Posts Tagged ‘hamas’


Qassam rocket, fired by militants from Gaza, on display in Gaza passport control office


American Friends Service Committee office in Gaza



Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3508 From Netiv Ha’asara side of Gaza wall

Both communities are within 1 km of Gaza and often heavily attacked by rockets and mortars fired by Gazan militants. Nomika Zion lives in Sderot, Roni Keidar and her daughter, Inbal Yahav, live in Netiv Ha-asara even closer to Gaza.

…Not in my name and not for me did you go into this war. The bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name nor for my security. Houses destroyed, schools blown up, thousands of new refugees – they are not in my name or for my security. In Gaza, there is no time for funerals; the dead are put in refrigerators two by two in the mortuary for lack of room. The bodies of policemen and children are laid out and the eager journalists jump between the tactics of pro -Israel advocacy and “the pictures that speak for themselves”. Tell me, what is there to explain? What is there to explain?…

—Nomika Zion, “War Diary from Sderot”



Most recent photos

Older photos

Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel



Nomika Zion’s house

April 22, 2013, Monday, Sderot, Israel

I enjoy Nomika tremendously. She is of my heart and soul. There is a profound linkage, part of it verging on romance, a physical and attitudinal connection that motivates me to return to Sderot. I must confess I feel something of this for Eric Yellin (now temporarily in California with his family) as well and miss him. He is more sedate, composed, but equally committed. To reach Eric and Nomika I must endure the notorious Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel. Relatively easy this time, partly because I know the routine better and partly maybe because Israel has smoothed out the procedure. I rode on a golf cart-like vehicle, rather than walked. I did not need to drag my heavy luggage. No more insistent men who would argue with me, demand I allow them to carry my luggage, charge me exorbitantly. I’m not sure who arranged this, Israel, Hamas, the two of them? Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2141 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2130 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2128 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2105

From Gaza thru Erez to Israel

However transit required a long time to get thru, more than one hour. As we waited for the luggage inspection we were suddenly cleared from the area for a few minutes. I observed security people scurrying about and then all returned to normal: a bomb scare? Many were with me which may have slowed the process. We watched personnel search thru luggage. I’m not sure how thoroughly they checked my major bags. Not the usual mess after inspection. I seem to have lost nothing of value, in particular my photos and text files, nor do I believe they were opened and looked at. Oddly enough I did lose my olive oil of all items. I think I observed an agent looking thru a small bag and then throwing it into trash. May have been my oil. Why this? I have no idea. I did not question it because Roni Keidar was awaiting me.


During the long wait I noticed various verbal altercations between staff and those of us transiting. One young man in particular constantly argued with staff (he’d help me thru the turnstile with my luggage). All in Hebrew or Arabic so I had no idea of the content. Maybe about what he brought thru. A large man in army uniform than joined the conversation. I noticed how attentive and respectful he was to the young Palestinian. He cocked his head with an attentive expression on his face. He seemed to listen.


Israel side of Erez crossing

The usual questions to me from passport control—doing what with whom in Gaza, plans in Israel, how long, who, why, how did you meet, have a plane ticket? Minor hassle. I am experienced at this now and have many Israeli friends thruout the country. When I mentioned Sderot the agent seems to soften.

April 23, 2013, Tuesday, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine 

At Nomika Zion’s another intense conversation, this time during lunch in the group building where I bumped into the guy who’d attended one of my shows in Berkeley California (in a home, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace) which Eric from Sderot Israel also attended. Turns out he lives in the same urban kibbutz as does Eric, Migvan. Nomika, in her usual, super abundant, extremely spirited manner—which I so love about her but wonder how that energy might feel close up—was stunned about the connection. Later we discussed the Jewish and especially the Israeli Jewish propensity to interrupt, be loud, push, and feel the center of the universe individually and as a people. She might exemplify this, another reason I love her. She is so Jewish (also part Austrian I learned, something she agreed we shared).


Eric Yellin speaking with a friend of Skip Schiel’s in Gaza


Netiv Ha’asra

Unlike the previous 2 visits, on this one she has been generous with her time. Always serving me, making sure I’m content, and never pulling away from a conversation. Our best ever. I made the panorama of the wall near Netiv Ha’asara that I’d promised her and emailed it. She opened it immediately and exclaimed, where is this? I’ve never seen this! I described its location. She said, we take our delegations to a different part of the barrier, a fence, and seemed to suggest she might change the itinerary. My small contribution to news from Sderot. Nomika tours the West Bank every 4 months or so, last time to Nablus where she bought expensive olive oil. She asked me to remove her photo that I’d made in 2009 from my website, thanked me for removing it from my blog last year and gently chided me for forgetting or neglecting the second removal. I accomplished this in a flash and sent her the link. Too bad—such a handsome person. She explained, never photograph a woman in the morning.

Nomika introduced me to Roni Keidar and said of her, she is one of the “best and most active members of Other Voice.” Eric Yellin and Nomika cofounded Other Voice, residents of Israeli communities bordering Gaza who oppose many Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians. Nomika  published an article about life during Operation Cast Lead, the brutal air and ground assault on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009 which killed some 1,500 Gazans, some two-thirds of them children, and then another assault from the air in November 2012. It’s titled “War Diary from Sderot” (linked below).

I regret not writing more about Kirin, the young Israeli film student from the Galilee, now studying in Sderot. We met in  Netiv Ha’asara when I rode with her and her filmmaker colleague, Ose Oyamendanm, in Roni’s car. They are making a movie about Netiv Ha’asara, Sderot, and Gaza. Kirin is not representative of young Israelis. Much more aware of injustice to Palestinians, she lives near Palestinians so this might explain part of her story. Thanks to this filmmaking team I photographed Roni’s daughter, Inbal Yahav, as she told about the death of her good friend, Dana Galkowicz, in 2005, hit directly by a mortar fired from Gaza and killed instantly. Dana was 22 years old, soon to marry.


(Courtesy of Ose Oyamendanm)

I phoned for a taxi to meet me at 2 pm which gave me time to explore Nomika’s neighborhood. On an hour-long walk I met Sharon Ben Abu who with her husband makes sculptures (Haviv Art). I’d been photographing a metal drummer in a traffic circle, the drummer’s head  swarming with what might have been snakes. She called to me, hey, what are you doing, why are you photographing this? I ambled over to her, put on my gentle smile, and said, because I admire this sculpture, find it lovely, wish to show it to others. She suddenly warmed. Oh, she said, go right ahead, my husband and I made it.

Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3575 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3573

This led to a long halting conversation (because her English was rough). I learned all the metal came from rockets and mortars that had fallen on Sderot. Thus the screaming swarming hair. When I revealed I knew Nomika and was staying with her, Sharon launched into a long criticism of something related to Nomika and the urban kibbutz Nomika lives in. Something about the people being privileged, living better than most Sderotians, and about the program that hires mentally disabled adults. She claimed they were cheated of their proper pay. She would not grant me permission to photograph her. Later when I told Nomika about the meeting I omitted the criticism.

Sharon asked if I am Jewish. I told her the Schiel-Sage-Zagy-mother story [that my sister wonders if we are Jewish because of how Jewish our mother acted and looked], which seemed to partially authenticate me. I said nothing about my mission. She didn’t inquire. On that same walk I photographed young kids playing outside their school, bomb shelters very conspicuous. I worked fast and only later, at another site, did a security woman stop me. No pictures! Nomika explained that a law prohibits photographing children’s faces without the permission of parents. When I asked Nomika why, she could not fully answer, something about pornography maybe. I felt I performed a possibly useful service by showing the ubiquitous bomb and rocket shelters in Sderot (also the walls in Netiv Ha’asara that protect residents from mortars and personal incursions).


