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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field while I continue my photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Here in Palestine-Israel thru July 10, 2019.

PHOTOS

MOHAMMED SABAGH

Mohammed Sabagh, as skilled at storytelling as his friend Nabeel, told virtually the same story as Nabeel. I decided to let him continue despite overlap because I’d suddenly thought maybe I’d not saved the files of N’s interview, and I’d need M’s info. At home, reviewing my work, I was overjoyed to find everything intact. I uploaded files to Google Drive and downloaded from my phone to my laptop via iTunes to make sure I don’t lose them.

I asked Mohammed if he’d mind showing me his house, which is behind and up the hill from N’s. Yes, but I don’t have much time; I need to get to the post office in 10 minutes. He explained that he’d expanded the small original blockhouse provided by Jordan when they controlled this area before the Six Day War, to house others in the family. He showed me his guest room where he speaks to delegations. There I made perhaps the best photograph of the set of him. Previously I’d tried photographing him as he labored with his smartphone to find a photo showing a visit from Jimmy Carter. As I told him and N, Carter is perhaps the only American president who would visit here. Can one imagine Trump coming to Sheik Jarrah to visit potentially expelled Palestinians? Nope, instead, if he came, he’d probably visit the settlers. Maybe stay overnight to get a deeper feel.

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This housing complex was once home to 8 Palestinian families.

Later, on M’s way to the post office he dropped me at the Damascus Gate. This journey of maybe one-mile max required about 30 minutes because of traffic. However, it provided more conversation time, mostly about family, his and mine, always a good connection point. When I asked why many Palestinians, especially women, wear black, and not only black, but gowns that seal their body, despite the heat, he answered, it’s normal.

I’m tempted to say, such apparel is blazingly cool—and hot.

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Checking my previous materials (Teeksa website and my blog, ever handy) I discovered I was there in 2009 and photographed the family that had been recently evicted, now living under a protest tent.

First photo set

Then again in 2015

Then, during my work with Grassroots Jerusalem, I visited Sheik, presumably with or guided by Fayrouz (journal of May 7, 2015). Where is that photo series I made of Nabeel and family?

One of the most stunning comments and discoveries from the two interviews: neither men are willing to risk leaving the country, even tho they have relatives abroad and might be able to travel, and they rarely leave the neighborhood. Reason: to protect their homes. I name them “guardians of the neighborhood.” A few days later after the interviews I remet Mohammed at the weekly protest against expulsions—hey, you showed up, as you promised, he said. And there I met the Jewish activist scholar, Sayia Rothberg. His is another story. In part one of this story I linked to Sayia’s blog entry about protecting Sheik Jarrah.

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Mohammed Sabagh (R) with Shaiya Rothberg

Where to go with this interview and portrait set? Moreover, does it too sharply diverge from my main path of internally expelled refugees in the West Bank and Gaza? Or is it a side branch, even a new river, possibly warranting changing the name of my project from On Our Way Home to something like The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba?

Last evening [May 30, 2019], once rested and fed, I sat in the side garden of the Austrian Hospice for the first time working on my next blog, “Plan and Acclimate.” Such joy to work outside in the evening light, birds, plants, fellow quiet guests. Who mostly sat together at various tables, each on a separate smartphone. Such a loss—the joys and discoveries of random, relaxed, lazy conversation.

Here I am, typing away, alone, yet potentially with others, a community, some I know well, others I’ve never met or will meet. Writing, I carry on a conversation with myself that eventually I may share with others. My strong need for comments might reflect my need for conversation. With Louise over Skype two evenings-mornings ago our conversation was lush with discoveries, for instance, the decision about Napa and her trip plans. Also my analysis of how busyness curtails movement building in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and her observation that I’ve perhaps deepened a little spiritually, developing Holy Patience.

