Archive for March, 2010

Smile

If I were God, I would be very curious to read each and every note addressed to me and stuck into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. They say so much, about the person who wrote it and about their time.

People share their sorrows and joy, their love, their intimate problems at a place where their heart suddenly starts to leap. A historical and mysterious magnet, the wall draws people no matter what their religion, education, age or race. After all, the desire to get in touch with the creator, or with your personal God, is a matter of hope, not faith.

Sabbath, early Saturday: As I face the wall, I note that tourists are forbidden to take pictures or to write prayers out of respect for the Jewish community.

The sun blinds the viewer and washes pale the colours. The cracks and hollows between the white rocks of the Western Wall are stitched together with pieces of paper, squeezed and stuck in wherever people can reach. They stream toward the wall, divide into separate sections for men and women, then rest their foreheads on the silent rocks, strike them gently and pray for love, for happiness, prosperity, health, perhaps for peace. I hope that they remember to breathe as time stops. And starts again.

If I were God, I would know that I can’t help everyone. People are too different. Humanity is too complicated. Its aspirations are contradictory or even mutually exclusive. There are loving hearts, desperate souls and thirsty minds. Some struggle for peace. Some hate to struggle. Some just want to make more money by selling weapons. There are those who sell oil and others who promote alternative energy sources. Everybody hopes that they deserve divine help.

As I walked off into the Muslim quarter, I re-entered a normal, busy Saturday. In the market, rank after rank of stalls offered frozen fish fillets, meat, silver, CDs, fruit, shawls, pottery.

“Smile, just smile,” a street vendor suddenly told me, apropos of nothing.

Perhaps that’s what God would say, if he were here to watch over us.

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Invite Me, I Won’t Come

It still came as a surprise. Minsk was expected to look forward to getting an invitation from neighbouring Lithuania to join the celebration of the 20th anniversary of its declaration of independence on March 11. Having received it, Minsk sent its regrets, Lukashenka didn’t go.

Lithuania announced that the decision (to invite or not to invite its awkward neighbour) would be based on how Belarusian authorities react to requests to question General Uskhopchyk over his role in Soviet troops’ violent actions in Vilnius in January 1991.

Minsk didn’t hurry to react but finally questioned the notorious general. As soon as Vilnius got the documents, Lukashenka received the invitation.

The decision of the Belarusian ruler not to go might not be as unexpected as it seems. BY rejecting the invitation, Minsk demonstrated loyalty to Russian President Medvedev, who declined to come months ago and who needs such symbolic gestures.

Belarusian authorities also like to be pragmatic. Probably their goal was the invitation, not the trip. Lukashenka met his Lithuanian counterpart in Vilnius during a breakthrough visit in September 2009. Was there a need to meet up again?

Analysts point out the parallel with the Eastern Partnership inauguration conference in Prague in May 2009. Back then Brussels was said to have invited Lukashenka on the condition that he would decline. Since then nothing has really changed with EU-Belarus relations. Both sides act cautiously.

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