Excerpts from my journal

November 10, 2014, Monday, Detroit 

Cool, upper 30s, 80% cloudy with altocumulus, calm. 

Yesterday, Sunday [November 9, 2014], a day departing from my more usual Detroit days: attend Detroit Friends Meeting in the morning where I met a few people like Peter and Mike who provided photographic leads (later Peter very kindly toured around many parts of Detroit I’d not previously visited and Mike offered me possible use of an extra car), a discussion after meeting with a young woman and man who are part of the Friends of Jesus Quaker group, and generally a chance to exercise my tribal tendencies by linking with local Quakers and discover a home away from home.


Photo courtesy of Detroit Friends Meeting

Since the meeting site is, you might say, inner city, near the river, (West Fort St and Livernois Ave), in an industrial zone (and they hope to keep the meeting located in such a site, after they’ve been forced to move by new bridge construction), by bike I cruised the area and acceded to my strong desire to photograph industrial landscapes. Plenty of them here: a former commercial harbor area, now mostly abandoned; a building with all its window frames scrapped; a mysterious industrial structure about 4 stories tall; a long warehouse without variation; a tall wide building missing all its windows; each structure an icon of Detroit, each a source of beauty—and potential. This was my first experience on this particular trip of free wheeling, spontaneous photography, the type I love to practice best. From Old Fort Wayne to under the international but privately owned bridge.




Then thru Mexican Town thinking I might devour a steaming burrito in a small restaurant or café. Nothing. Only one large restaurant which probably had waiters and table cloths and whose burritos might be too expensive for my budget and needs. I found some new construction, small houses, ticky-tacky type, but housing none the less, perhaps in a neighborhood convenient to downtown and possible jobs. Also some gorgeous murals. One I made a panoramic photo of, a testimonial to indigenous people.


Home finally in the late afternoon, hungry, I feasted on my fish-chicken-lentil combo, beer, coffee, Arabic sweets, and accessories such as stuffed grape leaves from my favorite Dearborn bakery, New Yazmeen. After a nap, I phoned Rich F and when he called back (from Chicago) he was warm and helpful, promising many leads which I see in this morning’s email he’s provided. We have established a vital relationship. This type of photography relies on good contacts—to alert me to photographic possibilities, to inform me about underlying dynamics, to introduce me to otherwise wary communities, and in some cases for protection. Leads provide this and I give back photographs.

A few days ago I found lying along the sidewalk outside my house a notice about a crime:

Help solve this crime!

Cash reward up to $2,500


On Friday, August 4, 2013, Kenneth Peete III, a.k.a. Skip was found murdered in his home on Detroit’s west side. He was found during the early morning hours at West Outer Drive and Santa Barbara.

To submit a tip: …


Chilling for sure, especially because we shared first names, Skip, sad also. I find nothing on-line about consequences, expected none. Could be me, I suppose, killed by a robber or because of mistaken identity. Thus I run a risk.


Yesterday [November 9, 2014], bicycling home, a minor mishap. I was tired, I was hungry, I was cold, the light was beginning to fade, I was about 4 miles from home. And when I shifted, the bike chain jammed itself so tightly between the freewheel and the bike frame that it stuck. I was rendered powerless. What to do?

Free the chain of course. How do it? I had no tools. I was on Grand Blvd. West, apartment blocks nearby. I searched for something strong, maybe wooden, that I could use to pry the chain loose. Wood didn’t work. I wheeled the bike around a corner, into an alley, the area gasping with garbage. Maybe in one of these piles I could find something metal, a tool. First pile—no luck, just clothes, containers, old mobile phones, furniture. Second—none here either. Then finally, searching thru the debris behind one of the empty buildings—was anyone watching, prepared to jump me and steal my gear and bike?—I found a 1 foot length of metal, relatively thin. Would it be strong enough?

Yes—it worked. I finally freed my chain, vowing to either adjust the shifter so this doesn’t happen again when I suddenly shift to high gear, or remember to slowly shift into that cruising gear.


I had been close to panic. Who could I phone? I thought. Could my neighbor, Johnny, pick me up with his truck? But I don’t have his phone number. Maybe another neighbor, Gloria, could give it to me or get Johnny to the phone. (She doesn’t own a car.). Karen? Lives in Ann Arbor, too far from here. Wink, maybe. All not needed, thank god. Skip’s little adventure, another in a long string.

