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You must make the injustice visible and be prepared to die like a soldier to do so.

—Mahatma Gandhi

From a workshop about writing in the context of The Work That Reconnects, (designed by Joanna Macy) and led by Louise Dunlap, Aravinda Ananda, and Joseph Rotella. We were asked to imagine a creature speaking to us from the future.

Thank you Skip for sitting down with me to hear my story, so many generations into the future. You and many of your colleagues who struggled for justice in the 21st century are some of the many steps for me and my people, a part of your future.

I’ve heard about you thru my ancestors, in particular a man named Rex who lived in your time. I realize that you, his grandfather, and he had a rocky relationship while he was young but I’m so pleased he decided to publish your story, which I’ve read. But we’re here to listen to my story, what I’ve learned living in the 28th century CE on the planet Mars, colonized first by your country, and then made into a center of interplanetary development.

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Mars in the 21st century before human habitation

Your contemporary, Mahatma Gandhi, answered the question, Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of western civilization? with the words, I think it would be a good idea. Well, surprisingly and against most predictions, humans were able to evolve a form of civilization but it required 3 generations past your own, into the late 22nd century. The growth of international law and international institutions allowed for evolution. My ancestors, recognizing the futility of the United Nations as constituted shortly after World War Two, because it was overly dominated by the United States, was abandoned. Unfortunately this required war, a catastrophic war that included the massive use of nuclear weapons. This nearly wiped out the human population and many other species as well. By the way, Israel, a nation you had hoped would correct its self-destructive path, entered the war with its nuclear arsenal and was wiped out. (This might have happened without World War Three because of Israel’s previous suicidal path, refusing to end its occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza.)

Israeli forces bombarded Shujaieh district in Gaza. July 20, 2014  Thousands of Palestinians run for their lives in the deadliest assault on the Palestinian enclave in five years. Heidi Levine for The National  SM

Israeli forces bombarded Shujaieh district in Gaza. July 20, 2014  Thousands of Palestinians run for their lives in the deadliest assault on the Palestinian enclave in five years. Photo by Heidi Levine for The National

This war led to the first large-scale emigration from the earth to Mars, via the moon. The moon did not prove capable of housing the 10 billion people fleeing the nuclear catastrophe, and so technology moved rapidly to transport human beings first to protected colonies on Mars and then, by creating an Earthlike Martian atmosphere, people were finally able to live in open air settlements. An additional benefit of migration to Mars was the absence of indigenous life. The colonizers did not need to repeat their ancestors’ genocide of native people in North America and because of advanced technology (and ethics) did not need to enslave people as your country did to expedite its economy and demonstrate what it thought to be its implicit white right to rule others.

journey_to_mars

Because of your generation’s unwillingness to acknowledge and take decisive action about your global climate crisis, Earth became what Mars was then—barren, an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide with some water vapor. Another irony is water: access to safe and ample water became a major problem during your generation. As with climate change—water a major ingredient of that phenomenon—21st century humans refused to deal effectively with the problem. Not included in your various computer simulations, shockingly, this resulted in the end of water, except for traces beneath the Earth’s surface and during Earth winter when some water still flows above ground.

Mars water

Mars showing evidence of flowing water, Hale Crater, NASA false-color image,
September 2015 (more info below), 
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

We were gifted not only technologically, but more importantly, morally. After 5 centuries of debate, the United States instituted a truth and reconciliation process that returned considerable land to natives and compensated African-Americans for the ancestors’ slavery. But then World War Three finally catalyzed an entirely new form of civilization; Gandhi himself might have been pleased.

This is not to claim we have solved all societal problems. New ones developed, notably questions about governance, sovereignty, and use of power in the court system, but we are definitely pleased that the human race survived the catastrophic nuclear war and atmospheric collapse—a topic I know was of great concern during the short existence of humans on earth.

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West Roxbury (Boston) Lateral Fracked Gas Pipeline: Thru the heart of a residential neighborhood, property taken by eminent domain—in response: civil disobedience. 

During your brutal uncivilized period many strived to sustain—not merely to sustain but to further evolve—the human race. And with it the many new species of plants and animals created by nuclear war, now exported to Mars that help us further evolve. We, all creation, continue.

LINKS

Mars Facts

NASA’S Journey to Mars

“New Mars 2020 rover will be able to ‘hear’ the Red Planet,” By Ashley Strickland, CNN, July 2016

“NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars,” September 2015

Human Settlement on Mars: Mars One is a not for profit foundation with the goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. To prepare for this settlement the first unmanned mission is scheduled to depart in 2020. Crews will depart for their one-way journey to Mars starting in 2026; subsequent crews will depart every 26 months after the initial crew has left for Mars. Mars One is a global initiative aiming to make this everyone’s mission to Mars, including yours. Join Mars One’s efforts to enable the next giant leap for mankind.

