Fitna is an Islamic term that I think roughly translates into trial, but it’s more like a test of faith, I think. Don’t quote me on it though. I’m no Islamic scholar.

I’ve just heard the term bandied about all my life and figure that’s what it means.

These last few weeks have been a great trial to me. And yet there’s been such good things happening too!

I got the travel grant for Italy! I was invited to launch the Italian version of Wanting Mor at a conference in Rimini, Italy, and applied to the Canada Council, and yup! Got the grant, so I’m going, God willing!

On Saturday I went down to visit my mom in the hospital. She’d just had her knee replacement surgery.

It is never easy to see your mother in pain, and yet this is useful pain. I can see that she’ll be better off having done this and I can’t help but be glad.

I just wish the timing were better and I could be there with her, helping her recuperate.

While I was down there, I set her garden up for the summer. I do that every year and it seems every year it gets harder and harder. I’m no spring chicken myself any more and my father, ever the wit, said something that made me smile.

He said, “This is the first time I saw a grandmother taking care of a great-grandmother.”

So true. The image is odd, isn’t it?

I got back early yesterday and got ready for four presentations at a Catholic school today.

It always amazes me how open-minded people can be. This is not the first Catholic school I’ve presented at, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

They had multiple copies of my book Muslim Child and the teacher librarian told me how much he loved the book! Then he asked me to give him my opinion on two older books he had about Islam.

Two very odd things happened at the school.

The first was during the primary presentation. The child could not have been more than six or seven. I can’t even be sure if he was a boy or a girl, I just remember the esoteric question he asked me. “Are you real?”

LOL. I mean talk about transcendental! How to answer???

Finally I just said, “I think so.”

The other incident occurred a little while later. It was after my The Roses in My Carpets  presentation. A grade five boy came up to me and asked me, “But I thought Pakis were the bad guys. The ones we are fighting.”

For a moment I just looked at him and couldn’t believe what I had heard. The term ‘Paki’ is about as offensive as the n-word to most Pakistanis, and yet this boy had uttered it in such a matter-of-fact way, with no hint of any intention to offend.

I’m sure he thought it was just the singular term for a person from Pakistan. And I’m equally sure he heard it bandied about by adults and didn’t realize the racial connotations.

How could I get offended?

So we talked a bit about perspective, that to the people there, they felt we were invaders, etc.

I wonder now if I should have told him that he shouldn’t be using such terms.

Nah, he would have been too embarrassed. I just didn’t feel like dealing with the effusive apologies that were bound to ensue.

And I thought of that Oprah episode where they’d said that you should try not to take things personally.

So I let it slide.

One day he’d realize, and then he might remember what he said to me and how I hadn’t taken issue. And that might be even better.

Who knows. I just couldn’t hold it against him.

Tomorrow I have to mail off a grant application, call the taxi to pick me up early on Wednesday morning to go to Edmonton for the Canadian Library Association convention.

I’m delivering my Denmark IBBY speech again (this is the second time I’ve been asked to deliver it–not counting the time it was published in Horn Book magazine!).

At first I was hoping a school in Edmonton would book me for presentations, but now I’m glad my Wednesday is open. I’ll just chill at the hotel and prepare myself for the speech the next day. I also have to do a poster session. Should be an interesting experience.

I’m coming home on Friday night.

And in the midst of all this who has time to keep track of oil spills and humanitarian aid flotillas?

And yet how can I ignore them? It makes me sad.

You know, I really do get it. I’ve read enough books about the way that Jews were persecuted through no fault of their own, just for being Jews, that I really do get it.

I can understand why they need a homeland, and they need security.

I was talking with one of my good friends. Her parents had survived the holocaust. They’d come to Canada at a time when Canadian immigration policy discriminated against Jews, when they turned away a boatload of Eastern European Jews who were trying to escape the holocaust, and that boatload went from port to port having their quest for asylum rejected, only to return to Germany where they were sent to the concentration camps. It breaks your heart!

What would that do to a people’s mindset?

Wouldn’t they be forever looking over their shoulder? Wouldn’t they be forever suspicious that people are out to get them?

And once they achieved a level of security, wouldn’t they be hell bent on retaining it? Even if it meant that they’d be employing some of the tactics that were used against them? Making Palestinians carry their papers, identify themselves, live in ghettoes while they exercised ‘lebensraum’?

And all the while suspecting that the Palestinians want to annihilate them, like so many people in their past have tried to do.

Makes for a perpetual insecurity complex and a self-fulfilling policy.

They’re never satisfied, they’re always afraid, and so they commit more and more egregious acts, because they can get away with it.

They are enabled by Western governments who are still sorry for not helping them escape the fate of the holocaust and so they indulge them, like a favoured child. No matter what they do, they are exempt from punishment because they suffered, for centuries they suffered, from pograms and unspeakable horrors, they suffered.

They are the victim that has turned into the abuser, and there is still suffering.

They can do what they want. They can invade a flotilla of ships bringing humanitarian aid to a people besieged beyond endurance, and they can kill ten of them with no consequences.

It is so senseless and so sad.

My heart goes out to the families of those killed.

And to the people of Gaza, who continue to suffer while I planted impatiens and spread mulch on my mother’s garden.

And my heart goes out to the people of Israel who are on such a misguided path, thinking that such tactics will ever bring them any kind of security!

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that if you see someone  abusing another person you must help both  the  abuser and the one he is abusing. The companions said they understood that they must help the one who is being abused but how were they supposed to help the abuser? The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered by stopping him from abusing. (I’m paraphrasing.)