~~A fellow hospice dorm resident, a short woman looking vaguely Asian, just rolled her walker past me, on her way maybe to breakfast and later out. What fortitude to tour the Old City with her infirmities, her diminishments! I am emboldened. I wish her well. Maybe we’ll have a chance to chat later.~~

Additions about Nabeel from my notes:

Built the addition in the 1980’s (?), Israel never allowed him to use it because of no building permit, pays ongoing fine-his large extended family in small space-once worked as a “driver” which sounded more like a courier-born in Nazareth, moved to Old City during the Six Day War, then to present site in 1950s when Jordan, controlling this region, built housing for refugees-person buried nearby not a Jew, but a Muslim, prayed to by settlers, 4 different grave sites of this supposed holy Jewish man-Zionists when occupying the nearby house would open a window facing N’s home and shout obscenities, encourage women to bare themselves, and throw garbage so N put up a curtain (photographed during other visits?)-a series of protests, tents, planting in the front yard (Facts on the Ground?) an olive tree (which seems to thrive) and lemon tree (destroyed first with oil and other fluids, then ripped out by settlers)-harassment dates back to the 1970’s-weekly protests continue on Fridays at 4-age about mid 70s-healthy altho with previous heart problems-land not his, but rented from municipality-stays strong and vigilant (when I asked him) because his home is his!, rightfully, legally —i.e., justice.

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Sheik Jarrah map, click for an enlarged version, Courtesy of UN0CHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), 2009

LINKS

The Historiography of the 1948 Wars, By Picaudou Nadine  (2008) (contextualizes the book, All That Remains, by Walid Khalidi, and the Nakba)

The Nakba, Flight and Expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 (exhibition catalog by Zochrot)

Sheikh Jarrah, My Neighbourhood (2013)

Facing Eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, by Sarah Wildman (2013)

MORE COMING IN THE SERIES “ON OUR WAY HOME”

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field while I continue my photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Here in Palestine-Israel thru July 10, 2019.

Special note: World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

No, they [the Palestinians] were made voiceless, they were muted.  Our job is to de-mute them.

—Dr. Mads Gilbert, the Norwegian surgeon famous for his work in Gaza in 2008 and 2014 and for his painfully graphic books, Eyes in Gaza and Night in Gaza, quoted by Dr. Alice Rothchild

Sheik Jarrah is a Palestinian neighborhood immediately north of main East Jerusalem, threatened by Zionist settlers who claim historical possession of this neighborhood. Supported by Israeli military and police they attempt to expel Palestinians living there for decades and move into their homes. Among the leaders of the resistance, Nabeel Al-Kurd and Mohammed Sabagh

PHOTOS

May 31, 2019, Friday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City, Austrian Hospice

Dream notes:

I stood with a crowd during a protest. We knocked on the door of the organization we were focused on, a solid steel reinforced door with a glass window itself reinforced with metal strands embedded in it. Suddenly a rock hit the window, causing minor damage because of the window’s construction. I said, or thought to myself, oh no, now the tear gas, now the rubber covered metal bullets, now the live fire.

Much like Palestine-Israel, obviously, but not specifically declared in the dream.

I dreamt this during another early morning HOW (Hour of the Wolf—partial wakefulness that can be either terrifying or revelatory), beginning around 4 am, call to prayer time, and lasting until I rose 2 hours later. Despite my apparent sleep loss, I usually don’t feel any more fatigued than usual thru the day, even with the heat. But perhaps the sleep loss will catch up with me and I’ll collapse.