October_2_24_92_99_18.eps

 

 

 

 

 

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United States-aerial photography IMG_1887

Boston and the Atlantic Ocean

PHOTOS (flight)

During my recent West Coast visit I lived the reality of climate change. California is parched, so at each of my temporary homes hosts encouraged me to flush only when needed, run water until hot into a bucket to use later for a toilet flush, shut the water off when brushing teeth, and in other ways tightly conserve water. Juneau Alaska is dramatically different: situated in a temperate zone, water is plentiful, and I was required by my hosts to flush after each dump, no matter how slight the deposit. In California I might race to the sink if I heard water running; in Alaska I needed to restrain myself from acting when I noticed running water not being used.

United States-aerial photography IMG_1954-Edit

Somewhere over the western half of the North American continent, six miles high, maybe seven

Because of the California drought my hosts in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada asked me to design a slideshow from my Holy Water series that had only existed as a photographic exhibition. In a Napa country home living for four glorious days amidst my beloved Live Oak trees, graciously hosted by Louise Dunlap, I had time to convert the print files into slideshow format and add supplementary materials for later presentation to my foothills’ hosts.

Napa IMG_2053-EditLive Oaks, Napa California

For five weeks in March and early April 2016 I traveled to the Bay Area of California, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and northward to Juneau Alaska to present 14 shows to some 450 people.

I am indebted to many friends, family, teachers, and fellow activists on the issues of Palestine-Israel to organize, host, publicize, supply equipment, house, transport, feed, introduce, and present my shows.

As usual on recent tours, my guiding theme is portraying my experiences in the sorely troubled region of Palestine-Israel. Thru my photography and filmmaking I hope to open eyes and hearts to what I perceive, and thus foster awareness and inspire action. Since 2003, spurred in large part by the martyrdom of Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003, killed while attempting to block the demolition of a home in Gaza by an Israeli soldier driving an American-made Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, I have visited Israel-Palestine 9 times and Gaza 6, for periods of about 3 months every 1 and 1/2 years.

In Juneau, organizers chose my movie, Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors: Other Voice, but after they’d viewed a rough cut on line they implored me to severely reedit it. Luckily in Juneau, residing with my sister Elaine Schroeder and her husband Bob I had a few extra days to edit before screening the movie. This movie needs yet more work.

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Juneau Alaska

High schools were a special feature of my visit. In Grass Valley California I showed to 3 classes studying history and photography. In Juneau I presented to 3 more classes in world history. Each time the discussions, sadly, were quiet, not too unusual for high school classes meeting a stranger and dealing with tough topics, but problematic and disappointing for me. I hope I planted a few seeds. In contrast, one of the most lively discussions occurred at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall after I showed Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank. I attribute this to the venue’s atmosphere and tradition. My show was part of an ongoing political series and I suspect many in this audience were familiar with sharp debate.

So: as I showed, I made; as I visited, I learned; as I had the year before photographed and filmed 10 times zones east in the Levant, now I presented my results.

SCHEDULE

3/9/2016
Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
Temescal Commons Co-housing, Oakland

3/10/16
The Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank
Hartsough’s home—In the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco

3/14/16
Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
Chico Friends Meetinghouse, Chico, CA

3/15/16
Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad Street, Nevada City, CAHolyWaterGV3/16/16
Timeline Palestine & Israel (3 showings)
Nevada Union High School, Nevada City CA

3/17/16
The Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Fellowship Hall, Berkeley CASkip-Schiel_photo-movie_3-17-16_Historic-Fellowship-Hall-BFUU-SJC
3/19/16
Portions of Thru My Lens: Palestine & Israel, Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors: Other Voice, and Detroit Up & Down
A home in Rossmoor Senior Adult Community, Walnut Creek, CA

3/28/16
Timeline: Palestine & Israel
Juneau World Affairs Council, KTOO public television, Juneau, AK

TimelineJWAC

Televised thruout Alaska and now available on line.

(You’ll need to use “Skip Schiel” in the site’s search engine. It’s also on YouTube. Here it is enlargeable.)

3/30/16
Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank (3 showings)
Thunder Mountain High School, Juneau AKGretchen's syllabusSyllabus from the Honors World History class taught by Gretchen Kriegmont
as an example of excellent teaching.

4/3/16
Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
Juneau People for Peace and Justice, Northern Light United Church, Juneau AKGazasNeighborsJuneau-2
PRESENTATIONS

Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
A movie in process about Jewish Israelis living within one mile of Gaza, heavily attacked, yet calling for negotiations rather than violence

The Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank
A slideshow about Palestinians under occupation practicing exemplary strategic nonviolent resistance.
The renowned Freedom Theater of Jenin West Bank organized a two week bus journey inspired by the Freedom Movement and Freedom Bus Rides in the United States. Some 60 international and Palestinian riders explored some of the most attacked and resilient communities in the West Bank—Bil’in, Tuwani, Nabi Salih, the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem itself, known for their creative struggles against oppression.

Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
A slideshow about the Jordan River system.
Ample in the upper Jordan, threatened in the Galilean Sea, shrunk to mostly wastewater in the Lower Jordan, and the Dead Sea rapidly dying, this photographic series intersects regional history, geology, hydropolitics, and the global climate crisis.

Timeline: Palestine & Israel
A narrated photographic introduction to the history of the conflict, especially suited to audiences new to the issues, with personal narration of the contemporary period

Thru My Lens: Palestine & Israel
The look and feel and meaning of the situation in this troubled region.
Based on my spring 2015 three-month journey of faith in action, I survey and discuss my photographs about coexistence, Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, Gaza’s Israeli neighbors, the hydropolitics of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, and other topics.

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Can you suggest venues for my photographic presentations?

In this moment of escalating violence and burgeoning right wing Israeli politics, all my presentations address systemic injustice and some suggest strategies for transformation.

I have firm dates now for the California section of my West Coast tour, March 4 thru March 20 and for Alaska, March 22 thru April 5, 2016.

My most recent productions, all based on my three month spring 2015 trip, are:

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Timeline Palestine & Israel, a narrated introduction to the history of the conflict, especially suited to audiences new to the issues

 

Palestine_Israel-Bil_in-Popular_Resistance-7071

The Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, a cross section of oppression and resistance in key sites such as Tuwani, Bil’in, and Nabi Saleh, with special reference to the Freedom Ride in the USA

 

Nomika Zion, author of %22War Diary from Sderot,%22 written during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the predecessor to the last war-1

Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice, a movie in process about Jewish Israelis living within one mile of Gaza, heavily attacked, yet calling for negotiations rather than violence

 

Israeli military surveillance installationHoly Water: the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, demonstrating unequal water rights, a slideshow that combines the climate crisis, hydrology, and politics

 

Palestine_Israel-Jerusalem-7115

Palestinian Jerusalem, featuring the controversial March of Flags, this slide show-movie remaps Jerusalem to show the pervading inequalities in that historic city supposedly shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims

 

So you can learn better what I offer, I’ve posted on YouTube a short (22 minute) video excerpting from my five most recent shows:

 

More photos, writings, and movies.

My full list of offerings for those who might not have seen it, indicating the newest works with an asterisk.

General Tour 2016 Announcement

I plan to put a calendar on line that will facilitate organizing. It will show open dates, and indicate where I expect to be in California at various times. This is in the works. At the moment all dates are open. I am particularly interested in visiting educational institutions, 6th grade and up.

I look forward to hearing from anyone with questions and invitations. Thanks to those considering hosting me and my art.

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Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians are currently planning accelerated development around the Dead Sea, which would result in massive construction of new hotels, expansion of industry and enhanced mineral and water extraction. The various new endeavors currently proposed for the region demonstrate not only woefully insufficient consideration of even basic ecological principles, but also a lack of basic coordination between sectors and between the three relevant governmental authorities.
See also Red Dead Conduit.

—EcoPeace-Middle East

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

PHOTOS

Yesterday’s first task was thinking about how far south I’d travel and where I might stay the night. Then a visit to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.

I’d stopped by on an earlier Dead Sea journey but for reasons I don’t recall did not enter. This time I had time for a leisurely stroll up Wadi David to the first set of waterfalls. I was not alone: numerous tour groups also visited.

Thru Wadi David

Dead_Sea-IMG_4845.jpg

Most walked only the minimum distance, to the first fall. Some stopped to pray and sing, I assume they were Christian altho I don’t know the Christian significance of this area. I overheard the words David and his men, meaning King David, alleged to have hidden here. On the trail I remet the young couple from the Netherlands who I’d shared quarters with at the hostel and then drove them to the nature reserve. They intended to take a longer route to caves and other sites. I had neither the time, nor interest, nor knees for that journey.

Since water is one of my main themes I felt at home on this walk. Multiple falls (I showered in the first one, before and after photographing a woman and her infant playing in the water), exquisite rock or clay formations (what keeps the structures in place, how dangerous is walking here, what if an earthquake happened? I did see a sign with the words Escape Route), striations showing millennial changes (2 million years ago this area was covered with water that connected to the Mediterranean), well made and tended trails with handrails and steps, birds and one gruesome looking rodent with sharp teeth that I photographed, views to the Dead Sea and back toward the Negev Desert heights, and a comfortable climate—not too hot, nor too cold, no hint of rain, some clouds.

