In America they retained the vestiges of important Indian tribes or tribes that are still dwelling. This is not the case here. We have nothing to do with the name of a minuscule Bedouin tribe, and we can assign a Hebrew name here.Yitzhak Be Zvi, at the Negev committee meeting, Sept 29, 1949
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, currently exacerbated by the spread of the Omicron variant, I’ve been unable to return to Palestine-Israel for my next steps. In July 2019 I returned from my last visit. At the moment, always provisionally, I hope to return in the spring of 2022, avoiding Ramadan (April 2-May 2) because most Palestinian activity shuts down and I wouldn’t be able to effectively continue my project.
During this nearly 2-year interregnum I’ve finally decided on the look of my destroyed homelands series, a look I term “dusty and smoky.” I feel if I could enter the memories of the older people I’ve photographed, their vision of their former homes might look a little like this.
Once able to enter the region, I need to explore sites where Palestinians lived before the Nakba, places like Lifta, largely destroyed, threatened with development into luxury housing; and Deir Yassin, the site of a major massacre, nearly impossible to enter (for good reason—Israel’s erasure policy). I will photograph and interview people who populated numerous villages and towns. I’d like to stay for a few nights in the twin locales of Ein Hod and Ein Hawd, the first an Israeli arts colony built on the remains of a Palestinian village, the second where the displaced villagers created their new town. I’d love to again enter Gaza (my last entry was 2013) to meet and photograph some of the people constituting approximately 75% of Gaza residents who lost their homes during the Nakba. These homes are often within only a few miles of Gaza, some viewable from the Strip, like Sderot, which erased the Palestinian village of Najd. To do much of this I need to find colleagues in the West Bank and Israel with information and personal connections.
Ein Hawd, Ein Hod, and Deir Yassin photos by Skip Schiel, Lifta from the internet
I’d love to renew friendships with Palestinians like Fareed Taamallah, Ayed Alazzeh, Murad Abusrour, and Musa Alazza who I’ve worked with in many ways since I began this project in 2018. And Israelis like Amos Gvirtz and David Nir who’ve assisted me. I’d like to again stay in the Aida refugee camp and work with Abed Abusrour and his splendid cultural organization, Al–Rowwad. I hope to finally work with the courageous Israeli organization, Zochrot, which leads tours to destroyed homelands and advocates the right of return for Palestinians.
All wishes, a long and growing list. Some blocked presently by the pandemic, some by political considerations, some by time and the inexorable erasure that Israel perpetrates, burying the homes and destroying the lives of pre-Nakba Palestinians and their descendants. Some people I’ve photographed, like Yussef Albaba, the first in my series, have died. The Bedouin home of Aziz Al-Touri, Al-Araqib in the Negev desert, is again—for more than 100 times—demolished and rebuilt. Concrete and asphalt and profit and greed bury more and more former habitation sites. Israel grows more powerful, memory of Nakba fades, I age, as do—precipitously—first generation survivors.
Currently I watch with much enthusiasm the Israeli TV series, Shtizel. A segment of Israelis comes vividly alive. The occupation and of course the Nakba are absent. Who will make a comparable series about the lives of those who’ve survived the Nakba, now living in refugee camps or as displaced people in Israel or in the diaspora? And their children and their grandchildren and their great grandchildren?
A book my daughter Josephine insisted decades ago that I read helped launch this work—Edward Said’s The Question of Palestine. Still a primary question in my life. Now the secondary question: how to do all this, how to take my next steps?
Fund Human Needs, Not the Israeli Military (photos)
On the UN-declared International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People about 50 folks marched in Boston to deliver letters to staff of Senators Markey and Warren. The request: condition the $3.8 billion the U.S. gives Israel annually (with more promised for the Iron Dome) on upholding Palestinian human rights. Redirect much of this money— $138 million annually from Massachusetts residents—to desperately needed housing, education, daycare, healthcare, climate change resiliency and much more right here in Massachusetts.
NEXT: applying for exhibits and other work to do at home in Cambridge Massachusetts