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Posts Tagged ‘palestine’

From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field, as I photograph internally displaced Palestinian refugees in Gaza (once I can enter) and the West Bank, plus their ancestral lands.

PHOTOS

October 4, 2018, Thursday, Bethlehem, Aida refugee camp

With Mousa’s help (my arranger and translator), yesterday [October 3, 2018] I photographed Fatima Al Khawaja from the destroyed village of Ajjur. For the first time in this series 4 generations showed up: Fatima who is about 102, her son, his son, and the grandson’s 2 sons and 1 daughter. She stressed the rural quality of village life, how close to the earth they’d lived. Spontaneously Fatima and the great grand kids posed for a final photo. The son and grandson did not allow me to photograph them, but the grandson, contravening another order from someone else, allowed me to photograph the bedroom of the son.

As Mousa and I left, the son spontaneously said I’d love to go with you to the village. Previously he and his son had shown me on their phones photos they’d found on the Internet. I responded, yes, when? Which seemed to startle him and caused a conversation in Arabic between him and Mousa. Well, I’m not sure, I’ll think about it, I’ll be in touch with Mousa. I’d never anticipated this prospect, one of the families I’d photographed going with me to the ancestral site.

 

This site, Ajjur (renamed by Israel Agur), north of Hebron, is accessible with a permit by former residents, and the oldest 3 generations have all visited. They tell me that Israeli Jews live there now, mostly in new buildings, the old ones torn down, but a few remain like the school and the mayor’s home. Repurposed I surmise. Fatima had fled first to Halhul, where Yousef Albaba (who I’d photographed earlier) is from and now lives, but she didn’t know him. The youngers said they’d heard all these stories before, from when they were very young.

Ajjur:Agur-BethlehemWalk

Ajjur Bethlehem trek

Ajjur to Bethlehem, a climb of 840 meters or more than 500 feet

For a 102-year-old woman she seemed reasonably coherent. This all in translation of course. Mousa told me during the interview she often repeated stories but her memory seemed sharp. I believe she said she thinks about Ajjur every day, which is a common thread among my interviews. I meant to ask her about her health, and how she thinks her experience of expulsion influenced her health, a question I’ve asked of others or without me asking they spoke to. She would like me to bring to her some cactus from Ajjur.

Outside, after dark, I photographed the building with its eerie red glow induced by the street lighting.

The long trek, the long and winding road. This refers also to the trek those expelled from their homelands made to their eventual refuges, their new homes, often in refugee camps such as Aida where Fatima now lives. In many cases, walking, bringing only what they could carry. I plan to later extend the interviews to learn how they moved.

(By the way, the son who’d offered to return to Ajjur with me never followed up.)

LINKS

1948 Palestinian Exodus (expulsion)

Palestinian refugees and the right of return (American Friends Service Committee)

Ajjur 

Aida refugee camp

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 (once I can enter) and the West Bank, plus their ancestral lands.

PHOTOS

September 14, 2018, Friday, Bethlehem

Yesterday afternoon [September 13, 2018] I photographed and interviewed Mousa’s grandmother, Rowaida Al Azzeh (Um Waleed). Unfortunately at 83 her memory is failing (death and debilitation make this project particularly urgent). Mousa [my arranger and translator] told me later that he’d not realized how much memory had disappeared since her last interview. He told me also that living in the camp shortens one’s age. The slow death.

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His grandmother came from a village about 25 km southwest of Aida refugee camp where she now lives, Beit Jibreen (renamed by the Israelis and built over: Beit Givrin). She’s visited several times after expulsion, most recently in 1991, because then Israeli invoked fewer restrictions on return. She lives in a relatively large house built after the family leveled their first UN-provided tiny concrete block house to build a new larger, more modern home. Twelve years old when the Israeli military expelled the family, they went first to Jericho, then Jordan after being confronted and nearly blocked by Jordanian soldiers. They settled in a UN refugee camp still existing in Jordan, Al Wihdat. Despite many Palestinians fleeing/immigrating to Jordan, her family wished to remain in the shriveled portion of historic Palestine left after partition in 1947 by the UN and Israel’s military conquest in 1948. They wished to stay among friends and family so they returned to Palestine.

