, in particularly Asia.”

It is not true that Africa is more violent than other former colonies. You can easily look to India and Burma, where you find plenty of violence. You can also look to the Middle East and find the same. Even in countries like Indonesia, there have been genocides, although it is peaceful today.

You have to understand colonial history very well to understand why some regions today are suffering with violence. When the Europeans left Africa, the Middle East and India, they divided the territories without any deeper understanding of the people who actually lived there. Then then went on to support one tribe over the other in different ways to create hate and envy between locals. It was a divide and conquer game that is still played to this day.

There is absolutely no historical and no contemporary evidence that says black people are more violent. In fact, if you look at it historically, Europe have been savages while the Middle East, Asia and Africa flourished with richness, art, science and great architecture.

It is hard to trust what Muslims say

Their own books are filled with hate and violence, so I will not believe them when they say their religion is about peace. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East”

It is so sad that you deny a person the right to tell his own truth. The truth is, an average Muslim person did not grow up with books that promote hate and violence. In fact, these books you are talking about are probably a niche. You can find Christian books that promote hate and violence as well, that does not mean that all Christians are hateful.

Please, allow someone to explain his own beliefs himself, and do not impose your prejudice on them, even if you have read all the “bad” books yourself. If he tells you, he does not believe in something written in those books, he most certainly does not believe it.

The violence happening in The Middle East has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with the colonial past. What is happening in the Middle East is also happening in Christian parts of Africa and Buddhist parts of Asia.

In addition, you cannot justify racism against Muslims in particular. Why are we even discussing this topic? Did you give up on justifying racism as a whole so you are focusing on justifying your Islamophobia?

Do not judge too quickly

The cop who killed George Floyd might not have been racist. He might have been just a very bad man. Do not assume anything, and leave the judging to God”

Millions of people worldwide have seen the video and have not been in doubt that the killing is racial related. Normally, I hate to use pathos in my argumentation, but when you refuse to see racism in a situation that is so obviously racist to millions of people, it says something about your lack of empathy and understanding of the majority of black peoples lives.

So let me explain this without any pathos: If you asked Derek Chauvin (the cop who killed George Floyd) if he is racist, he will say no. Almost no one would claim to be racist, and yet we have racism everywhere. It is the subconscious racism that is the problem. The subconscious racism that makes it more natural for Chauvin to be without mercy when he handles a black man versus a white man.

The question is, what do you want to achieve by arguing that Chauvin is not racist?

Is it that there is no racism in the police or justice system in the USA? All statistics are against you.

Is it that police brutality is not linked to race? Again, all statistics are against you, but even if you are right, it is still a problem. Police brutality is a problem no matter what.

I do not believe the protests will matter

“I do not think any of this will be fruitful. There will always be racism even a 100 year from now.”

It has already mattered. If it was not for the protests, Derek Chauvin would still be harassing people as a police officer. There has already been some reforms to some police departments and more is on the way. More people than ever now have a basic understanding of white privilege, white supremacy and systemic racism.

People have learned history, they were never taught in school. How many of the following topics did you learn about just since George Floyd’s death:

  • Smaller European nations part in colonization
  • Juneteenth
  • Tulsa Massacre
  • Redlining
  • Malcolm X
  • Whataboutism
  • Seneca Village and Central Park
  • Compensation to slave owners
  • The Red Summer of 1919
  • The crimes and racism of Winston Churchill

Imagine how many years until we get those topics in the curriculum. So maybe there will still be racism 100 years from now, but just in a few weeks the end of racism has come nearer than ever.

Top 10 Muslim Festivals to Experience

Coming back from an adventurous trip to Iraq, I thought about how interesting religious festivals actually are. Some of the best travel experiences I have ever had, were combined with the observation of different old festivals with roots in world religions. I have previously made a list of Christian Festivals to experience, check that list out.

This list contains the name of the top 10 most fascinating Muslim festivals around the world, that would be great to experience in person together with the year 2020 happening dates.