Down the street, Washburn near Wyoming and Grand River Ave, where I stay



“Detroit’s Staggering Murder And Violent Crime Rate Are ‘A Public Health Issue'” by Kate Abbey-Lambertz, November 14, 2014

“Detroit Crime Dropped In 2013, But City Had Same Number Of Murders As New York,” by Kate Abbey-Lambertz, January 3, 2014

Detroit Friends Meeting

How will the new International Trade Crossing affect the Detroit Friends Meeting? (from the meeting’s website)

The proposed International Trade Crossing between the United States and Canada will force the Detroit Friends Meeting to relocate.  The DFM is currently discussing ideas for a new meeting house and location.  The meeting is committed to remaining in the City, but an exact location has not been determined.

So why aren’t shovels in the ground? Well, the short answer is bureaucracy.

Because it is an international crossing, a presidential permit is needed. The Obama Administration has signaled it is strongly in favor, but getting a permit takes months. After that, there are needed site preparation measures. Building a billion-dollar bridge is a bit more complicated than adding a deck in your back yard. But Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general in Detroit, told me he expects to see actual work begin next year, or in 2015 at the absolute latest (Lessenberry, 2013).

Commentary: The latest on the bridge,  Lessenberry,  Jack, Retrieved from: http://buildthedricnow.com/,


The trial of Rasmea Odeh in Detroit concluded on Monday, November 10, 2014. The federal government charged her with a fraudulent naturalization application. She had declared in 2004 that she had no arrests, convictions, or imprisonments. The trial is in Detroit because she first settled and applied for citizenship here. A Palestinian, she’d been convicted by a military court in  Israel for coordinating two bombing attacks that killed two people. Allegedly she  falsely confessed after coerced by torture and rape. Her defense in this current trial is not fully understanding the application instructions, whether “ever” means “ever anywhere” or only in the United States.

The larger issue is justice.

She was convicted of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. She plans to appeal.

“No,” said the priest, “you don’t need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary.” “Depressing view,” said K. “The lie made into the rule of the world.”

― Franz Kafka, The Trial

National Week of Action to #FreeRasmeaNow


Notes from my journal:

November 7, 2014, Friday

Rasmea Odeh (pronounced raz-mee-a o-day), on trial for alleged naturalization application fraud, has instead, I do hope, put the Israeli government and the USA intelligence apparatus themselves on trial. Because of Judge Gershwin Drain’s rulings (which might become the basis of an appeal), the trial avoided the larger issue—justice generally, but, in this case, her treatment by the Israelis and their occupation of Palestine and her subsequent contributions to Arab-American society in Chicago. Little mentioned, the fact that the trial grew out of the investigation and threatened prosecution of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis in 2010, many of them under continuing surveillance by the FBI and Homeland Security.

Arriving a little late on Thursday, November6, the third day of the trial, not sure where the federal courthouse was, or the specific courtroom, I finally entered the actual room only to learn they allowed no more visitors and I would be able to observe in the overflow area. With wide-screen TV and good audio I might have seen and heard better in this room than in the actual courtroom.

I won’t detail the proceedings because Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) where Rasmea works, and others have done a fine job.* I will write about photographing the rally, followed by my thoughts springing from witnessing the trial.


Hatem Abudayyeh

First Rasmea. initial impression: this woman has suffered; suffering defines her; her face, twisted and lined, perhaps aging beyond he actual years (67), reveals her suffering. Yet a fascinating face, one I photographed extensively. Then the rally group, some from my hometown of Chicago; others from Minneapolis, the site of FBI interrogations; and me, from Cambridge Massachusetts (here to photograph aspects of the city): energetic, committed, caring, devoted not only to Rasmea but to the cause: justice for immigrants and activists, for all.


I felt welcomed, nor did any seem suspicious of me, altho I might have been a government agent. I noticed one young woman wearing a hijab concealed her face with her poster when I turned the camera toward her. Otherwise, no exclusion, no hiding from the camera.


The lead defense lawyer, Michael Deutsch from Chicago, tall and with a white beard, long involved in human rights campaigns, spoke mostly about the case and strategies; Rasmea thanked the group, promising to remain strong; Hatem emphasized how important support is; and Invincible Ill Weaver, a renowned local rapper and activist, who I’d met earlier and spoke to about Grace Lee Boggs, roused the crowd. They all concentrated on prospects and gratitude.

Inviinciple Ill Weaver, Detroit activist with the Boggs Center

Invincible Ill Weaver

Michael Deutsch, lead attorney

Michael Deutsch, lead defense attorney

November 8, 2014, Saturday

As I wrote SF:

i’ve just returned home from my second and possibly final day at the rasmea odeh trial [friday, november 7]. cross examination of rasmea, closing arguments, and the judge’s instructions to the jury occupied the morning. outside some 60 supporters, including a large contingent from chicago, rallied before and after. i photographed as much as i could—outside only because of the proscription against cameras and other recording devices.

the jury returns monday to continue deliberations. her lawyer, michael deutsch, did a top notch job closing today, trying to lift the argument from the narrow issue of lying on her naturalization application to fairness and justice…

A few ideas occurred to me while observing the trial.