Despite anticipating sadness, she wants to see photos of her village—what remains. (Which I hope to provide in part two of this project, photographing what remains, mostly in 1948 Israel.

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She used her hands effectively, communicating what words might fail to transmit, especially in translation. With my camera I concentrated on them.

During this interview, Mousa’s aunt, the grandmother’s daughter, Nisreen, maybe in her 40s, dark, thin, conducted and translated most of the interview. To support her ailing mother she lives in the same building on the first floor. Other family share the home on upper levels. (I reside in the Aida camp in an apartment across the street from the family home provided by Rowaida’s son, Ayed, who has been extraordinarily helpful in clarifying details and assuring that I honor cultural norms.)

Nisreen is a supervisor with the health services for the Palestinian Authority’s school system in Bethlehem. When photographing the house—which to most people seems a strange request (one of my visions for this series was to follow and photograph people as they lived, in the manner of Gene Smith and his seminal photo series, “The Country Doctor,” and I still might if I find the right person; could be Eyad himself, or Abed, the founder-director of the Al Rowwad Art and Cultural Center in the Aida Camp)—I included, with her permission, her room. (Later I deleted the photos at her request because of privacy considerations). After I thought I’d finished photographing 3 rooms, Nisreen suggested I include a large photograph of Mousa’s great grandfather, Rowaida’s father, Adel Majed Al Azza (Abu Awni), looking very regal. I did that as well.

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Mousa (Mohammed) Al Azzeh (L), Nisreen Al Azeeh (C)

Compared to what some might expect in a refugee camp, her house is grand. Baronial even. I could live in such a house.

I have persisting problems with the audio recorder, perhaps now rivaling Studs Terkel, the famed interviewer, writer, and radio host, in klutziness (not in interviewing skill). Partially because of translation, also in some cases my age, and definitely without much corollary experience, I’m having a tough time simultaneously interviewing and photographing. I need to think about the recorder, the camera, the photography, the person, his or her story, the context, what I’ve already asked, etc. Making this an unpleasant experience. I’d much prefer working with a partner who interviews while I photograph. Despite that problem, the first set of the first woman which I’ve sent to others for comments seem a little better than decent.

LINKS (new ones)

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.

September 12, 2018, Wednesday, Bethlehem

PHOTOS

Maybe for this writing, only notes, because I meet the team in 1 hour for breakfast and then hurry off to our first AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) training. Luckily my equipment is ready: I’d prepped it for Mousa [arranger and translator] and then didn’t use it because he was late and I’d left. And yesterday I used the audio recorder in the field for the first time with our meeting with Ali Abu Awwad and his organization Taghyeer south of Bethlehem.

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Ahmad Ali Dawoud

  • Man, 90 yrs old, 22 when fled
  • From village of Ellar/’Illar/Allar southwest of Jerusalem
  • Lives in one room, shares kitchen, family in same building, wife dead
  • No photos of family because they won’t care for him (did I hear that correctly?)
  • Went back multiple times for food, equipment, etc, at night avoided streets, never caught
  • Once shot at, hit in the shoe, uninjured (shows foot)
  • Active politically, demos etc
  • Theme of key
  • Had money, could rent, but first space was offered free
  • Both he and wife came to Bethlehem first because of proximity to village
  • Vibrant way of speaking, which I tell him I notice
  • Often interviewed because of his age
  • Compliment him on his memory
  • Thinks about village every day
  • It is now Israeli and built up
  • Wishes to return with me, possible because he’s old and won’t be stopped (another virtue of age)
  • Mousa would not be able to go (too young and without a permit)
  • Village near Bethlehem?
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Key to his ancestral home

  • Feel project has finally, fitfully begun, actual people and stories
  • Whether to video or photograph?
  • How use narration, get it translated?
  • Not particularly pleased with my first photos
  • Return to photograph full front, into camera, as a starter and finisher
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His village

  • Odd juxtaposition of my project and Taghyeer (Ali Abu Awwad’s resistance organization using nonviolence)
  • Mousa and I work reasonably well together, given the language and cultural differences
  • Finally know my way between Aida refugee camp where I photograph and Casa Nova guest house on Manger Sq where I reside with the AVP team—what a contrast!