ShelterSderot_4419 Palestine-Gaza-Sderot-Netiv_Ha_asara-3571 I could easily reside in Sderot longer—if Nomika would host me and if I could find a project. I do love it there, purely Mediterranean and very western. Too bad most Sderotians support their government fully, as far as I’m aware, and Nomika, Roni, and Eric are such exceptions. I mostly fit, nearly as well as I fit into Gaza. With one key exception: the level of suffering and fear is much greater in Gaza. When asked, why do you go to Gaza? I answer, I am impelled to go where there is suffering, try to show it, end it. And my peers would be aghast at my choice of residence and allegiance. I doubt many would contribute financially to my project in Sderot.

April 26, 2013, Friday, Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine 

I posted the Sderot-Netiv Ha’asara photos set after checking with Roni and her daughter about her daughter’s photos and my possible later writing. All 3 gave approval. I’ve yet to make a decent portrait of Nomika, or at least one she approves. This is an ongoing quest, one of many of mine.

Haviv Art Multidisciplinary Artist Studio lives in Sderot, near the border of Gaza City. His works combine musical elements, East and West, a musical bridge of peace between peoples and different cultures. He likes the dialogue through art, because art has the power to grow a new generation of peace and brotherhood. He says it is recommended for all people, despite the conflict in his area, because his art expresses the need, even in difficult times, of peace, sanity, color and imagination.

—Isabel del Rio, Yareah Magazine


Haviv Art on Facebook

Ose Oyamendanm’s “Bridges over Blood,” a movie in production about Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and justice

Nomika Zion at 2009 Survivor Corps – Niarchos Prize Ceremony (video)

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In Gaza for 6 weeks, November 17 – December 28, 2010,  to photograph and make a movie, I write the following as my personal assessment, checked with local people.

Dedicated to Anne R and Louise D

…Five months [after Israel promised to ease the siege in June 2010], there are few signs of real improvement on the ground as the ‘ease’ has left foundations of the illegal blockade policy intact. In order to have a positive impact on the daily lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are children, Israel must fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

—”Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade,” a report by a group of humanitarian aid and human rights organizations

The claims of the organizations, as they appear in the [Dashed Hopes] report, are biased and distorted and therefore mislead the public…

—Major Guy Inbar, spokesman for Israel’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (quoted in “Report: Israel’s easing of blockade has had ‘limited effect’” by Kareem Khadder, CNN)

Ban Al Ghussain



The Gaza Strip lies on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the Levant, Egypt on the south, Israel on the north. For most of recorded history, 5000 years, various people have occupied the region. All the occupations but one have ended. For most of those 5000 years, despite periodic violence, a variety of people coexisted in the Strip, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Philistines, Assyrians, and others. Some say China may be the next to occupy.

Approximately 1.5 million now people live in Gaza, more than three quarters of them refugees. The majority are descendants of refugees who were driven from or left their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Children comprise roughly half the population. Rhode Island, the smallest of the New England states, is 7 times larger than Gaza (with a population of roughly 1 million). The camps are among the most densely populated regions in the world. Israel controls all the borders, land, sea, and air.

In January 2006 Israel imposed a siege after Hamas won a general election in Gaza and the West Bank; observers including former President Jimmy Carter monitored the election and declared it free and open. In June 2006 militants attacked an Israeli military base near Gaza, killing 2 soldiers and capturing Gilad Shalit, in captivity in Gaza since then, perhaps around the corner from my home. On December 27, 2008, purportedly to stop the firing of homemade, poorly targetable rockets by Gazan militants into civilian areas of Israel, Israel, using weapons provided by the US, pounded Gaza for 22 days—Operation Cast Lead. This killed approximately 1,400 people, injured another 5,000, more than 75% of them civilians. Thousands were rendered homeless and because the siege blocks most construction materials many people remain without permanent homes.

The UN’s Human Rights Council commissioned an investigation led by the eminent South African jurist, Richard Goldstone. Israel refused to cooperate. The Commission found that Israel and Hamas—Israel by far the greater perpetrator—committed probable war crimes and called for credible investigations by both parties. Neither has responded adequately. Failing to conduct those investigations, the Commission recommended bringing the case to the International Criminal Court.

The United States congress and administration and Israel, along with some other nations, condemned the report as one-sided. The story of the investigation has not yet concluded.

In 2008 international activists began organizing boat convoys to break the siege and bring humanitarian supplies to Gaza, the Free Gaza Movement. Several boats landed in Gaza City carrying supplies and brought out Gazans needing special medical treatment. All subsequent convoys have been attacked in international waters: boats rammed and boarded, personal belongings stolen, media confiscated, people detained, and in May 2010, Israel murdered 9 Turkish people attempting to arrive on the cargo ship, Mavi Marmara. Investigations are underway about possible war crimes committed by Israel.

The purported easing of the siege

Since Israel claimed to relieve the pressure on Gazans following international condemnation of its attack on the humanitarian aid ships on May 31, 2010, more food is in the stores, there is some new construction (usually floors added to existing buildings—many buildings remain unfinished, languishing for years), people are not openly starving, many beg and sell small items on the street, many storefronts are shuttered. I’m told there are items to buy but little money to buy with. Power outages are frequent; people then use generators which are costly to run because of fuel and effects on the environment. There are many cars in the streets, but most are old. (I’m told new cars imported from Israel are suspicious: they could contain surveillance equipment.)

The UN claims little has changed, as do most other international organizations that have researched this topic. Israel alone, probably backed by the USA, claims there is no humanitarian crisis. I believe the crisis is severe.

Israel controls the northern border into Israel, called Erez. My most recent passage was the smoothest yet (of 5), which means little for Gazans wishing to leave for medical treatment in Israel, or for many internationals, especially those with Arabic names, who wish to contribute humanitarian services and are blocked. I ask, what right does Israel have to control entry? What if Canada demanded the right to control entry to the United States?

Egypt, with the participation of the USA and Israel, controls the southern border, Rafah, into Egypt. This has been open more reliably since the humanitarian convoy debacle. How long no one knows.

Hamas is rebuilding its security forces, which include civilian police. I see them training in the street and in open fields.

Aftermath of the assault of 2008-2009, Operation Cast Lead, which itself followed regular attacks at least since 2000, the beginning of the Second Intifada (uprising or shaking off)

Many are still sharing homes with family, unable to rebuild after their homes were demolished. Many are still suffering major injuries, with little opportunity to leave the region for more specialized treatment. A major share of the children—and many adults—experiences some form of post traumatic stress disorder.

The medical services suffer: exhausted supply of medicines, no cure for cancer in Gaza, no spare parts, no new equipment, no chemicals for machines like blood testers, irregular power so dialysis machines might quit, and little opportunity for advanced training for staff either because of Israeli entry restrictions or Israel  won’t allow exit. No humanitarian crisis?

Mesleh Al Ashram

Internal political divisions

Hamas, controlling Gaza, and Fatah, controlling the West Bank, continue their adversarial relationship. As if mortally locked in conflict, lunging and clawing at each other, they seem unable to reach concord. Many Gazans believe this fighting is foolish, and tho perhaps favoring one party or the other, advocate unity. My good friend Ibrahim was seriously wounded in 2007 when with friends he was trying to nonviolently stop the violence.


A remarkable feature of the Gazan dynamic is the absence of a moderate voice. One is expected to take sides, and those who are openly critical of Hamas risk ostracism, at least. More severe punishment could include imprisonment or execution.

Women suffer, not only from strictures invoked by Hamas but from the generally very conservative atmosphere. Most cover their hair with the hijab; many shroud their entire body, tip of head to ankle; some wear the burka, the face covering.  To refuse is to risk punishment. Unmarried couples may not appear together in public. I observed couples along the beach and in parks sitting quietly together in guarded moments, isolated from others. In the summer of 2009, Adham, another good friend, was detained when discovered on the beach with a woman not his wife. They were dressed in their street clothes.

Emigration and immigration

Many of my younger friends have left the country, usually for higher education. These tend to be the most educated, with the most skills, and the youngest of the adult population. Some say they will return when and if conditions improve. Some will never. Others are returning, often from Arabic countries, but they tend to be older, with fewer skills, retired, and often needing support, rather than able to offer support.

