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Posts Tagged ‘jerusalem’

World Refugee Day 
20 June 

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

PHOTOS

A few stone houses still stand on the village site [original Al Walaja land]. Otherwise, the site is covered with stone rubble, and with almond trees that grow on the western terraces of the village and to the north. A spring in a valley west of the site still flows out of a stone-and-concrete structure. The 1948 Armistice line passed through the southern lands of the village. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) built refugee shelters and an elementary school on the land that became part of the West Bank. There is a white marker on the grave of one village woman; her first name, Fatima, is visible on it, but her last name is illegible. The village area is used as an Israeli picnic site; the Israeli Canada Park now lies north of it.

—Walid Khalidi, 2006 or earlier

To reach my rendezvous point with Meras in Aida refugee camp who had arranged today’s session [June 8, 2019] with Omar Hajhajleh in Al Walaja village (suggested by Nidal), I tried to grab a service taxi at the bus station in Bethlehem. Many others had the same desire. Some were families that I didn’t want to push ahead of. Some asked the driver where he was going and either jumped in or waited for a different taxi. I was perplexed and finally decided to walk. That is one hell of a walk—2 km or 1.2 miles—especially with my photo and audio equipment, up and down the Bethlehem slopes, grand view, but tiring. Returning I considered finding a service near the checkpoint which would probably be much easier, but then decided buying beer and bread took presence.

Walaja aerial SM

Yellow indicates Palestinian village and Blue Israeli settlement/colony

After picking up Meras’ friend, Nadeem, to help with the interview and audio recording, I would finally meet, interview, and photograph Omar Hajhajleh. Meras phoned, after several tries we finally reached him. At first, he told us he’d broken the key (I assumed metal, but learned electronic) and we’d not be able to visit; we might interview and photograph thru the gate. Then, surprising us, he opened the gate, releasing himself from his prison, sat on one of the two car seats, and began a much-practiced monologue about his condition, with questions later from me. We had a relaxed interview, helped partially by Meras and Nadeem (in the car, I’d talked earlier with Nadeem about how he can assist). All 4 of us marveled about the absurdity of Omar’s situation.

Meras photographed and filmed and promised to send me the photos after I’d sent him my email address (which I did; he hasn’t yet.). I could use photos of Omar’s house and fields, if we don’t return (or find them on the internet). I hope to discover a satellite image of the area, pinpointing his isolated house, what remains of Al Walaja, the expanding Har Gilo settlement, and the various fences and walls. (I forgot to photograph the electronic key—except at a distance when he left us.) Leaving us, he entered the tunnel beneath the fence and security road, as if he disappearing into a dark pit

His story from my notes (later to be checked against the audio recording):

  • Father was raised in the original village; he’s now dead, displaced during the Nakba.
  • Father built a new house where Omar has lived since the 1950s, born there?
  • Omar is a farmer with some 40 dunams of land, raises animals, gardens, has olive trees.
  • Once worked construction jobs in Israel but now because of his imprisonment no longer.
  • Israel covets his house and land. They will pay any price and offered him 4 options: sell it for a price he names, rent it out for a price he names, organize a partnership with Israel, and one other I’ve forgotten.
  • Has a wife and 3 sons, 10-16; how do they feel about their imprisoned lives and Omar’s resistance?
  • Sons attend school, meet the bus at the gate, but friends can’t visit and play.
  • Recently punished with 8 days of internal detention (house arrest) because he’d installed a buzzer outside the gate (he shows us) so his kids could beckon their mother after school—now ripped out by Israel.
  • He is much visited by the media.
  • Internationals and old people in the village help him with materials and I suppose farm labor.
  • Can’t be off the premises past 10 pm.
  • Someone always must be in the house to protect it; for, if unoccupied for more than about 60 hours, Israel considers it abandoned and will take possession.
  • Asked why he stays, I think he said because the land and house are mine; I own them; I have a right to live here (i.e., simple justice).
  • The larger context of his personal story is encroachment by the huge Har Gilo settlement and the separation wall. Plus the On Going Nakba, Israel’s conquest of everything for the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Bethlehem map SM.jpg

  • NGO’s help minimally.
  • Friends painted Gaza mural outside the fence; it’s a new type of fence, tall with razor wire, not electronic.
  • Har Gilo and beautiful terraces lie on the other side of the fence—as does freedom and his family’s original home in the now-shrunken Al Walaja.
  • Maps are vital to explaining his story and the overall situation, Al Walaja and beyond, The On-Going Nakba
  • How might I visit the house; can I find it on maps?
  • He asked me to help him travel to the States (for visit, talks, residency?)
  • He tells his story calmly, without exaggeration, unlike many who’ve suffered greatly, and finally have an opportunity to speak their story, and then become so emotional the story’s power diminishes.
  • I felt bonded with him as I commiserated and felt some parallels (minor suffering on my part).
  • I recall visiting Al Walaja at least twice earlier, once with the Palestinian News Network (PNN) to cover a Catholic mass held to protest land confiscation, and another time for a demonstration, both apparently in 2013.

