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. These dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing.
The past as it is and has been represented- the inquiry into the archaeology of memory’s representations following Michel Foucault—is but a facet of this study. The power of the past as it was lived and is remembered, as it is commemorated and represented, continues to limit, define, and inspire current narratives of Arabs and Jews.
—Susan Slyomovics, The Object of Memory, Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village
July 2, 2019, Israel, Haifa, Haddad Guest House
In a gleeful mood—the guest house, the family and Haifa generally—I wrote my chevrah and adapted the message for the Agape steering committee and a friend, Peter, who’d also recently written:
earlier, driving to haifa somewhere north of tel aviv, i stopped for gas and food along the big israeli highway. pulling in, two dark-skinned young men greeted me with what i thought was unusual welcome. one pointed at the bracelet i wear with the palestinian flag colors, smiled, and asked, “what does that bracelet mean to you?” i wasn’t sure he was israeli or palestinian. i answered, “it means palestinian rights, their human rights.” he smiled again, and thanked me, saying, “i spotted your bracelet before you even stopped your car. we’re palestinians.”
The power of symbol.
July 3, 2019, West Bank, Jenin, Freedom Theater guest house
A big deal, a dream realized, another pilgrimage (as was finding Deir Yassin): finding and exploring Ein Hod and Ein Hawd, the first, the village Israel confiscated in 1948 as part of the Nakba, now an artist colony, and the second, a previously unrecognized Palestinian village. This constituted a major personal achievement of yesterday and perhaps this entire trip. As Deir Yassin is legendary and known to anyone with any knowledge about the Nakba, the two Ein’s may be less known but still familiar to a few. The artist colony the Israelis constructed when they took over Ein Hawd, kicking out the Palestinian residents who’d been there for centuries or maybe millennia, and what the stalwart Palestinians did to relocate themselves within viewing range of their old lands are both truly impressive—the first of creative reuse, the second of sumoud (steadfastness). Together—perhaps, a huge perhaps—a model window into the future of a shared land.
Ein Hawd, the Palestinian village, is less than 1.2 miles/1.9 km from Ein Hod (straight line), from the Israeli artist community, but reachable only over a torturous up and down road, often pockmarked and partially eroded, 1.7 miles/2.7 km driving. I made lots of photos and filmed part of the connection trip.
In retrospect: The Two Ein’s, Hawd and Hod-Recent writing for the blog
February 28, 2020, Cambridge Massachusetts
In brief, for millennia (at least since the time of Sultan Saladin’s conquest of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1180s), Palestinians lived in a village called Ein Hawd (Spring or Fountain of Trough) south of Haifa, in the foothills of the Carmel Mountain Range, within sight of the Mediterranean Sea. During the Nakba in 1948, the Israeli army forced the residents to leave. Many left the country for Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan; some to refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, especially Jenin; and about 35 villagers, led by the family of Abu al-Hija, improvised temporary housing across the valley from their village in a barn on village land.
Initially, the Israeli authorities did not recognize the village. In 1988, residents helped to form the association of the Arab Unrecognized Villages in Israel. In 1992, the state finally officially recognized the village, but it was only granted full recognition in 2005, when it was connected to Israel’s electric grid. (Wikipedia)
In 1953, an artist from Romania, Marcel Janco, fleeing the Holocaust, persuaded the Israeli authorities—who’d planned to erase all signs of the village—to leave the buildings remain so he could organize the first-ever and still-only artist colony in Israel.
The situation is steadily deteriorating. I had to go. And as soon as possible. I had only been convicted of being born a Jew.
I was not physically abused, I was not raised by legionaries. But I was morally ill. I endured with great intensity the sufferings of my whole people: I experienced, every day, [in Romania] the pain of the Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, who were begging at my door and talking about horrors that seemed unbelievable to me; we suffered with them and wept with them, thinking of the desperate situation of our brothers in the concentration camps; I wept when we learned how our synagogues were burned and our sacred books burned, how the graves were spoiled, the Jewish cemeteries destroyed; I was filled with despair when I learned that the elders and children and women together, the people of an entire nation, were being driven out of their homes and transported in wagons … to be killed in the gas chambers or burned alive.
Their suffering shook me. I felt threatened – me and all of me – by a great, irreparable danger, I felt that if, by an unexpected chance, I would still save myself from this danger, I still would not be able to, in such a world devoid of freedom, work. You don’t even live. I had to go as soon as possible.
I did not accept to go to France or America, where so many of my friends called me insistently.
Identified with my oppressed, stacked, mocked, humiliated, shattered nation, which the enemies intended to destroy, I decided for Palestine.
I was drawing with the thirst of one who is being chased around, desperate to quench it and find his refuge.
