Capital : Jerusalem. Area : 20 770 km². Officials languages : Hebrew and Arabic. Population : 7 150 000 inhabitants. Currency : New Israeli Sheqel. President : Shimon Peres.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing dispute between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which is essentially a dispute between two national identities with claims over the same area of land.
The roots of the conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when Zionist Jews expressed their desire to create a modern state in the ancient land of the Israelites, which they considered to be their rightful homeland. To further that objective, the World Zionist Organization encouraged immigration and purchase of land, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.
Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the region came under the control of the United Kingdom through the League of Nations. In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arab League rejected the plan, but on May 14, 1948, after numerous attempts to partition the land and hostilities, Israel declared its independence. Five Arab League countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq) invaded Israel, sparking the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Israel captured territory that changed its borders, but left Jerusalem a divided city. In the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem including the Old City and its holy sites, which Israel annexed and reunited with the Western neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The status of the city as Israel's capital and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has remained a source of bitter conflict.
For decades after 1948, Arab governments had refused to recognize Israel and in 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded with the central tenet that Palestine, with its original Mandate borders, is the indivisible homeland of the Arab Palestinian people. In turn Israel refused to recognise the PLO as a negotiating partner. In 1988, Yasser Arafat stated that he recognized Israel's right to exist, thus providing the first step needed to enable negotiations between Israel and the PLO.
An attempt to broker a 'two state solution', that is the creation of separate Jewish and Palestinian states, was seen in the Oslo peace process, where Israel and the PLO negotiated, unsuccessfully, to come to a mutual agreement. During the Oslo process, which began in 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization was permitted autonomy to run Palestinian affairs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the form of the Palestinian National Authority with the understanding that it would uphold recognition of and mutual co-existence with Israel. However there was continual contention over whether actual events and conditions proved that there was greater acceptance of Israel's existence by Palestinian leaders or a commitment by Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, according to all major polls, agree that a two-state solution is the best way to end the conflict. Most Palestinians view the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of their future state. Most Israelis also accept this solution. A handful of academics advocate a one-state solution, whereby all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and West Bank would become a bi-national state with equal rights for all.
Core issues in the conflict as seen by both sides are the future of the remaining Israeli settlements built in the Occupied Territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and the status of Jerusalem, along with the refusal of some Palestinian groups to recognize the right of Israel to exist and Israel's reluctance to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel asserts that one major condition of Palestinian sovereignty over any territory must be acceptance of mutual co-existence and elimination of terrorism by the Palestinians. Some Palestinian groups, notably Fatah, a political party founded by PLO leaders, claim they are willing to foster co-existence if Palestinians are steadily given more political rights and autonomy. In 2006, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, where it remains the majority party. While Hamas has openly stated in the past that it completely opposed Israel's right to exist, indeed its charter states this, the position has softened somewhat recently.
The most recent round of peace negotiations began at Annapolis, USA in November, 2007. These talks aim to have a final resolution by the end of 2008.
The National Dress for Bhutanese men is the gho, which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the toego, which is worn underneath the outer layer. Social status and class determine the texture, colours, and decorations that embellish the garments. Differently coloured scarves and shawls are an important indicators of social standings, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Jewellery is mostly worn by women, especially during religious festivals and public gatherings. To strengthen Bhutan's identity as an independent country, Bhutanese law requires all Bhutanese citizens to wear the national dress in public areas and as formal wear.
Rice, buckwheat, and increasingly maize, are the staple foods of the country. The diet also includes pork, beef, yak meat, chicken, and mutton. Soups and stews of meat and dried vegetables spiced with chillies and cheese are prepared. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chilis, might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, tea, locally brewed rice wine and beer. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco.
Bhutan's national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards not only in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 metres apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There are usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Wives and supporters of the participating teams cheer. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (khuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target ten to twenty metres away.
Another traditional sport is the digor, which can be best described as shot put combined with horseshoe throwing. Football is an increasingly popular sport. In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat - billed as 'The Other Final', the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup Final, but at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. The match was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang National Stadium, and Bhutan won 4-0. A documentary of the match was made by the Dutch filmmaker Johan Kramer.
Rigsar is the new emergent style of popular music, played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the zhungdra and boedra.
Characteristic of the region is a type of castle fortress known as the dzong. Since ancient times, the dzongs have served as the religious and secular administration centres for their respective districts.
Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King's birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.
Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition facemasks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, dæmons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.
Inheritance in Bhutan generally goes in the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents' house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife's home. Love marriages are the norm in the urban areas nowadays but the tradition of arranged marriages is still common in the villages. Although uncommon, polygamy and polyandry are accepted; often being a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it.
Capital : Thimphu. Area : 47 000 km². Official language : Dzongkha. Population : 672 425 inhabitants. Currency : Ngultrum. President : Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck ( King ).
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked nation in the Himalaya Mountains, sandwiched between India and China in South Asia. The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul (land of the thunder dragon). Historically Bhutan was known by many names, such as Lho Mon, Lho Tsendenjong, and Lhomen Khazhi. The origins of the name Bhutan are unclear; historians have suggested that it may have originated in variations of the Sanskrit words Bhota-ant, or Bhu-uttan. The word Bhutan as a name for the country dates from the late 19th century.
Bhutan is one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world. Nonetheless, survery data from the country suggest it is also one of the happiest. Foreign influences and tourism are heavily regulated by the government to preserve the country's traditional culture and national identity. The landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding seven thousand metres. Vajrayana Buddhism is the state religion and the population is predominantly Buddhist, with Hinduism being the second most dominant. Thimphu is the capital and largest city.
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact due to its isolation from the rest of the world until the early 1960s. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country's culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage. Hinduism is the second dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions. Both religions co-exist peacefully and receive support from the government, and enjoy royal patronage. The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Due to its largely unspoilt natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has aptly been referred to as the The Last Shangri-la.
While the Bhutanese are free to travel abroad, Bhutan is seen to be inaccessible to many foreigners. There is a widespread misperception that Bhutan has set limits on tourist visas. However it is the high tourist tariff and requirement to go on packaged tours that makes Bhutan an exclusive tourist destination.
This is what I received in my mailbox a week ago. This is a newsletter which is talking about Darfur and the camps which will be empty because of Ahmed Aroun, the Prime Minister of the Sudanese humanitarian action, if we don't do nothing. It also talks about the humanitarians aids who can't help the populations because of the War. And that only one person on three can access to a little help.