1. Another way to decide Rasmea’s case would be: suppose she is declared guilty. She will be removed from her community and the country, no longer able to provide services or advocacy. She could suffer prison for some 5-10 years, a huge fine, and then deportation. Where will she go? How will this contribute to the community’s—and the country’s—well being and security?

2. Did she actually help organize the bombing of the Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 that she was convicted of? Was she a member of a banned, so-called terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine? An interview with the brother of one of the two victims, Basil Joffe (the brother, Eddie Joffe, has attended the trial) suggests she is guilty of the bombing. What evidence is there? What media exists from that period? She claims she was arrested in a wide sweep which included her father, and then falsely accused and convicted after torture and rape. What is the truth? If guilty, might she eventually confess? Is her benevolent work a form of repentance?

3. The prosecutor repeated numerous times the phrase, “convicted of two bombings that killed two innocent people.” In his concluding statement, the defense attorney, Michael Deutsch, used the frequency of that phrase to demonstrate how slanted the prosecution’s case was. In effect, without using the T word, ruled out by the judge, the implication was “terrorist.” In contrast Judge Drain ruled against allowing Rasmea’s claim that Israel tortured and raped her to coerce a confession. Had this been allowed, the defense would have used a different strategy, emphasizing her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how this affected her application.

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) professor, character witness

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois-Chicago professor, character witness

4. One factor deciding the outcome of this case might be the jurors’ feelings about Israel, whether supportive or opposed. If opposed they might understand that most likely Rasmea, if guilty of the bombing, was acting in defense of her people against the occupation, and, if not guilty, which is quite likely given Israel’s documented use of torture and brutal interrogation and imprisonment, a victim of a large sweep as she claimed. If supportive of Israel, then the opposite. They might believe she is a terrorist killing innocents. And should be punished and expelled from the United States.

5. What threat does Rasmea pose to out country? Living here she has never been arrested, tried, convicted, or jailed, but the FBI and Homeland Security sucked her up during a dragnet in 2010 of anti-war and Palestinian rights’ activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. To the contrary she was honored with the Mosaic Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Chicago Cultural Alliance for her work with immigrants from Arab-Muslim countries, primarily women and youth.


6. If her original alleged crime had occurred in another country such as Libya or Syria or Iran, a so-called “enemy entity,” part of the new Mideast “axis of evil,” the arguments would have taken different forms. She might have been viewed as a freedom fighter, exercising her people’s right of self-defense.

7. Is this case propelled by Israel, materially aided by Israel (they furnished documents of her 1970 trial), fully supported by the US intelligence apparatus?

8. Supporters claim she is being targeted because she is Palestinian. Yet as far as I know her work in this country has not been primarily for Palestinian rights. It has been more general, in support of Arab-Americans. Why consider her dangerous?

Rasmea Odeh

9. As David Sole, active with citizens’ groups about Detroit’s bankruptcy, pointed out to me, our government has allowed entrance of German Nazis and Cuban “freedom fighters.” Where’s the consistency?

10. As for observing the trial itself, I compare that experience to setting up and shooting a Hollywood movie scene—tedious, endless detail, shots repeated. Or to reading an academic text—repetitive, poorly edited. Not at all exciting as some courtroom dramas can be. (David Sole also compared parts of the trial to the Three Stooges. I suggested Jon Stewart would have a delightful time with the story on the Daily Show.)

The drama occurred later, out of my range, off stage—the deliberation of the jury, and the suffering of Rasmea. What did they all feel this past weekend pondering outcomes?

11. I have been searching for links between Detroit and Palestine-Israel where I also continue my long-term photographic work. The main link is imprisonment, especially true for the Palestinians in Gaza, but also for those in the West Bank and even Palestinian Israelis—gross denial of human rights, including freedom of movement. In the case of Detroit, economic and racial conditions prohibit full exercise of human rights. The worst case is denial of water, affecting hundreds of thousands of Detroiters, all or mostly all Black. Many Detroiters live in such rotten economic conditions they have little freedom of movement, geographical and societally. And now a vivid case of imprisonment in Detroit: Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian, convicted and jailed.