Yesterday some good news, the news I’ve been waiting for. To my beloved cyber support committee, Susan D, JVB, George Cap:

meet nabeel and mohammed of sheik jarrah:

with great joy i share with you the first two human beings i’ve been able to photograph for my project. they live now in east jerusalem, a neighborhood called sheik jarrah, long under attack by jewish israelis who attempt to forcibly expel these legal residents and take over their homes. jvb [who may have visited the neighborhood on one of his two trips here] can fill you in probably. i’ve long followed this story, know elements of it, but today, a mere 2 hrs ago, i met these two stalwart “guardian” residents, nabeel al kurd and mohammed sabagh, thanks to amal t, a jewish israeli who works for an international ngo here and reminded me about nabeel (who i’ve visited several times in years past), and told me about mohammed.)

up to this point, 2 wks into my 8 wk exploration, i’ve had tremendous problems locating people to photograph. and they are dying off rapidly, having been born prior to 1947-48, the yrs of nakba, the palestinian catastrophe.

photos enclosed.

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Nabeel Al-Kurd

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Mohammed Sabagh

NABEEL AL-KURD

I am rocketedly ecstatic, beholden to Amal T who spurred me into action. On my last visit (I believe) I tried to meet Nabeel Al -Kurd again. His wife said he was out. He didn’t answer his phone. We’d first met many years ago, and I returned for a second visit which I dimly recall was with some of his family discussing family business. I recall a beautiful woman, I photographed freely. My two recent interviews went very well. Both men are much practiced in the art of storytelling, their own stories which they know well. Visitors like Christian Peace Team CPT) delegations often meet them. In fact, Esther K, leader of many CPT delegations, visited Nabeel recently. She’d thanked me for telling her about him last year and the delegation visited then.

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The home of Nabeel and extended family. Immediately to its left is the house he built in the 1970s for extra space, now occupied by settlers.

Not expecting to interview anyone yesterday, I did not bring my Tascam recorder. Luckily I had my phone, and, recalling SF’s suggestion last year, I could use it to record the interview. Worked perfectly, as far as I can tell. Nabeel and I sat outside beside the small house he’d constructed to expand his original dwelling, which had been provided by Jordan in the 1950s because of his refugee status. He told me Israel has never allowed him to live in this addition, claiming he built without a permit, a permit impossible to attain. A “big” (meaning fat) Zionist Israeli from New York City, maybe the head of local settler security, stays there overnight to protect the small occupied building from Zionist youth who allegedly use it for alcohol, drugs, prostitution, and other unsavory purposes (so claim Nabeel and later Mohammed), arriving late in the evening, leaving late in the morning. I’d love to meet this fat Zionist, interview and photograph him. I’ll leave Nabeel’s full story until later. I could do an entire project about Sheik Jarrah, perhaps living in a tent outside N’s home because, altho he might wish to host me, his space is tiny, his family large.

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Searching for a photograph of former president Jimmy Carter when he visited Sheik Jarrah in 2010, virtually the only US president who might visit, inquire, and possibly support the residents of Sheik Jarrah.

The first occupants of his confiscated building were a family. I believe he said when the family realized the reality of the confiscation they left. Brothers came in. And then the young, more extreme men with good body builds (how many were from the USA?) Across the street, the settlers consist of several families.

Discussing my prior work on the refugee theme, he brought out the book, All That Remains, The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, in Arabi, by Walid Khalidi, which I remembered to include in some photos. While I interviewed Mohammed, Nabeel looked thru the book, as if a bible for refugees.

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With the book, All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, by Walid Khalidi, an encyclopedic account of Naka expulsions.

LINKS

Sheikh Jarrah & the settlers’ court, by Louis Frankenthaler (2010)

We must not evict the Sabbagh family, by Shaiya Rothberg (April 2019)

My Neighborhood, a movie by Just Vision about Sheik Jarrah

Carter: Sheikh Jarrah Evictions Are Against International Law by Nir Hasson
and Haaretz Service (2010)

SECOND PART COMING ABOUT SHEIK JARRAH, PLUS MORE IN THE SERIES “ON OUR WAY HOME”

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field while I continue my photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Here in Palestine-Israel thru July 10, 2019.

Special note: World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos.

