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

PHOTOS

September 12, 2018, Wednesday, Bethlehem

(My field notes only until I review the audio recording.)

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First woman I’ve photographed for this set. Nidal Al Azraq’s mother, 9 years old when she fled during the Nakba in 1948.

Remind Nidal to send medicines with next person coming (which could be me).

Her home village, Al Qabu is now Begin Park, one hell of an irony (since Begin, a former prime minister of Israel, organized terrorist groups to end the British Mandate and form the state of Israel. This is not the much larger Menachem Begin Park near Tel Aviv.)

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Al Qabu

Since expulsion she has never visited.

Fled first to Bethlehem, then to Aida camp.

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Aida refugee camp

Sad when contemplating home.

Feels her health deteriorated from sadness over loss.

Wants to see my photos, either prints or files, ask Nidal and Mousa (my assistant and translator) how to do this.

Mohammed (Mousa) Al Azzeh-Palestine-Aida-refugee-IMG_1602 SM.jpg

Mohammed (Mousa) Al Azzeh, one of my organizer sand translators, an accomplished photographer-videographer working for the Lejee Center in Aida

Wants me to cut a sliver of a fig tree in her village and bring it to her to plant.

I’d asked her if there were something of hers she’d like me to deposit in the village. Answered no.

I told her she is beautiful, her mouth especially.

While photographing in the house I spotted a woman in bed with an electronic device who quickly turned away from me.

Five of her children born in one room, others in other places in the house.

Palestine-Aida-refugee-IMG_1615

In a photograph on the wall one of her sons, 21 years (?) in prison; she stands with him (also in another photo with his father).

I feel project has finally, fitfully begun; I’ve met actual people and heard their stories.

Whether to video or photograph?

How to use narration, get it translated?

Not particularly pleased with my first photos.

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Her home

I might return to photograph full frontal view, she looking directly into camera, as an opener and closer of this and all sessions.

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LINKS

Al Qabu

More about Al Qabu

Zochrot tour to al-Qabu village by Zochrot (video, 2016)

Al-Qabu tour by Zochrot – Report

Photo-story: A Trip to al-Qabu

Al Qabu Becomes Mevo Beitar: Palestine Becomes Israel by Skip Schiel (video, 2018)

About the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which funds many of the parks and other architectural instruments making Arab villages disappear, by BADIL the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Aida Refugee Camp (UNRWA) 

TO BE CONTINUED

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field and now from home in Cambridge Massachusetts, as I photograph internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands.

PHOTOS  (partial archive of earlier 2018 photos in Palestine)

During the winter of 2018 a key organizer of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Joe Digarbo, invited me to join the AVP team in Palestine. To photograph and video the launch of the Palestine-based branch in Gaza in late spring 2018. I happily agreed.

I remembered my old friend Yousef X from Gaza who now lived in Norway and after many attempts was on his way to citizenship. We knew each other for years when he was in Gaza. He’d suffered thru the violence of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and then the debacle of Operation Protective Shield in the summer of 2014, when many more were killed, injured, and made homeless by Israel’s relentless air and ground invasions.

Assuming this would be a short visit either on my way into or out of Palestine, he readily agreed to a visit, an opportunity not only for old friends to reunite but for Yousef to show me his favorite places in Norway, and introduce me to some of his friends, many of them like him refugees. I’d meet his new Norwegian wife. I could reside with them for a week or so. What bliss!

Building on this prospect, realizing Yousef’s long experience as a refugee but most importantly his training in international relations and his services to incoming refugees, plus my rapidly growing concern about refugees generally, I asked him if he’d like to help me begin a photographic project in Norway locating, interviewing, and photographing Palestinians.

Yousef liked the idea. Thru numerous Skype conversations and email exchanges we worked out a substantial plan for my visit and project.

In early April during the burgeoning campaign for the Palestinian right of return, violence mushroomed in Gaza (continuing to this day). The Great March of Return, initially nonviolent, taken over by Hamas and other militant groups and individuals, swept away AVP’s chances to enter Gaza in the spring. We postponed that trip to the fall, hoping for a decrease in fence violence and a higher likelihood of entering Gaza.

With a different time frame, the project grew in scope. I’d add Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands, countries relatively friendly to refugees to photograph for much of the summer. In late spring I created a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign offering the idea of a two part photographic project: part one in Europe beginning in Norway, working with Yousef; in the fall part two initially with AVP but extending my trip to begin photographing internally expelled Palestinians in the West Bank.

 

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Yousef asked me to remove all identifying signs

All went well until in early June, days away from my departure to Norway, I was hit by two challenges, urinary bleeding and Yousef’s sudden withdrawal from my project. This was a treacherous moment, worry about my urinary condition and whether it would force postponement of my trip, and my feeling of betrayal by a close friend and potential colleague. In response, I went on retreat for one week to the sacred waters of Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, and the equally sacred community of Agape.

Luckily the bleeding stopped, causes were proposed, I seemed to be healthy, I had the AVP team to work with in the fall, I would support and be supported by them, and most crucially I had contacts in the States and Palestine who would help me with my refugee project.

So, inwardly thanking Yousef X for his role in the formation of my project, still not in touch with him, hoping he has a secure route to citizenship and has not suffered from what I feel he did to me—perhaps a result of trauma he suffered from Gaza and his hopes for respite and safety in Norway—I launched my project in September. My experiences with Yousef, tho often painful, were a major part of what led me to this project. Thank you good friend, survivor, suffering soul; may your life continue to improve.

LINKS

Alternatives to Violence Project

Refugees in Norway (2018)

Further info about Norway

Great March of Return (Gaza)

Further info about the Great March

Human Flow, a movie by Ai Weiwei (about the global refugee crisis, 2017)

TO BE CONTINUED

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