After the interview and portrait session, I asked Meras, how would you like to arrange payment for your help? He said 200 shekels for time and taxi, then when I fiddled with my purse, he said dump it all here (in his hand) for the driver. Which made a grand total of 250 shekels or $70 for about 3 hours work which includes maybe 1h our driving. Let’s say $25/hr which I suppose is reasonable. (I should compare with what I paid last year, suggested by Nidal, always a murky issue. Especially when Palestinians prefer to settle after the work rather than before.)

Now I wonder if we might return, especially to see the house, meet and photograph his family, and whether there are others in Al Walaja with different stories (to avoid repetition). I’d definitely love to find the original house in old Al Walaja, before Omar lived in this current house, and asked Meras about it. He’s not sure where the first house is, whether it still exists, or whether Omar could find it or be allowed to take us there (it is probably now in Israeli).

I’ve begun uploading my more politically sensitive photo sets to the Cloud, such as yesterday’s set from Al Walaja, Sheik Jarrah, Asem, and Jerusalem Day. I don’t expect Israel would block or confiscate these photos, but I prefer to allay my worries. With the speedy internet connection at Casa Nova [the pilgrim guest house in Bethlehem where I temporarily live], I can easily push these photos to the Cloud. In addition, I have them backed up on two external hard drives, one my complete laptop hard drive, the other only photos, audio, and journals. That one I plan to mail home.

Today: with Ayed to various camps, including Beit Jibreen and Dheisheh. Renewing my work and friendship with Ayed should be satisfying. He so wishes to travel with me to destroyed villages. And then on Monday with Fareed to various refugee camps, a full 3 days of work.

Thanks to Meras Al Azza who brought me to this section of Al Walaja and introduced me to Omar; to Nadeem Abu Rasme Fayz Arafat assisting me to interview, translate, and operate the audio recorder; and Nidal Al Azraq who lined up Meras to work with me.

About settlement expansion and corresponding shrinkage of Palestinian land:

Picture this (something I would like to actually do): a time-lapse aerial video of the West Bank since 1967 showing multiple settlement expansions, like mudslides. Roughly, it might be possible from Google Earth imagery which can provide a slider to show earlier views (under “view”).

(Quiz: where does Google Earth take you when you search for “Palestine”? Click here or try yourself to learn.)

 

I think this absurdity [the occupation and siege] is going to lead to a real awakening and people will eventually hang their heads and say, ‘What were we thinking?’ 

—Diane Buttu

LINKS

In photos: al-Walaja village faces “slow death” as Israel takes its land, by Anne Paq (2014)

Seven decades of struggle: how one Palestinian village’s story captures pain of ‘Nakba’ by Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem, and Pablo Gutiérrez (2018)

Welcome To al-Walaja

First Israel Locked This Palestinian Family Out of Its Home. Now It Locked the Gate Connecting Them to Their Village by Nir Hasson (May 2019)

Al-Walajah village explores theater as a form of resistance by Ben Rivers (2012)

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

PHOTOS

MOHAMMED SABAGH

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

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

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This housing complex was once home to 8 Palestinian families.

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

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Sheik_Jarrah-52.jpg

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

First photo set

Then again in 2015

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

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Sheik_Jarrah_1.jpg

Mohammed Sabagh (R) with Shaiya Rothberg

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

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

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

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

Additions about Nabeel from my notes:

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

Sheik Jarrah map 0CHA cop2

Sheik Jarrah map 0CHA copy.jpg

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

LINKS

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

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

Sheikh Jarrah, My Neighbourhood (2013)

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

MORE COMING IN THE SERIES “ON OUR WAY HOME”

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

Special note: World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

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

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

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

PHOTOS

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

Dream notes:

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

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

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

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

meet nabeel and mohammed of sheik jarrah:

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

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

photos enclosed.

