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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field and now from home in Cambridge Massachusetts, after I had photographed internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. (I and the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP, team plan a return journey in early summer 2019.)

We [the Haganah, precursor to the official Israeli military, IDF] adopt the system of aggressive defence; during the assault we must respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the [Arab] place or the expulsion of the residents along with the seizure of the place.

—David Ben Gurion, leader of the Jewish community in Palestine and later Prime Minister, December 19, 1947, cited in Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality

 

 

October 15, 2018, Monday, Bethlehem

PHOTOS 

Yesterday [October 14, 2018] I found or believe I found Al Qabu, the village of Nidal Al-Azraq’s family. I’d first first explored the nearby Israeli village/moshav/kibbutz, Mevo Beitar. And also Ilar/Alar/Ellar (alternate English spellings of Arabic names), the village of Ahmad Ali Dawoud’s (who I’d interviewed and photographed). Plus the Israeli site, Bar Giora. I need to consult my photos with the GPS coordinates to pinpoint reliably were I was, except maybe in the case of Qabu. Because of alternate transliterated spellings, Hebrewized names, lack of experience with Arabic and Hebrew names generally, and the intentional erasure of Arab villages, this is one of the most complicated photographic projects of my life.

Qabu-JerusalemFarWest1870s

Al Qabu/El Kabu, Ottoman period, 1870’s (click map to enlarge)

 

BeginParkBethlehem.jpg

(Click map to enlarge)

Qabu presented a special challenge: where exactly was or is the site? As often happens (me searching for Rachel Corrie’s death site in Gaza for instance), various people had various ideas. A woman in a gas station, the station rumored to be near the site, confirmed that yes, this is the site. So I surveyed from a distance an open field, gently sloping, with curious concrete platforms and possible stone markings—and occasional clumps of prickly pear cactus, otherwise known as sabra (which is also the name of first generation Israelis).

IMG_3370

IMG_3367

Prickly pear cactus/sabra/צברtzabar)

Driving thru an open gate, thinking, yes, Qabu, let’s find the Crusader church reported to still exist in Qabu—over rough roads, oh valiant friends—I ended up at a cemetery. Cars were parked outside, a woman told me it was not the church but a Jewish cemetery, and thus I concluded, this is not Qabu.

Out comes my laptop; up comes the info I’d collected; no help. Then I remembered Nidal’s description: immediately right after the checkpoint. Going which way? I emailed him, no answer. I guessed: coming from the West Bank. So I went thru the checkpoint on the 48 Armistice Line, headed into the West Bank, noticed as I passed (not sure I’d be stopped, questioned, what I’d claim), a forest area on my left, which would be on the right coming into Israel. Now in the West Bank I turned around, slowed down after the checkpoint (no interrogation, the guards looked bored, as guards often do, devoting eons of their lives to just waiting for something to happen, trying to remain awake and vigilant), videoed the fence which I thought would prohibit me from entrance, considered hopping the fence, decided against it, and then saw a sign to “Begin Park.” Once in the park I learned it commemorated the former Prime Minister and possible war criminal, Menachem Begin.

Palestine-Israel-Qabu-refugee_DSC1459

“In Memory of Aliza and Menachem Begin,” the latter a former Prime Minister of Israel, known for leading a terrorist group to establish the state of Israel

How ironic, if this is Qabu. Exploring, I found a shrine and several other Arab indicators, a stonewall, a pool possibly for collecting water or bathing. Because the day waned, the light faded, I decided not to search further for the church. My mission is not to find historic sites, but to establish contact with ancestral sites and make some good photos.

Earlier, maybe at Mevo Beitar or Bar Giora (they merge in memory), I’d sought overnight housing. A young pregnant woman I asked turned her infant over to her grandmother (life goes on), walked me to a home she thought might offer housing. The woman in the house phoned someone, her sister-in-law I think she said, and put me on the phone. 550 shekels/$150. Beyond my budget, I answered. What is your budget, thinking, calculating—200 shekels/$50. Sorry no deal, she said. I drove on.

