From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. My dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019.
Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.
MAJOR THEMES EXPRESSED BY THE REFUGEES
· Their original lands were idyllic, owned by their families for many generations.
· Growing grains and produce, shepherding animals, the people were self-sufficient.
· Jews often lived nearby with a wide variety of relationships— trade and mutual help, avoidance and conflict as well.
· During the Nakba, some local Jews attacked their neighboring Arabs, betraying them.
· Militias, Jewish and Arab, fought.
· There were massacres.
· Many wish to be buried in their original homelands, possibly not aware of how the graves would be treated, if even allowed.
· Grief continues, as do stories passed thru the generations.
· Some claim their grief exacerbates their health.
· Many second and third-generation refugees remain angry and are often politically active.
· A few understand that Jews were dominant because of superior organization, leadership, weapons, strategy, international support (especially British), and motivation.
WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH THE PHOTOS I’VE MADE?
Mainly small exhibits or presentations at places like New England Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Vermont (August 2019), Social Documentary Network (July 2019), Whitelight (a photographers’ group, 2018 and upcoming), events hosted at Friends Meeting at Cambridge, various small gatherings with friends, and my website and blog. Upcoming are more opportunities like this, many to gain feedback and provide others a small sense of what I’m doing.
The cost so far for the two trips, fall 2018 and spring 2019, is less than $11,000. Major expenses have been airfare, housing and transport in the region, payment to collaborators, food, and car rental. Major funding has been savings, private donations, and crowdfunding (Go Fund Me). I anticipate further expenses for my upcoming third trip and for the postproduction I’m doing now, approximately $5,000.
WHAT IS MY MAJOR CURRENT PROBLEM?
At home to avoid what I call “The Quotidian Seduction”—everyday tasks such as laundry, shopping, cooking, sleeping, gardening, health care, bike trips, family, friends, Quakers, political work, communities, other photographic assignments, earning money, and all sorts of other distractions, needed for balance, ruinous to missions—I have decided to construct two types of work retreats, one at an ecumenical non-violence center in central Massachusetts, the Agape Community, the other at home. At Agape I will retreat for two two-week periods, joining in their work and prayer life as appropriate. At home, I dedicate the first 3 days of each week to my project. One week into my new routine and I claim success. After being home for the second half of summer I’ve finally returned to my project.
YET TO DO
· Most importantly, work with the photo, video, and audio files I’ve made during my first two trips, which means select, edit, transform, and use.
· Maintain my website and blog.
· Develop exhibits and slideshows.
· Confirm the locations of sites I’ve already photographed.
· Interview and photograph people in the New England area.
· Do more research.
· Raise more money.
· Find a sponsoring organization.
· Find colleagues.
· Gain access to Gaza.
· Return for two months in winter 2020 to find people from key villages like Lifta and Deir Yassin.
· Locate and confirm sites I’ve so far failed to find.
· Begin assessment of multi-platform books.
GOALS AND PURPOSE
A multi-platform book, pages of photographs with some text written by me and others, linking via the internet with my videos, audio recordings, and supplementary information including maps. As far as I know, this is the first project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees using primarily photography. By presenting powerful and contrasting images of life in the current and original sites of internally expelled Palestinian refugees, I hope to build awareness and inspire action. Early step: the right of return for Palestinians. The end result: beyond coexistence to a breath-taking sharing of the region, its resources, histories, luminaries, and potential. Freedom, self-determination. equal rights. A truly Holy, Just, and Peaceful Land.
WHAT MOTIVATES ME?
I’ve blogged (in 4 parts) extensively about my motivations, but a new thought is the following from my journal of July 23, 2019:
I recently realized that native Indians and what I wasn’t able to do to help them historically is part of why I’m able to do what I can do now. I had not yet been born during the last phase of so-called American-Indian Wars, that period of roughly 1840 to 1900, climaxing with the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890—fifty years before my birth. I was 8 when the Nakba occurred, and probably in my 60s when I learned about it, and then precisely 77 when I decided to begin my current project. Time and timing matter. Because of an accident of my birth (I could do nothing about Indians then), and because of this same accident, I can do something about Palestinian refugees now—and shall. Often too late, rarely too early, occasionally on time. Time is elastic.
Israel fears the ghosts of its dark and violent origins. Palestinians are those living ghosts. Listen to what they have to say.
— Amjad Iraqi, writing about Israel sealing documents that record the atrocities of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe in 1948 that enabled the creation of Israel
Arab Villages, Bulldozed From Our Memory, by Gideon Levy (2012)
Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance remains a mystery, by Guy Nardi (2017)
Ahmed Abu Artema (the visionary leader) on the Palestinian Great March of Return, by Esty Dinur (April 2019)
Let Them Eat Cake: a Journey into Edward Said’s Humanism, by Ted Steinberg (2019)
TO BE CONTINUED