IMG_4975.jpg

Nabeel Al-Kurd

IMG_5044.jpg

Mohammed Sabagh

NABEEL AL-KURD

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Sheik_Jarrah-30.jpg

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

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Sheik_Jarrah-37.jpg

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

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

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Sheik_Jarrah-44.jpg

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

LINKS

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

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

My Neighborhood, a movie by Just Vision about Sheik Jarrah

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

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

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

Special note: World Refugee Day, June 20, 2019

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

― James Baldwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patio of American Colony Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

Palestine-Israel-Jerusalem-Muslim_FridayCrushRamadanMVI_4610-20

Outside Damascus Gate, past the crush

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

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

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

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

LINKS

Educational Bookshop

American Colony Hotel

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

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

TO BE CONTINUED

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

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the one who hated, and this is an immutable law…I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

—James Baldwin

PHOTOS (leaving the Old City of Jerusalem after Friday prayer during Ramadan at the Al Aqsa mosque

JERUSALEM-FRIDAY-RAMADAN-CRUSH  (video of same topic)

May 17, 2019, Friday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City, Golden Gate Hostel

Yes, arrived, for what may be my 12th trip here. The only problem at the airport was the long line at passport control. As I waited I observed what may have been visitors blocked from entering who were about to be interrogated. A small room, officious looking young Israeli men, hesitation and nervousness. Am I about to be part of this select group?

No, not one single question, altho I’d prepared: smile and say shalom, let my travelers’ prayer with its Hebrew text wave itself from my breast pocket (I swear the older, bearded officer behind glass noticed it), here to visit friends (list ready, Amos, David, Yony, expecting to visit my American friend with family in Israel, Rebecca), volunteer with an international organization (Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP, not going into details because of possible confusion), and make a slide show for my church community (anticipating why I need a 3 month visa), toda. (thank you)

Well rehearsed (in my head, silently as we landed and as I walked thru the airport), not needed. I reported such to my colleagues back home (short form)—Linda, Rebecca, and Diane (my new cohorts called the chevrah (Hebrew for intimate association, as I understand the word) who replied within hours, and daughters and Susan R—earlier that I’d arrived, SF later and a few others who might care.

The fact is, I am now here for another 2 months’ duty.

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Lobby and porch of the Golden Gate Hostel, Old City Jerusalem, photo courtesy of Golden Gate Hostel

First things first: settle into the Golden Gate hostel and my bed for a short fitful nap, eager to begin scouting; find money (near St George’s, where I found a cash machine on my first trip here in 2003, aided this time by Mo, the café owner who directed me to a line up of ATM’s [cash machines] in the lobby of a continually open bank, reliable source of cash, drink a beer in the day during Ramadan, and chat about his 19 year stay in Los Angeles, returning to aid his ailing, now dead mother, ailing, not yet dead father, a recovering alcoholic, good photographer, reluctantly tried to replicate my cork trick when I challenged him); buy and install a new SIM card with data, and drop by the Educational Bookshop (and meet the young brother of the owners, Ahmad, who might be poised to invite me to a family Iftar [evening meal to end the day’s fast], and drink a fine iced coffee (where else in East Jerusalem could I find even a tolerable iced coffee?); enjoy stretching my legs after sitting compressed for some 14 hours in two planes to get here; not appreciating the sudden heat, thankful it is dry (after so much cold and wet weather at home); and finally, home in the Golden Gate hostel, eat a chicken shuwarma and those delicious, locally baked, miniature chocolate croissants, on top of the Taybeh beer and iced coffee.

Getting from the airport to Jerusalem was a major challenge. Long wait for the sherut [shared van] to depart (needs to fill up its 10 seats), long ride because I and the Palestinian woman were dropped last (at Damascus Gate), even tho we seemed to have passed near it on our way to Jewish Israeli places. (Consider another drop place for the next visit, maybe a light rail station.) The plane landed around 10:20 AM, thru security by 11:30, sherut departed the airport around 1 pm, landed in the hostel in the Old City around 2:30. Which makes about 5 hours airport landing to hostel landing, or about half the time the plane needed to fly from Toronto, Canada to Tel Aviv, Israel.

But: I am here. Healthy, happy, eager to begin again. Nothing stolen, nothing that I’ve noticed forgotten. (Later I discovered I’d forgotten my meds, for diarrhea, flu, etc.)

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On the bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem

What am I worried about? Pesky insomnia (none last night), possible return of urinary bleeding, worsening arthritis, too few contacts for my project, getting to Jaffa for tomorrow’s Nakba day event, making good photos, efficiently running my audio recorder, climate crisis, family ties, consequences of the Trump-Netanyahu era. What am I not worried about? SF, money, making good photos, my purpose in life, dying too soon before I’m finished, outlasting the negative powers in the universe.