Life is tough on the Israeli road when not in the cities.

Yesterday or the day before, Ayed in Aida refugee camp had written me, in support and yearning:

Hello my friend skip. I hope that things are going well with you. I couldn’t be with you Saturday even though I am dying to visit beit jibreen and other villages. Lucky you, my friend. I am so thrilled, honored and happy about meeting you and knowing you. I wish all the best.

Me:

Hello dear friend, ayed. I too am sad we couldn’t be together THIS TIME, maybe later. I explored ajjur today, now sit in the new moshav of agur, wondering where to go next. Maybe beit jibreen.

Earlier, before I’d located Qabu, in what is probably another destroyed Arab village, now called Britanya, at the first picnic site, I sat along the road beside my car eating my lunch. Gradually joyful sounds came closer to me until they came from directly behind me. I turned around and discovered a children playing in a large tree, the same family I’d spotted earlier at a picnic table and surreptitiously photographed. A boy about 14 years old asked me what I was doing (the only inquiry so far, and not with suspicion or rancor). I answered photographing beautiful nature (a half-truth, or one-quarter truth. Consulting with some of the adults he recommended about five sites including the Dead Sea. Later the two families set off on a hike into the valley. I learned that this trail system is art of a cross-nation trail. I’ve seen lots of bikers and signs warning of cyclists. A physically healthy and happy nation, or so it seems.

I pondered asking the boy, say, do you know anything about the history of this park, did anyone live here long ago?

My excursion provokes several thoughts. What was life on the road for the refugees of 1948 and 1967, in the Qabu to Bethlehem case, a climb and descent of 200 meters or 650 feet, and a distance of 14.3 km or nearly 10 miles? Carrying the little luggage and valuables they could carry, possibly carrying the elderly. Unsure if they’d ever return to their homes. Where to go for refuge? How to establish a new home? Where’s the justice in all this? Would they survive? Living in a tent, in a camp, in the winter. With many other families. All we want is to be ordinary, said Darwich.

BeginParkBethlehemWalk

Another thought: homeless in the USA, the richest country in the world, perhaps, and in history, perhaps. Yet people live on the streets, Chip for instance, thru the year, in the winter, Chip apparently sufficiently provisioned even if minimally so.

Another: displacement because of gentrification. The folks who consulted with me about 11 Sacramento St, Cambridge Massachusetts, my new neighbors, and now have moved in, may have displaced Nicole and Ronen. Where do Nicole and Ronen go, why was they displaced? Or Stan, my buddy Stan, who by now may be out of his apartment, maybe in Arlington elderly housing with much less space? I wrote him a few days ago, hope to hear at least moderately good news from him. I may write his daughters.

Or me, potentially, forced out because of gentrification. Or earlier as a 14-year-old boy—not forced displacement for my parents—but for me moving from Chicago’s South Side, away from friends I’d grown up with for 10 years, this was an abrupt and painful displacement.

Palestine-Aida-refugee-IMG_1590

Jalila Al Azraq (Um Qasim), 80 years old, from the village of Al Qabu—photographs by Skip Schiel

LINKS

Al Qabu (Wiki)

Palestinian Refugees & their Ancestral Lands (or On Our Way Home)—part 14—Jalila Al Azraq (Um Qasim), 80 years old, from the village of Al Qabu by Skip Schiel

In Menachem Begin’s Rise, Lessons for the #Resistance to Trump, By Liel Leibovitz

Mevo Beitar, an Israeli cooperative village (Moshav Shitufi) built on former Al Qabu land (click for video tour of Mevo Beitar)

Farming while Palestinian: a World Water Day outrage by  )

A Conversation With The Palestinian Non-Violence Activist Who Sparked Gaza Marches by Steve Bynum (

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

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DSC_1097

At the souk (market)

Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles

Photos

July 8, 2009, Wednesday, Jenin Creative Cultural Center:

Whoever fights monsters must take care not to become a monster himself. For, as you stand looking deep into the abyss, the abyss is looking deep into you.