Gaza City, Palestine, 2010, photo by Skip Schiel

12. The lobster boat-coal barge story** from New England is an example of how a prosecutor can be enlightened in the course of his work. Could that happen with the prosecutors of Rasmea?

13. Brecht’s play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, speaks to the larger issue of justice. Judge Azdak, attempting to decide which of two women claiming to be the mother of a child, draws a circle, places the child in it, and requests the two women decide. He decides for the woman who refuses to hurt the child by pulling it out—not the actual mother who is selfish and cruel, but the one who treated the child well, the maternal one. (When I told this story to supporters they added that it is a version of the biblical story of Solomon in a similar situation—“Cutting the child in half.”

What there is shall belong to those who are good for it, thus
The children to the maternal . . . the valley to the waterers.

—Bertold Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle


13. As I’ve written earlier, my main observation is that trials such as this one tend to concentrate on narrow issues—whether she committed fraud in her application for citizenship or in other cases whether protesters trespassed at a military facility?—rather than larger issues such as justice and stopping militarism. (An example of the narrow issue in this case was whether she understood the directions on the application, whether ever means ever anywhere or ever in the USA?) I think of Kafka and his novel, The Trial. Poor Josef K, the chief character, his confusion, his entrapment.

“But I’m not guilty,” said K. “there’s been a mistake. How is it even possible for someone to be guilty? We’re all human beings here, one like the other.” “That is true” said the priest “but that is how the guilty speak.”

― Franz Kafka, The Trial

At the request of the prosecution, the judge revoked Rasmea’s bail. She is now in a Detroit jail awaiting sentencing due in March 2015.



Coverage of the case, thru the US Palestinian Community Network

Arab American Action Network, Chicago (Rasmea is the deputy director)

“Defense promises to appeal guilty verdict against Rasmea Odeh,” by Charlotte Silver, November 10, 2014

“Palestinian Organizer Rasmea Odeh Jailed Hours After Being Convicted by Jury of Immigration Fraud,” by Kevin Gosztola, November 10, 2014

“A political prosecution”: inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh,” by Nora Barrows-Friedman, November 9, 2014

“Admitted Palestinian terrorist may be deported from US (updated),” by the elder of zion, May 18, 2014

FBI questioning Chicago Palestinian community members,” May 7, 2014

“Activists cry foul over FBI probe,” by Peter Wallsten June 13, 2011

“FBI Raids Homes of Antiwar and Pro-Palestinian Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis,” Democracy Now, September 27, 2010

Death in the Supermarket” (Eddie Joffe was murdered in Jerusalem 45 years ago. Today his terrorist killer is lionized.” by Jillian Kay Melchior, May 21, 2014

“Jerusalem Supersol Re-opens for Business; 2 Young Bombing Victims Are Buried,” February 24, 1969

** “In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used a little white lobster boat, the Henry David T, to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, the largest coal plant in New England. They were charged with conspiracy, disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations and faced up to several years in jail.

“The Bristol County District Attorney, Sam Sutter, dropped the conspiracy charges and reduced the other charges to civil infractions this morning, saying that he saw the need to take leadership on climate change. He called climate change “one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced” and told a cheering crowd that he would join them at the People’s Climate March in New York City in two weeks.”

Lobster Boat Blockade

Quaker Meeting for Worship

Spontaneous Quaker Meeting for Worship


Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing…

—George Fox, 1656



Like a suddenly-bright sun piercing the ozone-depleted atmosphere, not incinerating islands and other low-lying lands and peoples, but a burst of light crying out for earth justice, this march was a big event on the minor scale, and possibly—but we might have to wait decades to know—on a major scale: the People’s Climate March yesterday [September 21, 2014] in NYC. I marched with Quakers largely, SF and EM more minutely, a little-light-of-mine among the radiance of some 400,000 people. In turn we were one country among some 150 and one march or rally among some 2,600 that stood or marched or spoke or listened or sat for the earth.

Climate March numbers

Part of the "The Debate is Over," interfaith and scientists contingent

An estimated 300-400 Quakers from across the country marched in the interfaith contingent.

Our route thru central Manhattan was less than 3 miles long, which would require less than 1 hour when walking at the usual pace, but we had not marched one step in the first 2 hours, waiting for our contingent, named “The Debate is Over,” to join the main body. We were interfaith, thus Quaker, and scientists. EM and I wore blue sashes, indicative of Quaker affiliation (EM agreed to be an honorary Quaker for the day, even tho her Sisters of the Sacred Heart order were probably not too far from us; SF refused, and might have marched in the interfaith group reluctantly, being such a strong anti-religionist), and we three marched immediately behind the Quaker Earthcare Witness banner. MVB persuaded me to make a group portrait which I will process this morning and send to the Quaker Earthcare Witness head, Shelley Tanenbaum.

