Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘palestine’

From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

(Thanks to Ayed Al Azza)

That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination might well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given to them.

—Hannah Arendt

PHOTOS

Note: there are alternative spellings for most Arab words, eg, Jibreen = Jibrin = Guvrin; Al Azza = AlAzza = Al-Azza, Bayt = Beit (means literally a house, but more broadly a place, a village or town); etc.

From my journals of June 10 and 11, 2019:

After my recent series of interviews and portrait sessions I realize, as expected, the stories tend to be repetitive, except of course for the locations of the destroyed original villages. Most villages were primarily agricultural; people reported they led pleasant and safe lives (few spoke about encroaching Jews). The Nakba in many cases occurred during Ramadan in early summer; some people were about to harvest corn but needed to flee—the unleavened bread story from Jewish scripture. Most had good relations with neighboring Jews, and all were forcibly expelled with little help from other Arabs or the international community. Some expressed fierce anathema toward some Arab countries, including Egypt which Issa told us had soldiers stationed nearby but the soldiers had done virtually nothing to help.

The stories blend together. I believe I can remember and concentrate much better when I meet no more than 3 people each day, with gaps between. Ideally, 1 each day but logistically this would stretch out my work too far. When I write my speaker notes as I try to do daily, I anticipate much confusion. The audio recordings will help, as will the photos. Today [June 11, 2019] I intend to make a second directory like the one I made last year, send it to my Palestinian colleagues, Ayed and Fareed, to get names and villages straight. Then sketch the stories, and later use the recordings.

Today [June 10, 2019] to Deheshe and Azza refugee camps in Bethlehem (Azza now renamed by UNRWA Beit Jibreen after the area most residents come from). For this project my first time in both camps (I’ve visited both on earlier trips). Interviewing and photographing the first couple, Issa Younis Al Azza, aka Abu Ahmed and his wife, Aisha, 10 years younger, led to interviewing their son, Ahmed, and then his wife, Shahrazad (just getting all the unusual and some times repeated names straight is itself a major challenge—Ayed is invaluable). Then with the second couple, using English, a long, well informed, impassioned, congenial conversation (all in English), joined by their son, Ahmed, the grandson of Issa and Aisha, about their situation and the USA role in it. All recorded, how much to use is a question. This type of intense conversation may be a first for me in this project.

When expelled from the same village, Issa was 19, Aisha, his wife, 9. He’s now 91 and she 80. Their age difference is apparent. I noticed it immediately.

Their village, Beit Jibreen, is southwest of Hebron about 43 km/26.7 miles. (walking time via Googe Maps to Bethlehem is about 9 hours, an altitude change of 650 meters/2,100 feet. Imagine walking this distance in 1948 with whatever clothes, food, etc one could carry; vehicles were sometimes available.) In fall 2018, I’d visited the village, now replete with archeological details, designed by Israel to be a tourist site. While living there, Arab people understood the site was rich in history, deep history, dating back at least to Greek and Roman times. They understood people had inhabited the region over millennia. (After the Nakba, Israel excavated more of the area; shockingly, but not surprisingly, there is no mention of Arab times.) While in the early part of the 20th century, when Issa and Aisha lived there and for centuries earlier during Arab times, Christian brothers lived in the Crusader church. Many people have interviewed the couple; at least locally, i.e. in the West Bank, their story is well known.

Jibreen-Guvrin SM

Beit Jibreen (press here to enlarge)

Map Beit Jibrin

One walking route to Bethlehem

Relations with neighboring Jews were good. But during the Nakba, Jewish militia shelled the Egyptian outpost there, and the Egyptian soldiers fled during a full moon night. Soon after the expulsion, Issa snuck back into the village to retrieve belongings and harvest, and Jews shot at him.