― James Baldwin

PHOTOS (Returning from prayer at the Al Aqsa mosque-on Friday during Ramadan)

May 18, 2019, Saturday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City (continued)

Aside from my tooth, which history will not remember, I dropped in on Mahmoud Muna, one of the owners of the Educational Bookshop in the eastern section of Jerusalem. His shop is part of the American Colony Hotel, always a joy to visit, the shop and the hotel—despite some of my negative connotations of “American” and “colony.” He provided me many suggestions, among them:

  • To find people to photograph in camps, establish a link in a camp (Freedom Theater in Jenin for a strong example), visit community centers (such as for women), ask for contacts and a place to stay (I should try today to reach Mowia in Jenin.)
  • Photograph refugee achievers such as Abed and people he and others might suggest (as I’ve already done with Abed, Ayed, and others, none first generation; are there any?). Not only those like Abed who are achievers in the resistance movement, but professionals, artists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Include the interior photos I’ve made to help undercut stereotypes (refugee housing is dirty, cramped, junky).
  • Connect with the Institute of Palestinian Studies, headed by Walid Khalali (who lives in Cambridge MA, why have I not sought his counsel yet?), based in many places including Ramallah, for contacts but also for archival photos of the villages before Nakba.
  • Same with UN and UNRWA.
  • Consult Salman Abu Sitta for an argument for return, read his new book, The Geography of Occupation.
  • For people who’d lived in Deir Yassin, Lifta, etc, contact associations formed to remember those Nakba disasters.
  • Zochrot is mainly about the villages, not the former residents, and tends to concentrate on the north, the Galilee, etc.

He confirmed what he told me on my last visit, that mine is probably the first photographic treatment of the theme.

When asked about the effect of digital technology on publishing and booksellers like his he agreed that for many books digital has a strong impact. But he’s convinced other kinds of books, like photography, will remain popular. Because people like to have the pages in front of them. We’ll see. He was not familiar with my concept of a multi-dimensional multi-platform book, in print but also linked to the Internet, or maybe purely digital.

He seemed to like the photos I showed him online. I mentioned my online booklet but we didn’t pursue it. I feel I can consult with Mahmoud regularly, even when I’m home in Cambridge MA.

Ironic that he is among my first strong contacts on this trip, as he was on my fall trip.

While scouting the American Colony Hotel looking for the bookshop I discovered a small exhibit of photos and texts about the founding of this place. Around the late 1800s, a small group from Chicago, my home town, mainly Swedes, pioneered. They encouraged friends to immigrate and eventually discovered a Jerusalem mansion they could first rent and then buy—the present building. I thought of joking with Suzanne and Brayton about immigrating Agape to here, founding the Agape Colony in Jerusalem. But, alas, they’re too old for this adventure, as are now most of my peers for such pathfinding.

After meeting with Mahmoud I sat in the garden across from the main building, enjoying its serenity and peace. I ate an apple and checked my mail, made a photo or two as well. I wondered, what would a single room for one night cost me? $330 average, a bit beyond.

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Patio of American Colony Hotel

A major achievement after a boondoggle: the main page of my website. This is a result of working between two computers, desk and laptop, not fully sharing all the files. Yesterday as I attempted to post my new flight photo set to my site, I inadvertently uploaded the old main page which dates back to about Nov 2018. I couldn’t reverse the save or retrieve the latest page so I needed to remake the page. I doubt I did it totally accurately but good enough to allow me to post my new sets. When I return home I can access the page I need and complete the restoration. Or so I pray.

Today [May 18, 2019, Saturday] I plan to announce this new set and possibly begin my first blog entry.

Today I’d hoped to join Zochrot in Jaffa for the Nakba tour. How to reach Jaffa from Jerusalem? While home I’d imagined riding either the Israeli bus or train, walking or taxiing to the central Jerusalem bus-train station, then, arrived in Jaffa, figure out how to meet the tour. Belatedly I’d remembered: oh shit, Shabbat, no Israeli trains or buses until late afternoon today. Rent a car? Couldn’t contact Good Luck car rental because it is Friday, Muslim holy day, and they’re closed. Then, running this question by Mahmoud, he replied, easy, use the shuttle near the Damascus Gate. He explained Palestinian entrepreneurs run shuttles to various locations in Israel, Jaffa for sure, on Fridays and Saturdays because of the absence of regular Israeli transport over Shabbat.

