Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan —there it sits as my screensaver pic, lit and staring at me. It’s been there for two weeks, daring me to recognize it for what it is, birds eye view of an emergency residence for more than 115,000 people (as of July 15, 2013), thanks to the Kingdom of Jordan, the host. Each “box” houses families or supplies. They seem to have run out of prefab containers called “caravans” so the bottom of the screen has some tents, which give a perspective on the miles of boxed lives. Over 60,000 are kids, they say. Who can say how many Syrian refugees in Jordan? I walk outside and the backyard hillside is musical with spilling water from three stone containers and a small pump. Flowers and trees color my view as sun begins to burn through the fog. I am in an unlocked house in a town with no soldiers. My nephew-in-law is a local policeman. My nephew a building inspector. I know my neighbors. I feel safe.
In June Angelina Jolie visited the camp and speaks to the growing crisis. She says: “1.6 million people have poured out of Syria with nothing but the clothes on their back., and more than half of them are children…… Every 14 seconds someone crosses Syria’s border and becomes a refugee.” <> http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/jordan/10133034/Angelina-Jolie-visits-Syrian-refugee-camp-in-Jordan-on-World-Refugee-Day.html>
Oxfam International has installed solar powered lampposts outside several sanitation facilities, lighting the streets, so people could feel safe going to the toilet at night. UNICEF recently claimed lack of water and sanitation in the camp poses an enormous threat to the health of everyone, especially the children living there.
“Jordan’s Water Minister Mohammed Najjar said he has asked Western nations for donations to buy water for the refugees. Jordan suffers acute water shortages and has complained that the refugees were exhausting its limited resources.” Huff PostcWorld
The desert and water. I comb the internet for positive news. I found this special story. Samantha Robison (twenty-seven years old) founder of AptART brought art materials to the young people at the camp to give them a means of expression. The artwork is a wonderful gift here. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/aptart-samantha-robison_n_3640193.html
Zaatari is a word that refers to a delicious Middle Eastern dish made up of wild oregano and toasted sesame seeds, I’m told. But maybe it means something else. The Arabic lexicon is illusive as I struggle for the root of the word. Food. My plum tree is heavy with fruit, tomatoes ready for salsa in jars. How can I justify living in a paradise garden while Syrians, some there I may have prayed with a decade ago, suffer such fear and uncertainty and the loss of nearly all that they value? I feel like the middle ground is being eroded, yet the only sane solution is to hold both extremes, the way I have held the unthinkable loss of my son, Solomon, a year and a half ago, held him in my heart along with the abundance of friends and beloved family. Sometimes one is in focus, sometimes the other, but all of this, every part — makes up my life and has inclusive value. So I look at this desert refuge camp, and I’m struck with the surreal thought that this is the time Burningman begins to come together a desert city — half the size of Zaatari — a celebration of life, way out in the Nevada desert. Two cities: one a sudden city of survival, the other — an enormous party of freedom and excess. Hold them both! I tell myself. May all beings have what they need NOW. May all have shelter, food and clean water, be well, safe, and happy.