—Marcel Janco, VISUAL ARTS. The confession of a great artist (in Romanian but can be mchine translated)
From the beginning of my work in Palestine-Israel in 2003, I had known about this peculiar juxtaposition. I’ve yearned to visit both villages, maybe reside in both for a few days to explore, photograph, meet residents, and interview. Finally, on my most recent trip last spring-summer (2019), exploring the coast in my rented Palestinian car to locate and photograph destroyed Arab village sites, I managed to briefly, cursorily, explore both sites.
Curiosity was one factor that drew me; but another, discovered only recently, is that the two villages, with decent relations between them, at least not hostile, could represent the future for Palestine-Israel. As do Haifa and the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews and Palestinians live, pray, and work side by side. Usually without violence.
“Briefly and cursorily” means I walked around Ein Hod, the Israeli arts colony, for a few hours in the hot mid-summer sun last year, photographed art installations and the Janco-Dada art museum established in 1953 by the colony’s founder, Marcel Janco; and met several artists. Meeting people there is easy: I am a tourist, a potential buyer. The art, mostly decorative, often abstract, did not much appeal to me. Plus, how could I afford any of it?
The museum, however, did appeal. I explored it thoroughly, appreciative of Janco’s Dadaist approach which resonated with my impulses. The big find for me was the Dadalab in the basement, serene, mysterious, dark, filled with all sorts of objects like bells, horns, tools, furniture, etc that could be converted into Dada installations, or drawn or painted or sculpted with. And the light! Cool, shadowy, subtle, lilting, like the chords of early Miles Davis jazz.
I’m embarrassed to admit that in Ein Hawd, the Palestinian village, I only left my car for a perfunctory view of houses and across the valley to Ein Hod. Driving, videoing thru Ein Hawd, holding my phone camera in front of me, easily visible thru the windshield, I noticed several men glaring at me. Who’s this? they might have thought, an Israeli Jew contemplating another removal? To extend their artist colony perhaps? Only months later, while writing this blog, did I learn the crucial role played by the man who brought Israeli recognition, along with municipal services—and respect—to Ein Hawd, Mohammed Abu al-Hija. In effect, matching Marcel Janco: visionary and persistent.
Today , the population of the entire country from the river to the sea is at least half Palestinian, and that proportion is growing. The natives are still there, unified by decades of occupation and colonization since 1967, and they are restless. Those Palestinians who have managed to remain in historical Palestine—in spite of the ceaseless efforts to dispossess them—continue to resist erasure. Outside of Palestine, an equal number remain profoundly attached to their homeland and to the right of return. The Palestinians have not forgotten, they have not gone away, and the memory of Palestine and its dismemberment has not been effaced. Indeed, wider international audiences are increasingly aware of these realities.
On my next trip, I intend to explore both Ein’s more fully, reside at least one night in each village, eat in the Ein Hawd restaurant, sip coffee in the Ein Hod café (formerly the village mosque), meet more people, especially founders of Ein Hawd and artists in Ein Hod, and photograph and interview. And ask, what are you doing to create one land for different peoples?
Or are the Palestinians in Ein Hawd subject to further removal? The Ongoing Nakba.
After struggling for recognition for so long, I now recognize, how a group of people, a village, can finally obtain official status of their home, recognition of their right to live lawfully in their own village after so many years. It is true that many years have gone by, but this is a great achievement for everyone, a big step forward. The State of Israel has finally applied a policy of equality to us and I am hopeful that this will prove to be the case for other villages that are in similar situations as well. This step shows that there is hope for additional changes for the better as well. It helps to convince me that equality is attainable, no matter how difficult it may seem.
—Mohammed Abu al-Hija, mayor of Ein Hawd (2005)
Ein Hod by the Lonely Planet guide book
Trailblazers: The Man Who Changed a Country, New Israel Fund (2018) with a video of Mohammed Abu al-Hija
A Free People in Our Land: The Status of the Arab Sector in Israel, by Ilan Jonas (2005)
The Object of Memory: Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village, by Susan Slyomovics
On the way to Ein Hod | A frame from an interactive new media Installation | 2018
The installation was presented in Janco Dada Museum in the village of Ein Hod. It is influenced by a series of paintings by Janco depicting the village, sometimes burning, with refugees leaving it.
PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (February 16, 2020) lauding Trump’s “Peace Plan” and support and how they solidify Israeli control over the entire Palestine-Israel region
My photos from “In the Steps of the Magi,” a Christmas Pilgrimage (that included Ein Hawd) in 4 parts, 2004
Not on Any Map—a video about unrecognized villages in Israel including Ein Hawd, made in the mid 1900s
TO BE CONTINUED