Expectations about Israel

Little hope for a bright future. More violence, continuing siege, more clever manipulation by Israeli media, with little challenge or questioning by international agencies, countries, or leaders.

Expectations about the USA

Dismal, to say the least. Viewing the Obama presidency, at least regarding Palestine, as a failure. More words than actions, big promises and a recent bizarre offer of massive military aid, allegedly some of it newly developed F-35 fighter jets (20 of them valued at $3 billion) that have not even entered the US arsenal and blocking all UN resolutions critical of Israel, in exchange for Israel extending the settlement freeze for 90 days, one time only. Thank god this was withdrawn.

Work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Named the Quaker Palestine Youth Program (the word America notably missing), they work in one primary area, teaching college age youth leadership and community building skills using highly interactive methods. Then requiring each graduate or coach to recruit a group of high school age youth to offer the same training. With the requirement that each group decide on a community service project and implement it, each project in turn requiring contributions from the community. Examples are a founding a library, landscaping a desolate area, offering first aid training. The program is called Popular Achievement and it is very popular, now in its 6th cycle.

Photographing in Gaza

Because Hamas controls all its rivals, and they were the ones kidnapping foreigners like me, I feel reasonably safe walking the streets of Gaza City alone. However, unlike during my visit one year ago, I notice more people seem suspicious of me when I try to photograph. A friend confirmed that using the smaller of my two cameras is wise—ah, he’s just a tourist. Being a tourist or foreigner itself is conspicuous. There are very few tourists. I am stared at constantly. When with a Gazan, like the voluble Ibrahem who attached himself to me recently while I was out strolling, I often have more access to people. In fact, with children it can be a problem. They all want their photos made, and often ask me to send them by email (which I dutifully do)

Photographing any military, security, or even governmental structures is forbidden. One must obtain a permit from the municipality, i.e. Hamas. A few weeks ago I was walking with Mona al Farra, an activist, physician, and project director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance  in Gaza. I began photographing a former ministry building destroyed 2 years ago by Israel in Cast Lead. A security fellow stopped me. Mona told him, what are you doing? This man is going to show the world what the Israelis have done to us. She persisted, he relented, walked off. I photographed. Later she confided to me, Palestinians are not very smart when it comes to media. We tend to be stupid, paranoiac, and self destructive.

Mina, the Old Port

The role of non-governmental agencies (NGO’s)

Needed of course, like the AFSC but I ask, do they foster the siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank? Shouldn’t the perpetrators of illegal activities be required to recompense their victims? Possibly Israel and Hamas will be brought to international courts and if they are found culpable—Israel disproportionally more than Hamas I’d wager—shouldn’t they be required to compensate their victims? In many parts of the world this would be required. Not so in this region. Why not?

Spirit, endurance, despair, sumud (steadfastness)

Endurance is high, tho it could decline. Despair is present, but I have little insight into this. I suspect the line between hope and despair is very slender. It might be shriveling. I’ve noticed that people such as the Gazans and oppressed people generally tend to be the most hospitable, appreciative, and with the most fortitude. I speculate that this is because such attitudes are survival mechanisms. Someone has noted that most of us no longer must concern ourselves with predator-prey relationships. A relative first in human history. That earlier concern may have contributed to awareness—avoid being eaten and search for the next meal. However, in Gaza one never knows when the next drone will fire a missile, when the next machine gun will target farmers in the buffer zone, when the next bout of water-induced disease will strike. One must be alert to all possibilities. And I believe this creates endurance. I feel it myself. The excitement of living in Gaza is dangerously intoxicating and infectious.

Further information:

United Nations Refugee and Works Administration (UNRWA), general description of Gaza

UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Protection of Civilians Weekly Reports

Gaza Community Mental Health Program, accounts of conditions and nonviolent resistance

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

“Gaza closure: not another year!” International Committee of the Red Cross

“Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade.”

“Independent journalists dismantling Israel’s hold on media narrative,” by Abraham Greenhouse, Nora Barrows-Friedman

Checkpoints and Barriers: Searching for Livelihoods in the West Bank and Gaza & Gender Dimensions of Economic Collapse

Real Hope Is About Doing Something,” by Chris Hedges

My photos and blog

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Excerpts from my journal during a 6 week journey to Gaza.


Unless the whole aim of Zionism is changed, there will never be peace….Palestine does not belong to the Jews and it does not belong to the Arabs, nor to Judaism or Christianity or Islam.  It belongs to all of them together; it is the Holy Land…. We must once and for all give up the idea of a ‘Jewish Palestine’ in the sense that a Jewish Palestine is to exclude and do away with an Arab Palestine….Moslems, Christians, and Jews have each as much right there, no more and no less, than the other: equal rights and equal privileges and equal duties. . . .Judaism did not begin with Zionism, and if Zionism is ethically not in accord with Judaism, so much the worse for Zionism.

(Written in 1929 by Judah Magnes in a letter to Felix Warburg.  Magnes was an American Reform rabbi and leader within the American Jewish community.  He moved to Palestine in 1922, where he became the first president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, serving from 1925-1948. Warburg was a successful banker and philanthropist, who was instrumental in the founding of the Jewish Agency, initially a joint venture between Zionists and non-Zionists.  Taken from Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon.)

(Thanks to Dorinda Moreno)


At the Orient House restaurant along the Mediterranean Sea coast, Noor, Ahmed (as I’ve renamed them both to maintain their privacy) and I had our long evening together, me sitting next to Noor so we could converse. We’d intended to dine at the seaside Crazy Waters Park but it was jammed with people celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday Eid Al Adha. The park had recently reopened after being attacked by extremist elements and Noor and Ahmed wished to support it. Here’s what I learned about some marriage customs in Gaza—and about Noor and Ahmed.

They are engaged. They signed a contract with lawyer participation. It states that Ahmed gave something of value to Noor’s family, the so-called bride price. Which in fact didn’t happen, Noor explained, because we don’t believe in it.

Furthermore we are now legally married. So now Ahmed can view my hair.

To signify their relationship they each wear rings—on their right hand ring fingers. They’ll shift the rings, beautiful thick bands, to their left hand after they’ve married. Contrasting with Christian tradition, the marriage ceremony itself is secular, more a festival than a ritual or sacred event.

The contract includes clauses about rights of separation. If Ahmed were to leave Noor—which he can do without her permission—and she withholds permission, he must pay a penalty of some astronomical size, stated in dinars (Jordanian currency for some reason, rather than shekels, Palestinian). If she gives permission, there is no penalty. Noor does not have the right to leave Ahmed without his permission. Divorce is rare in this society. At the Palestinian entry point, meeting with the official, when he asked me if I was married, and I said divorced, he looked crestfallen, said, I’m so sorry. Yeah, well…

In Gaza many engagements lead quickly to marriage. In their case, Noor explained, they wanted to assure that they’d have enough money to live together. Prolonging the engagements period they’ve set the date for February and invited me to attend, since I had a small role in them finding each other.

The father of the prospective bride must give permission for marriage. Noor’s father demurred until he knew Ahmed well enough. I assume this was before the engagement. Noor’s father, perhaps the entire family, is of the liberated ilk. Father would never force his daughter to marry someone.

Noor worked as a photographer after completing a photographic workshop. She photographed respiratory victims, mostly children, often in their homes. She’s shown me her photos, very well seen and made (as my mentor Minor White would say). I plan to invite her to present her work at the photo workshop I’m now leading. She is a model of what might happen if one pursues her bliss. However, now she works in administration at a medical center. She doesn’t like the job.

Some of Noor’s photos from a photo workshop I taught

Noor lived many years with her family outside Gaza in Arabic and western countries. She was born in Kuwait after her family moved there from Gaza about 20 years ago for work. The first United States-Iraq war precipitated their move in 1993 to Canada. After one year they moved to Jordan. She told me that her parents wished the children to be raised in an Arabic country. The family moved back to Gaza in 2000 where they’ve lived since then. Her father reopened his insurance business.