LINKS

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 entry permit from Israel)

September 18, 2018, Tuesday, Hebron

PHOTOS

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Palestine-Refugee-Halhul__DSC9974.jpgThis afternoon’s mission had begun as part of my project, to meet, interview, and photograph Eman Wawi’s grandfather. (She was one of the translators and facilitators for our Alternatives to Violence Project [AVP] trainings.) I’d asked earlier and she’d agreed. Initially she suggested her grandfather but she changed that to another old man with better memory. Now we waited in her home with her family for her cousin who would drive us to meet the man in Halhul where he lived. Thanks to Rebecca who grew tired and impatient waiting for the cousin, she persuaded Eman to phone someone and so we finally departed after meeting her father, enjoying the family’s hospitably. We moved on.

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With Eman Wawi

Growing up in Halhul she seemed to know most everyone we met on the street. She hailed a friend to drive us to meet a taxi. The old man we were to meet, Yousef Albaba, was waiting for us with a retinue of family. Perhaps they expected a professional crew of moviemakers, not we simple people with limited equipment and skills.

Halhul map-OVAL.jpg

Once again I proved the signature klutz in operating equipment. On my new audio recorder I’ve mastered the settings, for now, but forgot again that Standby mode, means for a sound check, and is not the Operation mode. So the first part of this energetic tale, aided considerably by Eman and the man’s son, later by Rebecca, is forever lost. Luckily I eventually noticed the recorder was resting, switched it from Standby to Record, and tried to recover some of the loss by re-asking some key questions.

The essence of his story is that he was raised in Halhul, moved to the Old City of Jerusalem in the mid 1940s, apparently posted there as a Palestinian policeman, shifted into some commercial work selling and transporting grapes grown in his village, and two years later Israel displaced him and his entire neighborhood at the start of the Nakba. His is a much different story than the usual: He had a home to return to. Does he qualify as internally displaced?

Regardless of his actual story, he is a radiant man, often with a wry smile, 90 years old, a walker beside him, wears an unusual cap, uses his hands effectively, family around him, apparently practiced in telling his story. I notice that such stories are part of family lore; they are not hidden, not now at least. Contrasting with the first generation of holocaust survivors in Israel whom the new generation of Jewish Israelis badly treated, discrediting them, their stories submerged.

Urged by his family, he showed me the key to one of his houses. Which one? In the Old City most likely. Reviewing the photos later I realized to my horror that he held the key with the notched part hidden in his palm, the round end exposed. I should have noticed and asked him to hold the key so we could view it is a key, not a rod with a round object on one end.

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He and his son tried to make perfectly clear where he’d lived in Jerusalem’s Old City. Near the Bab al Khalil, they said, the gate of the road to Hebron, now known as the Jaffa Gate. He claimed his original site is now in the Jewish Quarter. (Later, while photographing that thriving, busy, hectic area just inside the Gate I learned that Bab al Khalil opens to the Armenian Quarter to the south, and the Christian Quarter to the north.) When I asked if there was anything I might bring from his current home to deposit at his home site in the Old City, or bring from there to return to him in his current home, he explained that nothing remains. To the victors go the land.

oldcity_jerusalem_map-oval.jpg

Red = Christian Quarter, Green = Armenian Quarter, Tan = Jewish Quarter, Yellow = Muslim Quarter (however Israel fully controls the entire Old City, and Jewish Israelis slowly encroach on the various quarters thru illegal confiscation of property)

Asked about dreams, he said he had none, or so I gathered from Eman’s translation. Even after I tried to inspire him by telling my story of frequently dreaming of my old Chicago home which centered on Caldwell School, the boys’ toilet area. (However, I didn’t tell him that once I actually visited my old school, decades after I’d graduated, that dream cycle vanished—no more images of the school.) Such a return visit would be impossible for most internally displaced Palestinian refugees.