I searched the area I thought he told me where I could find the shuttle—to inquire about how early they run on Saturday (I’d need to be at the Jaffa port by 9 am, a daunting task, given the trip there takes 1 hour easily)—but because of Muslim holy day and the huge crowds going to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque, the area had been cordoned by the Israelis: no shuttles to be found. By now, altho I could have inquired, I concluded the Nakba tour would not be worth the effort. Plus, after I’d damaged my tooth yesterday, I realized today, Saturday, I will search for a dentist.

And what about this holy day crowd. As I mentioned to SF, I was caught in the “Al Aqsa prayer crush.” Coming and going. Inadvertently I’d timed my exit from the Golden  Gate hostel with the entrance of praying people, and my return to the hostel with their exit. The latter was the worst. Altho I’d tried to sit out the rush from the mosque, I missed the moment. A little past the American Colony I encountered thousands going to their buses to return to places all around the West Bank and (someone told me) Gaza as well. I could manage until I got nearer the Damascus Gate. Before reaching it I realized I could video this. So I tried, holding a position or walking into the crowd. Once past the gate, the corridor constricted, I soon was trapped. Zero motion. (What if someone set off a bomb to eliminate the maximum number of Muslims (and tourists and locals)? I panicked.

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Outside Damascus Gate, past the crush

Trying my usual technique—walking behind bolder walkers than me—didn’t work. We were stuck, we did not move. Luckily I could peel off into a sort of garden or park where I found shade. I sat, read, waited until I felt the crowd had shrunk enough for me to actually make headway. What a contrast when I walked a similar path later, around 9 pm, stopping at the Sepulchre Church to honor my departed teacher.

Last night I experienced a large scale HOW, Hour of the Wolf, about 1 hour long. My mind races uncontrollably, the throttle dismantled, no more serial, control thinking, but a barrage of unrelated thoughts, terrifying at worst, enlightening at best. But I can’t sleep. I tried the Cannabidiol, or CBD oil Katy had given me. Little effect that I noticed. Eventually, I slept—god given!—waking around 6:30 am to the noise of the two large black men sharing the dorm with me packing and leaving.

I think I’ve found relatively safe storage for my gear, finally remembering what I’ve done in the past: into my luggage, secured with a small lock, tucked under my bed. In it, large camera, iPad, and laptop when I’m not using it or in the hostel. Rather than in the office in my large knapsack where anyone can easily steal it.

Now, presently, at the moment, relative bliss. It is 8:07 am, I am alone on the porch with only the flies (large ones drawn by the remnants of my yogurt and banana). The sound only of shopkeepers opening for the day. Not a bad life if only I can have my tooth repaired.

LINKS

Educational Bookshop

American Colony Hotel

Booklet: On Our Way Home, photographs by Skip Schiel (On Google Drive)

If you’ve not seen the movie One Day in Gaza, about the May 14, 2018 juxtaposition of the Great March of Return viciously attacked by Israel and the opening of the USA Embassy in Jerusalem, please have a look. Click here for an intro from Haaretz (possibly behind a paywall, here for the movie (you don’t need to log in), and here for Alison Weir’s perceptive analysis. I deeply laud Alison and If Americans Knew (her website) for her courage, knowledge, and dedication.

TO BE CONTINUED

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I’m now photographing for a Palestinian organization in East Jerusalem, Grassroots Jerusalem, to support their various projects. One crucial project remaps Jerusalem, intending to counter the conventional image of The Holy City (Al-Quds) as purely Jewish Israeli, erasing Palestinian presence. As part of my work, I’ve compiled some of my photos that relate to Jerusalem. PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO LINKS.