Palestine-Israel-refugees-Azza_camp-_DSC2440

Video of Aisha Al Azza at Beit Jibreen interviewed on Jordanian TV

Equally valuable during this interview I spoke with their son, Ahmed Al Azza, a retired teacher, and his wife, Shahrazad. Together they founded a kindergarten in the camp. They need to raise money to continue its operation. With Ayed’s help, we discussed the possibility of crowdfunding. They showed me on a smartphone a video of a Jordanian TV interview with Aisha, Ahmed’s mother, when she returned to Beit Jibreen. Recounting her experience as a young girl before Nakba, she looked visibly pained. (I’ve not been able to find the video on the Internet.) They confided to Ayed and me that earlier when Ayed had approached the elders about my visit, Aisha had expressed suspicion, I’m not sure why. I’ve heard from other sources that some interviews can either distort the message or lead to troubles with the authorities.

Ahmed (the son), a championship chess player (he showed me many trophies), brought Ayed and me to the top floor. As is true in all the camps, residents build up because of restrictions by Israel and presumably UNRWA which administers aspects of the camps. Aided by his sons, one in particular, another Ahmed, Issa and Aisha’s grandson, the family saves money and when enough accumulates they add another room or level.

Ahmed brought us to the local cemetery and on the way showed us a community building erected for social gatherings for people from Beit Jibreen.

In another video we watched, Issa at the destroyed village, he wept. Later he told us he wished to be buried in Beit Jibreen. I asked if that would be allowed. No answer. Which raises a question about how neighboring Israelis will treat the gravesites. Do the dead and dying have the right of return?

Palestine-Israel-refugees-Azza_camp-_DSC2360

Azza refugee camp

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 8.58.29 PM.png

MAP-Expropriated land by JNF.jpg

JNF = Jewish National Fund

LINKS

Bayt Jibrin by All That Remains

Zochrot about Bayt Jibrin

Blind Spot at a Heritage Site, by (de) colonizer (2015)
A research and art laboratory for social change, working to challenge the colonialist nature of the Israeli regime. To learn more please visit www.de-colonizer.org.

Mapping what’s been lost, by  (

Archival photographs—David Staniunas

Tour Beit Guvrin (nothing mentioned about Arab habitation)

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. My dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

PHOTOS

Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.

—Edward Said

MAJOR THEMES EXPRESSED BY THE REFUGEES

·      Their original lands were idyllic, owned by their families for many generations.
·      Growing grains and produce, shepherding animals, the people were self-sufficient.
·      Jews often lived nearby with a wide variety of relationships— trade and mutual help, avoidance and conflict as well.
·      During the Nakba, some local Jews attacked their neighboring Arabs, betraying them.
·      Militias, Jewish and Arab, fought.
·      There were massacres.
·      Many wish to be buried in their original homelands, possibly not aware of how the graves would be treated, if even allowed.
·      Grief continues, as do stories passed thru the generations.
·      Some claim their grief exacerbates their health.
·      Many second and third-generation refugees remain angry and are often politically active.
·      A few understand that Jews were dominant because of superior organization, leadership, weapons, strategy, international support (especially British), and motivation.

WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH THE PHOTOS I’VE MADE?

Mainly small exhibits or presentations at places like New England Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Vermont (August 2019), Social Documentary Network (July 2019), Whitelight (a photographers’ group, 2018 and upcoming), events hosted at Friends Meeting at Cambridge, various small gatherings with friends, and my website and blog. Upcoming are more opportunities like this, many to gain feedback and provide others a small sense of what I’m doing.

IMG_6608.jpg

New England Yearly Meeting Sessions (Quaker), Castleton Vermont, August 2019

 

FUNDING

The cost so far for the two trips, fall 2018 and spring 2019, is less than $11,000. Major expenses have been airfare, housing and transport in the region, payment to collaborators, food, and car rental. Major funding has been savings, private donations, and crowdfunding (Go Fund Me). I anticipate further expenses for my upcoming third trip and for the postproduction I’m doing now, approximately $5,000.

I welcome donations.

WHAT IS MY MAJOR CURRENT PROBLEM?