  1. Hajj
    Place to be: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
    Time to be next year: July 28, 2020
    This one is undisputedly the most famous and important festival of the year in the Islamic world. Every Muslim is required to do a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or hers lifetime. The pilgrimage consists of few rituals that traces back to Abraham who built the Kaaba, which is the most holy building in Islam.Every year millions of Muslims from all kinds of nations and races gather here, strip themselves of all symbols of status, wealth and pride and they put on the same white garments. All as one they walk around the Kaaba seven times, they face while praying in a circle and they perform all kinds of other interesting rituals and prayers that makes them forget all about their earthly desires, their race and nation and just feel one with their fellow believers.Unfortunately, this festival is closed for non-muslims, so only a muslim (traveller) will be able to witness it in person. However, you can enjoy the rest of the festivals on this list.
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  2. Mawlid
    Place to be: Khartoum, Sudan
    Time to be next year: October 28, 2020

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    Celebrating the Mawlid in Sudan – Personal trip, 2018

    The mawlid is the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. This festival is celebrated all over the muslim world, officially except of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where it is forbidden, however, even there you can experience people celebrating it despite the law. However, if you want the best of all festivals, you should visit a strong Sufi dominated area. I can strongly recommend the Khalifa House Square in Khartoum. On the day, you will see Sudanese from all over the country arriving by foot and putting up a great festival in this square with lots of songs, dances, food and religious speeches. Every Sufi Tarika (Meaning “way of practice”) have their own tent and their own way of celebrating. Walk from place to place and participate in the event.
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  3. Ashura and Arbaeen
    Place to be: Karbalaa, Iraq
    Time to be next year: August 28 and October 7, 2020

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    Arbaeen 2019 – Personal trip to Iraq

    Ashura and Arbaeen are two very connected ceremonies, so I have gathered them together here. Ashura commemorate the events of The Battle of Karbalaa in 685 AD, where the family of Prophet Muhammad was brutally murdered and captured. During 10 days up to the day of Ashura, the whole city is filled with mourning pilgrims crying and beating themselves over this terrible event, while poems and slogans are shouted all over the city and even plays are performed. It all ends with a run towards the shrine of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad.
    The Arbaeen is a similar but much larger (and more calm) event, that happens 40 days after Ashura. This event commemorate the day, when the remaining family of Hussein finally came back to Karbalaa to mourn their dead. Up til the day of Arbaeen pilgrims from all over the country walk from their cities to Karbalaa to pay their respect. The Arbaeen is the largest annual peaceful gathering in the world with more than 20 million attendees every year.

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  4. Mela Chiraghan (festival of lamps)
    Place to be: Lahore, Pakistan
    Time to be next year: March 28, 2020
    This celebration marks the death day of another Hussein, namely the sufi poet Shah Hussein. He was such a beloved character by everyone from all casts and religions in Pakistan, and every year the whole citizens of Lahore decorate their houses with different lights and oil lamps, making a beautiful scenery.
    The main festivities happen around Shah Hussein’s shrine. Here free food is distributed and people from all over the country come to light up candles, lamps and lay flowers. The climax is the ignition of the large bonfire, where people would throw in all kinds of cotton lamps and candles making wishes. The bonfire will go on for 3 full days.
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  5. Perang Topat
    Place to be: Lombok, Indonesia
    Time to be next year: November, 2020
    There is a holy place in Lombok for both muslims and hindu. The Pura Lingsar shrines house the combined Muslim and Hindu autumn festival. The festival is also called the Rice War between Muslims and Hindus. A very peaceful kinda war though. It all starts after both religious groups have finished their prayers in the temple. Time of the day: Just after the muslim afternoon prayer (Asr-prayer).
    Both sides of the war will gather in formations on each side of their temple wearing tradition clothes and arming themselves with rice wrapped in leaves. After a speech and some festivities, both sides start throwing the rice at each other. They then engage in a joyful and friendly fight with rice and laughter will fill the temple site. It is truly a celebration of harmony and peace between two religions who live side by side.
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  6. Chechen Zikr
    Place to be: Grozny, Russia
    Time to be next year: Any Thursday or Friday, but best at major Islamic holidays.
    The distinct Chechen Zikr is a one of the most fascinating Sufi ceremonies in the world. The circular dances, the rhythm, stamping and the prayers are simply so hypnotizing that just by observing it you can induce in a trance. The Zikr was in danger of being extinct due to atheistic rule enforcement by the Soviet/Russian authorities, who sees these ceremonies as a threat to them. Also Saudi Arabian Wahabi groups have several times attacked those Sufi orders. Now however, the Chechen Zikr is facing a renaissance and can be witnessed many places in Grozny, also in the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque. Try to visit during the Islamic Ramadan, Eid or Mawlid to catch a larger gathering of worshipers performing this ritual.
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  7. Fez Festival of World Sacret Music
    Place to be: Fez, Morocco
    Time to be next year: June 12, 2020
    This is maybe the most modern festival on the list as it in 2020 will only be the 26th edition. Here religious (mainly Muslims but also from other faiths) musicians from all over the world perform religious songs. You can find famous artists like Sami Yusuf, local musicians, Sufi orderes peforming and artists from all over the world like Iran, Spain and Scotland also attend and perform. It is a bridge between the Muslim faith and other religions build with the love of music and art.
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  8. Bishwa Ijtema, Dhaka
    Place to be: Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Time to be next year: January 10, 2020
    Directly translated to “World Conference”, this is truly an international Muslim gathering with over 5 million participants every year, making it another of the largest annual gatherings in the world. The small suburb city, Tongi, the streets will be filled with people praying all together as one. Not only the streets but also the rooftops and basically everywhere is occupied by worshipers praying for 3 days, reciting Quran and having preaches about the meaning of the Quranic verses. The final congregational prayer on the last day will be for wishing for world peace.
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  9. Durbar Festival
    Place to be: Kano, Nigeria
    Time to be next year: May 23 and July 30

