*take nothing for granted!
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2015

Who is Online

We have 219 guests and no members online

Translate to another language

 

 

 

A Little Background

The land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, known as Palestine, is one of the most fought over in human history.  Anthropologists believe that the first humans to leave Africa lived in and around this region and that all non-African humans are related to these common ancestors who lived perhaps 70,000 years ago.  At first glance this interest seems odd, because as bits of territory go it's nothing special.  These days it's mostly desert and semi-desert.  Somewhere back-o-Bourke might look similar, if a bit redder. 

Yet since humans have kept written records, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans (and other later Muslims), British and Zionists, have all fought to control this land.  This has sometimes been for strategic reasons alone but often partly for affairs of the heart, because this land is steeped in history and myth. 

Perhaps the most enduring cause for this conflict is that about four thousand years ago this was the land of a semi-nomadic war lord who came to be called Abraham and who's god Yahweh became the 'One God' of Moses then, in due course, the single, universal, all-encompassing, deity shared by all three 'Abrahamic' religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Once-upon-a-time this land was far more attractive to human habitation, lush and welcoming. Along with adjoining Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, the eastern shore of the Mediterranean was said to be a land of milk and honey. But climates change and expanding populations over-graze and cut down trees, as we have seen in desertified and deserted Petra, nearby in Jordan, that was a populous city in a green and pleasant landscape in the time of Herod.  Now much of the Palestinian countryside varies in appearance from cultivated farmland, dependent on irrigation, to absolute desert. 

In many ways this is vast improvement since the end of the nineteenth century, when it was most frequently described by visitors from more verdant Europe as desolate, poor, backward and diseased.  Malaria and malnutrition were endemic and Western aid focussed on the provision of hospitals.

 

Israel Israel2
Israel3 Israel4

Israel

 

Today modern parts of Israel are a like resort areas of southern Europe or perhaps California. Many private houses are large and well appointed. There are many new high rise apartment blocks and more under construction. The use of a more or less standard colour scheme with light sandstone walls, and even raw concrete, gives the cities and towns a uniform clean or sandy look. The roads and other public infrastructure are of a high standard and prices are similar to those in southern France or Spain.

 

Jerusalem - A Modern City
Israeli Jerusalem - A Modern City

 

Some parts of Jerusalem, Israel's largest city, remind me of Amman in Jordan or Damascus in Syria, before the recent destruction.

Although not nearly as rundown as those in neighbouring Egypt, Arab areas are not nearly so wealthy in appearance as the up-market, mostly European, Jewish areas.  But not all Jews are rich or live the high-life either.  Around half of the Jewish population is ethnically middle eastern, from poorer backgrounds.  The late model cars of the wealthy mix with the not so grand.  If you are interested Google Street-view is worth a look. Try clicking this link to see a not so wealthy area.

Physical appearance is where the similarity to Europe or California ends. This is a Jewish homeland, in many ways a theocracy.

Very orthodox groups abound and we were told by a cab driver when driving us on Saturday that some areas are out of bounds as cars moving on the street are stoned.  Almost all official public signage is in Hebrew.  English is widely understood which is good as otherwise it would be a difficult place to visit.  This is complemented of replaced by Arabic in the Arab areas. Comprehensible to us, English/Latin signage is reserved for commerce, like shop and restaurant names and advertising displays.

About 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, both Muslim and Christian, and they are in a strange coalition with each other in contrast to the Jewish majority.  We found the Muslim Arabs almost universally friendly, but not necessarily adverse to ripping-off tourists.  People of unknown religion we interacted with on public transport and and in street cafés particularly outside the old city were usually polite and helpful and might have been in a major city anywhere in the world.  But Jews who were self-identifying by their mode of dress were frequently aloof to rude to us tourists, except when they seeking contributions to various causes like the Synagogue or the defence of Israel.  One exception was an elderly German man who went out of his way to talk to us and had, he told us, come to Israel as a young adult.

 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

Hong Kong and Shenzhen China

 

 

 

 

 

Following our Japan trip in May 2017 we all returned to Hong Kong, after which Craig and Sonia headed home and Wendy and I headed to Shenzhen in China. 

I have mentioned both these locations as a result of previous travels.  They form what is effectively a single conurbation divided by the Hong Kong/Mainland border and this line also divides the population economically and in terms of population density.

These days there is a great deal of two way traffic between the two.  It's very easy if one has the appropriate passes; and just a little less so for foreign tourists like us.  Australians don't need a visa to Hong Kong but do need one to go into China unless flying through and stopping at certain locations for less than 72 hours.  Getting a visa requires a visit to the Chinese consulate at home or sitting around in a reception room on the Hong Kong side of the border, for about an hour in a ticket-queue, waiting for a (less expensive) temporary visa to be issued.

With documents in hand it's no more difficult than walking from one metro platform to the next, a five minute walk, interrupted in this case by queues at the immigration desks.  Both metros are world class and very similar, with the metro on the Chinese side a little more modern. It's also considerably less expensive. From here you can also take a very fast train to Guangzhou (see our recent visit there on this website) and from there to other major cities in China. 

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Greatest Aviation Mystery of All Time

 

 

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was finally called off in the first week of June 2018.

The flight's disappearance on the morning of 8 March 2014 has been described as the greatest aviation mystery of all time, surpassing the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937.  Whether or no it now holds that record, the fruitless four year search for the missing plane is certainly the most costly in aviation history and MH370 has already spawned more conspiracy theories than the assassination of JFK; the disappearance of Australian PM Harold Holt; and the death of the former Princess Diana of Wales; combined.

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

This paper was first written in 1990 - nearly 30 years ago - yet little has changed.

Except of course, that a lot of politicians and bureaucrats have put in a lot of air miles and stayed in some excellent hotels in interesting places around the world like Kyoto, Amsterdam and Cancun. 

In the interim technology has come to our aid.  Wind turbines, dismissed here, have become larger and much more economic as have PV solar panels.  Renewable energy options are discussed in more detail elsewhere on this website.

 


 

Climate Change

Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis

 

Climate change has wide ranging implications for the World, ranging from its impacts on agriculture (through drought, floods, water availability, land degradation and carbon credits) mining (by limiting markets for coal and minerals processing) manufacturing and transport (through energy costs) to property damage resulting from storms.  The issues are complex, ranging from disputes about the impact of human activities on global warming, to arguments about what should be done and the consequences of the various actions proposed.  The following paper explores some of the issues and their potential impact.

 

Read more ...

Terms of Use                                           Copyright