Rebecca is an asset. She asked good questions, became more of the focal point of the interview which relieved me of that role so I could concentrate better on the photography, and she is affable. The daughter-in-law of the man gave her a beautiful embroidered tissue paper holder.

Unfortunately, in the rush to leave I forgot to ask if I might photograph inside the house.

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(Later I intend to post my photos and videos of the Jaffa Gate area as it exists today, including a portrait of a Palestinian man who’s lived there since 1942.)

LINKS

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 entry permit from Israel)

September 27, 2018, Thursday, Jerusalem, Old City

PHOTOS

Big day yesterday [September 26, 2018] for the refugee project: photographing the Jahalin Bedouin threatened with removal by the Israelis. In particular the band of Khan al-Ahmar between two large illegal settlements, Ma’ale Adumin and Kfar Adumin. Belatedly I’d remembered Angela works with them and had brought me with a group there where I photographed them in 2013. When I wrote her about visiting the village she responded immediately with an offer to pick me up and introduce me there. Which she did. We met at a bus stop near the American Colony Hotel, and drove what someone had written was “a few kilometers”—more like 20 (a few kilometers I could walk, not 20)—out the main road to Jericho and the Dead Sea, down the first part of the steep decline that eventually would reach the lowest point on earth, and found a large gathering of Palestinians in support of the Bedouin.

Khan-al-Ahmar-Jabal-map.jpg

A map showing Khan al-Ahmar (top-right arrow) and Arab Jahalin—Al-Jabal (bottom arrow), where Israel wants to forcibly move the residents of Khan al-Ahmar. (OCHA-OPT)

The villagers worry about yet another removal (think South Africa, “the Black Spots”). The kids might lose their very lovely school which looks hand-built, richly decorated by handprints, camels, hearts, and other markings of the people. From my first trip here I recall learning how proud they are of their school. Angela graciously introduced me to what might have been the headman, explained the rules of photo interaction (no women, including female teachers; no children over the age of about 14, and only with permission—she checked first with someone in charge, maybe the head mistress), and then brought me to the school. She explained, the kids are traumatized, journalists are here all the time photographing and filming, please be careful.

Entering a classroom filled with about 12 boisterous kids appearing to be about 4th grade, maybe 9 years old, the boys flocked around me, poked me, asked what’s your name? repeatedly, and generally distracted me. I waited, watched, and began photographing, mainly the girls who seemed involved in a writing exercise. Under the casual tutelage of their male teacher, they wrote on a white board, and, with guidance from a woman, maybe one of the kids’ mothers or a second teacher, drew maps and flags, all indicating Palestinian freedom. One might claim this was also a political lesson. Of course, I couldn’t read the writing but might ask later someone who can.

For my first attempt at photographing the school (it had been closed on our first trip), maybe I made a few useable photos. But the combination of poor light, tight quarters, distracting kids, and back button focusing [a special method of focusing a single lens reflex camera] may have prevented better photography. I hope to return with Angela’s help.

As I was about to leave with Angela’s’ friend, Ben, I met a group of about 5 cyclists (pedaled, not powered by an electrical motor, the rage in Palestine-Israel) who were biking along the path of the separation wall, north to south, and stopped by the site in solidarity. I met one young Palestinian woman, Nima, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus who bikes secretly because of cultural restrictions. I made a portrait and wished I could interview her, not only about displacement, but about her biking. She loves the freedom afforded by the bike, and must hide her bike when home. I have her contact info and might try later about the refugee project, or about biking (a new project?)

(As of this writing, the deadline for self-demolition of the village set by Israel is October 1, 2018. Today I learned Israel declared the entire region a “closed military zone,” and blocked access roads, yet 100s of people entered the area for Friday prayers and a march.)

