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Posts Tagged ‘children’

From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field, as I photograph internally displaced refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, plus their ancestral lands. (and as I photograph the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) trainings at least in Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah, Gaza as well if I get my entry permit from Israel)

September 27, 2018, Thursday, Jerusalem, Old City

PHOTOS

Big day yesterday [September 26, 2018] for the refugee project: photographing the Jahalin Bedouin threatened with removal by the Israelis. In particular the band of Khan al-Ahmar between two large illegal settlements, Ma’ale Adumin and Kfar Adumin. Belatedly I’d remembered Angela works with them and had brought me with a group there where I photographed them in 2013. When I wrote her about visiting the village she responded immediately with an offer to pick me up and introduce me there. Which she did. We met at a bus stop near the American Colony Hotel, and drove what someone had written was “a few kilometers”—more like 20 (a few kilometers I could walk, not 20)—out the main road to Jericho and the Dead Sea, down the first part of the steep decline that eventually would reach the lowest point on earth, and found a large gathering of Palestinians in support of the Bedouin.

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A map showing Khan al-Ahmar (top-right arrow) and Arab Jahalin—Al-Jabal (bottom arrow), where Israel wants to forcibly move the residents of Khan al-Ahmar. (OCHA-OPT)

The villagers worry about yet another removal (think South Africa, “the Black Spots”). The kids might lose their very lovely school which looks hand-built, richly decorated by handprints, camels, hearts, and other markings of the people. From my first trip here I recall learning how proud they are of their school. Angela graciously introduced me to what might have been the headman, explained the rules of photo interaction (no women, including female teachers; no children over the age of about 14, and only with permission—she checked first with someone in charge, maybe the head mistress), and then brought me to the school. She explained, the kids are traumatized, journalists are here all the time photographing and filming, please be careful.

Entering a classroom filled with about 12 boisterous kids appearing to be about 4th grade, maybe 9 years old, the boys flocked around me, poked me, asked what’s your name? repeatedly, and generally distracted me. I waited, watched, and began photographing, mainly the girls who seemed involved in a writing exercise. Under the casual tutelage of their male teacher, they wrote on a white board, and, with guidance from a woman, maybe one of the kids’ mothers or a second teacher, drew maps and flags, all indicating Palestinian freedom. One might claim this was also a political lesson. Of course, I couldn’t read the writing but might ask later someone who can.

For my first attempt at photographing the school (it had been closed on our first trip), maybe I made a few useable photos. But the combination of poor light, tight quarters, distracting kids, and back button focusing [a special method of focusing a single lens reflex camera] may have prevented better photography. I hope to return with Angela’s help.

As I was about to leave with Angela’s’ friend, Ben, I met a group of about 5 cyclists (pedaled, not powered by an electrical motor, the rage in Palestine-Israel) who were biking along the path of the separation wall, north to south, and stopped by the site in solidarity. I met one young Palestinian woman, Nima, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus who bikes secretly because of cultural restrictions. I made a portrait and wished I could interview her, not only about displacement, but about her biking. She loves the freedom afforded by the bike, and must hide her bike when home. I have her contact info and might try later about the refugee project, or about biking (a new project?)

(As of this writing, the deadline for self-demolition of the village set by Israel is October 1, 2018. Today I learned Israel declared the entire region a “closed military zone,” and blocked access roads, yet 100s of people entered the area for Friday prayers and a march.)

LINKS

Israel seals off, declares Khan al-Ahmar closed military zone (September 28, 2018)

Communities facing expulsion: The Khan al-Ahmar area (B’Tselem, October 10, 2017, updated September 5, 2018)

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Prayer is one hundred percent attention.

—Anonymous

During my first visit to Gaza in 2004, I accompanied a team of doctors and psychologists visiting hospitals. I photographed as they spoke with children wounded by Israeli soldiers. A 10-year-old boy, riding his bike in front of his house, shot in the stomach by an Israeli sniper. A 13-year-old girl, playing with her friends on her roof, her wrist shattered by a .50 caliber tank shell fired by an Israeli sniper. The doctor explained, “these wounds will heal but the trauma may never.”

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As I photographed I felt water surge behind my eyes, as if about to punch thru my eyeballs. I held the torrent back, wishing not to embarrass myself or end my photography because I couldn’t see. But when I entered the taxi to return to our office, I wept. I thought, I am so sorry, so very sorry for you. As Quakers might say, I hold you in the light—and I add—the spreading light of compassion.