Wujood book cover

The organization recently published a guide book about the city, Wujood, the Grassroots Guide to Jerusalem, that is definitely worth reading (It will be available online once they’re launched their new website.). Here’s a review from This Week in Palestine to give you some idea of the book and the organization. Wujood-Grassroots book

Women’s Day March on Kalandia (the major checkpoint between Jerusalem and ramallah, west bank side)
Silwan (south of Jerusalem)
Photo from Silwan
Old City Jerusalem
Old City Jerusalem-2
Sheik Jarrah (neighborhood in East Jerusalem, 2015)
Sheik Jarrah (family in protest tent, 2009)
Annexation Wall
Annexation Wall-2
Annexation Wall-3
Jerusalem Gate (ongoing popular resistance to confiscation of more Palestinian land around Jerusalem, 2015)
Mount of Olives
South of Jerusalem (a walk thru former Arab and Jewish neighborhoods)
Jahalin Bedouin (near Jerusalem)
Jerusalem Light Rail (2012)

Jerusalem map Grassroots
SheikJarrahPalestine_Israel_Jerusalem-1196In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem threatened by Israeli colonists, March 2015
LINKS

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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 New construction at the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, January 1, 2008

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert promised at the Annapolis talks and more clearly later to freeze all new settlement construction in the huge illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in East Jerusalem (and at other selected sites). Here’s what is happening: facts on the ground.

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End of the southern road, for now, and soon to be home, inshallah.

Last night’s show at the University of Northern Florida, hosted by CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), an Islamic awareness group that apparently has branches throughout the United States, was spectacular. Nearly 200 people, many of them Arabic Muslim, a large contingent from Palestine, about 3 people from Gaza, many children, a group from a middle school with their young Black teacher who is an Iraq war Marine veteran, one of my best shows since I’ve come to know it so well, garnering a large financial contribution. The image was huge, tho faded; the sound clear, tho weak; my energy good, tho radio miked.

An argument broke out between two men about the role of Egypt, whether it treated the Palestinians unfairly. Yes, look at how they control the border. No, they are beholden to Israel because of the flawed peace treaty. Never experienced that particular argument during any of my shows. One boy asked if he could take a stack of Obama cards to distribute in school. Of course, and this ends my supply. Many looked thru the photos and bought some.

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One woman, the heavy set woman sitting in front who read Dr Mona’s part, said during discussion, What’s the point of showing this to people like us who know all this already? Why not get it out more widely? I replied that I try, mentioning elder centers and universities and colleges. Later in a private discussion one of the Muslims disputed her, saying, We learned much. (About the American Friends Service Committee, hydropolitics, and perhaps my personal story—yes the history is well known to some, other portions are more unique, but she does raise a point: how to bring something new to an audience?)

Fadwa introduced me and like many who do this garbled my profile. For the past 10 years Mr. Schiel been teaching filmmaking at BC and he’s also a Harvard professor, he wrongly stated. People latch onto my Harvard connection and tend to exaggerate. Perhaps I should be more honest and correct them. I don’t, not entirely displeased with the illusion.

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Muslim workers at prayer

I’d intended to add to my introduction the recent spate of good news I just received from Anne, about BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions), throwing shoes, and the like, didn’t have time. But I’ll add it here, summarizing:

1. An audience in Stockholm Sweden throws kisses-shoes at and hit their target,
the Israeli ambassador.

2. Numerous European countries including Spain, UK, and Norway, filed
charges before the International Criminal Court against Israeli political and military leaders, charging them with war crimes.

3. Church of England divests from Caterpillar killing bulldozer business—
http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/02/09/66055.html.

4. Hampshire College becomes the first college institution in the US to divest
from Israel [this is later disputed].

5. South African dockworkers refuse to unload Israeli ships in solidarity with
the Palestinian People and in protest of the most recent genocidal Israeli
attacks on the people from Palestine/Israel. Israel allowed a small  quantity of flowers into of Gaza.