—Frederick Nietzsche

No dreams that I can recall from last night but an unusual sleeping arrangement: on the roof. The 2 Italian theater men, just arrived, found the tiny space we had too small and hot for sleeping so, apparently having experience doing this in Jenin, said, we’re sleeping on the roof, care to join us?

Blessedly cool and breezy, much better than the main room, somewhat better (but further from the toilet and less private) than the computer room where I’d intended to sleep, the computer room cooler and with a slight wind thru open windows, and private. I might sleep here (where I’m writing this) tonight. The peripatetic sleeper. Does it affect my dreaming?

Yesterday thanks to the young man in my photo workshop, Abdullah, I toured parts of Jenin asking to visit the refugee camp and the freedom theater. After a stroll thru the small old city where I photographed the mural with the USAID inscription, we concentrated on the camp. Abdullah told me his aunt, his mother’s sister, had died in the attacks on Jenin in April 2002, part of Israel’s campaign to punish Palestinians for supporting suicide attacks, “Operation Defensive Shield.” That incident was a major stepping-stone in my own story of involvement with Palestine/Israel. Abdullah’s aunt had been assisting fighters by cooking for them and mending their clothing. Abdullah claims Israel knew this, sought and found her, and murdered her along with one son.

MotherSonAbdullah-1

Suhada (martyrs): Abdullah Abu Alhijya’s aunt and cousin (created by Abdullah)

We entered the theater from the upper back while a rehearsal was in process. The space was dark, I could make out about 6 figures prostate on the stage floor, with much banging of pots and shouting. A man sitting in the first row leaned toward the actors and gave instructions in Arabic. This was Arna’s son, famous from the movie, Arna’s Children, a Jewish woman who founded the theater. Her son, Juliano Mer Khamis, had made that movie about the theater which helped bring the theater’s exemplary work to a wider audience.

The director stopped the action, strode onto the stage (really the lower floor of a black box theater which might hold about 700 people), and acted the part in the way he wanted his actor to do it: with heavy breathing, expressing confusion and remorse, finally spearing a prostate victim on the floor and then banging a pot.

IMG_9531

Freedom Theater rehearsal

I tried, tried hard, to show this with my equipment but because of the low light once again I suspect I failed. This is one of my main problems—low light, the cameras not sufficiently sensitive, the electronic noise or grain equivalent too great. Had I known, I could have used my faster 50 mm lens, left at the center.

Abdullah was in no hurry to return to the Center so we visited the theater, met the blond haired Jenny, the director of projects, and discovered that she’d been in my Haifa photo workshop in April 2006. I was asking if I might photograph a photography training—the theater sponsors a variety of trainings including of course theater, photography, film, and other arts. They are dedicated to using art as resistance to the occupation. Specifically (from their website):

Using the arts as a model for social change, The Freedom Theatre is developing the only professional venue for theatre and arts in the north of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The aim of this project is to empower and give voice to the children of Jenin Refugee Camp through a unique programme of workshops and activities in theatre, supporting arts and multi-media, ranging in their emphasis from the largely therapeutic and healing, to the presentation of high-quality artistic products.

I met 2 of the photography instructors and I have permission return to photograph today. The theater is also holding a month long festival of children’s drama which I hope to sample. The play being rehearsed will open later this month, perhaps I can see it.

In the camp mostly I photographed structures, buildings, murals. The camp has been completely rebuilt, with money I believe from an Arabic source and Yasser Arafat. The theater also, in a new location, has expanded. During the 2002 war—and it was war, Palestinian fighters standing strong against the Israeli army who’d attacked to quell the militancy the camp is known for—the theater was destroyed.