Someone at my Quaker meeting had given us the profound message that tears can be regarded as prayers, a deep connection between ourselves and others who suffer, even if we do not know those people, the vast, innumerable “Other.”

Because one of my main photographic themes is depicting the suffering of others, currently mostly in Palestine and Detroit, I realize I now have secondary trauma, a mild form of PTSD. One consequence is that I weep frequently, sometimes spontaneously, often when I hear about suffering.

Currently, reading about the ongoing carnage—again—in Gaza, this time Israeli sharpshooters killing unarmed Palestinian civilians, most of them young adults, some of them children, I weep again. One may be the 12-year-old girl I photographed in 2004, now 26 years old, or the 10-year-old boy, now 24. Is the boy included in this group photo of the shaheed, or martyrs? Is a soldier who shot the children in 2004 now an officer giving orders to fire on Gazans demanding their right of return?

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Palestinian martyrs from Gaza, shot by Israeli snipers on March 30, 2018

Despite the suffering I observe and share, my tears are sometimes tears of joy. I weep when I hear good news, as when a stranger stops to help someone. At that moment I say, I am so so happy for you. The light in me greets the light in you. We are connected thru the spreading light of compassion.

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Israeli sniper

The Great March of Return (of Gazans to their villages and towns)—Israel Threatens More Force After Gaza Protests Leave Nearly 100 Dead, 12,270 Wounded

Night in Gaza 2

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

Photos:

Qattan Centre for the Child

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children

August 7 & 11, 2009, Friday & Tuesday, Gaza City, The Gaza Strip, my apartment:

I dreamt I was to meet Alice Rothschild, the physician (and in fact I’m to meet Dr Mona al-Farra today, with Mohammed). Alice had a problem with her car; it needed a new motor or a serious repair of the motor. She told me to wait. I felt very close to her. [Later, meeting Dr. Mona, as she’s lovingly called, she told me as we hailed a taxi,  my car is being repaired, something seriously wrong with the engine. Auspicious?]

My dreams seem strangled, still born, they evaporate rapidly. I’m working with the theory that this is because life is so energized here, and unpredictable, I have so many simultaneous concerns that the leisure needed to let the dreams survive long enough once born to be remembered does not exist. Thus the feeling that I’m not dreaming.

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A fortuitous meeting yesterday when I accompanied the Popular Achievement team including Issam who I’ve not seen until yesterday and Grace to a commemoration of the life of Mahmoud darwish. He died one year ago of heart problems, and died auspiciously in a Texas hospital, the home state of GW Bush, the failed president. He was approximately my age. The meeting was in the Qattan Centre for the Child, an elegant spacious well-lighted building. After about one hour of this—poetry readings, songs and oud, discussion between audience and a poet-critic, all officiated by our own Ibrahem, and of course all in Arabic, no translation—I decided to explore the Centre. And then the 2nd meeting, with the director, the equally elegant and affecting Reem Abu Jaber. I made some photos of her and pray I’ve shown at least a hint of her goodness, generosity, energetic spirit.

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Reem Abu Jaber

The Centre looks and functions much more like a library. It is dedicated to encouraging the love of reading. And I had a sense of its effectiveness while I photographed. Ordinarily kids either hide from my camera or flock to it. In either case, they present a challenge. Here they tended to notice but not concentrate on me so I had much more latitude photographing. For instance, after showing the architecture and lighting I began showing children and parents using the facility. I discovered a boy of about 8 years old peering thru books with his mother. I placed myself opposite them and photographed thru the book stacks. This might be perfect, if it worked. No reaction from the woman who wore a headscarf.

A long tour with Reem—and I could have gone for hours with her, she is so radiant and loveable—with photos along the way. Extensive computer facility, outdoor reading area, small auditorium, sections divided by ages of children, all coordinated spatially by a long hallway connecting the sectors, arches above the corridor, everything open. Reem explained to me that this corridor is intended to mirror the old city of Jerusalem. All is light, airy, colorful.

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Entering the Centre from the cluttered, busy, chaotic, often dirty and noisy streets of the city is like passing thru Alice’s rabbit hole: another world entirely, a magical world where bombs are forbidden, rockets blocked in mid air, white phosphorus shells burst into voluminous, gorgeous cumulus clouds. Books galore, new worlds in a new world.