At home to avoid what I call “The Quotidian Seduction”—everyday tasks such as laundry, shopping, cooking, sleeping, gardening, health care, bike trips, family, friends, Quakers, political work, communities, other photographic assignments, earning money, and all sorts of other distractions, needed for balance, ruinous to missions—I have decided to construct two types of work retreats, one at an ecumenical non-violence center in central Massachusetts, the Agape Community, the other at home. At Agape I will retreat for two two-week periods, joining in their work and prayer life as appropriate. At home, I dedicate the first 3 days of each week to my project. One week into my new routine and I claim success. After being home for the second half of summer I’ve finally returned to my project.

YET TO DO

·      Most importantly, work with the photo, video, and audio files I’ve made during my first two trips, which means select, edit, transform, and use.
·      Maintain my website and blog.
·      Develop exhibits and slideshows.
·      Confirm the locations of sites I’ve already photographed.
·      Interview and photograph people in the New England area.
·      Do more research.
·      Raise more money.
·      Find a sponsoring organization.
·      Find colleagues.
·      Gain access to Gaza.
·      Return for two months in winter 2020 to find people from key villages like Lifta and Deir Yassin.
·      Locate and confirm sites I’ve so far failed to find.
·      Begin assessment of multi-platform books.

 

GOALS AND PURPOSE 

A multi-platform book, pages of photographs with some text written by me and others, linking via the internet with my videos, audio recordings, and supplementary information including maps. As far as I know, this is the first project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees using primarily photography. By presenting powerful and contrasting images of life in the current and original sites of internally expelled Palestinian refugees, I hope to build awareness and inspire action. Early step: the right of return for Palestinians. The end result: beyond coexistence to a breath-taking sharing of the region, its resources, histories, luminaries, and potential. Freedom, self-determination. equal rights. A truly Holy, Just, and Peaceful Land.

WHAT MOTIVATES ME?

I’ve blogged (in 4 parts) extensively about my motivations, but a new thought is the following from my journal of July 23, 2019:

I recently realized that native Indians and what I wasn’t able to do to help them historically is part of why I’m able to do what I can do now. I had not yet been born during the last phase of so-called American-Indian Wars, that period of roughly 1840 to 1900, climaxing with the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890—fifty years before my birth. I was 8 when the Nakba occurred, and probably in my 60s when I learned about it, and then precisely 77 when I decided to begin my current project. Time and timing matter. Because of an accident of my birth (I could do nothing about Indians then), and because of this same accident, I can do something about Palestinian refugees now—and shall. Often too late, rarely too early, occasionally on time. Time is elastic.

Israel fears the ghosts of its dark and violent origins. Palestinians are those living ghosts. Listen to what they have to say.

— Amjad Iraqi, writing about Israel sealing documents that record the atrocities of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe in 1948 that enabled the creation of Israel

LINKS

Arab Villages, Bulldozed From Our Memory, by Gideon Levy (2012)

Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance remains a mystery, by Guy Nardi (2017)

The Mamilla Cemetery; A Buried History, by Asem Khalidi (2009)

Ahmed Abu Artema (the visionary leader) on the Palestinian Great March of Return, by Esty Dinur (April 2019)

Let Them Eat Cake: a Journey into Edward Said’s Humanism, by Ted Steinberg (2019)

Trial booklet from Schiel’s first season

GoFundMe appeal for Skip Schiel refugee project

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. My dispatches based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

PHOTOS

We must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be.

—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

(Captions indicate name-current home-ancestral village)

WHERE AND WHEN?

Since one year ago exactly, September 3, 2018, I have traveled, lived, and worked in Palestine-Israel on my refugee photographic project for 4 months. Initially, I titled it “On Our Way Home,” referring to the Great March of Return in Gaza that was one of my motivations for this project, but, after meeting people who seemed securely situated but were universally fearful of further expulsion, I retitled it, “The Ongoing Nakba.” I have met no Palestinians living in Palestine who feel safe from forced removal by the Israelis.

WHAT IS THE NAKBA?