My account of marriage in Gaza is probably in part motivated by my own experience with marriage and near marriage, 25 years with P and 20 with Y, and also projections into my own future. What I might wish for, wish to avoid. Marriage for me? Doubtful. I’m against the institution as constituted in the west. Love for me, deep love? Maybe yes, maybe no.


Recently I visited Mona (she allowed me to use her real name), one of Gaza’s heroes, for much of the afternoon. We met near her office and walked to her home about 2 km further. She felt her office would be too chaotic. We passed a crumpled building. I asked to make photos. She OKed it. A security official tried to stop me. Mona intervened, told me later, that he had told her your friend will have to get a permit from the Hamas government. She said that’s absurd, he’s going to show the world what the Israelis did to us. He then allowed me to photograph and walked off. The building had been the Ministry of the Interior, connected with Hamas, therefore part of the enemy entity, as defined by Israel, and thus worthy of destruction.

In conversation later with Dr. Mona, as she’s lovingly called by many, a medical doctor trained in dermatology, and her friend Alexia, the first female pharmacist in Gaza, we decided several factors had manifested when the security official tried to block me from photographing the building, besides the apparent ignorance of many Palestinians generally regarding public relations: his wish to exert authority and his wish to cover his ass, not be reprimanded later by even higher authority figures. Mona is good at contravening such misuse of authority. I joked that she should accompany me on more of my photo walks. Needless to say, she is very critical of Hamas. As are many, I’m picking up, which is no surprise.

Generally—and these are not necessarily all shared by Mona—reasons range from the belief that Hamas precipitated the bombardment of 2008-2009, known as Operation Cast Lead; its restrictions on social life, like forbidding relations between unmarried men and women in public; demanding women wear the hijab or head covering; dismissing and sometimes attacking anything Western, such as the UN’s Summer Games programs for children and the water park known as Crazy Waters which was nearly burnt to the ground; its rigid and often violent positions against its main political rival Fatah; and its wish as expressed in its covenant to destroy Israel. Furthermore, people are critical of creeping corruption and inefficiency in Hamas. Yet many are proud that it stood up to Israel during the assault and continuing invasions, and compared with Fatah is more effective and trustable.

Mona (right) with a friend (not Alexia)

She’s proven very helpful to me and my photo project already. She lined up photographing some of the projects of MECA, Middle East Children’s Alliance, where she is the Gaza project director, introducing me to one of the participants over the phone. MECA provides water purification units for schools. She might help me photograph people who are still suffering physically and medically from Operation Cast Lead. This thru a man she raves about who works with an international human rights organization. Too bad she’ll be out of Gaza for 15 days in Arabic countries, thru the southern border crossing of Rafah, flying out thru Cairo, to return with some of her children for the winter holidays.

Mona is truly an exceptional being. Gracious, kind, generous, she offered to wash the dishes with her cleaning lady (who refused). She served Alexia a meal (beef and potatoes, with frozen mixed veggies)  after she’d served me one (fish and salad, with pita). She informed me about 2 international women who had recently resided with her for 2 months. Living alone and divorced, a medical doctor, she is a person of service, a very compassionate soul. Additionally she makes very good salad. Here’s the recipe: cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, what have you. Make a sauce of tahini, lemon or lime, garlic, salt, water. Add parsley and dill and a touch of green chili. Very delicious. Better than the fish she served, tiny fish with lots of bones. Straight from the sea. She believes the sea is not polluted in this region, it is further south. I wonder.

The invitation impossible to resist: dance the debka, the Palestinian national dance

While visiting one of MECA’s project in collaboration with New Horizons

Living along the sea she often buys fish directly from the fishers, not using the market. She confirmed the restrictions: most fishers stay very near the shore. A few fish out to an Israeli imposed 3-mile limit. No one goes out further, even tho the Oslo Accords of 1993 grant rights to 20 miles. She also confirmed what I’d heard first from Noam Chomsky, disbelieving his claim, and then more recently from Palestinians, that the Israelis are pumping or drilling the natural gas deposits off the coast of Gaza. We could see the ships or rigs. She views their lights at night. I joshed about wishing to photograph them—maybe hire a boat, Mona, we could go together?

At her apartment window, looking out on a destroyed Hamas compound

Mona was outside the country during Cast Lead, but her friend Alexia, the first female pharmacist in Gaza, was home during the assault. Alexia lives in a building near a government center, the siarea. First a few rockets hit the center, then a bunch, some 14, rapid fire, feeling like an earthquake was hitting. She screamed, thought she’d die. Her building was damaged, windows blown out. She survived without injuries. Earlier, walking past the crumpled Hamas building I’d photographed with Mona’s help, she pointed out an adjacent building that had been damaged during the assault on the government building. Part of the home collapsed, trapping an old lady and others beneath the rubble. Miraculously, all were saved.


Ahmed confided to me that he truly loves Noor, and is confident she loves him. I see that in how they laugh together, touch each other, help each other tell a story of mutual interest and involvement. To some large extent they are examples of the story I’m reading in the novel by Daisy Newman, Indian Summer of the Heart, paralleling Oliver falling in love with Loveday, both in their 70s. Everything has changed since meeting Noor, Ahmed confided to me, exactly as Oliver says about meeting Loveday. What a powerful tonic love is, an ecstatic moment, short lived in many cases. So the task becomes how to transform that tonic into a life long devotion?

Counterpoised with love or falling in love, is death, or declining to death. Death also captures one’s attention, rivets the being on one state, dying. All else pales. I’ve yet to experience that, but I might, sooner than I expect. In Gaza death is ever-present, more so than usual, certainly more so than during my quotidian life in the United States—death an uninvited and persistent guest. Greetings death! Greetings life! Greetings love! Love can flourish even more powerfully in the midst of danger, suffering, and despair.

You don’t have to go looking for love when it’s where you come from.

—Werner Erhard



Mona’s blog

Middle East Children’s  Alliance & The Maia (Water) Project

“Palestine 2011,” by Jeff Halper

“Palestinian civil society reaffirms support for persecuted French BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement) activists”—statement by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee

Crazy Water Park

Creating the first “tourist” map of Gaza City

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Excerpts from my journal while touring the southern United States with new photographs and stories. The main shows are Gaza Steadfast, Bethlehem the Holy, The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel, and Quakers in Palestine/Israel. (I’ve completed the tour and I’m now happily at home in Cambridge Massachusetts for the foreseeable future.)


VIDEO: Crossing Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans North

November 14, 2009, Saturday, New Orleans, University of New Orleans, Training, Rehabilitation, and Assistance Center, guest room (where I began this entry), and the train bound for Atlanta (where I completed the entry)

Many dreams last night, recallable, probably because I needed to arise early this morning to meet the taxi, to meet the Amtrak station, to meet the train to Atlanta, to meet Jean Chapman who will meet me at the Atlanta station, to meet the Buddhist dojo, to meet my bed for tonight, to meet the pilgrims tomorrow, eventually to meet the School of the Americas and close it, then to meet my train home. And to meet my home and all will be bliss.

All that might be considered a dream.

I’m writing now since the night is fresh, but I won’t have time to finish—in a few moments I’ll have to walk across campus to meet my taxi.

To the dreams: sharing a home with Fran, my dad, him wanting to have all of us prepare lunch together, me resisting, raiding the fridge to make something for myself, trying to clean it, complaining about how messy the fridge and kitchen were, partly because of a very young Katy [my daughter] who’d made herself toast with butter sprinkled with brown sugar.

Preparing to make a huge print, talking with someone, a Japanese man, about how to prepare the printer, clean it of dust, run a test print which will require much ink.