However I’m not sure I understand Reem’s position about controversy. The Darwish convocation itself expresses controversy, reflecting him, his positions, the fact that he loved an Israeli woman, for instance, a hot topic of discussion. But when I asked her whether they’d host a presentation that is political, using myself as an example, she seemed to say no. She explained this by focusing on how painful the discord between Fatah and Hamas is, that this colors all controversy. She seemed to tell me that the Centre removes itself entirely from anything political or religious. Which might be an error, but who am I to judge?

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After teaching the photo workshop group at the Quaker Palestine Youth Program I called Atfaluna, the center training deaf people, mostly children, in crafts production. Jan H had asked me to bring in cotton since their supply chain is virtually non-existent. They were overjoyed to receive the goods, and meet me personally. I met first Suad, the administrative manager, and then Nabil el Sharif, the executive director.  He gave me permission to tour the facilities and photograph. This might develop further or be only once.

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Nabil is short, lean, wore a white shirt with a hint of black elements in its design. He seems to have boundless energy. His smile is gracious and authentic, compassion radiates from him. He explained to me their current dilemma. During a recent period of many visitors, “war tourism” he imaginatively named it, many people came thru the center and purchased. People like Code Pink delegations. But because of the paucity of raw materials like the cotton I delivered, they are forced to curtail production. They worry that this might worsen and require staff layoffs. Likewise, usually, on the output end, there are few customers. So paradoxically the violence added to one part of their operation.

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The center is clean, well organized, and, being a center for deaf people, very very quiet. I told another staff member, Ibrahem, who toured me that Ramallah is very very noisy, all the time, so this is a sharp contrast. The hour was 3 pm, their closing time, people were preparing to leave for home, so I was not able to show all that might be shown. Whether I return or not depends on the quality of what I’ve made and my other priorities. Children are on vacation thru the end of this month so I will have to miss that aspect.

I wrote Jan later with the good news. And found a letter from her asking me to ask Amal about taxi prices, since when Jan returns in the fall she ‘d like to book Awni for an entire day of touring the strip. What a gal, I love her. And she’s Jewish, a practicing Jew.

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How can life for me ever be boring in Gaza? To the contrary, at times: too exciting, too jammed, and not with enough Skip time, my private down time—to process and use my photos. To fulfill the many promises I’ve made about emailing photos to those I’ve photographed. Like the CD Reem made me promise to send to the Centre, and the photos I’m to email to the young men I photographed on the beach. I need days, weeks, for this.

The electricity was off in my neighborhood during the day for the first time that I’d noticed. So I relied on computer battery power for a few hours of work. And I finally found a minimum quantity of toilet paper (rather than the huge packages of about 20 rolls) so I’m happy once again.

Also for the first time on this visit, the drones [that Israel uses to patrol and sometime attack from—they are a world leader in such lethal technology, soldiers in Tel Aviv targeting people who could be me]. Several of them flew overheard, out of sight, for about one hour yesterday in my neighborhood.

Today is the coolest yet. Nearly chilly, not in my flat which does not have good circulation, but out on the veranda where I presently sit writing this. Yesterday was one of the hottest, nearing 100. The air is now drier.

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LINKS:

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children

Qattan Centre for the Child

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

Photos

June 21, 2009, Sunday, Ramallah Friends School apartment—summer solstice:

Yes, how could I ignore this: summer solstice, the first time I can recall celebrating it out of country. How to celebrate here? An extra cup of coffee? Stroke my magic wand? Bed early, sleep late? Write something? Photograph something?

More and more dreams, with one recurring theme: babies and infants. For the 2nd or 3rd time I dreamt I had some responsibility for an infant. It was a girl again, about Eleanor’s age but clearly not her, I was responsible, and this time I left her alone in a large house as a group I shared the house with—a sort of commune—assembled for a party. I didn’t know the folks well, but trusted them. Does this little girl stand for the young women I find myself mentoring? Or is the girl some aspect of me, my feminine side as M might suggest?

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In a series of dreams I attended a South African film fest, with a dismal turnout of audience, talking with the organizers, mentioning what I liked and didn’t like, deciding to leave early. I had a big story to tell the organizers and then couldn’t quite recall it. I knew it was dramatic but I forgot key pieces.