In 1948, Israel expelled some 750,000 indigenous Arabs to clear the land for Jewish settlement, leading to the foundation of the state of Israel. Thus the Nakba (in Arabic), or Catastrophe. Some 5 million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and Gaza—the “internally expelled.” And, with few exceptions, they are not permitted to return to any of their original 400 villages and towns, even for short visits. With help from many others, I meet the refugees, now often living in refugee camps in Palestine, interview and photograph them, return to their ancestral homes (now in Israel) to photograph. I include photos of where and how they live currently in internal diaspora to contrast with their earlier, often pastoral lives, in destroyed villages—in contrast also to how Israelis are privileged to live. Eventually, I’ll add archival photos of their regions before the expulsion.

ACHIEVEMENTS

On my first trip for this project, September and October 2018—my overarching project began in October 2003, in part inspired by the martyrdom of Rachel Corrie that spring—I photographed 14 Palestinians, mostly first-generation refugees (expelled during the Nakba); 4 were second and third-generation refugees. I also located all the destroyed villages they’d lived in, 8 of them, an arduous process because of deliberate disappearance and displacement by Israeli communities and parks, and because of their new names—the process of Judaization.

On my second and most recent trip, mid-May thru mid-July 2019, I interviewed and made portraits of 24 more Palestinians forcibly removed or threatened with removal, all but 4 first generation. In addition, I plan to photograph another 10 or so Palestinians living in New England who I know personally and who come from Nakba-suffering origins. I will also photograph where and how they live currently, as well as their destroyed villages.

Of the second group’s 15 destroyed Arab villages, I found about half, mostly along the Mediterranean coast. Many sites are now major Israeli cities and towns like Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle and Lydda, virtually completely erasing their Arab history. A few are parks where I’ve discovered remnants like rubble, cacti, and rock walls. I’ve not seen any markers on either trip indicating prior Arab habitation.

DIRECTORIES

Directory of names and places from the first trip

Directory from the second trip

DISAPPOINTMENTS AND FAILURES

So these are achievements. Disappointments and failures fall into 2 categories: finding people to photograph and locating their original villages. For the first 3 weeks of my recent 8-week trip, I found no one and suspected this might be true for the remaining 5 weeks. No one to photograph for this project. I can’t simply hike into a refugee camp, announce myself, ask for volunteers, and photograph. I need contacts, intermediaries, people trustable to those I need to photograph. And I need to trust the intermediaries. During my second week when I was most desperate, I met a local man in Ramallah who offered to help me. I was suspicious, asked about him, learned he was unreliable, and decided not to hire him.

The second category, the villages themselves (for my second trip), are mostly buried by urban development. Little remains. For instance, Tel Aviv, the major Israeli city, lies atop at least 8 villages. In Jerusalem, the Nakba forced all Arabs living in what is now called West Jerusalem, now all Jewish Israeli, out entirely of Jerusalem or into East Jerusalem (which I call the Palestinian sector of Jerusalem). Ironically the new Museum of Tolerance builds atop some of the historic Arab cemetery in downtown Jerusalem. Earlier, Israel built Independence Park atop a portion of the cemetery, governmental buildings including the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry, and several roads.

Consider the United States, New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, most cities. What do they erase? How many Indian sites lie beneath these metropolises?

COLLEAGUES

I desperately need a professional fixer or colleague who I’d hire to travel with me in Israel. Someone who knows where these villages are—and where in the village sites are the remains like cemeteries, mosques, other buildings, wells, cisterns, cacti, rock walls, rock debris, and remnants of buildings, the usual telltale signs I search for.

I’ve been graced with several excellent Palestinian colleagues, Nidal Al Azraq, Fareed Taamallah, Ayed Al Azeh, Musa Al Azeh, Murad Abusrour, Eman Wawi, Amos Gvirtz, David Nir, Sahar, Meras Al Azza, Linda Dittmar, and a few others. But two organizations, natural fits with my project, BADIL, and Zochrot, have failed to fully respond to my inquiries for assistance. (I mention this mainly because I believe it is a major factor impeding progress in activist circles generally). BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and Zochrot (Remember in Hebrew), ­­an Israeli NGO that, among other tasks, leads tours to destroyed Arab villages, have for various understandable reasons been disappointments. They failed to fulfill their promises in the first case or didn’t fully respond to my phone and email requests in the second. Likewise with individuals who might have helped with the project—no response. Sure: general busyness, a crisis within the organization, or people not knowing or trusting me could all help explain the silence. That Deep Dark Pit that good intentions often disappear into.

