Father Christmas in Middle Eastern caricatures carries gas cylinders and wears gas mask

Father Christmas in Jordan Carries the much need Gift of Gas Cylinders

The current 2012 Christmas was celebrated in the most difficult human and political situations, especially in the Middle East. This was reflected by cartoons, paintings and photography. Unfortunately many of such creative work were circulated on-line unsigned.

{jcomments on}By Iqbal Tamimi

The most important obstacles that hindered people’s celebrations this year was the political upheavals and the economic difficulties, both of which are interconnected.

Many people in the Middle East suffered this Christmas, amongst many other things, shortage of gas fuel, especially in Jordan and Syria. In Jordan the rise of prices of all kinds of fuel and the fact that most homes depend heavily on buying gas cylinders was reflected in cartoons. One of the caricatures circulated shows Father Christmas carrying the most precious gift any household could wish for, Yes… gas cylinders for heating and cooking. No one can celebrate a proper Christmas without a Christmas dinner and the traditional sweets made especially for this celebration. It is difficult to enjoy Christmas when you can’t afford the price of the fuel to cook a meal or heat the water to have a bath. And having in mind that one gas cylinder in Jordan cost has risen to 10JD. Protests broke in Jordan last month when Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced on state TV the need to offset $5 billion in state losses from a rising fuel bill. Ensour said a type of fuel used in public transport will rise in price by 14 percent, while kerosene oil used for household heating goes up by 28 percent, and cooking gas will jump 54 percent. Many Jordanians use the gas for heating as well.

The well known female Palestinian caricaturist, Omayya Joha, from Gaza reflected in her caricature the disappointment of Palestinian children when father Christamas arrived without presents because the Israili soldiers confiscated all the gifts

Disruptions in cheap Egyptian gas shipments cost Jordan an extra $7 million a day, pushing the budget deficit to a record high of nearly $3 billion this year. The pipeline that carries Egyptian natural gas to Israel and Jordan has been blown up dozen of times over the past year by militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert. Thus Jordan had to switch to the more expensive fuel oil to generate electricity. Jordan’s harsh winter does not make life easy for people who need gas fuel badly to heat water for bathing, cooking and getting warm. It is common to hear the mobile gas cylinders salesmen announcing their arrival at neighbourhoods by microphones while roaming the streets of Jordan, making their presence known for those who are fortunate enough to afford to buy a refill. That’s why in the caricature you can see Father Christmas calling in Arabic ‘Gas…Gas’ while wearing a big smile on his face for being able to provide people with the most wanted gift for Christmas.

Syrian Refugee family during Christmas 2012 on the Turkish border

Syrians are even in a worse situation. A picture circulated of a bombed church where the debris and dust are scattered everywhere and the chandelier is not fixed any more to the ceiling, but buried under the rubble of the bombed roof. This unsafe situation forced many Syrians to run for their lives and became refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Turkey, others were displaced from one area to another inside their own country. Many did not have the luxury to have a gas source for heating or cooking. Photos were circulated of families packed together in open tents circulated by snow on the Turkish border. It seems Father Christmas could not reach that area for special deliveries.

Father Christmas in Palestine in his full gear including his gas mask

Father Christmas in Palestine on the other hand was fully geared with a gas mask. He can’t risk delivering any presents unequipped, since the Israeli army have no sympathy for Palestinians and do not care if they managed to celebrate their religious feasts or not.

A painting of Father Christmas invited to Dinner at my Home Town

Photography and caricature remains my favourite way of telling the news. My most favourite painting I have seen for this Christmas is for Father Christmas published on Facebook saying that he arrived at my home town Alkhaleel (Hebron), very well-known for its people’s generosity and welcoming guests. The painting shows Father Christmas having a break, invited to the traditional dish, the Mansaf. My home town was named after our greatest grandfather, the prophet Ibrahim, the most generous person in the world, who thought the angles who were visiting the city were humans, that he invited them to eat at his home, cooking for them the best ram he could find, even though they were total strangers.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for every one on this planet.

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