With a small family, again no one I recognized but they were family, we parked in a forest and were preparing to hike when a motorcycle cop pulled in front of us and began writing a ticket. We realized we couldn’t park there.

Ah, the dreaming is picking up. Is this because I’m feeling more at home? The night was blissful: quiet, cool, peaceful and by stuffing a large pillow between my legs I’ve found a way to sleep on both sides without pain. But I continue to wonder: the pain I’m feeling in my lower right back and adjoining leg, the stiffness, especially when I get up from a chair, is this related to my mattress? The pain began yesterday morning after a back pain free cluster of days. Just began suddenly as if I’d injured my back.

Luckily once I’ve walked for a few minutes the pain is less—I loosen up, but I am not sure how I’ll carry a large load on my back. Thank god this time I thought to bring a rolling suitcase, rather than rely on backpacks.

I bumped into Salim, the IT man at the school, yesterday in the office and he explained that the Internet problem is probably about the wiring. The phone company is due here to check and repair. So at the moment I have zero Internet at home, must rely on Pronto which is not entirely a problem—I meet people there and feel more part of the Ramallah flow.

A brief walk about Ramallah yesterday, toting my large camera with its wide-angle lens. What to see, what to photograph? The peace park? Closed. The upper school campus, including the new football field? Sure, and the construction at the school, a new classroom building. The market or souk, find my old friend the young vendor? Give it a try, a few snaps, can’t find my friend, where is he? Who to ask? How to ask? I don’t even know his name. Manarah Square? Not much new here. My home? Could be, for the blog. Maybe this morning before I go out. The school grounds? Another possibility. Me at the computer? Could be fun. With or without clothes?

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Yesterday was mostly devoted to editing the Freedom and Justice Crier. Yes, I’ve brought my work with me, encouraged to do this by JVB, Rachel and others so I could finish it with due concentration. I’ve also prepared 2 more blog entries for eventual uploading. I hesitate about disclosing too much about my signing the Trader Joe’s deshelving of Israeli products and …

The shit hit the fan first with DD, the Israeli, who wrote a scalding scathing message to my Facebook page. And then comes DA. Someone in Friends Meeting-Cambridge informed him of my signature, I wonder who and how. He rightly criticized me for adding Friends Meeting Cambridge after my name, even tho I thought this was for identification purposes only, not connoting FMC participation or support. I plan to change this on the petition if possible. But the informant raised a vital question, what is FMC’s position regarding Israel-Palestine? I’ve prepared a letter to DA, I let it mellow awhile, and then when I was about to mail it from home (the Internet was working for a short period yesterday), I discovered no Internet connection.

Before the great disconnect I managed to upld my 2nd photo set, of the water tanker and intifada movie.

M wrote a copious letter, mostly about her health which continues to be a problem and a writing project. This latter is part of a workshop she had been taking upgrading her counseling skills. She also wrote to my blog. Odd how she drops in and out of my life, nothing consistent or reliable, but eventually present, and often powerfully so.

X at this moment might be facing her last week in Boston, or she might be leaving this weekend, I’m not sure about her precise schedule: her big South American summer journey, Peru hiking the Incan trail and then doctoring with NGOs in Mayan regions of Guatemala. Quite exciting, to be linked even tho tenuously, with such a daring and attractive adventurer. I continue to feel her presence thru the L. Cohen music she gave me.

I also reached the Bethlehem contact who promised to call right back with info about when and where to appear. No call back. Maybe today. I hope to join the cultural center in Aida camp either tomorrow Monday or the next day.

A few catch up notes: Frank the Frenchman I met in E. Jerusalem confided to me he is afraid going alone to the West Bank. This recalls SE’s admission that he feared a Palestinian might recognize him as a Jew and threaten him. A reasonable fear, but also perhaps that old victim mentality resurfacing. How can I convince Frank that he is probably as safe as I am wandering thru the West Bank, depending on where he is in the West Bank and what front he presents? Ramallah, no problem. Jenin, maybe another story.

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As I wrote in my updated blog about B, or think I did, because B has Israeli citizenship, derived from living in E. Jerusalem and, in his words, having it forced on him, he is free to enter not only Jerusalem but all of Israel. He also can move between different parts of the West Bank, but not Gaza. He is not the typical Palestinian, not even the typical Israeli Palestinian, since most Israeli Palestinians do not have the extra ID that allows entry into the West Bank. Very complicated, reminiscent of apartheid South Africa. How long before the authorities realize this is a stupid, self destructive, costly, and unsustainable approach to living with one’s neighbors—and cousins in the Abrahamic lineage?