    Durbar
    Horseman at the Durbar Festival (Source: Andy Waite, Wikipedia Commons)

    This is one of the most interesting festivals of all. It takes place in the former Kano Emirate, that is today a part of Nigeria. It is basically a ceremony that happens on important occasions, most certain to happen during the Muslims Eid Holidays. The city of Kano still have the Palace of the Emir called Gidan Rumfa, and he and his family still lives in it. Every Eid-ul-Fitr or Eid-ul-Adha he will wear the traditional medieval clothes and ride on his horse with his men out in the city. He and his men will parade the city, there will be music, prayers and rituals on horseback.
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  10. Tabuik
    Place to be: Pariaman, Sumatra, Indonesia
    Time to be next year: August 20, 2020

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    Tabuik ceremony (Source: Wikipedia)

    This festival is very closely connected to the Ashura and Arbaeen, as it also commemorate the Battle of Karbalaa and Imam Hussein’s sacrifice for the religion. This ceremony however is very different in execution, as it is held by predominately Sunni Indonesian Muslims rather than Shia Iraqi ones. Here they prepare tall funeral biers made of bamboo and send them into the sea. Then people would swim after them. The whole festival is filled with sport activities like swimming and kite running and also plays are performed.

Besides these 10 Muslim festivals, there are hundreds of others all over the world that you can enjoy. In addition, being invited to a traditional Iftar during Ramadan might also be an experience you want to have. If you find it difficult to visit some of these countries, you can find very similar events in more accessible locations. Might even be in your local mosque in your own non-Muslim country. Muslims are in general very welcoming and would be happy if you showed interest in their traditions, so do not be shy to go and ask.

The Erased Heritage of Palestine: A traveller’s itinerary

By Homeintheair (Instagram: @Homeintheair)

During my 10 hours visit to Jerusalem I got a mild form of the famous Jerusalem Syndrome. I was so amazed by all the holy and historical sites. It is truly the most culturally dense city in the world. But Palestine is much more than just Jerusalem. The country is filled with historical sites.

However, during the Nakba the Israeli’s initiated a military program to erase as much non-jewish heritage from the country as possible. This meant the demolishing of some of the most holy sites in Islam and Christianity. Of course the Islamic sites has been hit the hardest, due to the Pope’s intervention which saved some Christian sites and made it possible for hundred thousands of the Christian Palestinians to return after being expelled in the first place.

Nonetheless countless of mosques and churches were either destroyed completely or turned into synagogues, warehousing, horse stables, nightclubs or the like. The exact number is of course disputed but both sides agrees that at least 570 villages were completely destroyed by the Israelis where each one had probably 1-2 mosques. On top of that comes the bigger towns and cities that were destroyed and the many muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem. You can do the math.

So finally, I have a huge interest in discovering lost places. I seriously should have been an archaeologist! Some of these places I discovered while doing research for my itinerary for my next visit to Palestine. My researcher gene took over and I listed those 10 significant holy sites that were destroyed by Israel during the Nakba and until today. Number in parenthesis is the year of destruction.

