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Palestine: Celebrating Valentine's Day

While the holiday of Valentine's Day sources from Christian origins, people around the world have come to regard it as a celebration of love, friendship, and family. One of the most interesting aspects of Valentine's Day has become how we choose to express our feelings to our loved ones and objects of desire.

The Writing on the Wall–

This year's most innovative way of saying “I love you” comes from an organization called Send a Message. Send a Message enables you to have a note or picture spray painted on the wall dividing the Palestinian territories and the West Bank of Israel. For $45 USD or 30 Euro, a message and three digital photographs of your image will be sent to a person of your choosing.

In their Frequently Asked Questions section, the group explains their purpose and methodology:

“What's it good for, writing on the Wall?

The Wall won't fall just because your text is written on it. True.
But your message reminds Palestinians trapped inside the Wall they have not been forgotten. You help to keep hope alive. ‘Our’ Palestinians want to send you one single, simple message: “we are human beings, just like you, with sense of humour and lust for life.” That's why they do this, and enjoy it.”

“Can I write anything I want?

You can write almost anything. Nonsense and humour are okay. But hurting people ( in Palestine, Israel, or anywhere else) isn't. Obscene, offensive and extremist texts won't make it to the Wall.”

“Will the message be there forever?

Hopefully not. Just like millions of Palestinians we hope that the Wall will fall. But even before that time your text could disappear behind other people's slogans, tags or artworks. We have no control over that.
Never mind, you'll still have the pictures.”

Aside from the basic operational costs that will go to the ICCO, the Dutch firm that began this initiative, all other income will go to the Palestinian Peace and Freedom Youth Forum, who will use the money toward local community projects. (Their website is under construction, but will be available here in the future.)

Of the group's Valentine's Day efforts, Dion Nissenbaum of Checkpoint Jerusalem reports:

“In its first two months, send.a.message has already spray painted one marriage proposal and one marriage acceptance. (Not the same people, apparently.)

And the imminent arrival of Valentine's Day has generated a surge in requests for the group to spray paint romantic messages on the wall.

Along with professions of love, the group has spray painted quotes from Gandhi and Che Guevara. They have written sayings by Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin. They were even asked by one person to paint a falafel recipe on the wall.”

A falafel recipe? Well, that's one way to pay homage to your favorite dish.

Anti-Valentine's Day Rally Advocates Love All Year Round–

Mona of the Rebellious Arab Girl blog had one of my favorite Valentine's Day postings. She writes:

“Today I decided to gather some people and march down the streets boycotting Valentine’s day. It’s incredible the amount of people that will show up and support such a cause. Our mission was to say that love should be all year round. If you decide to tell a person today and only today that you love them, then you are an inconsiderate wimp! You got to say it all the time and all year long!”

She was even kind enough to provide us with photographic evidence of the protest.

Anti-Valentine

But don't forget to read the small print where Mona adds:

“By the way.. this is a photoshopped image and you are gullible! :P Don’t you love me?”

Valentine's Day Gifts–

One of the best parts about Valentine's Day is the gifts, which range from the traditional to unique.

In an entry entitled, “Thank You, Secret Admirer,” Qwaider of the Memories Documented blog tells of a special present he received from an anonymous friend.

” I opened my door this morning to find the best gift anyone can ever imagine at my door step! A HUGE BOX with the YUMMIEST chocolate in the known Universe, Guylian … But that's not all. The huge box had an amazing one other gift, a $300 gift card at my favorite gadget shop, Fry's.

Could this valentine's day get any better?! It did. A beautiful card from a secret admirer!

Thank you secret admirer…. Whoever you are.”

What could be better?

I'm not sure that Ola Eliwat is the best one to ask. You see, in the colorful spirit of the holiday, she received several packets of ketchup. But don't judge, Ola was happy. In an entry on the Cinnamon Zone entitled, “My First Valentine's Gift,” she relates:

“And so, who knew my first Valentine's gift would be something I am personally fond of, sometimes have short supply of in the office, and since [my friend] knows how much I… go crazy when we run out of it, and how we stock it in our desks in bulk, she found it a pity to let all those small packets go to waste…

Seriously, who needs roses when there's KETCHUP?”

To each her own.

Palestinian Farmers Lose Income from Wasted Crops–

On a note in a different key, several Palestinian bloggers reported stories of farmers losing valuable income this week. Robin of Under the Holly Tree, Annie of Annie's Letters, and Tony of Palestinian Pundit all included posts referencing this loss.

Robin laments:

“Life is ironic, Palestinians in Gaza are starving due to the total blockade and collective punishment by Israel, yet their livestock is eating the flowers that could not be exported to Europe for lovers on Valentines Day.

Roses are fed, violets are chewed: Heifers munch flowers that Palestinian growers had to dump by the truckload in the southern Gaza strip. Israeli export restrictions prevented them from shipping the blooms to Europe for Valentine's Day.”

She concludes with a reminder that on February 14th, 1966, Aretha Franklin recorded her well-loved anthem, “Respect,” asking:

“Have people really gained the respect and dignity that human beings should have? The answer is no. So with that in mind, the song is just as fresh And how do WE as human beings respond? That is the question.”

Conclusion–

The meanings of Valentine's Day, like love, are multi-faceted. This year had the Palestinian blogosphere thinking about making creative connections, communicating across borders and boundaries, meaningful expressions of love and giving, hard losses, and questions of respect.

So, how do your friends and family celebrate Valentine's Day? Do you have any special rituals or traditions that you make sure to do come the 14th of February? Do you send cards, post messages, or stage rallies, like Mona did? I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Wishing you and your family blessings of love and life in the coming year.

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