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To escape from falling rocks (and pehaps flash floods)

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Rock Hyrax/Rock Badger

Then, to the car and off I spin south. With a long stop at the Ein Bokek hotel complex which I visited a few years ago. Here a room would cost me upwards of $300! On my last visit I could walk easily into a hotel (and surreptitiously photograph) with the story that I was considering an overnight stay. Not so this time—it is Israel’s Independence Day holiday. The hotels are loaded, not quite full. I found a friendly security man who let me park and escorted me to reception where I spoke with a dark-skinned young woman. After inquiring about prices I asked, might I look around? Help yourself. This after a rebuff at the first hotel I tried, the Leonardo.

I photographed and tried to imagine staying here, even if on a corporate budget. Would I? Why? So dismal, so dry, so too perfect. Not for me. Money or not.

One of numerous high end hotels in Ein Bokek

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Near the Ein Bokek hotel complex in the southern sea, the sea level continues to fall. Thus, a new road LOWER than the old.

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Paradoxically, while water from the northern section is pumped into the southern to be evaporated for mineral extraction, the sea level is rising in some places because of the build up of salt deposits that remain after mineral extraction. Thus, a new road, higher than the old.

Where will I sleep tonight? How about the beach, in my car? I scouted various locations, spoke with numerous people, and learned essentially I could car camp most anywhere in Israel and not be bothered. Where would I find minimal facilities like an unlocked toilet in the morning for a commanding call? That is not so easy. I spotted a couple, she with head covered, apparently car camping. I could pull up beside them, spoil their privacy, and have little of my own.

Dead_Sea__DSC9536Dead_Sea__DSC9650-Edit

“According to the Israeli group Who Profits From the Occupation? (whoprofits.org), the mud used in Ahava products is taken from a site on the shores of the Dead Sea inside the occupied territory, next to Kalia. Ahava uses Palestinian natural resources without the permission of or compensation to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel denies Palestinians access to the shores of the Dead Sea and its resources, although one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the occupied West Bank.” 

I surveyed a small shopping mall. Remembering the boycott of Ahava cosmetics because it uses materials from the Palestinian section of the Dead Sea I photographed the Ahava retail store, trying to combine the shop, sign, and beach. I bought a beer (18 NIS/$4.50) and drank half the can in my car, then napped, awakening to heat. The shadow had shifted. I bought a small tin of instant coffee, 20 NIS/$5. And made a cup of cold coffee to rouse myself after the beer for the drive further south. I photographed the old road which is higher than the new road, indicating sea recession, and then later, further south, I photographed the new road, higher than the old, because the southern basin is rising.

This is complicated: the Sea’s northern portion is clearly receding because of diversion and drought (altho I learned huge changes in sea level are common over a long stretch of time, level much higher in the century before the era of Jesus), and apparently for a while the Sea’s south portion receded as well. Then, with the buildup of mineral deposits from mining the water for potassium, sodium, etc, the level is rising in the south. Rather than curtail the mineral deposition the government has decided to revise the infrastructure. So we have here 2 major problems caused by changes in water—sinkholes and infrastructure, which includes the hotels.

deadsealevel.gif

I photographed as many manifestations of these phenomena as I could. I might have enough photos for a Dead Sea presentation alone. Include the Dead Sea works, pipes, cliffs, etc, and it may be a substantial collection. Add to that also the region I now write from, Neot haKikar, and I might have a unique collection. (I should research other photo sets from the Dead Sea. I long for aerial views, maybe next time bring a drone.)

Dead_Sea__DSC9495

Pumps move water from the northern section to the south

Canals carry water to the southern section

Canals carry water to the southern section

Evaporation ponds

Evaporation ponds

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Dead Sea Works, for extracting potash, and other minerals

Last evening as I drove into the small moshav (agricultural coop), Neot HaKikar, for groceries, I noticed about 10 dark-skinned Asian men riding on a flat bed trailer pulled by a tractor. First thought: tourists. Second: they might stay where I’m staying, ghastly. Third thought as I discovered they shopped at the same “minimarket” as me and bought large quantities of beer, wine and vodka, along with some staples, Oh oh, what if they reside tonight at the camp lodge where I am? Could be rowdy and noisy. Fourth thought, as I heard their language, a singsong Cambodian-like language: Ah ha, they are foreign agricultural workers, probably from Thailand.

Workers from Thailand

Agricultural workers from Thailand in the cooperative farming village of Neot HaKikar at the southern Dead Sea tip

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Shkedi’s Camp Lodge in Neot HaKikar

I thought I might inquire of the man at checkout but this would be in the presence of the workers. Save the question for later, perhaps Gil, the lodge’s proprietor, who I’ve yet to see this morning (later he affirmed my speculation). Checking on line, I find references to Thai workers in this region. Local agriculture grows melons, tomatoes, squash, etc, that can survive on salty water.