1. Nabi Rubin (Reuben son of Jacob) (1948)
Nabi Rubin was one of the most popular sites in Palestine before 1948. The mosque housed Reuben’s grave and every year one of the largest festivals in Palestine would take place here. The festival included singing, dancing the Dabke, distribution of colorful candy, sufi prayers, horse races and magic shows. The festival was so exciting, that Palestinian women from afar would tell their husbands: “Either you take me to Nabi Rubin or you divorce me!”. In 1947 the last festival was held. The next year the city was razed by the Israelis and the mosque destroyed. 
Today, Jews are trying to claim the ruins of the shrine to be one of their own, but their plans has been facing difficulty since Jewish tradition place the grave of Reuben somewhere very different.

Nabi Rubin Festival
The Nabi Rubin Festival before 1948

 

2. Nabi Yamin (Prophet Benjamin) (1948) 
This mosque was not destroyed but converted into a synagoge and prohibited muslim entrance even though the place in the first place was holy to muslims only. Before 1948 the place was not considered holy by the original Palestinian Jews (the Yishuv Jews), nor was it considered the true burial place of Benjamin. 

Nabi-Yamin-50
Nabi Yamin mosqye turned into a Synagoge

 

3. Nabi Shuayb and Mosque of Hittin (1948)
Hittin was a very special city to muslims. Here Saladdin won the battle against the crusaders that lead to the reconquest of the holy land. He built the city and the mosque in this place where the tomb of Nabi Shuayb happened to be. Nabi Shuayb has always been important to the Druze population of Palestine. Muslims and Druze shared this mosque until Hittin was destroyed by Israel in 1948. The mosque of Hittin was completely destroyed and ruins can still be visited while they gave the mosque of Nabi Shuayb exclusively to the Druze as a payment for them to join the Israeli forces.

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Nabi Shuayb still looking like a mosque from the inside

 

4. Nabi Samt (Judge Samson) (1948)
This shrine contained both the tomb of Samson and his father Manoah. It was destroyed with the city of Sar’a (Zorah). After it was proven that the tomb actually belonged to the two holy people, the ruins of the city has been taken over by Israel as an important archeological site.

5. Al-Nabi Yusha’ (Joshua) (1948)
This was the name of a small village that also housed the tomb of Joshua. The village was under French control during the colonization and therefore, officially, a part of Lebanon. However, the French decided to leave the village to the British who were colonizing Palestine. The British gave Palestine to the Jews which included this originally Lebanese village. And yes, they destroyed it all including the tomb. Ruins can still be found but are rarely visited.

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What is left of Nabi Yusha Shrine

 

6. Al-Hussein mosque, Ashkalon (1950)
This site was the holiest to muslims outside of Jerusalem. Here the head of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was buried. The shrine was said to be the most magnificent building in Ashkalon at the time. This having absolutely no value for Jews, it was the most important mosque for zionists to erase. Today a medical center has been built on the grave.

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Pilgrims going to the Al-Hussein Shrine in 1943

 

7. Sheikh Eid mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
The destruction of this mosque is part of the story of the destruction of one of the most historical areas in Jerusalem, the Moroccan Quarter. This quarter of Jerusalem dates back to Saladdin’s era and the Sheikh Eid Mosque was the biggest and most prominent in this quarter. The whole quarter was destroyed in order to make room for a big square where 200.000 Jews could stand in front of the Buraq Wall (Wailing wall). The residence got 15 minutes warning to leave their houses before the demolishing. Those who did not leave, were killed by the bulldozers wrecking their walls down. 

Moroccan quarter
The Moroccan quarter. I cannot believe I actually stood there just right there not knowing what thriving life has been here once.

 

8. Al Buraq mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
This mosque was also destroyed during the raze on the Moroccan Quarter. This mosque however, was the second most holy to muslims in Jerusalem. It was built where muslims believe that prophet Muhammad tied his divinely sent horse (the Buraq). One of the leaders behind this demolition said “”Why shouldn’t the mosque be sent to Heaven, just as the magic horse did?”. The basement of the mosque, I believe, is still accessible today. 

9. Al-Khadra Mosque, Nablus (2002)
The Nakba never really ended. So I have included a very historical mosque that was destroyed not long time ago. This mosque was built on the holy site where Prophet Jacob cried after believing Joseph had been killed. The mosque is also named “Sadness of our Lord Jacob”.

