This month, French authorities have been demolishing the 'Jungle,' a toxic wasteland on the edge of Calais. Formerly a landfill site four kilometers square, it is now populated by approximately 5,000 refugees pushed there over the last year. A remarkable community of 15 nationalities adhering to various faiths comprises the Jungle. Residents have formed a network of shops and restaurants which, along with hamams and barber shops, contribute to a micro-economy within the encampment. Community infrastructure now includes schools, mosques, churches, and clinics.
Bamiyan is a central Afghan town, home to two monumental Buddha statues carved out of sandstone cliffs. In a zealous attempt to purge anything considered un-Islamic, the Taliban targeted these historic statues a decade ago when they occupied and controlled Afghanistan. The defamation of non-Islamic monuments and sites caused a global response. The efforts of national leaders failed, and the Taliban destroyed the statues in March, 2001. The world community -- from Russia to Malaysia, from Germany to Sri Lanka -- expressed horror at the Buddha's demolition.
Sitting over the Bamiyan Valley since the early sixth century, one of the Buddha figures stood nearly 180 feet tall and the other 120 feet. Before their destruction, these statues were the largest Buddha carvings in the world. They were once a major tourist attraction, but the decades of conflict drove away tourists years before the Taliban blew up the statues.
Last weekend I was at a family reunion where I had been invited to show pictures from my sabbatical in the Middle East last spring.
When it comes to Israel/Palestine, the human story often gets lost in the confusion of ideology and politics. Let me just highlight the story of one woman, a wife and mother named Isme. Prior to October 12, 2009, Isme lived in a small but tidy one-story house in the outskirts of Jerusalem.