The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba: Adventure or Ordeal?–Part Four

From my journal, letters, and other writing about forceably expelled Palestinian refugees now in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Previous dispatches were based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. Now drawing from my recent journal entries I write about how I decided to cancel my long-anticipated return for two months which was to have begun May 19, 2022. Journal entries in these blogs are roughly three weeks behind my blog posts. For example, in my blog today, June 6, 2022, I quote my journal from May 15 and May 17, 2022. I’ve also included photos of the destroyed Palestinian homelands and videos about the survivors I’ve longed to photograph.


May 15, 2022, Sunday, Cambridge MA

The night after my overnight sleep test full sleep has mercifully returned to me, always adding, “for now.” Last night I slept from 9:30 pm to 5:30 am, with several short waking periods, each allowing me a swift return to sleep. I did not need my usual aids, the medications like Melatonin, CBD, CBN, Trazodone, and my emergency techniques that would help me regain sleep, such as the Eckhart Tolle podcasts, meditation, music, walking, etc. I only needed to concentrate on my breathing while counting. No panic attacks, no anxiety, no flooding of my brain with toxic chemicals (so it would seem), or my body heating up. I can feel the usual toxins generated during the day washed away by my now returned and frequent REM sleep periods—for now.

In contrast, I learned yesterday during a zoom meeting, Anne R. suffers much more than I ever had with insomnia. She’s undergone 3 sleep tests; in the most recent she was awake the entire night, demonstrated by her brain waves. She also seems overly busy, perhaps a compensation for the recent loss of her husband. I intend to email her to learn if she’d like a commiserative phone call. Poor soul, as L.D. might remark, poor suffering soul.

Cap is another poor suffering soul. He missed our zoom date Friday because he’d not slept all night, then slept thru the morning. We need to talk, soon!

Yesterday I began a second blog about my current struggle with insomnia and its ramifications for my trip to Palestine-Israel. Titling it adventure or ordeal? I will not have decided stay or go when I post it. But I have decided, stay home, too much ordeal, overshadowing the adventure. As I wrote in my last journal entry, I was still undecided, but would probably cancel with some disappointment, but no heartbreak. With some grief and much relief. I theorize that a main component of my insomnia has been my trip, getting there and back, finding assistants, not sleeping on the plane or while in even the most private and quiet housing, let alone possible dorms with snoring mates and lights on and off during the night.

These photos are about Beit Etab, once the home of some of the people I photographed. Since I decided not to return to photograph more destroyed Palestinian homelands I will include photos made by others, with the hope to eventually photograph these same areas. I credit the photographers whenever possible, beholden to them and the Internet.)

The Ongoing Nakba—Abdul Qader Hassan Monjid Al-Lahham

Mr. Monjid Al-Lahham is from Beit Etab. I photographed him on June 9, 2019 in the Deheshe refugee camp in Bethlehem.

I honor my need for Holy Privacy, not only for my simple pleasures, but for my basic health, physical and mental. I’ve aged and this is one concomitant. I am less flexible, not only my legs and back, but my brain, what I can tolerate, how quickly I can accommodate and improvise. I and my entire being, including my soul, move slower. You Youngers, beware!

Russian President Vladimir Putin has unexpectedly influenced my decision to cancel my return. How? you ask; he’s such a determined fellow, look at his invasion of Ukraine. Yes, but… During the recent World War 2 victory celebration in Moscow [May 9, 2022], while expected to amplify his war-making, he spoke in a more conciliatory manner, lending credibility to the belief that he’s a fairly measured strategist, not the insane, “shoot the entire wad” guy some thought he was. I.e., he can be moderate, he can withdraw from the west. He can decide to not control all of Ukraine, just the east. Similarly, I can withdraw from this trip and concentrate on what I can do from home on my Nakba project, mainly the post-production and distribution process. A withdrawal? Perhaps, but a strategic one, given my and the worlds’ condition. Other factors that influenced me, that I’ve not much spoken or written about, are Covid and endemic Palestine/Israel violence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001 and 2022

I may have already noted that this decision process roped in more people as consultants or sounding boards or clearness-support groups than I recall ever having? One main reason is that I now have no partner in my life. Altho I can consult with my former partner and did—she is gracious—I have no one in daily contact with me, with whom I can lightly say, sweet heart, can I speak with you about my current dilemma? Perhaps while in bed, close to sleep, nuzzling and cuddling. As she can with me.

Anita suggested I look into making a traveling display for my Nakba work similar to the Promised Land display we’ve shown at Friends Meeting at Cambridge and New England Yearly Meeting sessions. I will, part of my distribution step.

May 17, 2022, Tuesday, Cambridge MA

From the multitude of dreams I experienced last night I might conclude that I now sleep better. Because when in the pit of sleeplessness I felt and reported that my dreams had vanished, my dream mechanism destroyed by whatever prevented my sleep.