I consider whether foreign workers throughout Israel could become a subtheme of my photography. I waited while they boarded a flatbed and then tried to follow them without being spotted. I made a few snaps, planning to scout further today. But because it might still be holiday—and the beginning of Shabbat—they may not work. Perhaps this is their reason for stocking up on booze.

Referring to my speculations about dangers from falling rocks at Ein Gedi Nature Reserve:

The Neot HaKikar disaster (Hebrew: אסון נאות הכיכר), which occurred on 30 December 1970, was until the Mount Carmel forest fire of 2010 the worst natural disaster in the history of the State of Israel. Heavy rains caused rocks to detach from an overhanging cliff and crush a dining room in an Israel Defense Forces base. 19 soldiers and one civilian were killed and ten soldiers were injured (three of them severely). (Wikipedia)

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Looking south toward the Red Sea, Dead Sea approximately in the middle, Sea of Galilee near the bottom, the Mediterranean Sea on the right

LINKS

Salt Production at the Dead Sea

“Israel Chemicals Moves Dead Sea Salt for $1 Billion,” by David Wainer, 2013

“The Dying of the Dead Sea,” by Joshua Hammer, 2005

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Dead_Sea-_DSC9482

Lying in the heart of the Syrian-African rift valley at the southern outlet of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea region is internationally known for its unique geographical, biological, and historical characteristics. It is the lowest point on earth and world’s saltiest large water body. The Basin’s historical features include Jesus’s baptism site, Masada, and Mt. Nebo, among many, many others.

Despite the lack of wildlife in the Dead Sea itself, the region around it is blessed with unique flora and fauna, including endangered species such as ibex, leopards, and hyrax. The wetlands surrounding the Sea support several species, such as the indigenous “Dead Sea Sparrow”, and serve as important resting and breeding sites for millions of migratory birds crossing between Europe and Africa each year.

Together with its ecological interest, the Dead Sea is rich in a wide variety of minerals, making it an attraction for millions of visitors wishing to take advantage of the therapeutic qualities of its minerals.

EcoPeace-Middle East

 

IP sea map-titlesSM.png

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

PHOTOS

April 22, 2015, Wednesday, Ein Gedi Hostel, Dead Sea, Palestine-Israel (Earth Day)

Yes, I made it past the sinkholes, a Dead Sea version of the pothole, but large enough to fall into. Maybe more like some of the recent potholes in Detroit [during November 2014]. I saw many but none close to the road, except maybe near the town of Ein Gedi where I reside now. The road is partially blocked; the government constructed a detour that skirts or enters the nature reserve, possibly endangering the animals who are not familiar with vehicles at night. The road south resumes on the other side of the detour. I drove it last evening to buy food in Kibbutz Ein Gedi but saw no sinkholes. I shall look again today when I drive further south along the sea. I spotted numerous bright red signs warning people about the dangerous conditions.

A series of sinkholes

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Sinkholes in agricultural fields, photo by George Steinmetz, 2007

Yesterday, north of here, I stopped numerous times to photograph the holes, layered shore line, sea views, abandoned buildings including what was claimed to be the first Jewish neighborhood, and maybe most importantly the general region where the Jordan River meets the sea.

Slightly closer view, actual entry point obscured

Northern tip of the Dead Sea, where the Jordan River enters, partially hidden

Dead Sea Jordan River far-TITLES

Site of an early Israeli hotel near the northern section of the Dead Sea

This I photographed badly. A fence prevented close examination. I tried using my camera’s live view but the sun washed out my screen image. I tried estimating the field but missed on all but one occasion. Same with the knocked over guard tower. If I remember, I will try again on my return trip. The site was the first beach access point, inundated with tourists. I photographed the buses.

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Dead_Sea-IMG_4876

Kalia Beach, most Palestinians unable to reach this beach
even tho it is in the West Bank of Palestine

At the site of many abandoned buildings which I presumed to be former Jordanian army barracks, I became lost on the rutted, dried mud roads. Not panicking but wondering whether I’d be mightily embarrassed if I couldn’t find my way out. Or if I drove into a ditch and required a tow. I managed, slowly.

Dead_Sea-_DSC9421

I recall first observing this general area with the 2003 delegation (I note that its two leaders, Scott and Tariq, are now both dead, as is at least one participant, the old man.). Twelve years ago we drove thru the area on our way to the beach. Today is Israel’s Independence Day celebration so housing and shops and housing may be affected. Last night a siren sounded for a minute or so to commemorate the deaths of all Israeli soldiers and others killed as a result of the conflict. I wrote to my list the following with an article:

Memorial day in Israel

tonight as i rest overlooking the dead sea, in a pristine oasis known as ein gedi (beset by sinkholes caused by a receding dead sea), i hear the siren commemorating israeli soldiers’ deaths. many of them, 67 from last year’s foolish assault on gaza known as operation protective edge.

here is today’s editorial in a leading israeli newspaper, ha’aretz.