6. Boycott, sanctions, and divestment campaign against Apartheid Israel heats
up. Remember the fall of South African Apartheid. Stay optimistic and hopeful.

[However, just today, April 20, 2009, I heard on Democracy Now that more European nations, led by Israel and the US, are boycotting the UN Durban Review Conference in Geneva because of possible slanderous remarks about Zionism and racism. I’m amazed that this connection is even disputed. Was Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad  a good choice for the opening day’s speaker? I have to wonder.]

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Clearing land for new houses

Indeed, despite much dreary news positive news seeps thru. A truce between Hamas and Israel is in the air. How much of a tipping point in the large story of conflict will Gaza prove to be?

Two families from Syria are hosting me, L, single mother of 2 sons, living in a palatial gated community house with a golf course, and her brother, Z, with his wife and 2 girls and infant son. Y is a cardiologist, his house also is huge and feels oddly empty, maybe only because they moved into it recently.

All my hosts in Jacksonville have been uniformly grateful to me for my work, honored to be hosting me, and aware, as Z told me last night, that I’m risking my life pursuing this mission. My life is intended to speak.

Y was curious about Quakerism, asked me a few questions in the car, and claimed he did more research last night on the web. The Quaker connection seems to generate much interest from many, playing off the not fully earned reputation we have. It is a talking point, so with Christians, Jews, Muslims, people of other faiths, some institutional, some not, it helps seed the conversation. And my story concerning my relationship with Quakers is mixed, realistically mixed. A believer, but only partially. A supporter of Quaker’s, only partially. Committed, only partially. I am a human being with flaws—many of them—and a modicum of virtues.

All my hosts are extremely and sometimes embarrassingly gracious to me: feeding me (special lunch yesterday, Syrian), cleaning after me, fitting me into an electronic comfy chair, providing me a private room, shower, etc. All I could hope for, reasonably hope for.

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The house is gargantuan, ceilings are high, there are numerous rooms with virtually no furnishings. Few rugs so I walk on tiles. Blank walls. Endless corridors. Extremely fashionable fixtures like toilets, sinks, fridges, washing machines. All this reminds me of some of the houses I’ve witnessed in Palestine—more than ample. Perhaps proving wealth. I’m not sure what generates this ethic.

Waiting for the show to begin, I wandered around the University of Northern Florida campus. It has many ponds, many Canada geese pooping everywhere, a few white birds I couldn’t identify, many pine trees, large buildings, the inevitable campus construction, women in shorts, men in shorts, many wearing flip flops, many people of color. But, once again, I found nothing attracting my camera.

Today: a free day in Jacksonville with L, maybe an art museum, wander the waterfront, try to make some photos, prepare for the train ride which begins at 6:30 pm if the train is on time. Thank my hosts, give them a photo, say bye, see you another time, inshallah.

It is now raining, for the first time on this trip. I will now check the weather report.

—February 14, 2009, Saturday, Jacksonville Florida

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Destroyed Palestinian olive grove to make room for settlement expansion

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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 Light rail through East Jerusalem

Suppose, without consulting you, without your permission, with no valid legal basis, through your city another city authority decides to remove two of the four lanes of your major highway—to build a light rail system. They say, “No problem, your people can use it too.” However past behavior suggests this is an empty promise. The train may run but you will not be riding it: ultimately. Such is the case in East Jerusalem, nominally Palestinian with illegal Israeli settlements pock marking the city. The system will connect Jewish West Jerusalem with settlements in East Jerusalem.