Nablus is a large city belonging to the Palestinians on the West Bank. In 2002, Israel razed the city and their bulldozers destroyed countless UNESCO heritage sites including this mosque and Abd Al-Hadi Palace.

10. Siksik Mosque, Jaffa (1948)
This mosque is one of the examples of how they used mosques to other purposes after conquering land. This mosque was first turned into a Bulgarian restaurant, then a nightclub and then a warehouse for a plastic factory. And this is the fate of many mosques and churches as well in the bigger cities.

Maybe at some point I will research the churches and do a blog post about those too. And of course, there are countless more holy sites I did not include. There are also palaces, archeological sites, hamams and historical city centers that were completely destroyed that I did not include here. Long story short: thousand years of heritage was destroyed in this country, but ruins remain for us to go and explore which I would love to have the chance to do.

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Top 10 Christian festivals to experience

We are approaching Christmas very fast but unfortunately this beautiful tradition has become more of a celebration of capitalism than actual Christianity. However, there are places and festivals around the world that gets to the inner core of the beautiful religion of Christianity and I thought I would share some of my favorite must experience Christian festivals around the world:

  1. Christmas tree lighting
    Place to be: Bethlehem, Palestine
    Time to be next year: December 24, 2019
    What is a better place to witness the celebration of the birthday of Jesus rather than in his very own birth city? The lightning of the Christmas tree is a huge event where the Christian Palestinians count down in the Arabic language for midnight to light up the tree.
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  2. Semana Santa
    Place to be: Granada, Spain
    Time to be next year: April 14, 2019 (easter week)
    I have witnessed this festival myself. Large parades with people dressed like something coming from the Ku Klux Klan or the inquisition. However, this ceremony is held to repent for the sins you have forsaken the last year and to acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus. Many people would exhaust themselves and walk it every day bare footed. The festival is best celebrated in Granada, but most Spanish and specially Andalucian cities will have it as well.

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    Semana Santa parade in Spain
  3. Crusifixation
    Place to be: San Fernando, Philippines
    Time to be next year: April 19, 2019 (easter)
    On the same track as Semana Santa people come here to recall the passion of the christ and experience a similar hardship. Men and women come here voluntarily to be crucified for real. It’s so admirable how much love and passion they have to actually letting nails go through their palms and hang there for hours.
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  4. Mescal Festival
    Place to be: Adis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Time to be next year: September 27, 2019
    This is a very unique celebration of the supposed finding of the “true cross”. It is said to be given to an emperor of Ethiopia and thus this is a huge celebration there.
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  5. Day of the Dead
    Place to be: Janitzio Island, Mexico
    Time to be next year: November 2, 2019
    This is actually a very interesting festival mixing Christianity with native Indian religion. It is celebrated in most places in Mexico but should be most original on the above mentioned island.
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  6. Santa Claus Village
    Place to be: Rovaniemi, Finland
    Time to be next year: December, 2019
    This is not exactly a festival but every year this park opens for visitors and I can imagine it really will feel like Santa Claus’s toolshop up there in the cold north.
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  7. White smoke
    Place to be: The Vatican City
    Time to be: Unknown
    This even does not need an introduction. We all know how a pope is chosen and watching white smoke from the Sistine Chapel is just historical!
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  8. Race of the Candles
    Place to be: Gubbio, Italy
    Time to be next year: May 15, 2019
    I do not know much about this festival other than celebrating some saints, but it does sound fun!
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  9. Salto del Colacho
    Place to be: Burgos, Spain
    Time to be next year: June 23, 2019
    Another south European festival. It is hard to understand where all those ideas come from but this one is probably about cleansing babies of sins and ensure them protection. Someone will play the devil and jump over new born babies. This might even be a dying tradition due to criticism from the Vatican saying only baptism can cleanse the sins.
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  10. Mardi Gras
    Place to be: Binche, Belgium
    Time to be next year: March 3, 2019
    Before the fasting period for the Christians starts, the Belgian Christians go out celebrating the last day with an enormous feast and a very fun parade in the city of Binche.
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In addition, there are many many other festivals to be mentioned. However, I tried not to include some of those ruined by capitalism already like Saint Patricks day. However, I have not been to all of the above yet, so I am yet to be surprised 🙂

Also remember, no matter what religion you have or none at all these traditions are fascinating to witness. The same goes for any other religion out there, and I might do a similar list for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism very soon. Would it interest you?