Several highlights for me:


Marching in front of a group of boisterous college students, mostly from Princeton and the New School, who loudly chanted resistance to the big powers soon to descend on the UN this week to determine policy—probably more of the same, endangering the earth. A group from Bard MBA’s hanging out of window about 4 stories up shouted encouragement.


The tall, well-muscled, black man who led singing, notably “Down by the Riverside.” Judging from signs carried by people behind him, I surmised he and they were from the famed Riverside Church where Martin Luther King Jr had delivered his Vietnamese War sermon. This leader’s gusty singing and powerful presence stimulated many others to join in song.


Two groups on the border of Central Park that honored us. The first with silent meditation, with their banner, “Earth Vigil;” and a gustier group perched on a rock formation shouting support and waving arms, sometimes in the Black Power Salute.

Because of SF’s walking problems, we three rested a few times. This provided the opportunity to view other elements of the march, which would have been precluded if we had remained with our contingent.

And several disappointments:

Not meeting my daughter Joey and boys even tho Joey and I texted and left phone messages constantly. They were in Bryant Park where the march turned west after marching south and had hoped walk with their school, the East Village School, maybe as part of the “We Can Build the Future” contingent which included schools and elders. They may have left minutes before we arrived; perhaps the boys tired.


Worried about my post surgery condition and after checking with my surgeon, I happily made the 4 hour each way bus ride and walked most of the march distance without incident.

We quit a little early, encouraged by organizers because of the flood of people at the end. I was tired and overloaded with so many people in a relatively small space. Waiting for our bus to leave, I made one last NYC stroll and discovered the Air Pegasus heliport along the Harlem River, a perfect counterpoint to what the march demands: climate justice.


Helicopters are a major polluter with their noise, fuel, and fumes.

I made many photos. Have I expressed the faith of the marchers? Our belief that this symbolic gesture can help turn human beings from ruining the earth to bolstering it? When asked why I walked I answered, for my 3 grandchildren and for the Seventh Generation.



People’s Climate March

Report in Time Magazine

Photos from related events worldwide

Quaker Earthcare Witness




Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

(I am planning another 3 week trip to Detroit in November. Please stay tuned.)


April 5, 2014, Saturday, Detroit, Karen’s home, dining room table

Cool, mid 30s, overcast, mild westerly wind.


Another big day for photography as I wind down this 3 week spring Detroit sojourn [April 4, 2014]. 4 themes actually [more later on these]. The 1st was the scheduled visit to Alan Kaniarz’s fundamentals of design class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS), a school I’ve been drawn to since visiting Detroit in 2010. I’ve pictured myself teaching photography there. He’d invited me to visit, I’d sought permission from the administration, and finally, because the big administrator never responded to the small administrator in the form of Marcus, Marcus said OK.


Students were building a piece of wood and metal that seemed to have no purpose other than providing experience fitting pieces together, drilling holes, creating threads, etc. Of course I may have missed the larger context. Women alongside men, blacks alongside whites, tall with short, fat with lean, etc. A good mixture. The equipment was superb, all a woodworker might desire. I thought again of my son-in-law, Phil, and of myself when younger when I had plans to create my own basement shop. And further back, to high school when I took all the shop courses available including metal, wood, electric, and engineering drawing, not so much to prepare for later engineering studies which I followed but because I loved tools and making things.



How much of my background will show in the photos? Big-small question.


Alan has excellent rapport with students, joking with them. But he seemed a little lax about distractions. I noticed 2, maybe 3, women peering into their mobile devices while he lectured about lighting. One quickly hid her screen when I approached and pointed my camera at her. Some texted, some looked at female models, I doubt they were doing further research on topics of the day. Had I been Alan I might have required them to stow their phones, as I did with my students at the Jenin Freedom Theater. Which they appreciated.


The lecture about lighting was to prepare them for their next assignment: design a lighting fixture. So he demonstrated all the sources of light from a facsimile of the first Edison bulb with carbon filament to a string of LEDs controlled remotely so it could change colors and flash. Here revealed, in the span of some 150 years, an array of lighting.



I thought he might ask me to launch the topic of photographic lighting, magnesium powder to strobe, but he didn’t. How well would I have done this without preparation? (Maybe this was my dream last night?)