FareedSkipDrive7676.JPG

Fareed Taamallah (R) with Skip Schiel, on the road, June 30, 2019 (photo by Fareed Taamallah)

LINKS

Uncovering the Lost Palestinian Villages Underneath Glitzy Tel Aviv, by Mira Sucharov (2016)

(DE) COLONIZER—research/art laboratory for social change

A new guidebook “Omrim Yeshna Eretz” (Once Upon a Land) published by Zochrot and Pardes Publishing). It is a bilingual tour guide, in Hebrew and Arabic, to what is left and—mainly— what was erased, almost without a trace.

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

From my journal and letters about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. My dispatches based on my work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

PHOTOS

Civil disobedience . . . is not our problem. . . . Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government. . . . Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.

—Howard Zinn

Jenin checkpoints.png

Northern West Bank, courtesy B’Tselem (click image to enlarge)

Dark brown = Area A (under complete Palestinian control); light brown = Area B (under Palestinian civil control, Israeli military control); blue = Area C (under total Israeli control)—when in reality Israel controls all of the West Bank, including sections nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Without clear info anywhere—online or in-person—I wasn’t sure as I was stuck in traffic whether the checkpoint would be open or closed (various views), and if open I could pass, with my car or without (no online info even tho B’tselem* has a list of the checkpoints). Arriving at what I think the border police said (they seemed unsure of the name) was the Balaam or Belem** checkpoint, parking my car (the gate was formidably closed), at first I saw no one.

I called out hello, and a drowsy-looking male border agent or policeman or soldier (I’m not sure who guards checkpoints, which member of the vast Israeli security complex) slowly came out of the small container, tucking his shirt in, clasping his belt, and asked who are you? I’m Skip Schiel from the United States. What do you want? Entrance to Jenin. Why? To visit a friend. Show me your id. You mean my passport? Yes. What do you do? Photography. By now a female agent had joined us. She adamantly said you can’t come in. Why not? Not allowed. You can’t come in here. How am I supposed to get into Jenin? I don’t know. Are there other checkpoints I could use? I don’t know. Call your Jenin friend.

CheckpointJenin_5911-Edit.jpg

Salem checkpoint with the West Bank north of Jenin in the background

I phoned Mouwia and eventually engaged him and the two Israelis in some sort of conversation that I couldn’t follow.

Go! Now! she said, with strong conviction. By this point, both had put on their bulletproof vests, backpacks, and had their machine guns prominently displayed across their chests—as if to add credibility to their commands. No helmets; I wasn’t much of a threat. What had they been doing before I arrived at this lazy border crossing? I pondered to myself.

As I went to my car parked about 100 ft from them and the closed gate, I noticed two men easily walk thru the checkpoint. So I returned to the police, asked again, hey, why can they go thru and not me? They live there, you don’t. I then unleashed the mighty fury of my full credential: Say, I’m a citizen of the United States of America, I pay taxes, I vote. I help pay for Israel, perhaps your salaries (Not quite accurate since I’m a tax refuser.). He said, as if to counter my argument, I pay taxes too. Then me, my country gives your country 3.8 billion dollars annually. Implying maybe I’d make some sort of complaint back home. This didn’t move them.

In retrospect, I believe they simply wished to harass me. Why otherwise the early questions about who am I and why do I wish to enter Jenin? Did they notice my bracelet with the Palestinian national colors?