C wrote that she admires me in the way I live life fully. I wonder how she feels about her sister who also lives life fully. And about herself, who might feel stuck in a dead end job?

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Mornings over breakfast I sit on the veranda; evenings during supper or later to read or use the computer I sit on the veranda. At both times it is twilight and the birds twitter madly. Ravens or crows, sparrows, and others cavort and feed among the pines. They are my friends, my companions, in this lonely setting without children.

Music at the Ramallah Cultural Palace: Shibat treats Ramallah to a Christmas concert (2007)

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At home in Cambridge Massachusetts I am now recounting my trip to southeast USA with my photographic presentations about Palestine & Israel, in 15 parts, one for each day.

Photos from the trip, In passing: the south :: February 2009

Report of the trip

Photos in this entry from Al-Kamandjati Music Center, Ramallah, Occupied Territories of Palestine

Established in 2002 by Ramzi Abu Radwan, the Center trains young music students from refugee camps in various parts of Palestine (special thanks to Margaret Hawthorn for leading me here)

Photos: Al-Kamandjati Music Center

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The boy, Ramzi Abu Radwan, at age 8, throwing a stone at Israeli soldiers during an invasion of his refugee camp in Ramallah, Amari, in the late 1980s—Ramzi later founded the Music Center

I’m in the home of K and Skip—yes, another Skip (given his name when deep sea fishing as a 4 year old, “The Little Skipper”)—near the main campus, downtown, an older section of the city, in a huge house of at least 10 rooms, housing just the two, plus their cat. They’ve recently remodeled, the kitchen is extravagant yet has little work space. The house sits on a ridge, overlooking another part of the city, not far from railroad tracks. So periodically I hear the captivating sound of a train whistle, reminding me, in 10 days or so I will be gliding home from Jacksonville on the train.

They have very fine art on their walls, and now, thanks to their taste and largesse, 2 of my 11 by 14 photos from Israel-Palestine will join that art. I offered to donate one but they insisted on purchasing them—another $40 into the kitty.

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Teacher Margaret Hawthorne with her student

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The show itself was to be part of a panel discussion organized by the heavily bearded Arnold K, arch activist locally. The other portion of the panel never showed up, a man long ago living in Gaza. The audience consisted mostly of students, some 30 of them, with a sprinkling of older folks. The show itself did not seem to radiate the energy it had the evening before in Charlotte. Always a mystery—how the same presentation can look so different each time. No spirited introduction last night, as from Said the evening before. No presence of Gazans or Palestinians, one loquacious woman from Syria. A young Jewish man who was very well spoken during the discussion but later in private conversation conveyed a strong whiff of hopelessness, despair and confusion.

A very lovely young woman asked 2 pivotal questions: why so much concentration of violence and extremism in Gaza, and the other I’ve forgotten, equally thoughtful and difficult to answer. For the first I laid out the history of the Strip, probably at too great a length, to show that at least it has had an aspect of isolation and neglect for a very long period. But this is a question I’d like to devote more attention to.

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Other questions were about Hamas, the media, rockets, etc, very few if any about my personal involvement or about photography. I opened with a query: Why be concerned about Gaza, Israel-Palestine, and the Middle East? (Answers: It’s one focal point of problems, its relationship to Abrahamic traditions, presence of luminaries, so many in such a small region, and the light)

M wrote a relatively long letter, partly about attending Bread and Puppet Theater with Mark and his family, including his wife who’d won tickets, loving the show, feeling she’s finally understood Bread and Puppet’s Cheap Art, and about her nephew who turns out to be an extraordinarily talented actor. With mention of another debilitating bout of deep insomnia and a wish to continue our friendship, a promise to occasionally check in.

A very curious absence of questions about my life on the road. As if it doesn’t occur to her to ask me how the shows are going, the south, people I meet, local politics, etc. This is a major discovery of my days with M—that apparent killing absence of empathy with me. (Which is not to claim she is without empathy. Only with me.)

I am so relieved to have detached. Now I am in equilibrium, balanced, sane, past the stage of terrorizing love, that love bug that itches incessantly, never satisfactorily scratched. Now I scratch once and the itch is gone.

A brief walk around the neighborhood yesterday as the sun set, noticing the light on the trees and buildings. A photo or two.