That finished, it was lunchtime and I’d not checked my morning’s email. So after exploring the photographic section, meeting no one, seeing students at work, observing the well equipped but perhaps not so often used film darkrooms, and the fine photos made by students, thinking of myself here teaching, I took lunch in the cafeteria (fish sandwich and fries, followed by a large chocolate chip cookie and Americano coffee which I learned is not standard American style coffee but espresso with hot water, a potent concoction which I will try again) and dove into the swift internet stream of CCS.

Rapid does not begin to describe the speed of this free, open Internet connection—67 mb/s download and 64 upload. The speed pushed my Internet speed tester into the red zone. Is CCS to be my new office? Maybe next visit I’ll upgrade my housing to live in Midtown around the corner from CCS.





College for Creative Studies Facebook



Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit


April 4, 2014, Friday, Detroit

Cool, upper 30s, overcast, foggy, mild easterly wind—rain forecast, again.

After a bit of imagined bad news out of the way [a waking nightmarish fantasy about lost love] I can get to the better news, how life is in Detroit for me photographically. Lifting me out of the 4 day no photo doldrums I’d been in, yesterday afternoon [April 3, 2014], thanks to Mike who laid out numerous possibilities for examples of Detroit Up for me to photograph, I met and extensively photographed and interviewed Alan Kaniarz in his shop in the Russell Industrial Center on Detroit’s near East Side.


Alan Kaniarz

60 years old, with a long white mustache and matching goatee, tall and thin, wearing a dark leather long-billed cap and a paisley shirt, he toured me thru his shop. (I thought my son-in-law Phil would admire such a shop and pursuit and must remember to tell him about Alan.) Alan is multi-talented: wood, metal, glass. He invents, constructs, and repairs wood furniture and cabinetry. He collects and repairs antique lamps. He renews old picture frames and other wooden antiques. He commented that being so multifaceted helps him over the tough economic times he, Detroit, and the nation have recently faced. He also teaches at the College for Creative Studies and invited me to photograph him later if the administration gives us permission.




I told him I was searching for the seeds of a new Detroit miracle and asked, are you one? Without hesitation, he answered, yes. And explained that he employs students from the college, and has recently purchased a derelict building that he will rehab into relatively reasonably priced apartments for students. He is part of an association that includes Mike, possibly fosters clever social entrepreneurship, and goes by some initials that I did not record.

After my long session with Alan, at least 90 minutes, I explored the old factory complex, designed in 1915 by Albert Kahn. He’d explained that its first use was as a carriage-making factory, the entire complex, then with the rise of the automobile, it converted to making car bodies, not Fisher, but something equivalent. After other iterations, it now houses more than 140 tenants, mostly artists and craftspeople. I discovered 2 cars cut in half and affixed to walls. I discovered faces made of scrap metal. I discovered a set of words that resonated with me. (I hope to use them somehow, maybe transcribed as a footer or added to a display.) I discovered long hallways, mostly empty. I did not penetrate any studios so what’s behind the doors and walls remains a mystery to me.



The art of others in the building.


Alan gave me more leads including the CEO of Quicken who apparently invests in a socially wise manner. And Whole Foods, committing to the city, a true outpost in the realm of food. (For lunch yesterday from Whole Foods I gobbled down a chocolate chip scone, with milk, heated. I—and I presume many others—cannot survive without my daily consumption of spiffy food. Good bread in particular. And chocolate chip anything. Also peanut butter without sugar, chunky style.)

As usual finding the place presented problems. But the roaming brought me into new zones where I might return to pursue my sub theme of industrial landscape.



Reminding me that I temporarily live in Detroit in a relatively tough neighborhood, out my window yesterday early evening I noticed a heavy woman walking on the opposite sidewalk, apparently tracked by someone in a car. The driver pulled into a driveway to block her, left the car, and walked hurriedly to her. Is this a case of domestic violence unfolding before my eyes? I mused. He confronted her, held her. Because of the distance I couldn’t quite make out the tone. I picked up my phone and thought I might immediately phone 911 to report the incident as it unfolded—let the cops handle the situation. Then a succeeding and perhaps much wiser thought occurred: monitor the situation, outside where he can see me, with phone in hand. Deliberately banging my door, I stood conspicuously on the porch, phone in hand, and observed. He seemed to notice me. From confrontation the mood seemed to change to reconciliation. Another woman cracked open the rear door of the car and shouted something to the couple. He held her, this time maybe lovingly, and escorted her back to the car. No violence that I detected. And they drove off. All three were African-Americans.

What was the true story? Would he harm her later? Should I have intervened more forcibly, either by phoning the cops or walking into the scene? How much risk would that entail? To me and to the woman? Should I have brought my camera, as another form of intervention, not necessarily to use it, but to be ready to use it?