While talking with someone about selling his bike—a slim yellow cone with tiny wheels and foldable pedals—I suggested the Bike Workshop in Cambridge. Then I was there, a sort of worker, but not getting my hands greasy. In walked a large delegation from Friends Meeting at Cambridge on some sort of procession; they were all dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses. Would they recognize me? A few did, far fewer than I’d hoped. I’d learned earlier by stumbling into the meetinghouse early that this was a special day for men, honoring men. Andy told me that. I’d have to miss it.

During family camping, I was counting quarters donated to my wife and me, separately. I was confused, partly because the counting platform was wet and dirty, and some boxes supposedly of money had other materials not money. Fireworks were part of the dream.

I note that one theme of these dreams was family: my father and Katy, my wife and our kids, Quaker family. Absent from my recurrent themes: women (except for P), sex, and love.

I devoted yesterday to exploring New Orleans, post Katrina, and with memories of my 2-week visit here in 1998 fairly fresh. I’d ended my romp with the Middle Passage Pilgrimage, I’d formulated my plan to return to the south for 4 months to volunteer my photography, I’d arranged with Sister Clare and Brother Kato to drive the dojo car back to Leverett, and with Y to reside with her for one month to get ready for the next leg (as a couple our worst month ever). I was free to stay at the church the pilgrims had used. I believe they had left for the Caribbean so the church was relatively empty.

(This all reminds me of Kato’s devotion to Clare. He’d planned on leaving the pilgrimage to return to temple building. He understood she needed his support so he decided to go the entire way. What a difference between Y and me, my devotion to her so embarrassingly slim.)

Yesterday, under conditions different from the pilgrimage, I bussed in to the center of the city. The route took me thru the St Bernard area. Only African Americans rode the bus, many of them looking destitute, and the neighborhoods were a mix of new construction, boarded up homes, and vacant lots. This was the No. 52 bus; I could later check its route.

Part of my mission was reconnoitering the route from my room on campus to the train station, planning to catch the Atlanta train at 7 am while the first bus ran at 6. A chore. Doing this, realizing how long it was and how difficult with my luggage, how much I’d worry, and that if I missed the train I might miss the pilgrimage to close the School of the Americas, I decided to book a cab for about $20 and ease my anxiety, assure my timely passage.

First stop: library and Internet. This is the same facility I used 10 years ago, upgraded. Didn’t learn much thru my email.

I rode the St Charles street trolley thru the Garden District, as I’d done 10 years earlier, this time finally—but too late—remembering I could video from the trolley. So I tried, with mixed results. As memory infests much of what I do and who I am, New Orleans notably from my one and only visit here in 1998, the trolley brought back many childhood experiences riding a trolley much like this one, similar vintage, along Stony Island Avenue on Chicago’s South Side. Same grinding sound as the motors increased their rotational speed, a sound I could simulate by turning my dad’s grinding wheel faster and faster. Same squealing brakes like pigs being slaughtered. Same thundering sound of metal wheel against metal rail. And same bobbing motion—a land voyage on a tour boat.

In the French Quarter, wandering like a lost ghost alone and eager for excitement, to return to life—resurrection thru sex—two black prostitutes welcomed me. Ah, thought I, had I only the guts and the gonads and the bucks I might try this. Yet, for one fleeting effervescent moment of pleasure I might be saddled with deadly poisons. So: ladies, no thanks. From other buildings frenetic music roared. I ducked into one of these places to pee and felt repelled by the singing of what looked like a mad man, belting out fuck you’s and shit’s.

On the street people sipped from brightly colored tubes that turned out to be grenade drinks, rumored to be powerful, each Grenade and its sipper a walking testimonial to the buzz of the drink and the buzz of the marketing campaign.

Jazz from 2 outdoor bands contrasted with the boisterousness of this first bar music. One of them all black except for the tuba player, the other all white and this band included dancers, one couple reminding me of M and her man friend, how they might dance together. Standing by a railing in Jackson Park behind the first band, which was playing outside the park, I tried for an unusual vantage point, showing their backs and the listeners. Moving to be in front of them, I concentrated on the trombone player, his one puffed cheek, and the washboard player, his silvery washboard gleaming in the sun, his face equally gleaming. I also thought of a Robert Frank photo—I think it was his—showing a man hidden behind his tuba. Tried the same arrangement of player and instrument.

Photographing the other band, all young, vibrant—why haven’t I fallen in love with a musician, maybe the blond clarinetist in the band? Is this the next episode in my love life?—the dancers appealed, how they darted about in perfect synchrony (do they have sex together, is it good, as the sex between M and her friend, she says, is good?). The sunlight glanced off them, adding to their appeal.

The casino was a hit. Slot machines that emit an otherworldly hum (music of the gambling spheres?), electronic versions of all games, like poker, blackjack, craps (I assume) and roulette, “gaming” tables filled with not so jolly “gamers,” each table serviced by a bored looking “player,” windows where patrons can order more money, various food lines depending on one’s membership type, all in a darkened womb-like huge room or series of rooms, the outside world effectively blotted out now for the fantasy of hitting the big time. Few do. Posted around the casino: if you’re having a gambling problem, call…

I gambled on making photos, surreptitiously pushing my shutter button while the camera was draped casually over my shoulder. I’d preset it in the bathroom to not be noticed. I’m sure plain clothes security prowled the joint, some may have noticed me gliding back and forth looking very suspicious, but no one interfered. I assumed the worst that could happen was ejection, and I’m used to rejection, my close cousin.

A few photos might later be useable, most I soon jettisoned because of blur.

Incidentally, reading the October 2009 issue of the Sun Magazine, an essay by Jim Ralston called “Confessions from a Conversion Van,” he says while encouraging a young student he’s about to fail to write one essay in his own language: and include one detail about your girlfriend dumping you. How’s that supposed to fit in?, says the student. That will be the part that makes the piece worth reading.

And this may be one of the main reasons I include similar material in my blogs, and why I find writing about failed and successful loves so appealing in my journal.

This also from Jim Ralston: I’m not ready yet to look at the smiling pictures of us [Jim and his former girl friend, Raven] vacationing in Guanajuanto. Her letter is emotionally detached compared to the way we talked to each other fairly recently. She says she never meant to hurt me, that she’s learned so much from our time together. (The ultimate kiss off: “I have learned so much from you.”) Fuck you, Raven…

Sounds familiar.

As I was about to enter the river front area I reached for my sunglasses—gone. Where’d I leave them? The retired surfers restaurant where I’d eaten the delicious fish tacos? Fallen off my head when I placed them there and forgot about them. Somewhere else? Should I return to the restaurant? Ditch that idea and simply assume I’d not find them and would soon replace them. After all, didn’t they need replacement anyway, scratched and perhaps not filtering out UV?

So I squinted my way along the waterfront, noticing for the first time how many did and didn’t wear sunglasses. I’d say the ratio of did to didn’t is about 4 out of 5.

Another discovery and new since I’d last visited the river was the holocaust memorial. I tried to figure it out. It consisted of a series of tall colorful panels, vertically oriented, that seemed to compose new figures depending on one’s vantage point. Exactly what these futures were partially cleared up when I found the obligatory artist’s explanation. Essentially a Star of David symbolizing the Jews massacred during the holocaust turned into 2 radiating spheres, symbolizing humanity recovering. Or some such. Thanks to god for the explanation; otherwise this would remain in mystery.

~~On the train we are now zipping past what looks like a suburb; a housing development, flat fields, low sun illuminating all. We’ve just passed a graveyard, all graves hovering over the wet earth.~~

On my 1998 visit I’d noticed for the first time living statues, people earning money by pretending to be frozen. Very clever and perhaps hard to do. This time I only noticed 2: a perfectly still black man caught in mid movement, and later, at a trolley stop, a woman in silver—silver makeup and a silver costume sliding from her body. She sat on the tub she used to collect money. She appeared dazed as she inhaled her cigarette. She looked drunk. She looked sorrowful, like I feel sometimes when considering my misguided love life. So, to show myself, I show her. I snuck the photos by holding the camera low, viewing the scene on my flip out screen, and snapping without anyone noticing.