LINKS

Israel seals off, declares Khan al-Ahmar closed military zone (September 28, 2018)

Communities facing expulsion: The Khan al-Ahmar area (B’Tselem, October 10, 2017, updated September 5, 2018)

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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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From my journal, 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 (AVP) trainings at least in Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah, Gaza as well if I get my permit from Israel)

PHOTOS (Flight)

September 3, 2018, Monday, Cambridge Massachusetts (two days before departure)

My entire project about displaced refugees in Palestine-Israel might concentrate on what emerges from the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem and my contacts there, and Ayn Hawd/Ein Hod in the Carmel Mountain Range south of Haifa. The first because I have experience in the camp and Nidal and Mousa have promised help, with perhaps Abed, if he responds, who might help as well. Ayn Hawd/Ein Hod because I’ve been to the first, an unrecognized village (around 2008 on the Magi Walk), observed from there at a distance Ein Hod, which is the former site of Ayn Hawd, now converted into an Israeli arts center, and even tho as Linda wrote the sites are not representative they may present a curious case.

Elaine H suggested I contact Sara Roy, who may be a good contact for Gaza. Still no word about the Gaza permit. Joe and Steve (partners with the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP) leave for Palestine-Israel tomorrow, me the day after, and I believe Rebecca (another partner) a day or so after that. So by end of week, this Friday, 5 days off, we may be together in the Holy City, Al Quds, Jerusalem.

aida-map       Ein Hod 14Israel_map-popup

As departure day approaches (in 2 days) I feel a little more stressed, sleep is slightly more difficult. I feel decently prepped with equipment, leads, packing, prepping the house and garden.

September 5, 2018, Wednesday, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Today I leave for 6 weeks in the Holy Troubled Land, eager to live again in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, even for short periods, and definitely in Gaza, should we get our permit. Alan M tried to help with the Gaza entrance, feeding me leads in Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), which I may try later. Joe and Steve are now in Jerusalem a few days early. I arrive tomorrow. As I mentioned to Shola last night in a brief phone conversation, I seem to have passed the point of terror in my planning to now be able to feel some excitement. That is, the massive cloud of unknowing—how’s my health, what photo-video-audio equipment to bring, did I forget anything, what story to tell at passport control, how get to Logan airport, how from Ben Gurion to the Old City, etc—has not exactly lifted but thinned out. I can now view the horizon, Palestine/Israel and me in it.

Thus I feel spacious enough to write in this journal, but not quite spacious enough to go on my early morning walk, that maybe later if time. Writing first.

I reflect once again how such trip prep is akin to dying. In both cases, invariably, much will remain unfinished; there will be multiple regrets; there may be goodbyes, many of them soulful; there may be relief. In the case of a trip, relief that I do not have to deal with the quotidian, the perplexing and apparently unsolvable, the boring. My life becomes exciting. I can experience this while on a trip, whether I can experience much in dying remains to be seen, about the afterlife as well. I am curious how this Palestine-Israel trip will turn out, as I am curious about how dying will feel, and what might greet me, if anything, post dying.

Today I double-check and assemble my gear, both personal and professional, my carry on gear, personal like ticket, passport, reading, eye mask, snacks, water, Hebrew prayer for travelers, what to do if questioned, etc; and my valuable equipment, Canon and Nikon cameras, standard zoom lens, 50 mm prime lens, no other lenses, small flash, audio recorder, camera bag, laptop, iPad, phone, etc. Going as light as feasible, what a laugh. Then I choose and pack clothing, hoping all fits into my large rolly and large backpack, and perhaps my shoulder bag. Much to remember, much to carry.

 

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My bed at home with a small portion of my gear

Invariably I will forget something. What this time? Later I’ll make a list which usually causes me to laugh. Most I can replace, some maybe not easily or at all. Contact info, pills, especially that magic pep pill so needed by some of us older guys, crucial for a pleasant journey. I believe this is my first international trip with a smart phone. How to make it work once in country?

I was able to check in with Lufthansa airline last night, choose window seats on both legs of the flight to Munich and Tel Aviv, confirm, and print boarding passes. Something I often forgot to do earlier, or couldn’t. Another gift of the Internet. And DIY, Doing It Yourself, rather than going thru Chris as much as I love her as my many-year travel agent. (How can she manage to keep her travel business afloat competing against DIY?)

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At Boston’s Logan airport (photo by Susan Redlich)

TO BE CONTINUED

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