Alan’s workshop and business, A.K. Services

Russell Industrial Center


 Ban al Ghussain, Islam Madhoun, and their son, from their Facebook page

After the Israeli assault on Gaza, yet another, probably the most damaging, with Palestinian deaths topping 2,100 and injuries 11,200, most of them civilian, more than 106,000 displaced in UN shelters and with host families, one half million children unable to begin the new school year, restricted electricity and severely threatened water supplies, and with 71 Israeli deaths, 66 of them soldiers, and Israel’s astronomical financial and political costs, after a cease-fire, I wrote some of my friends in or from Gaza. Knowing electricity is often limited to 3 hours daily, I’m even more appreciative for their replies (and for those from my Israeli friends, living in Sderot and Netif Ha’asara within one mile of Gaza and under attack, and another in Jaffa, threatened while protesting the violence):

Thank you very much for your loving wishes and mail …  love you so much. I really hope to see you soon (Ban al Ghussain)


Thank you my friend, miss you. I hope everything going to fine after ceasefire, See u in Gaza closely (Islam Madhoun)


I hate the fact that we reunite only after a devastation hits Gaza. However, it’s always nice to hear from you. You are missing a lot in here my friend. Thus, you should come over as soon as you can. Meanwhile, Keep safe. (Hisham Mhanna)


Hisham with his father, 2012

Hi dude! I hope u r ok. we hope it will lead to a permanent solution. u are mostly welcome…..just tell me when u come to celebrate your coming. stay safe. (Muntaser Abu Kmeil)

Muntaser Facebook
From his Facebook page
Mr. Skip, Thanks a lot.. We trust Allah, everything will be okay in shaa Allah We will heal our pain . Thanks for sending me (Suhair Hajjaj)
Suhair my secondary school in  copy
Suhair’s secondary school in Shuheya
Thank you Skip for your lovely and compassionate support of Palestine. Actually, you are one of the people who made the Palestinian justice work more lively in New England Area and beyond. I hope our paths will cross again soon. (Ayman Nijim)
Ayman facebook
Here are two other articles offering perspectives, the first from Rana Alshami in Gaza:
Whatever was going on in Gaza for the past 51 days has finally ended. People can finally breathe, sleep, live! My family and I lived and experienced the worst of times, but we are still alive. We survived….
And from Alex Cane, a form of reality check:
The cease-fire that ended seven weeks of hell in Gaza is only two days old. But the countdown to the next round began as soon as the ink dried on the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian armed factions….
This is what I earlier wrote Gazan friends:
with you perhaps i celebrate the extended cease-fire. i’m sure you’re relieved that you can now return to a relatively safe location and situation. “relatively” is a tricky word. will the cease-fire lead to the end of the siege, reconstruction of gaza, and freedom and a just peace after so many years of suffering? i pray for all this and for you personally.
my most recent blog outlines what might happen, a fantasy which could become a world-shaking reality.
I hope to see you again sometime next year, inshallah.
Your enduring friend,

Gaza Resurrected

Now, I can hear the bombings, shelling and air strikes every where in Gaza. Where is the situation is going?

—Dr. Mustafa El Hawi, Gaza City, August 19, 2014

Recently at a large gathering of New England Quakers, to a small group, a woman outlined her visionary response to the recurring violence in Gaza and Israel. Essentially: a group of Israeli Jews, spontaneously, recognize the desperate needs of their Gazan neighbors—and their government’s role in causing those needs. Addressing only the merciful side of the problem, not yet the justice side, they gather building materials, food, water, medicines, and other needed supplies and personnel intending to bring it to Gaza personally, an aid mission, not blessed by their government, nor by the majority of their fellow Israelis who overwhelming support the assault on Gaza.

Of course their government will not allow this citizen group to enter the Gaza Strip so they bring ladders, crowbars, sledgehammers, and a large number of determined people to the wall which imprisons their neighbors. They storm the wall and enter Gaza. This act of chutzpah gains much favorable international publicity, a new form of news from Israel and Gaza. Others from around the world spontaneously organize their own aid missions and successfully land on Gaza’s beaches, push back Egyptian security at the southern border, flood thru the breach in the Israeli wall, and reconstruct the Strip.

The wall between Gaza and Israel from Netiv Ha'asara

Gaza wall, click image for an enlargement

Far fetched? Speculative? A fantasy? Another good idea but is it possible? One small hint of reality occurred several weeks ago when Gershon Baskin, a Jewish Israeli-American activist, discovered a huge amount of potatoes in Israel that for various reasons might need to be abandoned. He organized a crowd-sourced fundraising appeal and hopes to generate some $730,000 to purchase and transport the potatoes to Gaza.