~~On the train we are now racing along a huge water body, one of the lakes near New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain, between the water and a levee, homes and fields on the other side. The levee has thickened from about one meter to about 3 meters, reminding me of the separation barrier in the West Bank. What happens to the tracks when the water rises?~~

Finally, finding my way back to the campus in the early evening (dark descends here at about 5:30 this time of year), thanks to friendly Black men who knew where the No. 52 bus would stop, proud of myself, I discovered the campus student center was not only open (Friday evening early) but its dining hall features all you could eat take out for a mere $7. Can’t pass this up. I’ll eat in my room, reading mail and news on the computer. And go to bed early to rise early, 4:15 am, to meet the cab, to meet the station, to meet the train, etc.

But first, tomorrow: who’d meet me at the Atlanta station and when would I join the pilgrimage? I checked the pilgrimage schedule, discovered to my horror that tomorrow evening the walkers would have driven to Koinonia after walking to the Martin Luther King Center in the morning. There might be no one home? Now what?

Call Dave. He’s not coming until Monday.

Call Denise, and hope she’s not grouchy as she can be. Reach Denise who turns out to be sweet and loving and patient. You’re lucky, she chimed, we had a slight change in plans, someone sick whose partner is driving down to retrieve her. So someone will be here on Saturday evening and can pick you up. You’ll drive on Sunday morning to meet us.

Oh, thank god for that, but not for the illness. I hope she does not have the H1N1 flu. I read that it is striking the world hard, in the US some 500 children already dead (is this accurate?), with something like 3,000 adults dead. God in heaven if this is so, and when will it end? Should I be more careful with hygiene? I’ve had shots, I carry flu remedy.

So far, the only illness I’ve suffered on this tour is a slight flu-like symptom already reported here. It passed. I feel good, currently.

~~We are now perilously streaming past two large water bodies, Pontchartrain on the left, another lake on the right, with numerous bridges spanning the water. What happens to the tracks if the water rises? What happened during Katrina? Isn’t this precarious?

I’m about finished with this writing for now, might break for coffee and food from my larder, a breakfast while gliding over treacherous waters. Later to spell and grammar check.~~

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Excerpts from my journal while touring the southern United States with new photographs and stories. The main shows are Gaza Steadfast, Bethlehem the Holy, The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel, and Quakers in Palestine/Israel. (I’ve completed the tour and I’m now happily at home in Cambridge Massachusetts for the foreseeable future.)


November 12, 2009, Thursday, Baton Rouge LA, home of J & M, in their living room:

Several breakthrough dreams last night, in the sense of being vivid, memorable, and possibly important. In the least dramatic but most intriguing—and hard to recall, describe and interpret—either I or someone else was explaining that we’d recently discovered or uncovered a remnant of an earlier people, foot prints encased in resin. These footprints were somehow connected with our early loves.  If only we could detect presence in the footprints we’d have access to these earlier loves. Vague, I know, but when dreaming it I felt deeply moved.

The second was an intense sexual encounter with someone I didn’t know. Then the scene suddenly shifted to outside, a group of people lining a walkway saying, give them room, let them breathe.

So much for my dream life, what about my real life?

Well, photographically speaking much is happening. Last night, showing Gaza at the local Islamic center to about 20 tired-looking folks after evening prayer, one man from Gaza came to me later to complain about me showing Sderot [the small Israeli town 1 mile from Gaza that has suffered many of the rocket attacks] as if the suffering was equivalent, Sderot and Gaza. This felt to me like the same argument some Jews might use when someone places an experience of deep suffering beside the Nazi holocaust of the Jews: can’t compare them, the Jew might say, completely different. Has the Gaza massacre, for Palestinians, become the New Holocaust, Palestinian style? Sacred, inviolable, incomparable? And eventually used to justify subsequent acts of injustice and brutality?

The man was angry, tho polite, thanking me for my efforts, but clearly feeling wronged, slighted, misunderstood. What could I answer? I offered at least 2 reasons for including Sderot, maybe 3: it’s a strategic method to build an audience; I’m curious about life there, especially trauma; and to show the boomeranging effects of the rockets, how they’ve increased the oppression rather than decreased it. To do this I should be clearer that many in Sderot have become radicalized, more extreme against the Gazan. And world attention suddenly focused on the plight of Sderot, deflecting attention from what happened to the Gazan. His remarks confirm to me the correctness of my choice—ending the slide show with Sderot. Or so I pray.

Otherwise the show and audience seemed lacking something, not with my usual energy. Partly reacting to the poor turnout and my host, M’s, disappointment. Many more were at prayer, choosing not to remain. M takes this seriously, this lack of awareness and action among his fellow Muslims. His wife, J, also seemed to feel it. Compared with the only other mosque appearance I’ve made, this one clearly failed. But the photos looked good, the audio sounded good, and I didn’t miss many of my lines.

Other than the evening show, followed by dinner at their favorite Mid East restaurant, Almazar (the diamond), not much to narrate. I accompanied M as he did some chores. We discussed prostate problems and remedies. He suggested Flomax and Finasteride, both prescription drugs, and J added saw palmetto. I believe it’s time for me to do something about my noxious little problem.

I worked at home—this was Vet’s Day—to finish the next entry for my blog, about M and S, S especially because of the day. This entry has been one of the trickiest to edit: how much to disclose about both, especially him? I removed major portions of my story about him and his wife, trying hard to conceal their identity, protecting them: fewer weapons, virtually nothing about their free-flowing love lives. I chose not to send the initial blog version to him for checking, mainly because of the deadline, also the supposition that he’ll never see it and that I’ve done a sufficient job concealing him.

M was easier, not too much to hide. And since I do not link the photos directly with the writing, tracing who’s who will be harder. I linked to the latest photo set, and the video about McDonalds, hoping they both show something vital about my experiences in Florida.

Calling Dave yesterday to sort out the remaining schedule was helpful. Our plan now is for me to train from New Orleans to Atlanta in the next few days, depending on how much hospitalility I can find in New Orleans. Then join the School of the Americas Watch pilgrimage organized by Sister Denise and Brother Utsumi, drive with Dave back to Birmingham for that gig, and end at the SOA. The last weeks are coming together, slowly, but unless magic happens with New Orleans housing—an ironic twist on the Katrina story: Skip without housing in the Crescent City—I’ll not have much free time to explore.

My walk this morning was glorious—sunny and cool, clear sky, flat terrain, much to watch, especially the live oaks, many paths to take, no rush, and inspiring my hosts to begin a walking regimen. I miss such walking.

November 13, 2009, Friday, New Orleans, University of New Orleans, Training, Rehabilitation, and Assistance Center, guest room:

On a sunny cool morning, living alone for a change, with an open day for New Orleans exploration. The Gaza show last night, sponsored by a newly formed chapter of Amnesty International and the General Union of Palestinian Students, to about 20 students and one off campus man, Joe.

M graciously drove me all the way into New Orleans, with our usual animated conversation about political events, plus news about his precarious economic position requiring him to continue working in his civil engineering business. I experienced a big loss recently, he said, not giving details, which keeps me working. Altho he is generous and compassionate, I detect a note of deep suffering, frustration, impatience. He is often highly critical of others, using the word disaster frequently. Yet he and his wife are exemplary hosts, inviting me back for further shows. I wonder if he’d prefer being in S’s position, free from the need for paying work, able to devote full time to organizing.

On long bridges we soared over swamps,. This is a water rich area, one that if I ever finish my Palestine/Israel project I might concentrate on for its water theme. The title might be, Water in New Orleans.

The group heartened me last night, many of them young activists, attentive to my show, with many questions later. I found myself disclosing personal information to an extent unusual even for me, in particular about consequences of my secondary trauma—weeping, love, love, love, and sex. I told the story of photographing the burning mother in Nepal, occasionally glancing at Jason who is Nepali, how I noticed cattle fucking near the cremation ghats. I regarded this as a sign of the intimate connection between death and sex, or between suffering and love. That was in response to a question about how I dealt with witnessing suffering.