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David M showed up for the presentation last night, 1/2 hour late which is his pattern, a one-hour drive to his home in Aiken, and dropped me at the home of his friend, Christine, after the show. He lingered awhile for a chat and to nibble some of the Arabic sweets Mohamed had given me the evening before. The tour is mostly in place, he’s agreed to cancel the Birmingham gig, and now implores me to help find housing for my one night without, in Greenville, just prior to Atlanta. I’m to call Bert this morning and ask if he can pick me up at the train station on Sunday morning early.

This morning I have a few open hours before Dick M retrieves me for a ride to my next venue, Greenville. I’m afraid I have only a rough idea of the geography here, and really run blind. I should learn the map much better, come to visualize it without aids.

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Poster of Edward Said

Yesterday a long chat on the drive to my next venue with Frances H, maybe in her 50s, short, blond, clear spoken, sharp witted, divorced, with a few adult kids. She works with homeless folks, and does installation art. Our nearly 3-hour conversation ranged from family, art, politics, love, and the region, to hope and sorrow. In Columbia we met the tall slender white bearded Dick M who I know from the last trip, residing with him and his wife Jane, and so connections formed 2 months ago continue.

Dick treated me to lunch at Shoney’s, a second visit to this emporium of gluttony, and then a rest at his house and some email. Like last time, he is trying to reawaken his fiction writing talent.

—February 5, 2009, Thursday, Columbia, SC

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Recounting my trip to southeast USA with my photographic presentations about Palestine & Israel, in 15 parts, one for each day. All photos in this post are from my presentations.

Photos from the trip, In passing: the south :: February 2009

Report of the trip

One very powerful dream, M featured. She and I were to meet at the end of a long path thru a thickly wooded forest. I was with another woman, someone very close to me, like Louise. I forgot to turn on my cell phone to hear from M exactly where and when to meet. The other woman, Louise, and I arrived at what might have been a meeting place, deep in the forest. No M. Of course, how would she know where to meet?

I remembered, turned on the phone, saw I had 2 messages, then the phone shifted modes and I couldn’t access the messages. I was sure they were from M. Now what to do? Race back to the parking lot on my bike (why had I brought a bike?) Ok, leave Louise waiting, alone in the deep thicket, dangerous. No M in the parking lot. I kept checking my watch, saw we were now some 30 minutes from an estimated meeting time. M must be on her way home, probably furious at me.

Later, somehow I prodded the phone to produce its messages and I heard from M. She was not only furious but deeply saddened by this debacle. Maybe crying. I’d ruined everything.

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Mediterranean Sea shore, Gaza City

HIVE  (History, Information, Vision, and Exchange) is a community center in Greensboro NC—a large meeting space, adjoining offices of non-profits working with the environment, poverty, women’s rights, etc. Dave helped establish it. Since December 15, in response to shelter overflows and winter weather, they’ve opened WE, a program offering hospitality to men, mostly or entirely black men. 8 pm to 8 am. They use the central room, set up their cots and pads, store personal things in plastic bins, use the kitchen, plenty of food, maybe from Food Not Bombs, access the computers, and are tended by the facilitator, a vibrant Jonathan, ever smiling and helpful.

Dave told me the rent paid by the organizations helps sustain the center. Behind the building a bike shop has welded together pieces of old bikes to form a cage, in which they store bikes to be repaired. Someone’s been breaking the welds and stealing the defective parts, apparently unaware the parts are broken and that the shop will give away free used parts. Despite this problem, crime in the neighborhood, a mixed race zone, has decreased since the establishment of HIVE. It opened about 2 years ago.

Dave tells me it is going thru a management transformation, from relatively anarchic to more mainstream with a paid staff and board. This in answer to certain problems he did not list.

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Net fishing for sardines near a raw sewage outflow, Gaza City

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My Gaza show fit well in this space. About 20 people showed up, mostly young folks, a few elders, 2 or 3 residents of HIVE, and notably the wife of Max Carter, Jane. Also Chelsea, a young effervescent woman with pock marked face, nose ring, scraggly hair. She’s originally from Charlestown MA, her family sporadically attended Friends Meeting at Cambridge, she is now at or recently graduated from Guilford.