Correct: I now sleep remarkably better. My routine continues to be 1. no meds, 2. minimal caffeine and alcohol, 3. off the screens at least 1 hour before bed, 4. light exercise before bed and my usual pre-sleep practice of breathing and pausing before reading, 5. definitely reading in bed (altho I might switch to out of bed reading),  6. no tools like pod casts and music to get me thru the wakeful periods (don’t need them), and 7. write daily in my journal and periodically blog.

Blogging about all this—my decision-making process generally concerning trip cancellation—definitely helps. And I continue to discuss my experience with others, like Cap and Red, hopefully Rick this morning, Marcia and Reb on Sunday before the Ezekiel’s Wheel’s klezmer concert at the Burren.

Blog no. 2 in my insomnia/cancel series (adventure or ordeal?) flew off yesterday and immediately Carole R. wrote her praise and support. That blog episode is mostly about my sleep test with images of me and equipment. I also began writing people about my decision, Joe and Steve first, more today including Fareed, Mohammed, Inas, Abed, Ayed, support groups, Golden Gate hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem, and Casa Nova pilgrim guest house in Bethlehem, etc. I’ve crafted one template which I’ll modify for different recipients. Will I ever again enter the Holy Land or will 2019 become my last trip?

joe and steve [trainers with the Alternatives to Violence Project, currently in Palestine-Israel, with whom I would have worked, maybe even entering Gaza to continue our work and me my photo project], with a combination of grief and relief, i’ve decided to cancel my trip. many reasons, but here are the key ones:  insomnia, elderlyness, covid, violence, difficulty solidifying partners to guide me to destroyed nakba sites, a growing sense that i’ve completed my field work for my nakba photo project, and now is the time to assemble my thousands of photo, video, audio, and word files into various final forms such as exhibits, slideshows, and publications.

to amplify: i will deeply miss being with you two and meeting the other avp-ers [Alternatives to Violence Project-ers]. i hope you are able to enter gaza, given the obstacles joe mentioned. since steve is such an excellent photographer i doubt you’ll miss my service. i admire joe’s tenaciousness and avp’s work generally in palestine-israel. at another time, i do expect to continue my photo work in the region, perhaps on different project (such as climate and agriculture) under different conditions.

so please keep me on your report lists. i will be with you vicariously, prayerfully.

This evening [May 17, 2022] marks one week exactly since my sleep test. I cancelled my trip a few days later. In 2 days, May 19, I would have departed for Palestine/Israel. In my date book I’ve crossed out my itinerary there but will not erase it until those moments have passed. This will keep me better tuned to whom I’d have been with, where I might have been, Gaza notably, and what I’d have been doing.


Nakba survivors, related links below. I add these videos and article from the Internet, testimonials to the Nakba and its aftemath, hoping I’ll be able to eventually locate and photograph similar people.

Who have been my insomnia consultants? Friends, daughters, husband of former wife, former wife, former partner, Quaker friends, photo friends, people with experience in Palestine-Israel, new friends, and my doctor; the book Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker (given to me by my elder daughter, passed to my younger daughter, who then passed it to her in-laws); and other research. It’s been a long struggle but I sense progress. I also deeply empathize with other insomnia sufferers, notably Anne R. and Marcia B. Marcia told me about her dreadful experiences while we ate at the Burren; Reb, our mutual friend, supported us both.

Among the wide cluster of topics Cap and I discussed yesterday during our zoom chat, such as finding an audience and the use of cannabis, we dove into what may relate to our shared insomnia, the current sources of societal anxiety—Russia’s war on Ukraine, nuclear war, climate destruction, ongoing war, and the Covid pandemic. Precisely how do these factors fit into the maladies many of us suffer? Do we transform societal anxiety into more personal, more specific, more noticeable forms of anxiety? For instance, consciously I might worry about my trip to Israel-Palestine when in fact I am more deeply worried about the climate and nuclear war. Cap may worry about living away from the Boston area when more deeply and harder to access he is more worried about the wider societal factors. The more immediate worries, even tho they block sleep, can usually be dealt with—during the day. He can visit the Boston area as he plans to do soon. I can cancel my trip. Neither of us can do much about war in Ukraine, climate, nukes—other than vote, march, lobby, etc, not very direct or significantly instrumental.


Palestinian Refugees & their Ancestral Lands (or On Our Way Home)—part 21—the destroyed village of Deir Yassin


Zeinab Mohammad Ismail Attieh, a Nakba survivor from Deir Yassin, her story

Meryam Aqel, another Nakba survivor from Deir Yassin

Hind Al-Husseini, a Palestinian in Jerusalem who witnessed the forced march of children from Deir Yassin and in response founded an orphanage

Deir Yassin Survivor Accounts (Deir Yassin Remembered)

A Journey to the Arab Village of Salama, Depopulated in 1948, by Guy Shalev (May 15, 2022-Haaretz)

Explained | Russia’s Victory Day and its significance in 2022 by Priyali Prakash (May 9, 2022)


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