Conversing with Mouwia later (luckily I had data coverage, close enough to an Israel settlement in the West Bank to provide this), after consulting with others (I sensed that Mouwia rarely leaves Jenin or works with people, guests of the Freedom Theater, who need travel info.), he directed me to another checkpoint, the Jeremy checkpoint*** I believe he called it, from the Israeli town of Afula south. Comparatively, this was a breeze—going in. Coming out, if I use the Jeremy checkpoint again, it might be much different. This time, being rush hour, not only was road traffic generally heavy, but the checkpoint was crowded with Palestinian workers returning home. I watched as long lines of mostly men entered; cars jockeyed for passage. For me entering the West Bank, one cursory stop, then the traffic, and I was headed for Jenin. Glory be! My next task would be finding the refugee camp and the Freedom Theater and Mouwia himself.

CheckpointJenin_5915.jpg

Jalameh/Mqeibleh checkpoint

*B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

** Later, using the map from B’Tselem I learned from the organization the correct name of this checkpoint is Salem. Quoting B’Tselem:

A crossing point in the Separation Barrier. Serves as the entrance to the Israeli DCO (District Coordination Office) at Salem, where there is a military court, the Land Registry Office, and a small police station. Staffed only during daytime by the military and Border Police. Subject to inspection, Palestinians may enter the DCO. During the olive-harvest season and subject to coordination with the DCO, Palestinian residents of the village of Zabuba are allowed to cross the checkpoint to reach their lands.

*** Also later I learned the correct name is Jalameh/Mqeibleh. Again quoting B’Tselem:

A crossing point in the Separation Barrier. Staffed around the clock by the military and private security companies. The checkpoint has an extensive infrastructure, similar to a terminal. Closed to Palestinians, except for East Jerusalem residents and Palestinians with entry permits into Israel. They are permitted to cross only on foot. Closed also to Israelis, with the exception of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. Also used for transporting goods between the West Bank and Israel using the “back-to-back” method. The checkpoint opens at 5:00 A.M. to allow Palestinians working in Israel to enter; then, from 8:00 A.M., vehicles may cross from Israel to Jenin. The checkpoint is closed between 12:00 P.M. to 1:00 P.M. From 2:00 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. no one may cross into Israel. From 5:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. people can cross from Israel into Jenin, and Palestinian citizens of Israel can return from Jenin to Israel. During Muslim holidays, restrictions are eased and hours of operation extended, but not consistently.

LINKS

Machsom (checkpoint) Watch, an Israeli women’s organization monitoring checkpoints

Two videos from B’Tselem showing ordinary life in Palestine, the first near the first checkpoint I write about and the second a sniper action in a refugee camp south of Hebron.

 

Read Full Post »

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

Israel fears the ghosts of its dark and violent origins. Palestinians are those living ghosts. Listen to what they have to say.

— Amjad Iraqi, writing about Israel sealing documents that record the atrocities of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe in 1948 that enabled the creation of Israel

Winding down after a fruitful and frustrating 2 months in the Never Neverland of the Holy. Free for some, prison for others. Split down the middle, half Jewish Israelis, half Palestinians. Don’t take sides, some advisors tell me, but not my primary Quaker mentor, old John Woolman. I doubt he’d ever advise that. I side with the ever-present John.

Thanks to many supporters I’ve been able to complete another phase of my photographic mission about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank.

Here’s one recent highlight as I searched for the destroyed Arab villages where the refugees I’ve been interviewing and photographing lived before the expulsion of the Nakba.

In the West Bank city of Jenin, for one week I stayed in the refugee camp (with a violent history, especially during the Second Intifada in 2002, Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield), based at the Freedom Theater, hoping Mouwia, my local coordinator (fixer is the professional term: finds people to interview and photograph, fixes a date and place, introduces me, translates, and helps interview) can find me a few more people to meet. Partly because of confusion between us about whether first generation only, or second and third, and because first-generation people are old and often in poor health, we’ve had a slow go finding people. Plus the theater’s Wi-Fi sucks, days are hot, and I’m frustrated. At our first photographic session the man’s son and grandson joined the crowd.