DSC_1134

Jenin refugee camp

Needless to report, posters of the shaheed, the martyrs, were everywhere, much like in Gaza. Along with Gaza and Nablus, Jenin is probably one of the centers of armed resistance. Ironic then that the freedom theater should be here. Are there equivalents in Gaza and Nablus, not necessarily theater, but art as resistance, art political?

DSC_1109

Old City of Jenin

I’ve been noticing water use. Water is scarce in the camp, scarce in Jenin generally, and of course scarce throughout the region, including Israel—which could serve to bring parties together in common cause: find water, conserve water. So I show 2 men washing their car, I saw other instances of prodigal water use.

Near the end of our walk we met a family of 4 generations living together in a tall 3-story building. They invited us to stay for drinks, we obliged. I’d noticed an elderly man lying on an outdoor pad, perhaps resting from the heat, and thought to photograph him—but only with his permission, still bruised from my rejection in the souq (market) the morning before. No problem, and they all posed, and you might say de-posed or relaxed once I’d made a few initial images, so I hope for more spontaneous and revelatory appearances. But who knows, sometimes those first utterly posed portraits are the most telling.

DSC_1139

Jenin refugee camp

Katy, my younger  daughter, wrote a very kind note saying how evocative the camp photos are and how mysterious is the Solomon’s pool set. I’m grateful that she’s viewing them and especially grateful for the comments. Such as these buoys me in my often-lonely and detached journey. I wonder who else is noticing and what they think.

My setup here at the Center varies from day to day. Currently I haunt the computer room, having snagged one computer for my regular use. Because its shelves offer a fair amount of spread out room for my gear and papers I can put my laptop on the main counter, switch relatively easily between the PC with its good Internet connection and my computer with zero connection. To transfer files I have to use the compact flash USB device, a pain. To manage my blog, I use the PC, and to manage my site I was not able to install Dreamweaver on the PC for some reason, altho I suppose I could download another trial version, but at the last desperate minute last night, tired and hot, I remembered I can use MS Explorer to send files to my site using FTP. I could also download the file transfer software I use on my laptop. So, as always, there is a workaround.

And then there iare the computer instructions mostly in Arabic. Daunting, not incapacitating, sometimes nearly so, make me want to shout: what’s all this Arabic stuff, don’t you realize everyone speaks English?

IMG_9696-1-2

One of my photo workshop students, Mays

The first photo workshop session went ok, but the group consisting of 2 girls, 3 boys, all mid to late high school age (Abdullah just graduated, hopes to enter a university out of the country for medical training, but is not enrolled anywhere, not having funds or connections), giggled for at least the first part. Ala’a, who’d agreed to translate and assist, mysteriously disappeared about 2/3’s the way thru. I intend to ask her about this, I felt abandoned, winged it, had troubles with language, but valiantly struggled. Will they return, always the question, did I serve them properly?

I’d worked out a plan with Ala’a’s help which seemed appropriate: ask them what they want to learn and how they wish to learn it, tuning to them as much as possible, trying to avoid the many mistakes I made at Birzeit University and Baladna in Haifa, show some of my photos with comments (part of Spring Light, showing them part of the Atlantic coast, a site that may have astonished them since they can’t reach the Mediterranean because of the occupation; the dinner with Ibrahem in Gaza section from my website with maybe more to come, this seemed to work well, I also passed around family photos in print form, to demonstrate what I mean by a print). I’ve asked them to bring prints from their family for discussion. I outlined the steps that I use to make a good photo, with demonstrations, and asked them to practice those steps on whatever topic they’d wish.

A big problem is equipment. About half had cameras, others want to use their mobile phones. But we’ve still not discovered how to download from phones. Ala’a offered to buy a cable, I’m not sure she did. Typical in arrangements like this is what westerners might term duplicity, what Arabic people might say is being kind. No one says no, I’m not willing to do that. They nod yes and then depending on their real feelings do or don’t do what was promised. Of course this is highly annoying, or can be, but thru my years of experience here I’ve come to expect it and not rely on anyone’s word. Too bad, this might be part of the problem with organizing the resistance. Or even more generally: facilitating the re-rising or resurrection of Arabic-Muslim culture.