A related question—and I worry at times that I’m too much about me, not about others—was about how children respond to suffering: attending programs like Popular Achievement in Gaza, university enrollment, graduate education, sports, religion, sometimes extreme forms of religion as with Hamas and even more radical Islamic groups, and of course despair, caving. Which may be more prevalent than I observed because I was with a select group of Gazans.

At the show at Louisiana State University I’d seen a display about hidden people and decided to use this theme in my intro. Forgot. Forgot also at the mosque show but last night I remembered and opened with that. I asked, after explaining how I came to this idea, what are some hidden populations of humans that you know about? Only a few responses. (Of course, being hidden they might not be apparent.) I listed the Katrina population, especially people of color. Paradoxically there was great attention to Katrina itself, as a catastrophe, and some attention to the victims, of all types. But because of how blacks living in poverty were portrayed—criminals, rioters, killers, monsters in short—they were rendered invisible: their true selves were hidden. They were not rendered as human beings. Ditto for American Indians. And for the Vietnamese during the war, the gooks, and the Iraqis, and the same for the Gazans—who we are taught are all terrorists. This proved a useful frame for the show.

Also I now use the 2 images from Newsweek, Vice President Joe Biden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, contrasting them: man in suit with American flag lapel pin, smiling vs. a scowling bearded Arab. This to the point of why I do my work: to balance the big picture by portraying Palestinians as human beings.

I encouraged questions about photography, so from what equipment do you use to how are you regarded when photographing in Gaza were tossed at me. I’d said earlier to a young man who had professed interest in photography, please don’t hesitate to ask me about photography, few do, and I love those questions.

In the few hours I had between drop off and show time, I searched for internet access, found none, concluding this is one of the tightest campuses yet for internet security; walked to Lake Pontchartrain and made a panoramic photograph from a levee; bought and snagged food for later consumption (some of it I’m afraid is from the stash of the resident assistants); and pondered what to do about New Orleans, how long and where stay?

I feel cut off  without Internet access. I’ve had it fairly reliably on this trip, especially during the last days in Baton Rouge, and at home since I signed up for Verizon. Without internet I am blind to new developments about trip planning, can’t get local info, can’t book my Amtrak ride (I could over the phone), won’t know if any personal messages arrived, and can’t add web material to the slide shows. Perhaps I’ll find temporary access today in my travels. A library perhaps.

Jason, my host, is from Nepal. He informed me that the campus suffered greatly during Katrina, under 18 feet, yes FEET, of water, but suffered more from the vandalism and looting inflicted by evacuees who’d been temporarily housed here. I’m not sure how true this is, perhaps a projection upon others?

He also cleared up for me the use and meaning of the term teeksa. Not pronounced teek-sa, but thik cha, 2 syllables, the Nepali pronounciation of th not available in English. And Nepali has a word for thank you, contradicting what I’d learned when in Napal in 1979, but at least I was correct in guessing that thik cha means ok, fine, why not, etc. So I’ve mauled the word, yet correctly interpreted it. End result: I’ll make no change. I’ll continue to use it for my photography passion, but not explain it as the Nepali equivalent of thanks because the language lacks that word.


Gaza Freedom March

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Stolen Beauty, a selective boycott campaign against an Israeli product, Ahava, promising “Beauty Secrets from the Dead Sea”

Israeli Apartheid Video Contest

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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.


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.




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



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 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.


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


Boston, January 10, 2009

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Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

—Arundhati Roy


Lakota Sioux along the Brule River


Wounded Knee, December 29, 1990


The medicine man


Ibrahem Shatali


Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. (MOHAMMED SALEM/Reuters)


The Lakota Sioux Indian people, those massacred at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890 (that anniversary came just two days after the beginning of the massacre, December 27, 2008] had lived on the Plains for more than 100 years, long before white people settled there. And their roots on the North American continent continue back for perhaps 15,000 years. They were long-term residents. Whites entered the region in the early 1800s, mainly in wagon trains heading further west—to settle, they were settlers, they built settlements. Many of these whites believed god was on their side, that they had rights to the land because of their superior culture and because of their affinity with god.

Are there significant parallels between the massacre at Wounded Knee and the current massacre in Gaza?


Lakota Sioux, 1890 Palestinians, 2008-2009
Some 300 killed As of January 9, 2009, more than 780 killed, 3300 injured and increasing
A few rifles, knives, perhaps bows and arrows Rudimentary rockets and mortars, some rifles
Against rapid firing Hotchkiss cannon
and other heavy weapons
Against Apache helicopters, F16 fighters, artillery, gun boats
Few noticed but some outcry existed Few noticed or spoke out, even among Arab-Muslim states, limited UN role
Massive firepower did not discriminate between Indian and civilian Massive firepower did not discriminate between Hamas militant and civilian
Forced onto reservations Forced into a concentration camp
White fear, in part a misreading of the Ghost Dance Jewish fear, in part a misreading of the Hamas Covenant
Memory of Indian raids, and especially Custer’s loss 14 years earlier Memory of the holocaust and two millennia of persecution of Jews
US belief in armed force, the
government resisted negotiations
Israeli belief in armed force, the government resists negotiations
Faulty treaties Faulty agreements, such as Oslo
Awarding Congressional Medals of Honor to 27 officers and soldiers Possible lauding of the officers and soldiers
Widespread white support Widespread Israeli and international Jewish support
Last major armed confrontation between Indians and rulers Last major armed confrontation between Palestinians and rulers?
Cemented white supremacy in the
United States
Cemented Israeli supremacy?
Accountability: virtually none altho some called for a truth and reconciliation process Accountability: virtually none altho some might call for a truth and reconciliation process, tribunal, or other forms of international adjudication
No rebuilding of the nation How will rebuilding of Gaza occur?


For most of the 19th century the US army had forced American Indians from their ancestral areas into confined zones, mostly reservations with few natural resources. The Lakota Sioux people, a vigorous and hearty group of Plains Indians with roots on the east coast, were first “transferred” onto the Great Sioux Reservation (GSR), a large area in what is now South and North Dakota and Wyoming. This region shrank dramatically when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, originally a part of the GSR and for at least 2 centuries a sacred site for Lakota. By 1890 the remaining lands were minuscule compared with what Lakota roamed over in the late 18th century.


General Sherman and other government officials with Lakota Sioux meeting about the treaty forming the Great Sioux Reservation in 1867


For good reason many Lakota resisted this imprisonment, notably Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. Whites orchestrated the murder of Crazy Horse by his own people, and then in December 22, 1890, Sitting Bull, also by his own Lakota. A band led by the peace chief, Big Foot, fled south. They were trapped along the Wounded Knee creek in the Pine Ridge Reservation. Next morning, surrounded by elements of Custer’s old unit, the 7th Calvary, they were massacred. Some 300 died, most of them women and children and elderly. Warriors offered little resistance, since they lacked effective weapons. (Incidentally, early road signs erected by the state of South Dakota called the massacre a “battle” until many opposed this misnaming and the state agreed to change the wording to “massacre” at Wounded Knee.)


Chief Big Foot propped up in death for a photograph

Prior to the massacre, whites had been settling in the area. Observing the Ghost Dance of the Lakota people, a failed attempt to non-violently resist white incursion, local whites mistook this for a war dance. They feared; they demanded army protection. Using newly developed weaponry which had not been fully field tested, mostly the Hotchkiss rapid firing cannon, the soldiers, some of them reportedly drunk, many of them recalling the debacle of their once heralded leader, General George Custer at the Battle of Greasy Grass or Little Big Horn, fired on everyone in the camp. Chief Big Foot, already sick from pneumonia, was one of the first killed.

People in the East noticed; there was an outcry against the massacre, leading to a hearing that questioned the officers. They were cleared, and many officers and soldiers awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Now, what might be parallels with the current killings in Gaza? Is it fair to call the Israeli attack on Gaza a massacre? Is it a battle? Is it the proper and legal exercise of Israel to defend itself? Is it justified killing?