—Skip

“The 67 Israeli soldiers who fell during Gaza war [2014] died in vain” (by Iris Leal)

gaza-west-bank_map SM.jpg

Showing the extent of Dead Sea in the West Bank

LINKS

Israel prevents Palestinians from going to the Dead Sea” (August 2007)

Aerial images from George Steinmetz

“Boycott of Ahava Dead Sea products makes an impact,” by Adri Nieuwhof

TO BE CONTINUED

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Only by awakening can you know the true meaning of that word. —Eckhart Tolle

PHOTOS

From early March thru end of May I photographed, videoed, and wrote in Palestine-Israel, north to south, east to west, Israel and Palestine, wet and dry, happy and tragic, brightly lit (oh that Mediterranean Light!) and dark. With what I hope is an open heart, available to all parties, a fair-eyed and handed treatment of different experiences.

Highlights include:

  • Nearly one month along the Jordan River from its headwaters on Mt Hermon to its tragic termination in the dying Dead Sea.

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Mt Hermon, headwaters of the Jordan River, Israeli surveillance center

  • Organized annually by the illustrious Freedom Theater of Jenin, the two-week Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank visited inspiring nodal points of suffering and resistance such as Bil’in, Tuwani, Nabi Salih, and the Jordan Valley, often staying for several days while sleeping on floors.

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Bil’in

  • Teaching photography to young adults for two weeks thru the Freedom Theater in Jenin’s refugee camp.

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Two of my photo students in Jenin

  • Exploring the eastern sector of Jerusalem by photographing for Grassroots Jerusalem, while residing for one month in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

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Examining how Israel dominates Jerusalem’s eastern sector, nominally Palestinian

  • 5 days with Israelis who live on the Gaza border, often attacked by home-made rockets and mortars launched by Gazan militants, photographing and filming there (on kibbutzim and moshavim, i.e., cooperative agricultural communities) an organization called Other Voice, Jewish Israelis calling for negotiations rather than war to resolve the conflict.

Palestine_Israel-Gaza-Other_Voice-8047

Looking from Israel into Gaza, less than 2 kilometers from each other

  • Photographing two conferences, one about coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, the other about cohesion of the various Palestinian groups in 1948 israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Global_Village_Square_Bethlehem-6058

An Israeli and a Palestinian together at Global Village Square, Bethlehem Palestine

Problems occurred during the photography training when apparently I did not satisfy students’ wishes for more advanced training. Altho one of the Theater’s requests was to fully explore light in photography, one of my most practiced photographic elements, I might have failed to help them understand how light works. Given the conditions, expectations, and my expertise in photography I did my best. Another problem was that I was not able to enter Gaza. The organization I usually work with that can get me a permit, the American Friends Service Committee, did not need my services. Also since the summer 2014 Gaza war, Israel has tightened entrance. I was close to Gaza when with Other Voice, and phoned my good friend in Gaza, Ibrahim, which only exacerbated my (and his) frustration.

Was my trip a success? How measure this? Achievements? Photo and movie production? Insights? Survival in relatively good health?

Was my trip useful? Will it help end the conflict, assure security for the Israelis and justice for the Palestinians?

What is the point of my work? An adventure, a vacation, a wish to demonstrate my bravery? I answer, respectively: Maybe, time will reveal. Possibly, I undertook it with good intentions. A compulsion, an itch, a need, unfathomable.

Conditions In Gaza (Gaza Blockade In Numbers) are the worst since the 1948 birth of Israel and the catastrophe it caused for the Palestinians, the Nakba. Altho unable to witness Gaza directly, thru study and conversation I learn virtually nothing has been rebuilt, Israel continues to block entrance and exit (my case), and altho fighting has not resumed in this past year, most people I spoke with, inside and outside Gaza, expect another war, possibly more devastating than the one last summer. Unless major compromises are made by all contending parties.

In the West Bank and Israel conditions vary according to location (mid June 2015 UN report here). As I wrote in more detail here, most Israelis seem oblivious about the occupation, not affected directly by it, even if in West Bank settlements (as long as there is “quiet”). For Palestinians in the West Bank, especially the regions the Freedom Bus Ride visited, including Jerusalem, the tight Israeli military and economic control continues. I’ve heard that Hamas, ruler of Gaza, is losing support and people are outspoken about that. And in the West Bank where Fatah rules, many people have abandoned the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, the Authority without authority, handmaiden to the Israeli government.