Jenin_6004

Jenin

After Jenin, using a rental car, maps, and general info, I attempted to locate the original villages. I found about half of the 12 or so on my list. Many are now major Israeli cities and towns like Tel Aviv, Ramle and Lydda, completely erasing their Arab history. A few are parks where I’ve discovered remnants like cacti and rock walls. I may return next fall. I desperately need a professional fixer who I’d hire to travel with me. Someone who knows where these villages are—and where in the village sites are remains like cemeteries, mosques, other buildings, wells, cisterns. cacti, rock walls, rock debris, and remnants of buildings, the usual telltale signs I search for.

On the plus side: Haifa, a gorgeous coastal mixed city (Israelis and Palestinians) where I stayed in a lovely guesthouse in the German Colony (interviewing the owner, Andrew Haddad, a Palestinian with a rich expulsion history); the sites of Ein Hod (now an Israeli artist colony) and its neighbor, Ein Hawd (where the Palestinian residents of Ein Hod fled when kicked out during the Nakba); and finally reaching Jenin and the theater after an arduous route thru the checkpoints and into a very crowded, busy, noisy, congested, large Palestinian city. With excellent shuwarma and fresh-squeezed fruit drinks.

Haifa_5800

Haifa

One major negative factor has been connecting with potential allies. For instance (I mention this mainly because I believe it is a major factor impeding progress in activist circles generally), two strong and natural potential allies for my project are BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. And Zochrot (remember in Hebrew), ­­an Israeli NGO that, among other tasks, leads tours to destroyed Arab villages. For various understandable reasons, these organizations didn’t fulfill their promises in the first case or didn’t respond to my phone and email requests in the second. Likewise with individuals who might have helped with the project—no response. Sure: general busyness, a crisis within the organization, or people not knowing or trusting me could all help explain the silence. That Deep Dark Pit that good intentions often disappear into.

In contrast I’ll mention several crucial allies: Fareed Taamallah, a farmer activist with contacts thruout the West Bank; Ayed Azzeh, resident of the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem who introduced me to refugees in several camps; Nidal Al Azraq, cofounder of the organization 1for3 who helped me significantly; and Amos Gvirtz who brought me to the Al Araqib Bedouin vigil and village and introduced me to one of the leaders, Aziz; plus a few others. Without them I would not be able to create this project.

Then there’s the climate: slowly warming and drying out. Despite drip irrigation, desalination, and illegal theft of water. A recent prediction claims that by 2100 this region’s summers will be 2 months longer. Maybe that would offer a resolution of the conflict: uninhabitability. A vacant land, at last as it once was before human beings were born south of here.

If interested in reading my personal story about a Jenin checkpoint encounter, as a sampler of life in the occupied territories, please write me thru this blog’s comment section.

LINKS

Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs, Hagar Shezaf (Haaretz, July 05, 2019—may be behind the paywall)

The Nakba Documents, a proposed movie by Benny Brunner about hiding the Nakba documents. He needs initial funding. The Nakba Documents (Boston) for more info.

Israel Saw Significant Rise in Temperature in Recent Decades, Study Shows, by Zafrir Rinat (Haaretz, June 25, 2019)

Censored Voices by Mor Loushy (2015) about experiences of Israeli soldiers during the Six Day War, which includes references to Palestinian refugees (similar to what happened 19 years earlier during the Nakba)

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

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.

GoldenGateHostelLobbySM

GoldenGateHostelPorchSM

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.)

IMG_4682

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.

IMG_4736

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

IMG_4742

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

Read Full Post »

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.


I saw myself, sharply, as a wanderer, an adventurer, rocking through the world, unanchored.

—James Baldwin

May 14, 2019, Tuesday, Cambridge, MA

Palestine-Israel-refugee_IMG_4537.jpg

Over Boston, around noon

PHOTOS (sky views)

The count down is nearly finished. I leave tomorrow [May 15, 2019]—inshallah, no bleeding, no heart attack, no trip cancellation, no one pulling out at the last moment, not missing my flight because I’d read my ticket wrong. Tomorrow around this time I will do my final packing, await Susan R, drive to the airport with her, check in, go thru security, and finally board, inshallah. At the other end, about 12 hours later, inshallah, I hope to glide thru—as if on ice skates—passport control and head for Jerusalem and my first 4 days and nights in the Old City, interspersed with the Nakba Day commemoration in Jaffa. Oh, if only, I pray.