May 18, 2019, Saturday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City, Golden Gates Hostel

The story of my tooth: because it was Friday evening of Ramadan (runs from May 5-June 4), the Golden Gate porch filled up with people, who grabbed all the space. In the chaos of moving my gear and self I chomped on something hard, hoping it was merely a small seed and not a vital part of my being. Wrong, apparently it was a part of my upper right premolar. As I tried to assess the damage, feeling with my tongue and finger—I’d been eating bread dipped in hummus, hardly teeth-wrecking food—Sinaan (pronounced sEEnaan) tried to arrange two chairs for me so I could remain on the porch with my computer. But someone quickly snagged the chairs. Trying desperately to avoid obsessing about my tooth, I decided to give up the outdoor space and move inside to write. Four young men had commandeered all the tables and chairs. (This is typical for the Friday evening break-the-day-long fast.) I reluctantly sat in a stuffed chair I was sure they’d not acquire, after thinking more about my tooth, maybe examining it in a mirror. I struggled to move beyond my tooth.

So I wrote SF. Earlier I’d posted my first photo set to my site but hadn’t announced it. So, in my email to SF, I sent her the link.

Next morning [May 18, 2019] I write sitting alone on the porch, the world relatively quiet, many still sleeping (day after holy Friday), sun enough to strike me hard on the back of my head, relatively serene, and, despite my tooth, happy enough to go on living. OK, a few flies buzz me and slurp up the remains of my meager breakfast (yogurt and banana, notably soft) but I persist. Despite it all, he persisted.

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Asem and Karim, sons of Inas Margieh, Shuafat, Palestine, near Jerusalem

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The photographer, photo by Kareem

LINKS

Palestinians need a state, not a ‘business plan’ by Sam Bahour (May 20, 2019)

Danger: Peace Combatants (May 3, 2019)

Humanitarian snapshot: Casualties in the context of demonstrations and hostilities in Gaza | 30 Mar 2018 – 30 Apr 2019 (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

My Father Dreamed of Returning to His Palestinian Village. When He Did, It Became His Prison, by Leila Farsakh (May 24, 2019)

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in transition with the resignation of Rebecca Vilkomerson after 10 years of highly successful movement building (May 23, 2019)

Jewish Voice for Peace updates (May 23, 2019)


TO BE CONTINUED

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

A day or so after entry I wrote a few friends and family:

Dearest friends and family,

I write you happily from the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. At airport security, possibly because of the huge tourist influx, many drawn by the upcoming Jewish high holidays, I passed thru passport control with no questions, no suspicious looks, no requests to stand interrogation, no need for my various stories and contacts, no smiles, no welcomes, no shalom’s, just a simple handing back my passport with the treasured three-month visa. That three month period would get me past my December birthday, in case I wanted to celebrate it here.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

I’ve met a portion of my AVP team members (Alternatives to Violence Project), we expect to visit the kotel or western or wailing wall this evening, and tomorrow head to Bethlehem to set up trainings, and then to Hebron. We do not yet have our Gaza permit, but I at least remain hopeful. 

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AVP team, Rebecca Hecht, Joe DiGarbo, Steve Alderfer

On the airplane, Lufthansa, Boston to Munich to Tel Aviv, I made a slew of iPhone photos, my first ever with such a handy device, over the once warring Balkan region, and then over the even earlier warring Italian-Greek peninsula, site of the origins of so much we value in western civilization. Odd, thought I, that I’m flying on a German plane, stopping over in the fire-bombed Munich which also was the site of violence toward Israel by the Palestinian liberation organization (PLO), into Israel, with that history very current in my thinking and experience.

FLIGHT PHOTOS

Earlier today I met with owners of Educational Bookseller in Jerusalem, an exemplary approach to draw attention to life in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Mahmoud, one of the brothers, filled me in on details of the reality, especially the lethally faulty Palestinian Authority, notably with no authority. He told me various ministries had been created in anticipation of a state. Now a separate state seems a vanishing prospect so the ministries have absolutely nothing to do. A waste of money and personnel. Vast structures in the stratosphere suspended without foundations. 

Weather is fine here in Jerusalem, windy, dry, cool. Most everything else needs some work.

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Israeli settlement/colony in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City

Thanks so much for your concern for the issues I’m working on, including internally displaced Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the west bank, and their ancestral homelands now in Israel, and in my well-being. You all are what make a major part of my life possible.

Alternatives to Violence Project

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.

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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.

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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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