Struggle against oppression continues, but it is localized to a few key points in the West Bank, and virtually absent in Gaza. Or put differently, it seems effective and strategic in only a few places. Otherwise, West Bank resistance seems pro forma: a group gathers in protest, maybe against land loss or prison conditions. The process may begin nonviolently (this as a value and tactic is much debated) but usually boys, the shabab, throw rocks and the soldiers fire, depending on who is among the protesters, live ammunition, rubber-covered metal bullets, tear gas, skunk water (chemically treated to resemble sewage and stick to clothing and skin) or stun grenades. Quid pro quo. Predictable and pointless. Or so some, including me, think. I search for strategic resistance with a vision for the future and found it among all the groups visited by the Freedom Bus Ride.

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Women’s Day March on Kalandia Checkpoint

I hope my materials give a deeper sense of my experiences and perspectives.

I end this report with an idea: one’s perspectives are generated not only by relevant experience, study, and influence—my trip in this case—but by personal points of reference, often subconscious, often not related directly to one’s opinions.

I speculate that those tilting toward Israel in their perspectives share points of reference, whereas those tilting toward Palestine might not. Jews usually tilt toward Israel by referencing anti-Semitism, the horrors of the holocaust, and persistent, nearly existential fear of Iran (going back to the days of exile in Persia?). A tilt toward Palestine could be from a variety of points of reference. One person might have experienced oppression, as with African Americans. Or being raised during the 1960s, radicalized by the Vietnam-American war and the Freedom Movement like me. Paradoxically Jews might also tilt toward Palestine if not for their Jewishness—Jewish proclivity toward justice could be a key point of reference but Jewish fear for their own and Israel’s survival overrides their sense of justice.

My reference points are—altho I shouldn’t be too hasty to decide—Wounded Knee, my early Zionism, the African American Freedom Movement, and a dream I had in South Africa about Martin Luther King Jr. I came of age thru Wounded Knee: playing the cowboy who killed Indians when we played; my early Badlands experience, near the massacre site, with my family; later reading books such as Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee; and then my first visit to the actual site in 1982 while roaming the Great Plains alone. One year later I lived and photographed on the reservation with the Jesuits. Seven years after that in 1990 I was on the Pine Ridge reservation again in South Dakota with my partner for the Bigfoot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee. These adult experiences led to a major photographic project.

Thru this process I learned compassion for the “extreme other”—people not in any of my circles, not in my family, neighborhood, or ethnic group. They were on the other side of the planet (or a different planet), not my skin color or sharing my first language, etc. Wounded Knee victims were truly the “extreme other.” As the Palestinians had been other to me—until I visited in 2003 and met real Palestinians.

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Wounded Knee, 1890

Secondly, my early Zionism—growing up admiring the kibbutz, the pioneer, the tanned and muscled young man with a rifle over his shoulder, working the land with an array of similarly tanned and muscled beautiful young women with rifles over their shoulders (oh how I desired to join them); then teaching at Maimonides School in 1966-67, celebrating the outcome of the Six Day War; later the period of Munich and airplane hijackings; and slowly shifting direction as I observed parallels between South African apartheid and Israel while visiting South Africa.

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Zionist Pioneer

Thirdly, the African American Freedom Movement interwove with my Zionism, especially during the mid 1960s when I contemplated going south for Freedom Summer but feared and refused, forever regretful. Now I discover that regret leads to my willingness to enter danger zones in Palestine-Israel.

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Freedom Movement

Finally, the dream about Martin Luther King Jr. I dreamt he appeared to me and in effect said, while he tapped me on the shoulder, “Skip, I’m dead, you’re alive, it is now your turn.” Which meant: utilize his analysis of the triplet of racism, militarism, and extreme consumerism to struggle for justice. He did not point me at Palestine-israel; only later did I make this connection.

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A button I proudly wear

What next? Lots of work this summer and into the fall preparing exhibits, slideshows, movies, blog, website, and eventually touring in the USA to show my results. Which is where you, dear reader, comes in.

Would you like to sponsor a presentation?

Here are some of my current projects, slideshows, movies, and prospective photographic exhibitions:

Thru my Lens: Palestine-Israel
The look and feel and meaning of the situation in this troubled region. Based on my recent three-month journey of faith in action, I will show and discuss my photographs about coexistence, Palestinians in Jerusalem, nonviolent resistance to the occupation in the West Bank, and other topics.

Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank
A slideshow by Skip Schiel about Palestinians under occupation practicing exemplary strategic nonviolent resistance. The renowned Freedom Theater of Jenin West Bank organized a two-week bus journey inspired by the Freedom Movement and Bus Rides in the United States, some 60 international and Palestinian riders, to explore some of the most attacked and resilient communities in the West Bank—Bil’in, Tuwani, Nabi Salih, the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem itself, known by thousands for their creative struggles against oppression.

Jerusalem Day: the Controversial March of Flags
A slideshow-movie by Skip Schiel about the annual celebration of Jerusalem’s “reunification.” In reality, Jerusalem is not unified, but in the eyes of many of its Palestinian residents, it is occupied. All governments refuse to locate their embassies there, but instead base in Tel Aviv. The march provocatively begins in Sheik Jarrah, a contested Palestinian neighborhood, marches thru the eastern, largely Palestinian sector of Jerusalem, thru the Damascus Gate, and into the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall. I photographed and videoed this year’s march, trying to carefully depict both sides of the controversy.