Most remarkable on my shared taxi ride here from Ramallah  was the absence of checkpoints—none, not even the infamous and terrifying Huwarra south of Nablus. Gone. Throughout the West Bank this seems true: a relaxation of some restrictions. Now I can ponder, why is this? USA pressure, Israel making the Palestinian Authority look good, internal economic reasons, perhaps even internal political pressures, a sop to the international community, both to the Palestinians and internationally, a ploy to hold on to the territories with minimal resistance? This checkpoint decrease seems under or not reported in the States, while, Fareed informs me, it is in the Palestinian media. Very curious. I suppose in time we might know the rationale.

I continue my dialog with the Israeli foreign ministry person, he’s now identified himself as Dan Rosen. Previously I thought it might be a woman, and could imagine falling in love. What a story that could make: falling in love without seeing each other and across a wide chasm. Perhaps I will “fall in love” anyway, a new form of “falling.”

Still no permit to enter Gaza, despite calls every day from the Gaza American Friends Service Committee office to inquire, or so Amal, its director, claims. I’ve written Senator Kerry by way of his policy aide in Boston who I’ve met, Chris, with contacts provided by Amal, and copying my letter to Dotty to urge her to follow-up with a phone call.

After yesterday’s huge mid day shuwarma, beef probably, eaten while with Abdullah and his friend on our tour, I felt I needed nothing more to eat for the day. But last night, wishing to “get out of the house,” I found the fruit drink place, had another (apples, pears, ginger), chatted with the proprietor, a handsome man about mid 40s in age. He told me he’d lived in Florida for 2 years, working with his brother as a chef in a chicken and fish restaurant, and had to return to Palestine because his visa had run out. But he wishes to live in the States, can’t. I love America, I want to live there, he stated with some passion. He suggested he would have learned English better had he an American girl friend, but because he’s married, couldn’t and didn’t. We joked that maybe what I need to learn Arabi is an Arab girl friend. Why not, I’m single?

Today: blog, photograph the freedom theater, stroll, work with Yusef on the website, maybe. It’s always maybe. No set schedule. Everything is loose here. Pick up some fruit to share, and some toilet paper—I use more paper than my share.

Links:

Arna’s Children (with clips from the movie)

Freedom Theater

The Battle of Jenin

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The rising of the light: Jenin and the Freedom Theater

Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles

Photos

July 8, 2009, Wednesday, Jenin Creative Cultural Center:

Whoever fights monsters must take care not to become a monster himself. For, as you stand looking deep into the abyss, the abyss is looking deep into you.

—Frederick Nietzsche

No dreams that I can recall from last night but an unusual sleeping arrangement: on the roof. The 2 Italian theater men, just arrived, found the tiny space we had too small and hot for sleeping so, apparently having experience doing this in Jenin, said, we’re sleeping on the roof, care to join us?

Blessedly cool and breezy, much better than the main room, somewhat better (but further from the toilet and less private) than the computer room where I’d intended to sleep, the computer room cooler and with a slight wind thru open windows, and private. I might sleep here (where I’m writing this) tonight. The peripatetic sleeper. Does it affect my dreaming?

Yesterday thanks to the young man in my photo workshop, Abdullah, I toured parts of Jenin asking to visit the refugee camp and the freedom theater. After a stroll thru the small old city where I photographed the mural with the USAID inscription, we concentrated on the camp. Abdullah told me his aunt, his mother’s sister, had died in the attacks on Jenin in April 2002, part of Israel’s campaign to punish Palestinians for supporting suicide attacks, “Operation Defensive Shield.” That incident was a major stepping-stone in my own story of involvement with Palestine/Israel. Abdullah’s aunt had been assisting fighters by cooking for them and mending their clothing. Abdullah claims Israel knew this, sought and found her, and murdered her along with one daughter.