A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into the Al-Shifa hospital on December 28, 2008 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

As of this writing, January 9, 2009, at least 795 Palestinians are now dead (martyred in in the language of many Palestinians—a word I concur with), upwards of 3300 are injured (400 of them dangerously), at least 10 Israeli soldiers and 5 Israeli civilians are dead, some soldiers by friendly fire, some by militants shooting rockets and perhaps using other weapons. An unknown number of casualties lie beneath rubble. Among the dead—230 are children, 92 women, 60 elderly men, 6 medical assistants, 2 journalists, and 3 foreigners. (statistics based on UN and Red Cross figures) Estimates of the  proportion of civilian causalities ranges from 20% to more than 60%, that percentage rising with the ground campaign now underway. The carnage continues as I write this.


Many bodies lie outside the Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 27, 2008. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Most media and most governments in the western world state, “Israel has a right to defend itself. The attacks will stop when Hamas stops firing rockets. Hamas broke the truce with their rockets.” However, numerous observers counter this and declare, “Back up a few steps. Israel has kept the Gazans under siege for nearly 2 years, ever since Hamas was elected in an open, fair, democratic election. Gazans have been suffering food, water, medical, and educational deprivations during this period, on top of the occupation that dates back to at least 1967. During the recent 6-month truce, ending on December 19th, Israel did nothing to end the siege. Palestinian rocket fire decreased dramatically.


Samera Baalusha (34) (right) sits with her daughter Eman (15) and surviving son Mohamad (15 months) while waiting to see the body of her 4-year-old daughter Jawaher Baalusha during the funeral held for Jawher and her four other sisters who were all killed in an Israeli missile strike, on December 29, 2008 in the Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. Jawher Baalusha and her sisters were killed during an Israeli air raid while they were sleeping together in their bedroom. Medics stated that the raid had targeted a mosque near their home in Jabalia. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Until recently the US either blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a cease-fire demand or abstained from voting. In addition, the US Senate voted unanimously for an unqualified declaration of support for Israel. Should Israel be found to be committing war crimes, the US Senate is complicit. Not only that but the US supplies most of the weapons used by Israel, including helicopters, fighter jets, heavy artillery and communication equipment.

In early November Israel broke the truce by attacking tunnels and homes at the ends of those tunnels that they claimed were used by militants to bring in weapons. They killed some 5 Palestinians. Only then did Hamas and other armed groups significantly increase launching their home made, poorly targeted rockets and mortars on Israeli civilians. They also deployed for the first time longer-range rockets. Indeed, Israel’s attack did nothing to stop the rocket fire, it exacerbated it. These rocket attacks on civilians are deplorable and constitute war crimes. I and many others oppose them. Do they justify the disproportionate Israeli attacks?


A medic crouches over the body of an Israeli man after he was killed in a rocket attack launched from the Gaza Strip and hit the southern Israeli town of Netivot on December 27, 2008 following Israeli bombardment on the Palestinian costal strip. The rocket attack killed one man and wounded four others, according to the Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross. (HAIM HORENSTEIN/AFP/Getty Images)

During the late 1800s, whites claimed Indians had few rights to the lands they’d inhabited for centuries, and that Indian attacks on setters were grounds for retaliation. North American rulers left out the prior history—American Indian domination of the entire continent. And the fact that Indians never invited whites into their lands. Whites invaded and called it the equivalent of “Manifest Destiny,” or god’s will. They did not recognize the Indians rights to defend themselves, violently if necessary. Instead Indians were termed bloodthirsty savages, the 19th century equivalent of “terrorists.”


Rosemary Jumping Eagle, town of Wounded Knee, 1982

Moreover: overwhelming white firepower against the Lakota matches Israel’s overwhelming force. World opinion, at least the western world, then and now, match. Resisting honest negotiation matches. Source of weapons matches for the most part: cannon, rifles, revolvers and ammunition used at Wounded Knee, and Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, 155 mm artillery rounds, artillery firing those rounds, missiles, rockets, bombs, all or mostly all USA made, and communication equipment made at least in part by Motorola, bulldozers if used manufactured by Caterpillar. Motives match: wipe out the Indians, wipe out the Palestinians, whether with the velvet glove, making conditions of survival so dismal that most, if allowed, would flee (as is happening in the west bank), or under cover of the “right to defend itself” commit outright murder—the Hanukah Massacres.


An Israeli F15 fighter made in the United States flies over the northern Israeli-Gaza Strip border on December 28, 2008. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)


Will results match? American Indians, altho surviving, are much diminished. What will become of the Palestinians? How will the Gazan nation—and the equivalent of a small nation it is—rebuild itself? Till now Israel prevents all building materials and most chemicals, experts, and money from entering. Unless the world community, thru the United Nations and the international court system, applies significant pressure, I’m afraid Israel will maintain its course of impunity. One possibility, as might be happening now in the US: self-destruction. A suicidal course. The minor empire in the Middle East, the “only democracy in the Middle East with its “army of pure means,” might founder. Israel, like the US, struggles with a hopelessly contradictory set of founding principles, more dishonored than honored. Can a nation hope to survive with such cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Marx will be right after all, not about the imminent implosion of capitalism, but of certain western nations whose war making boomerangs on them.



I am personally involved in both themes, American Indians and Palestinians. I’ve visited Wounded Knee several times, most recently for the Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee in 1990, commemorating the centennial of the massacre. Inspired by Black Elk who prophesied that the seventh generation of Lakota would be the last generation able to “Wipe Away the Tears” and  “Mend the Sacred Hoop,” i.e., end the mourning period and rebuild the nation, for two weeks the ride traversed the same path at the same time of the year used by Big Foot and his people. I’ve camped near Wounded Knee, summer and winter, and have felt the powerful negative—and positive—force fields emanating from the earth. I grieve for the Lakota people and all native peoples who have been dispossessed. However, I do not feel their cause is hopeless.


Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990


Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990


Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

Similarly I’ve been 3 times to Gaza since 2004, most recently just one year ago, January 2008. I’ve lived under the siege, suffering the loss of electrical power, the sealed borders, the lack of food, the buzz of the drone that might target me at any moment, the nearness of death—and the presence of resilience, sumud, in Arabic, steadfastness. I’ve met young men volunteering in their communities to serve the poor, I’ve met members of the Palestinian Initiative, a group dedicated to nonviolently ending the fighting between rival political parties, I’ve worked with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program watching as psychologists assessed the psychic damages of the siege on children (their offices suffered indirect attacks recently and are closed), and the American Friends Service Committee’s youth programs training in community building and leadership skills. And I’m in close daily contact—if electricity and Internet work—with friends in Gaza. I also hope to return in summer 2009. What and who will greet me then?

I was not able to be present during the Wounded Knee of 1890. I’m unsure what I’d have done if knowing about the impending massacre, or what I’d call for once I’d learned its results. I am sure about Gaza: the occupation of Palestine is apartheid, the attack on Gaza is a massacre, several parties are committing war crimes, and all must be held accountable, as is true for all those governments supporting Israel’s occupation, siege, and ruination of Gaza. Which includes me, as a citizen of the United States. Especially if I pay income tax. I can act, you can act. Now.

Some are guilty but all are responsible.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


The body of a Palestinian security force officer lays in the rubble after an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Fadi Adwan)


Eli Azran father of Irit Shitrit (39), a mother of four, leans over her dead body as he mourns during her funeral on December 30, 2008 in Ashdod, Israel. Shitrit was killed yesterday by a Hamas rocket in Ashdod, Israel, after hearing a warning siren and taking shelter in a roadside bus stop. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)


Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2009



Truly horrible photos from inside Gaza

“Too much to mourn in Gaza”
By Eva Bartlett, Live from Palestine, 8 January 2009

“US weaponry facilitates killings in Gaza”

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