Other Voice: Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors
A movie by Skip Schiel about courageous Israelis advocating for talks, not tanks, diplomacy, not war. Living within two miles of Gaza, these Israelis suffer the brunt of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, most recently infiltration as well. Yet they call for an intelligent response to the violence in their neighborhood, in league with similarly minded Gazans.

Holy Land Water
Hydropolitics in Palestine-Israel, from Mt Hermon, the headwaters of the Jordan River, to the dying Dead Sea, the River’s terminus.

In addition I circulate these earlier photo presentations GeneralTour2014AnnouncementSchielSM. i hope to hear from you. You can email me.

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Justice is Love made Public

—Dr. Cornell West

PHOTOS

Based on my current work in Palestine-Israel March – May 2015, my view of the situation depends on my location.

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If in Israel, I do not notice the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, nor does most of the population. If noticed, the Israeli Jewish citizens and the leadership largely support the injustice—95% of Jewish Israeli’s were in favor of last summer’s attacks on Gaza. The recent elections that returned Prime Minister Netanyahu to office are confirmation; they mark another step toward a right-wing government. Exceptions exist of course, and I try to locate and support them—Gush Shalom is one, led by Uri Avnery.

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Purim in an East Jerusalem settlement, March 2015

If in the West Bank, again depending on location, I learn that the occupation can be tolerable and mostly invisible, as in Jenin, where there are no neighboring settlements (altho the Israeli Occupation Force regularly raids the refugee camp looking for people, usually young men, that they accuse of threatening Israel). Or it may be a huge annoyance, as in Ramallah, especially if one needs to pass thru the notorious Kalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem. It can be regularly violent, as in Hebron where the settlers are particularly vicious or in the villages of Nabi Salih and Bil’in near Ramallah which every Friday for years mount nonviolent demonstrations to regain their ancestral lands. They’ve had some success. I visit and support the activists there. Or the occupation may be a continual threat, as in Sheik Jarrah, a district in East Jerusalem where Israeli Jews frequently take over Palestinian homes with army and police protection.

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Downtown Jenin, April 2015

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A nonviolent demonstration, Nabi Salih, March 2015

And if in Gaza (I was last there in 2013), the region is not only the largest open air prison as it’s commonly called, but a graveyard, as a friend confided to me during my first trip there in 2004. Last summer some 2,500 people were killed during the Israeli assault, about 75% of them civilian. Entrance and exit are now so tightly restricted that I’ve not been able to enter on this trip and many notable Gazans such as Dr. Mona al Farra, who was to speak at my Quaker meeting in Cambridge Massachusetts in May 2015 as part of a tour, are unable to leave. (Two Boston-based friends and colleagues of mine, Alice Rothchild and Bill Slaughter, both medical professionals and thus more able to visit Gaza, may speak at my meeting in Mona’s place.)

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Trauma program, Nuseirat refugee camp, Gaza, 2013

On my current journey, my 9th since 2003, I’ve attended a 2-day conference called Global Village Square in Bethlehem drawing some 70 young Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, and West Bank Palestinians to work together on solutions. I’ve ridden the Freedom Bus thru the West Bank to learn about popular resistance in villages and East Jerusalem. In Jenin in the northern section of the West Bank thru the renowned Freedom Theater I’ve taught photography to young adults who are already very proficient in the craft but need encouragement and tools to portray their experiences under occupation. I’m about to photograph more of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, a project combining hydrology, history, geology and politics in a multi-layered approach. I will photograph for Grassroots Jerusalem as part of their political mapping project to portray Palestinian experience in East Jerusalem. And finally, if plans hold, I will be with Israeli Jews living within 2 miles of Gaza, often attacked, but who formed an organization called Other Voice courageously critical and outspoken about much of Israeli policy.

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Global Village Square, Bethlehem, March 2015

Here in Palestine-Israel, the vision is bleak. I doubt I can find many who believe the conflict will be resolved soon, if at all. To counter this despair I tell people about the hope I feel erupting in the USA because of growing awareness, more frequent visits to the region, increasing activism among young Jews and others of Arab descent, and most importantly the growing BDS movement—boycott, divest, sanction—with its accompanying support of the One State Solution: one land, multiple peoples, with equal rights for all.

I joyfully wear my Martin Luther King Jr button. Many notice and either recognize or ask. I answer, a great leader, a man of love, compassion, intellect, and sumud. Steadfast in his quest for justice. He died for his truth, a shaheed, a martyr. And people seem to instantly recognize his value.

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TO BE CONTINUED

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