We entered the theater from the upper back while a rehearsal was in process. The space was dark, I could make out about 6 figures prostate on the stage floor, with much banging of pots and shouting. A man sitting in the first row leaned toward the actors and gave instructions in Arabic. This was Arna’s son, famous from the movie, Arna’s Children, a Jewish woman who founded the theater. Her son, Julian Mer Khamis, had made that movie about the theater which helped bring the theater’s exemplary work to a wider audience.

The director stopped the action, strode onto the stage (really the lower floor of a black box theater which might hold about 700 people), and acted the part in the way he wanted his actor to do it: with heavy breathing, expressing confusion and remorse, finally spearing a prostate victim on the floor and then banging a pot.

I tried, tried hard, to show this with my equipment but because of the low light once again I suspect I failed. This is one of my main problems—low light, the cameras not sufficiently sensitive, the electronic noise or grain equivalent too great. Had I known, I could have used my faster 50 mm lens, left at the center.

Abdullah was in no hurry to return to the Center so we visited the theater, met the blond haired Jenny, the director of projects, and discovered that she’d been in my Haifa photo workshop in April 2006. I was asking if I might photograph a photography training—the theater sponsors a variety of trainings including of course theater, photography, film, and other arts. They are dedicated to using art as resistance to the occupation. Specifically QUOTE THEM.

I met 2 of the photography instructors and I have permission return to photograph today. The theater is also holding a month long festival of children’s drama which I hope to sample. The play being rehearsed will open later this month, perhaps I can see it.

In the camp mostly I photographed structures, buildings, murals. The camp has been completely rebuilt, with money I believe from an Arabic source and Yasser Arafat. The theater also, in a new location, has expanded. During the 2002 war—and it was war, Palestinian fighters standing strong against the Israeli army who’d attacked to quell the militancy the camp is known for—the theater was destroyed..

Needless to report, posters of the shaheed, the martyrs, were everywhere, much like in Gaza. Along with Gaza and Nablus, Jenin is probably one of the centers of armed resistance. Ironic then that the freedom theater should be here. Are there equivalents in Gaza and Nablus, not necessarily theater, but art as resistance, art political?

I’ve been noticing water use. Water is scarce in the camp, scarce in Jenin generally, and of course scarce throughout the region, including Israel—which could serve to bring parties together in common cause: find water, conserve water. So I show 2 men washing their car, I saw other instances of prodigal water use.

Near the end of our walk we met a family of 4 generations living together in a tall 3-story building. They invited us to stay for drinks, we obliged. I’d noticed an elderly man lying on an outdoor pad, perhaps resting from the heat, and thought to photograph him—but only with his permission, still bruised from my rejection in the souq (market) the morning before. No problem, and they all posed, and you might say de-posed or relaxed once I’d made a few initial images, so I hope for more spontaneous and revelatory appearances. But who knows, sometimes those first utterly posed portraits are the most telling.

One of my daughters wrote a very kind note saying how evocative the camp photos are and how mysterious is the Solomon’s pool set. I’m grateful that she’s viewing them and especially grateful for the comments. Such as these buoys me in my often-lonely and detached journey. I wonder who else is noticing and what they think.

My setup here at the Center varies from day to day. Currently I haunt the computer room, having snagged one computer for my regular use. Because its shelves offer a fair amount of spread out room for my gear and papers I can put my laptop on the main counter, switch relatively easily between the PC with its good Internet connection and my computer with zero connection. To transfer files I have to use the compact flash USB device, a pain. To manage my blog, I use the PC, and to manage my site I was not able to install Dreamweaver on the PC for some reason, altho I suppose I could download another trial version, but at the last desperate minute last night, tired and hot, I remembered I can use MS Explorer to send files to my site using FTP. I could also download the file transfer software I use on my laptop. So, as always, there is a workaround.