According to the Jerusalem Post he launched “an online Indiegogo campaign aiming to raise the $730,000 necessary to purchase a 5,000-ton surplus of potatoes from the Israel Vegetable Growers Association. Due to union bylaws guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their labor, the association cannot simply donate the potatoes.” And Europe recently experienced a surfeit of potatoes so it is not a market. As of today, he’s raised a little more than one tenth his goal, $78,000, enough to buy and ship some of the surplus potatoes.


 Gershon Baskin

(UPDATE:  After asking the Israeli vegetable growers association to donate some of the potato surplus to Gaza they responded positively and agreed to reduce the price we will pay by 20%!!! That is a sizable amount of money and will enable us to increase the amount of potatoes we will send to Gaza’s neediest people! Spread the word!—Gershon Baskin)

Another precedent is post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans when groups such as the Common Ground Collective and later during Hurricane Isaac elements of the Occupy movement rallied to help reconstruct the city and fight for a fair disposition of resources, an exemplary combination of mercy and justice. Detroit’s problems might be at least partially alleviated by a similar grass-roots movement from outside the city, which is already occurring on a small-scale. The Detroit Water Project locates donors from outside the city to help pay Detroiters’ water bills. As of July 27 it has found 4,000 donors. Inside the city, organizations like the Boggs Center organize residents and visitors in social justice movements.

What a mind shift this could create in the international community. anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, the United States may follow. If such a vision were to be implemented, organized initially by Israeli Jews, the nation of Israel could be viewed differently: from criminal state, becoming a pariah, more and more hated internationally, to a benefactor, a rescuer. As many people rescuing Jews did during the holocaust.

I now extrapolate from the initial vision. Phase two would occur when others, more strategically oriented, realize this is only a partial solution. What prevents Israel from attacking again and maintaining the killing siege, or Gazan militants from firing missiles into Israeli civilian districts and building tunnels into Israel to attack the army and possibly civilians as well? This second phase could either organize appeals to the international court system and finally, finally, the case of Israel and Palestine comes to the International Court of Justice, while other elements of the case go to the International Criminal Court. Or, as in South Africa, organize a truth and reconciliation process, inviting elements from all parties to acknowledge suffering and admit complicity.



In a Gaza hospital, photo by Skip Schiel


Untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, photo by Skip Schiel


Generators to supply electricity when municipal services fail

Once this second adjudication phase has begun, the third phase would be enacted: reparations from the responsible parties. After another Israeli operation, Defensive Shield, ravaged much of the West Bank in 2002, international donors like USAID paid for the repair and reconstruction. Why not the afflicting parties? Why not Israel itself, required to pay for the damage it brought? And perhaps a similar reparation program to compensate those injured, killed, and otherwise destroyed by criminal acts of Palestinian parties? Justice served, finally. Is it possible? A vision for a program?

(Thanks to Liberty G for the initial vision.)

I have a crazy fantasy.

Peace will come and filmmakers will produce movies about this war, too.

One scene: Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel and enter it in order to clear it of enemies. At the same time, Hamas fighters enter the tunnel at the other end, on their way to attack a kibbutz.

The fighters meet in the middle, beneath the fence. They see each other in the dim light. And then, instead of shooting, they shake hands.

A mad idea? Indeed. Sorry.

—Uri Avnery




It was a great feeling to arrive on that boat [one of the first freedom boats sailing to Gaza in 2008], a feeling of freedom that I had never experienced. It was the first time in my life that I had visited home without the humiliation of being questioned or interrogated by the Israelis, without being threatened, having my travel documents thrown in my face, and not knowing whether I would be able to get out or not. It is a sense of liberation I hope every Palestinian will experience one day. I am proud of being one of the first Palestinians from the Occupied Territories to enter Palestine without Israeli permission since 1967.

Musheir El-Farra, the only Palestinian from Gaza sailing on August 21, 2008


“Meeting in a Tunnel,” by Uri Avnery

Norway and Egypt to host donor conference for Gaza

“Anti-Semitism flares in Europe amid Gaza war,” by Janelle Dumalaon, Jennifer Collins and Angela Waters,

Repression against grassroots hurricane relief lingers in New Orleans,” by Jake Olzen, November 9, 2012

Detroit Water Project

Detroit Allows Outsiders to Pay Past Due Water Bills,” by Douglas A. McIntyre, July 27, 2014

$200K expected to fill Detroit water bill fund,” by Darren A. Nichols, August 18, 2014

“Son of Death,” by Uri Avnery


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