Maybe for the first time I showed the entirety of Gaza, some 70 minutes of it. When I asked Dave later how he thought I could improve it—always expecting the reply: shorten it, cut a lot out—he said instead the following—and here I will only mention the list I made from his suggestions.

Notes on Gaza at Greensboro, via Dave R:

Music doesn’t always match picture, sometimes seems repetitive
Add detail in history between Aphrodite
and “children of the stones”—websites that Dave might suggest
Balance between despair and hope
Ragdha first of family in Bureij
Fewer hospital photos
Bold “me” in Belal
Have someone read Obama et al?
Simplify notes
Crisp dates for recent history
“Jump to Rafah” in early slide
Add most recent Yusef?
More personal stories and experiences and people
Add candle light vigil with Ibrahem

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I can’t say the audience was fully attentive (I saw some sleeping or at least with heads bowed, maybe in reverence, I’m not sure), nor dramatically appreciative (a tinkling of applause), nor financially generous ($30), but most stayed for discussion and it was lively.

Some thoughts about Israeli accountability, about Obama, about Hamas, but nothing very personal, either about key characters in the show or about me. Which always puzzles me. More along the lines of geo politics. Jane C helped the discussion with first hand experience. Dave remained silent, looked distracted thru the show.

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Uncompleted building, waterfront, Gaza City

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Beach refugee camp, Gaza City

He is 30 years old, near graduation from University of North Carolina Greensboro in political science and history, considers a career in conflict resolution, may sign up for the grad program at the local university, knows most of the key players in the Palestinian solidarity movement, including Matan Cohen, and is a lively and gracious host.

After a 50 minute ride to Chapel Hill for my next gigs, with a discussion about HIVE, Dave himself, the solidarity movement, etc, we met my next hosts, Oscar and Marilyn E, both I believe from the elder center which is hosting one of today’s 2 shows. As on the December tour one virtue of this arrangement, handing me off from new to old hosts, is expediting people in the movement meeting each other. We dined at a cafeteria that suggested a step up from Shoney’s in quality and maybe price. I snagged too much, made a pig of myself, eating Spanish mackerel, beets, salad, baked potatoes, lima beans, and chocolate pie. What did they think of me?

At first I felt engaged by the conversation about Israel-Palestine politics, the prospect for instance outlined by Dave that Netanyahu might be useful as the next elected prime minister because he has a history of caving to strong pressures, unlike folks like Ariel Sharon, a former prime minister now in a coma. Dave claimed even Neta G feels this way, not supporting his candidacy but realizing a prospect. The conversation was notably upbeat, recognizing the possibility of a tipping point arriving sometime in the near future. And then for the second half of the dinner, attention shifted to local politics, leaving me blank. Who did what in the campaign for senator and house rep and why it mattered?

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Israel heavily attacked Beach Camp recently during the 3 weeks of heightened violence from December thru January 2009. Some of these boys may be injured or dead.

A plus about journeying as I’m now doing is poking into people’s personal lives, living as they do for short periods, probing their histories. I listen to their stories, and I attend to how they lived, their furniture, food, clothing, and pick out details on which to array conclusions.

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Beach camp, looking toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon

Yesterday morning I chose to attend, of the 3 Quaker meetings in Greensboro that I know about, First Friends Meeting (or church), programmed, pastored. Arriving early I noticed a plethora of cars in the lots, but then entering the sanctuary, large, very churchlike, all pews facing forward, a pulpit, as is the churchly Quaker way, I found very few sitting waiting. So I returned to the greeters, picked out a young woman, asked, Could I tour the building while awaiting the service? She guided me.

We first met the pastor, Deborah, a woman in her 40s perhaps, smiling, attractive, thin, married, gracious, engaging. I learned later, from Mary Ann, my escort, and from Deborah herself during her sermon, that at the end of this month the pastor will join an ecumenical tour group visiting Jerusalem and the Galilee. I didn’t hear mention of the West Bank, certainly not Gaza.

Deborah’s sermon, essentially about staying focused, one thing at a time, paying attention, began with an account of her struggle to transform her upcoming Israel-Palestine journey from what might be simply a tour into a spiritual pilgrimage. She used the word pilgrimage. She went awalking to pray about this, and concluded with the notion of attention. Every detail of the experience, noted, thought about, recorded, discussed, portrayed. Of course I resonate with this direction, hoping myself to be fully attentive to all experience.

Following her sermon, a period of open workshop, beginning with a deep silence, leading to about 4 messages, all from the heart, not always directly related to the sermon. I was impressed, loved the combo of music from a talented chorus, the congregation singing, sermon, beginning silence for open worship, public joint prayer, greeting everyone, Deborah inviting me to introduce myself, and the warmth of the assembly. All very fine, and, as I mentioned to a few, if I were living in Greensboro I might chose this church as my home.

—February 2, 2009, Monday, Chapel Hill, NC

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Amani Alfarra is from Gaza, currently studying for her PhD in hydrology in Germany. We met in May 2006, in Gaza, while she was writing a report for the United Nations about the water situation in Gaza. She needed photos so I toured the entire region with her. I’ve slightly edited her writing.

Jan 16, 2009 at 3:16 PM

We hope at the end our voices will be heard and someone will feel the people’s pain in Gaza and help them. For 2 days now I can’t speak with my boys.

Even waiting for things to be improved is quite hard, my friend.

—Amani

Jan 16 at 9:22 PM (Gaza is 7 hours ahead in time)

Oh Amani, I’m so sorry to learn that you have boys still in Gaza. I shall pray.

Love,

—Skip

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By Joe Devoir

Jan 16, 2009 at 3:32 PM, Amani Alfarra <amani.alfarra@gmail.com> wrote:

I thought you knew. Don’t worry. I am just praying to God to keep them safe until things cool down and I find a way to take them out. I am sooooooooooo unhappy, my friend.

When I called them, trust me, I hold my self hard. They have no electricity, no bread. When their father could find some wheat for bread, that was good for them. Every day they make a fire to keep warm.

I try and try to call them to find out if they are still alive. For the third day now I can’t contact them. So can you imagine how hard waiting is?

What did all these children do to deserve this life besides being born as Palestinian-Gazan?

Life is hard my friend

—Amani

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An Israeli soldier prays next to ammunition on the Israel-Gaza border, Monday Jan. 19, 2009. Israeli officials say troops will leave the Gaza Strip before Tuesday’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the new U.S. president. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Jan 16 at 3:51 PM

At the beginning my ex-husband took them from me. But I had hopes that one day we might meet again. Now I am afraid the war will take them and I can’t see them at all.

Jan 19 at 12:29 PM

My Kids! I just spoke to them, el-Humdila (thanks be to god). Two days ago the Israelis pumped something into the area. During the night while my oldest son was sleeping the window broke and collapsed on his head. El-Humdila, he is ok. Some wounds but no problem, he is ok, still alive. This was God’s mercy that he doesn’t want me suffer.

Thanks for asking, my friend.

Warm Regards

—Amani

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Amani Alfarra, Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, May 2006

My photos while traveling with Amani Alfarra, Gaza, May 2006

Set one

Set two

Amnesty International has accused Israel of using white phosphorus in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip.

CEASE FIRE NOW!

Large Gush Shalom ad – published in Haaretz, December 30, 2008

This war is inhuman, superfluous and harmful. Nothing good for Israel will come out of it!

The killing of hundreds of Palestinians and the destruction of the infrastructure of life in the Gaza Strip are abominable acts. Those who hope to reap electoral profits from them are greatly mistaken.

A ground invasion will cause even greater harm, destroy what is left in Gaza and cause many casualties – Israelis and Palestinians, soldiers and civilians.

If, after hard battles, the Israeli army will succeed in conquering the ruins of Gaza, the result will be, at most, to drive Hamas underground and to increase their influence both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

The attack, which has already deepened the hatred, will

AROUSE the whole civilized world against us,

RAISE all over the region a new generation that will hate the State of Israel even more,

INCREASE the impact of Hamas,

UNDERMINE even more the status of peace-seeking Palestinians,

PREVENT Palestinian unity, without which there can be no peace.

On behalf of thousands of Israelis who have demonstrated in the streets of Tel-Aviv within hours after the start of the war, we demand:

– To stop at once the attack on Gaza!

– To propose – and to maintain – a cease-fire that will include the end off all violent actions by both sides, a real opening of the border crossings and the termination of the blockade against the population of the Gaza Strip.

– To start a dialogue with Hamas. Hamas is an integral part of Palestinian society and the Palestinian political system. Without their participation, all negotiations and agreements are meaningless.

Gush Shalom

P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 — info@gush-shalom.orghttp://www.gush-shalom.org

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Boston, January 10, 2009

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