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Light rail thru East Jerusalem: before construction, already jammed with traffic

Now I’m in Valdosta, a fairly large city in the southern section of Georgia. The land has turned to sand, very flat, open, homes in my neighborhood spacious, on large plots of land. I recall this being the way of Florida. I’m with M, from Tulkarem Palestine, and his wife, S, a fiery woman active on many issues. M teaches political science at a local community college, and I believe he said geography also; S has jobs but I’m not sure in what. She’s told me of numerous campaigns she’s been part of or initiated, including divestment thru her Episcopalian church; blocking the development of a stretch of earth along a local stream; and stopping the use of Styrofoam in the schools, using and then discarded by pulverizing the plastic dishware and then flushing it.

She set up a venue for me here in a church owned coffee house, Hildegard’s, perhaps named after the mystic. Downtown, large, excellent electronic facilities including a huge screen, strong sound system, good coffee, the Gaza show last night drew one of my largest crowds, maybe 60 or more. And most were young, college age almost looking like they were out for a date. Valdosta is also a college town, hosting a state university. M had warned me earlier that an event held a few days ago, a forum about Palestine/Israel, had been raucous. A group of rabbis showed up who challenged some of the speakers including him. Nothing like that last night. Despite the presence of several prominent Jews who sat silently thru the show and then left before the discussion.

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Questions included how do you speak with someone with extremely supportive of Israel views, and Christian Zionists (fumbling for the answer we finally collectively landed on be respectful and listen), what to do generally in the realm of legislative pressure when the region is so conservative (form coalitions to then visit the legislators), does the Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) movement have any real effect (slowly)? And here I mentioned Hampshire College apparently divesting from 6 companies that profit from the occupation including Motorola, Caterpillar, General Electric and others. When I learned about this yesterday I sent out a notification to my lists raving about Hampshire, suggesting this might be the beginning of a USA wide college based action. (I learned later the college claimed they’d not actually divested from all these corporations, and those divested from were not because of Palestine/Israel.)

I’m coming to know my show. I have nearly memorized my part, Obama. M read Yusef and Belal in his strong Palestinian accent (one of their sons is named Yusef, he hates the name, poor lad, only about 8 years old), S declined to read Dr Mona but we found a portly young woman who read beautifully. The color from the projector was distorted. I didn’t notice this until the photo of the oranges—no orange. They’d turned pale blue. Later, mentioning this to M he claimed not to have noticed. And S stated the many of the photos looked like Van Gogh’s. Perhaps I should set future showings to this off color balance.

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I am winding down, not fatigued by this chore at all, but missing my privacy and freedom. Yesterday I had to truncate my journal writing, miss my emailing, jump into the car with Chris and Taylor, tear off to Macon to catch my bus. We were a planned 1.5 hours early so had time to chat with local homeless Black men hanging out at the station. Stephen, maybe high on drugs or booze, a voluble fellow who seemed to love everyone. He asked for precisely $4.13 to buy something I couldn’t understand. His accent was thick. Taylor gave him at least $2.

At a stop for lunch along the bus route I was able to make one of my rare photos: grain elevators backlit, near the parking lot.

In the car we’d discussed local organizing and their college and career plans (international work I believe, both studying Arabic and the Middle East), continuing the conversation as they waited with me for the bus counter to open. We sauntered over to the local fast food emporium, something like IHOP, for egg sandwiches and hash browns. 4 hours later, the equivalent of a ride between Boston and NYC, I landed in Valdosta and eventually met my host here, the harried S driving a huge van with many bumper stickers. She complained about her eldest son, R, whose room I’m using, “acting out” at school.

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M, born in 1959 in Palestine, is on fire about his home, but wishes not to return to his homeland despite most of his family living there. It raises pain, he said, and I told him about Jean Zaru not wanting to travel between Ramallah and Jerusalem because she’d then have to witness the wall and Kalandia, ripping out her heart.

M, Susan, and I discussed how to activate, how to discuss, agreeing respect and good listening skills are vital, as is powerful speech—lessons from the notebook of Thich Nhat Hanh. They conveyed feedback to my show from a friend: Slow down your speaking, Northerner.

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