The first photo workshop session went ok, but the group consisting of 2 girls, 3 boys, all mid to late high school age (Abdullah just graduated, hopes to enter a university out of the country for medical training, but is not enrolled anywhere, not having funds or connections), giggled for at least the first part. Ala’a, who’d agreed to translate and assist, mysteriously disappeared about 2/3’s the way thru. I intend to ask her about this, I felt abandoned, winged it, had troubles with language, but valiantly struggled. Will they return, always the question, did I serve them properly?

I’d worked out a plan with Ala’a’s help which seemed appropriate: ask them what they want to learn and how they wish to learn it, tuning to them as much as possible, trying to avoid the many mistakes I made at Birzeit University and Baladna in Haifa, show some of my photos with comments (part of Spring Light, showing them part of the Atlantic coast, a site that may have astonished them since they can’t reach the Mediterranean because of the occupation; the dinner with Ibrahem in Gaza section from my website with maybe more to come, this seemed to work well, I also passed around family photos in print form, to demonstrate what I mean by a print). I’ve asked them to bring prints from their family for discussion. I outlined the steps that I use to make a good photo, with demonstrations, and asked them to practice those steps on whatever topic they’d wish.

A big problem is equipment. About half had cameras, others want to use their mobile phones. But we’ve still not discovered how to download from phones. Ala’a offered to buy a cable, I’m not sure she did. Typical in arrangements like this is what westerners might term duplicity, what Arabic people might say is being kind. No one says no, I’m not willing to do that. They nod yes and then depending on their real feelings do or don’t do what was promised. Of course this is highly annoying, or can be, but thru my years of experience here I’ve come to expect it and not rely on anyone’s word. Too bad, this might be part of the problem with organizing the resistance. Or even more generally: facilitating the re-rising or resurrection of Arabic-Muslim culture.

Most remarkable on my shared taxi ride here from Ramallah was the absence of checkpoints—none, not even the infamous and terrifying Huwarra south of Nablus. Gone. Throughout the West Bank this seems true: a relaxation of some restrictions. Now I can ponder, why is this? USA pressure, Israel making the Palestinian Authority look good, internal economic reasons, perhaps even internal political pressures, a sop to the international community, both to the Palestinians and internationally, a ploy to hold on to the territories with minimal resistance? This checkpoint decrease seems under or not reported in the States, while, Fareed informs me, it is in the Palestinian media. Very curious. I suppose in time we might know the rationale.

I continue my dialog with the Israeli foreign ministry person, he’s now identified himself as Dan Rosen. Previously I thought it might be a woman, and could imagine falling in love. What a story that could make: falling in love without seeing each other and across a wide chasm. Perhaps I will fall in love anyway, a new form of falling.

Still no permit to enter Gaza, despite calls every day from the Gaza American Friends Service Committee office to inquire, or so Amal, its director, claims. I’ve written Senator Kerry by way of his policy aide in Boston who I’ve met, Chris, with contacts provided by Amal, and copying my letter to Dotty to urge her to follow-up with a phone call.

After yesterday’s huge mid day shuwarma, beef probably, eaten while with Abdullah and his friend on our tour, I felt I needed nothing more to eat for the day. But last night, wishing to “get out of the house,” I found the fruit drink place, had another (apples, pears, ginger), chatted with the proprietor, a handsome man about mid 40s in age. He told me he’d lived in Florida for 2 years, working with his brother as a chef in a chicken and fish restaurant, and had to return to Palestine because his visa had run out. But he wishes to live in the States, can’t. I love America, he stated with some passion. He suggested he would have learned English better had he an American girl friend, but because he’s married, couldn’t and didn’t. We joked that maybe what I need to learn Arabi is an Arab girl friend. Why not, I’m single?

Today: blog, photograph the freedom theater, stroll, work with Yusef on the website, maybe. It’s always maybe. No set schedule. Everything is loose here. Pick up some fruit to share, and some toilet paper—I use more paper than my share.

Links:

Arna’s Children

Freedom Theater

Jenin camp, especially historic photos, before and during 02

Read Full Post »