My equipment seems happy to once again be on the road, making what I hope are exquisite photos. I trained myself further with the Tascam audio recorder, hoping not to be such a klutz in front of people as during last year’s trip. I cleaned lenses, the equivalent of oiling gears. I imagined where and what I’d be photographing and chose settings. I even reset the date for the local time. I calculated my need for pills and organized them, biking over to the hospital for a finasteride refill and Inman Pharmacy to refill my pravastatin. I made doubly certain I had sufficient magic pep pills to survive, Today I lay out all my gear on my bed (which I might have done in the past on Jim’s bed when he was away and I was traveling), sort it out, decide what can remain here, and pack it. So tomorrow morning I will be ready and not frantic to depart 9 Sacramento Street [my home].

Nidal has not come thru, despite his promises and intimations, maybe later. Zochrot writes they are blazingly busy, especially with their Nakba Day in Jaffa, maybe later. Sahar V is in touch, reliably. I have a place to stay and AVP [Alternatives to Violence Project] to work with later, but otherwise, not much is set up. I am a wanderer, eventually into oblivion. Happy as is possible, improvising.

Yesterday morning broke with some sun, finally. Today, I told myself, probably my last chance to plant my 18 tomato plants. So a little after noon I planted, the ground dried enough for this earthly work, soon to be once again soaked by relentless rains, not heavy luckily, not causing problems, but consistently wet, dark, and cool. I’d strolled earlier, soaking up the short-lived sun, bidding goodbye to my beloved neighborhood.

To SF, a close friend:

yes, indeed, s, i arrived safely yesterday morning (middle of the night your time), passed easily thru airport security (no questions asked when i applied for a visa, not even “purpose of your visit?”), settled in one of my homes away from home, the golden gate hostel in the muslim quarter of jerusalem’s old city, and began my work. today i conferred with one of the owners of the internationally acclaimed educational bookshop in east jerusalem (in the palestinian section of jerusalem) about my refugee project. he, mahmoud muna, provided numerous leads, something i need desperately. 

it’s hot here, but dry, and this is the first week of ramadan, which means many sleepy people awaiting the evening iftar dinner. today, coming back from the bookshop, i found myself jammed by thousands of palestinians returning from early afternoon prayer at the al aqsa mosque on what the jewish israelis call the temple mount, palestinians the al haram ash sharif (the noble sanctuary), in any case the supposed site of the two temples and the actual site of the dome of the rock. jammed, barely able to move, i found refuge in a small space set aside as a garden (without plants). there i sat for about one hour, reading news on my phone and the new yorker until the crowd cleared.

as you know well, such travel is taxing, with few certainties. for instance, getting to jaffa tomorrow for a nakba commemoration. it’s shabbat so the israeli buses and trains don’t run. i learned there might be palestinian shuttles but because of today being muslim prayer day, i couldn’t find the shuttles [because the israelis had cordoned off some areas for crowd control, notably the shuttle stop]. the hostel has a lovely porch which cools suddenly with sunset but tonight, being the evening of the muslim holy day, it was crowded with guests and neighbors. no place for me to set up my computer. then in all the tumult i cracked a tooth. dang!

so tomorrow i search for a dentist (or decide to do nothing until i return home), hoping this tooth is repairable—but it could mean eventually another crown. i also hold out some hope for a shuttle to jaffa.

aside from the uncertainties, i am fine. and hope you are as well.

flight photos

Palestine-Israel-refugee_IMG_4545.jpg

Over the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 4 hours later

 

Palestine-Israel-refugee_IMG_4582.jpg

Over the Mediterranean Sea, sunrise, near the end of a 14-hour journey, Boston to Tel Aviv, via Toronto Canada

 

LINKS

Madonna sparks flag controversy at ‘non-political’ Eurovision (in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2019)

TO BE CONTINUED

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »