Posts Tagged ‘quakers’

Jazz Festival, claimed to be the largest free jazz festival in the world

Detroit Jazz Festival, claimed to be the largest free jazz festival in the world

Shrine marking a death

Shrine marking a murder

The city as a living entity with it being an environment for—and in turn, an environment being created by—the people who give it heart and pulse. I will observe, with intimate photographic scrutiny, these individuals as I encounter them during participation in the daily life of the city. (Yet, I will respect their ethical right of non-invasion of privacy.) Unlike other essays of mine, such as The Nurse-Midwife, I will not, this time, (photographically) know any individual as a complete person. For the individual, in my present essay, is a part of the teaming into the teeming whole that is the city, singular, and—Pittsburgh, the City of, is my project and is the individual to be known.

(From W. Eugene Smith’s 1956 application for a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for his Pittsburgh Project)

Accounts from my journal, written while I photographed Detroit for three weeks during the end of summer 2016.


September 12, 2016, Monday

I wrote a long letter yesterday to S and will rely on that to bring my journal up to date:

this may be my last email to you until I’m home (or maybe one enroute on the train). i leave tues evening, arrive wednesday evening, inshalla, as they say, god willing (or the train and its staff willing and able).

weatherwise, i think you’ve been spared the hot weather that has afflicted detroit and southwest michigan. your region [in New England] apparently continues to suffer drought but here there’s been ample rain all summer. I’m mindful of this because 1. i love weather and once aspired to become a meteorologist, trained at mit, 2. I’m a gardener with paternal “roots” in iowa farming families, 3. food quality and prices and farmers in new england have suffered, and 4. i worry about climate generally….

my last days in detroit have been frustrating. today, for instance, i was to have photographed johnny, my next door neighbor, in his buffalo soldier uniform from the civil war on his horse (he’s a re-enactor). but at the last minute, after days of delay, he announced, a friend of mine, a vietnam brother (johnny is a vietnam vet) is in hospice and i need to visit him. plus, my neighbor across the street, anthony, known as “little anthony” to distinguish him from his father, never showed up for our appointed portrait-making session this afternoon. i’d photographed him and johnny on previous trips. there’s still tomorrow and tues.



Johnny, my next door neighbor, 2011

counteracting these disappointments, S, this morning at a quaker meeting we commemorated the 15th anniversary of 9/11. movingly, simply, with personal reflections by two people. 

on my mind was faith, what it is, how to gain it, how to express it. for some individuals and for our society and perhaps the world, 9/11 was a pivot point. one might argue that it set off the catastrophe we now face with the mideast wars and the refugee crisis, perhaps the major debacle of our century (and we refuse to hold the perpetrators accountable, adding to the debacle). but out of this tragedy sprang large scale resistance, first noted in 2003 when millions flooded the streets thruout the world to say, stop the war, stop the violence, be civil, be human. i was among them in nyc, maybe you also made your stand. the climate march in nyc that you and i attended 2 years ago is another example of worldwide action. let’s not forget the arab spring and the occupy movement, and now black lives matter. [and locally in detroit, massive resistance to water shut offs and the pollution in flint]

where does faith come in? i believe we may be on an upward trajectory and that widespread, international resistance with a call for renewal can be effective. textron [manufacturer of cluster bombs and components of nuclear weapons in wilmington ma, near my quaker meeting in cambridge], which you remember our meeting vigils at monthly for going on 7 years, recently announced they will end the manufacture of cluster bombs (next march). i have faith that our little vigil series affected this decision, along with many other larger, louder groups protesting textron. ditto, for now at least, about the north dakota pipeline, resisted by thousands of native people and their supporters. i have faith; i believe that such actions can be productive.

well, S, enough from me. i wonder what you think about faith, in your life, and generally. see you soon i hope.

A mouthful, for sure. Perhaps I intimidate her or perhaps—my hope—I inspire her.

Other than the disappointments yesterday and the grand Birmingham Quaker Meeting (in Berkeley—a strange confusion of place names, not Birmingham Alabama but Michigan, and not Berkeley California but Michigan) with the subsequent business meeting that I attended for the first hour only (to return home for the assignations that never occurred), I’m still uncertain about the quality of this trip, the photographic quality. Is Billy correct in writing, “safe,” meaning not too digging, not too provocative? I need to ponder this.

One example of safe might be my experience yesterday riding home. Al at the meeting, keeper of the gate, an old wizened limping black man, showed me the kits that Song and Spirit folks, a Franciscan Brothers’ facility rented by Birmingham Quakers for their Sundays, distributes to homeless persons. Consisting of cap (fleece or baseball, depending on the season), gloves (light or heavy depending on season), and toiletries, I took two, and later gave them to 2 black men who I thought might need them. The older of the two accepted the kit gratefully, extending his hand in thanksgiving, the younger said, I don’t need this but I will give it to someone who does. Both were very appreciative.

Why didn’t I photograph them? I might have, and they might have agreed, in part because of perceived obligation. But I didn’t. Was I too timid, or did I respect their humanhood and in the case of the older man did not want him to feel obligated nor chosen because of his condition. I carried the camera over my shoulder, in plain sight, and they might have noticed and asked to be photographed. Which happens periodically (as at the bike store recently, which led to what I hope are some decent photos).

I might have photographed Al. This case differs from the above. No obligation to say yes, and not picking him because of his dire condition. But I just never found him in the correct light or position or setting. Leaving I thought, a photograph of Al in front of the building?, but it never happened. Instead I photographed what may have been the safer choice, the large garden behind the building that he told me about. Was this a good choice? Too safe, in Billy’s estimation?

Such are the choices facing me regularly.

D-Town Farm, a cooperative farm in Rouge Park

D-Town Farm, a cooperative farm in Rouge Park

To be continued


Birmingham (MI) Friends Meeting

Song and Spirit’s Outreach Care’avan


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We can do it, you know. We can get there. We can have it all. The Third Millennium AD can be the green millennium, the time in which we learn to live as responsible human beings at last. There is no law, natural or divine, which demands that the world we live in become poorer, harsher, and more dangerous. If it continues to become that way, it is only because we do it ourselves.

—Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl


I’ve long wished to join the series of actions at the West Roxbury lateral pipeline in Boston, which often includes civil disobedience. The actions attempt to stop a pipeline being laid thru land taken by eminent domain. The 5-mile pipeline is part of a 1,100-mile pipeline being built by Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, and its subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission in Waltham, Massachusetts, to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania. Some claim it will transport gas extracted by hydraulic fracking further south in the States for sale in Canada. This presents a multiple whammy.

  • The process of fracking pollutes water and releases methane, making it allegedly more destructive to the earth than coal.
  • While much of the pipe is under roads, causing little inconvenience except during construction, some pipe I suspect is under useful land snatched by the law, such as home and school lands.
  • The gas in this high pressure line could explode and destroy buildings and lives along the route. In addition, as a final seal of potential doom, one stretch is next to a quarry where explosives are used to mine the rock.
  • It increases the potential for gas leaks, already a major problem not only in Boston but widespread in the nation.
  • It encourages more use of fossil fuel rather than emphasizing renewable energy.

To be convincing in this article, I would need to research and corroborate all these claims. This would include reading counter claims about the economic benefits and safety of the project. Sufficient for now, I reference this article about the debate:

“Debate about the pipeline heats up” (September 2015)

The action itself on Saturday, June 25, 2016, billed as running from 10 to noon, lasted until about 3 pm. It consisted of a rally along the pipeline route, opposite the quarry and the compressor station also under construction; a march of about 1/2 mile to the pipe laying site, blocked by a police line; another march of about the same length to the other end of the police cordon with a short vigil along a main road, Washington Street; and then some unscripted but highly anticipated activity.

Compressor construction site

Metering and Regulating construction site


During all this, a smaller group of about 10 people who were prepared for arrest with their support people sniffed their way thru the warren of small country-like roads to the mid-point of the project. Searching for a way past the police who otherwise would block them, suddenly 3 men from this contingent who expected to be arrested, darted down the road past the police, onto the site, and soon were in the 10 ft deep ditch dug by a huge Caterpillar hydraulic mining shovel preparing to lay the pipe.

Police hurried into the ditch, extracted and arrested the three young men, handcuffed them, and brought them to a curb where they sat awaiting the police van to be delivered to the West Roxbury police station.

Arrest of Jay O'Hara and two others

Arrest of Shea Riester and two others

Where was I in all this, I the ever-seeing, or hoped to be the ever-seeing photographer, trying to be in all places at all times, hovering over the action, omniscient, omnipresent, a form of photographer god or angel, free to pass thru police lines with my magical fantastic credentials? I had been at the far end of the construction site, unable to see much about what happened at the site, casually photographing police juxtaposed with cranes and trucks behind them, when I noticed a flurry of activity. This included the only person with a large video camera and tripod. He must know something that I don’t; why else would he race away with all that heavy gear? I thought. So I followed, wondering whether I was about to photograph something important, or just go for a futile self-tour of West Roxbury.


I call myself (usually not openly) an “opportunistic photographer,” that is, I often exploit opportunities presented to me rather than plan my work. Entering Gaza in 2003 for the first time is one example. I failed twice to gain entrance and then happened upon an international NGO thru a friend and slipped in with them. Or, also in Gaza, I was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they told me they planned a trip to one of the most heavily destroyed parts of the Strip, called Zeitoun (the Arabic word for olive tree) to deliver donated winter clothing. I accompanied them and made nearly a day’s worth of photos. Waking up that morning I doubt I knew where I’d be later in the day. That is “opportunistic photography.” Or maybe a better word is “spontaneous,” guided by my muses which I pray to and thank every day.

So I found myself virtually the only photographer at the most appropriate location to show the three young men, later a fourth, questioned by the police, searched, and stuffed into the police van. All close up. I did however miss their drop in visit to the ditch, trying to block construction, and the police response. This for other photographers, other opportunistic or simply lucky human beings with cameras. I do not work alone.

The action continued. By the same backwoods route used by my predecessors who were arrested and their supporters,the group and I found a way to join others prepared for arrest. This included an older woman in a wheelchair, waiting for a long period under hot sun. Altho our numbers had shrunk, from about 90, we 30 or so constituted an ongoing vigil, observing the ditch making and pipe laying, pieces of an evolving national labyrinth which could contribute to disaster not only of this neighborhood but of the planet itself.

The long road around the two police barricades

The long road around the two police barricades


As I write this, today (June 28, 2016) on Democracy Now a few minutes ago Amy Goodman broadcast a troubling report about extreme weather in the United States.

From Aravinda Ananda, arrested with her husband Joseph at the demonstration on June 28, 2016:

Joseph and I did our business owners’ action earlier in the morning. They arrested Joseph immediately after crossing the police tape. I sat by the trench for maybe 3 minutes before they had me cuffed and taken away. No construction stopped.

30-40 people had come from western MA to risk arrest, but the police liaison made a deal with the police – protestors would approach the police line and construction would stop for an hour or something and there would be no arrests. I think they only ended up stopping construction for 40 minutes, but there were no other arrests.

We were in custody from about 9:30 until perhaps 3:00. They brought us to precinct 5 and we were in a holding cell for about 4 hours while they booked us. Then they brought us to lockup/the courthouse, and two holding cells later we went before a judge who offered us the same deal all other pipeline protesters have been offered thus far: to convert the charges from criminal to civil ones so long as we are not arrested again in this same protest in the next 6 months. So our journey through the court system may or may not be over. 

…I offered some Work That Reconnects practices including “bowing to our adversaries” at a conference two weekends ago at Pendle Hill on “Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice.” I have been feeling that piece a lot recently. Before the action yesterday, I had to pass through the construction site twice in search of a bathroom. I made a point of saying good morning to all of the construction workers and police officers. On the way back from the bathroom the sidewalk was closed, but an officer escorted me through and we chatted about the rain – I told him how much I appreciated it for gardening. I said “wow, this is a big project” (about the construction). He said “yea, some protesters are not happy about it.” I didn’t tell him I was one of them… Maybe next time. 

…We were singing kirtan chants in the police transport vehicle, and when I was in the holding cell alone for four hours whenever I would get restless I would quietly chant. I ended up sending a lot of loving kindness to the police officers in the precinct. It was so helpful to have had these spiritual tools (bowing to the adversaries, chanting, etc.) to steady me through this. All in all, the police were really kind to me. The arresting officer asked me if I had any medical conditions or arthritis before cuffing me. Joseph didn’t get the same courtesy (knee on his back!) [He’d not cooperated during the arrest, going limp.]. The officers who booked me asked me three times if I needed to use the bathroom, which is good because there were no facilities in my first holding cell. They also brought me my jacket which they had previously taken from me saying they thought I might be cold. It wasn’t too difficult to send them loving kindness. I wonder if I could have done it so well if they had been violent to me as I know people caught up in that system often can be…


Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

Resist the Pipeline

“Should Massachusetts Oppose Further Natural Gas Pipeline Construction In The State? Boston Globe South” by Scott Gustafson, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America (May 2016)

“Unitarian Universalists fight to stop Boston-area gas pipeline” by Elaine McArdle, March 14, 2016

Watch out for those Quakers! 20 arrested blocking construction of Boston #fracked gas pipeline #StopSpectra #350mass  (by Bill McKibbon, June 2016)

QuakersPipelineJune 23, 2016

From Friends Meeting at Cambridge, at a recent pipeline action

“Following on weeks of actions at the Spectra West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline construction site, a Quaker-led group placed themselves in the way of construction….” (May 2016)

“Vice President’s Daughter Karenna Gore Arrested in the Trenches of a Climate Protest” Democracy Now

“Tim DeChristopher Arrested Again in the “Age of Anticipatory Mass Graves” for Climate Victims” Democracy Now

2016-01-04-wrl_gasleaks-Image of gas leaks in West Roxbury- Gas Safety USA. Courtesy BU professor Nathan Phillips

Gas leaks in West Roxbury, April 2016, Gas Safety USA, courtesy of Boston University professor Nathan Phillips



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Woman shell GazaSM

Gaza, mortar fired by Israeli army into a farming area, 2009


In a Gaza hospital recovering from an Israeli sniper attack, 2004


Boston Marathon bomb explodes, April 2013 (Courtesy Boston.com)


Boston Marathon bombing, April 2013 (AP Photo/The Daily Free Press, Kenshin Okubo)

Excerpts from my journal and letters as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel (originally written on April 18, 2013)


Residing in Gaza, 7 times zones from Boston, I first learned about the Marathon bombings from my friend, S in Boston, whose friend was caught between both explosions. Her friend was certain she would die. I heard more from other friends in Boston and then when I arrived at the American Friends Service Committee office where I volunteer as a photographer and teacher of photography on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, one day after the bombing, I discovered most staff had heard about it, usually from news feeds on their smart phones. Apparently it is worldwide news.



American Friends Service Committee office, Gaza, April 2013


Gaza, March 2013

The AFSC staff here has been supportive of me—asking how I am, what I know, how I feel, etc. Never comparing it to violence here. But saying in effect, an injury to one is an injury to all. I do believe that suffering can enable compassion. The bombing reminds me of the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in the late 1800s. As some may recall, it led to a wave of arrests and several executions despite the lack of evidence. Yesterday’s anarchists, today’s terrorists.


I remain deeply troubled. I weep and feel anger at the same moment. Especially troubling is the cruel irony of so many legs lost at a marathon. Imagine: one moment, as you stand in the crowd marveling at how human beings can use their legs, perhaps feeling fatigued from standing so long waiting for friends to cross the finish line, thinking, how can I stand for one more moment—and then boom, no legs. Or feet or ankles.


(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


(Courtesy dailymail.co.uk)

Now we might expect another round of fear-base hysteria with its consequent tightening of security.

Already a report in The Jewish Press, “Gaza Arabs Celebrate Boston Marathon Attack with Dance, Candies:” Shortly after the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, the Arabs of Gaza danced in the streets, handing out candies to passersby, Israel News Agency reported….

Perhaps, but I witnessed or heard nothing like this. And among my friends and colleagues the precise opposite.

pic-gaza copy


Gaza, the aftermath of various Israeli attacks, including white phosphorus (photos from the Internet)

From the director of the AFSC program in Gaza, Amal Sabawi:

Dear friends and colleagues in US,  

We think of you and feel your pain , and think about the innocents people who are the victims of violence and unlawfully murder . We hope that you, your families ,  your children and friends be safe and secured , we pray that peace would prevail in this world and end the suffering of millions of innocents on this earth

You are in our hearts and  thoughts

Love and peace is stronger than wars , on this earth what makes life worth living

Gaza with love


Amal Sabawai

Teaching photography in Gaza, May 2003

Skip Schiel teaching photography in Gaza, 2005 c (photo by Ibrahem Khadra)


Gaza, 2010



Haymarket Affair

Roseann Sdoia, Boston Marathon Bombing Amputee, Strides Forward” (PHOTOS) By Bridget Murphy, June 6, 2013

“Boston Marathon Terror Attack Fast Facts,” By CNN Library, June 9, 2013

Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza, December 2008-January 2009 (Institute for Middle East Understanding)

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Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2101 Israel_Palestine-Gaza-American_Friends_Service_Committee-2156

Hear the prayer of our soul. There speaks our truth and faith: To fulfill our task on earth we need Powers great from lands where spirits dwell, Strength that comes from friends who have died. —The House of Peace

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


March 25, 2013, Monday, Gaza City, Ramal neighborhood, El Shawwa Building, my home

Everything the same, everything different. That’s how I’d describe my current feeling upon arrival in Gaza yesterday [March 24, 2013]. Familiar surroundings and people in Gaza (this is my 6th visit), entirely different from the way I usually live and with whom I live and interact back home. From Jerusalem to the Erez crossing from Israel in about 90 minutes, paid for by the American Friends Service Committee with whom I work in Gaza, very smooth. The road narrowed and became more potholed the nearer as we approached Gaza. The driver was friendly but not communicative, probably the language differences. He has one young daughter, I told him about my family. He’d like to visit Gaza, but can’t because of Israeli restrictions. So much for that conversation.


Entering the border crossing or checkpoint, a massive one, buildings expanded significantly since I was last here in winter 2010, a young woman (behind glass and placed higher than me) interrogated me for about 5 minutes. Her first question was are you a journalist? I slipped and said, sort of, well no, not really. (I might have been barred had I identified as a journalist.) Doing what, with whom, who is the American Friends Service Committee, what do they do, why photography, photography for what and whom, etc ? I was puzzled by these questions since I had a permit. Is honoring such a permit conditioned on giving proper answers?

As I wrote my Levant list, with photos: One might ask: by what right does Israel control entrance into Gaza? The entrance hall is much larger than is probably needed. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people using it. Like a facility built for the Olympics and then the Olympics are cancelled, rendering the facility useless. I observed a family of Palestinians, 2 women, both obese, one very elderly, with a small child, going thru the turnstile—with wheeled luggage. All had problems. Had I not been under surveillance by the ubiquitous cameras I would have made photos. First the luggage, jammed thru, stuck, pushed, ejected, then the woman. The older woman held onto the turnstile as she painfully inched thru. And she could walk. What about those who can’t? A motorized cart awaited her and drove the small family the 2 or so km to the exit point.


Once past the prying cameras I pulled out my own and photographed fences, corridors, more motorized carts, walkers, etc. No rubble collectors like I had spotted 2 years ago, but I observed one tent with about 4 young men and boys in it, which I photographed, and another ramshackle structure that might have been a temporary dwelling. Do people risk their lives out here or has Israel relented slightly and does not fire on them?





I learned later that after the so-called Pillar of Cloud operation last November,  when Israel again assaulted Gaza, 8 days of unrelenting destruction, in a ceasefire agreement, Israel expanded the fishing area from 3 to 6 nautical miles. And then shrunk it again when militants fired rockets into southern Israel during Obama’s visit 2 weeks ago. After the group of Salafists (fundamentalist Muslims) admitted responsibility, Hamas arrested several men.


Going thru Palestinian security I photographed (with permission) an exploded Qassam rocket near a Koranic inscription, proudly displayed on top of a cabinet in the inspection office. As if to state, our religion sanctions violent resistance. The luggage check was cursory. Had I brought with me some booze and stuck it near the bottom of the luggage I doubt the inspector would have found it (unlike the last time I tried that). Luckily he did not find my medicinal pill cache. How would I explain this? Not drugs sir, simply meds. Here, try one. No questions by these officials. And of course the architectural differences between Israel and Palestine are dramatic, indicating power and wealth disparities very clearly.


First stop, the AFSC office where the director, Amal, greeted me and accepted a hug with cheek kisses (Only for Skip, she told a colleague). Islam greeted me with a bear hug, Mosab greeted me with hugs and cheek kisses, and I met some new staff, the taciturn Hamed, and a grim fellow stuck at his computer. My good friend Ibrahim was on his way to Tunisia with Firas for a World Social Forum, and Rana is out for 1 month after she slipped on oil and broke her leg. No sign of the ever-present cleaning woman with her insistent and incessant smile. They asked if I was glad to be back. Oh yes, very glad. When I enter the region, Palestine-Israel, I feel happy, mabsut. However, when I enter Gaza I am super happy, very mubsut. Wandering around while staff met to hire new personnel for a documentation project (that I might help with) I discovered a poster in Amal’s office showing 3 Chicago AFSC staff, Jennifer Bing, Miriam somebody, and a man I didn’t recognize. They smiled at the camera as Jennifer stood beside the photo I’d made of Amal at a Popular Achievement Program festival in Gaza in 2009. This pleases me, as I told Mosab, often much more than money.




“Tunisia hosts World Social Forum, and reflects challenges to Arab Spring”  by  on April 2, 2013

Popular Achievement Program of the American Friends Service Committee

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Photographs by Skip Schiel from Palestine & Israel

Skip Schiel has been documenting the Palestinian and Israeli reality through photographs and journal postings since 2003—work with a better feel for the detailed texture of life in Gaza and the West Bank than any appearing in US media. Schiel spends time where most journalists dare not tread, amidst ordinary Palestinians, sharing in the dangers and frustrations of their lives.

His work has been invaluable for my own. As a writer for a Buddhist publication whose parents were victims of the Holocaust, I try to convey a view of the conflict that differs from the US media’s, which obfuscates the injustices and sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Through his portraits of Palestinian men, women, and children striving to maintain ordinary routines despite harassment and attacks by Israel’s military, Skip reveals to us the true face of Palestinians.

—Annette Herskovits, Consulting Editor, Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

A slide show of recent photographs (2012)


I will tour the West Coast this fall (2012) with my photos and would like to book presentations in the region listed below, either networks, schools, faith and community groups, or individuals.

Alaska, September 19-October 2, 2012
Seattle to San Francisco, October 3-5

California Bay Area and Northern California, October 5-17.

I’ll revise some of my shows with photos and stories from my most recent spring 2012 trip. Report here.

West Coast 2012 Tour Announcement

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

With the support of many in my local and national Quaker community, since 2003 I been traveling to Israel and Palestine to investigate and portray conditions and struggles. I have worked with a variety of organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian and joint organizations (see below), volunteering to make photographs for them that I also can circulate as slide shows and print exhibitions. My hope is to open eyes and doors and windows, encouraging awareness and action.

MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATIONS Slideshows, print exhibits, and a movie featuring photos, audio & thoughtful narration, updated from my recent 10-week trip during spring 2012

Falafel, Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel


Descendants of Abraham, Sarah, & Hagar

Based primarily on my most recent trip to Palestine-Israel in spring 2012, an exploration of people and activities on different sides of the conflict.

Eyewitness Gaza

The new show concentrates on his personal experiences and its political context, 2 years after the devastating Israeli attacks of Operation Cast Lead. Youth, their conditions and struggles, child to young adult, is the main theme. I explore the lives of people still living in tents and in recently constructed rudimentary dwellings. They continue to suffer the ongoing Israeli siege and internal political violence, while being ignored by most of the international community. The American Friends Service Committee is a major segment, showing one way hope and resiliency are fostered. (I’ve published a book by the same title, available here)

On the way to Gaza

Tracing the Jordan River

A slide show exploring this historic river from one of the headwaters of the Jordan, the Banias flowing from Mt Hermon in the Golan Heights, to where the much-abused river disappears before the Dead Sea in the West Bank of Palestine. With an examination of the Sea of Galilee, especially the region of the major share of Christ’s ministry in and around Capernaum, the dying Dead Sea, well-watered Jericho, and the kibbutzim, Israeli settlements intended to reclaim land and define the contours of the forthcoming Israeli nation. A slice thru the topography, geology, hydrology, history, and politics of the region.

Dismantling The Matrix of Control

An examination, based on the brilliant analysis of Jeff Halper, of the mechanisms Israel uses to maintain the occupation: checkpoints, separation or annexation wall/fence, permit system, road blocks, Israeli-only roads, military court system, closed military zones, and closures and incursions. Plus how to end it.

The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel

Israel-Palestine has scant water resources, but now with the current strife water is a dramatic mirror of power relationships. Through an examination of water in various settings—small Palestinian villages & the Gaza strip— along with large cities shared by Israeli Jews & Arabs—Haifa & Jerusalem—I portray a very difficult to visualize topic. Updated with new photos from spring 2012.

Bethlehem the Holy, the Struggle for an Ancient City

Bethlehem is rapidly becoming Imprisoned Bethlehem, surrounded on all sides by an 8-meter (23 foot) high concrete wall, with checkpoint access restricted. Thus, Christians (the population shrinking from some 30% 40 years ago to 2%) and Muslims within Palestine can rarely leave or enter Bethlehem. Nearby Israeli settlements confiscate Palestinian lands while the local economy, heavily reliant on tourism, languishes under ghetto-like restrictions. I explored this situation from November through Christmas 2008 as well as during the summer of 2009 while I lived in the Aida refugee camp. Updated with new photos from spring 2012.

Quakers in Palestine & Israel (Or John Woolman in the Land of Troubles)

What do Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends, have to do with Israel-Palestine? By following some of the activities in the Ramallah Friends School & the American Friends Service Committee’s work in Gaza & the West Bank (& with references to its efforts in Israel), I show how this numerically small but often effective group has made a difference in this land of troubles.

Negev desert, Israel

Other Presentations Available

Though unquestionably didactic, Skip Schiel’ s images are also haunting glimpses of the perilous nature of life in Gaza. The photographs never feel invasive or forced; they simply capture moments of intimate truth between photographer and subject.

—Sarah Correia (Fuse Visual Arts Review: “Gaza in Photographs: Up Close and Personal”)

Negev desert, Israel


Female in Palestine

Women and girls attempting to live normal, free lives in the occupied territories of Palestine.

Gaza is Home to One & One-half Million Human Beings: How Do They Live?

Photos of possibilities: how people live, suffer, stay strong and determined—sumud, in Arabic, steadfast.

The Living Waters of Israel-Palestine

A print version of the Hydropolitics slide show.


Eyewitness Gaza (movie)

About current conditions and struggles in Gaza based on Schiel’s photography, directed by Tom Jackson of Joe Public Films. The context is the Arab Spring. More information.

Skip Schiel in Gaza, photo by Mesleh Ashram



Contact: Skip Schiel, skipschiel@gmail.com, 617-441-7756

Hosting Agreement


Al Quds University (Gaza)

American Friends Service Committee

Birzeit University

Christian Peacemakers Teams

Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel

Friends International Center in Ramallah

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

Holy Land Trust

Interfaith Peace Builders

Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information

Jewish Voice for Peace (in the United States)

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

Palestine News Network

Palestinian Hydrology Group

Parents’ Circle-Families Forum

Ramallah Friends Meeting

Ramallah Friends School

Right to Education Program (at Birzeit University)

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

UN-OCHA, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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…There are ten measures of hypocrisy in the world—nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world…

—Avot D’Rabbi Natan

Popular Achievement training session at Birzeit University, a program of the American Friends Service committee in the West Bank and Gaza

Landfill in the Jordan Valley, nominally Palestinian Territory in the West Bank, operated by Veolia, a corporation under sanctions by Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and other BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) movement organizations

At a protest by Bedouins in the Negev and their Israeli supporters in opposition to land confiscation and village destruction


On May 28, 2012, my last day of seventy in the land of promise and trouble I wrote to my dear friend and partner, M:

i sit on the floor of the ben gurion airport after a night of relatively solid sleep in my car. in the parking lot of the rental agency no one bothered me. i rocked the seat back, cracked the windows open, put on my mosquito lotion, and slept well. a bit dazed when i awoke at 5:30—like you early to enjoy a bird chorus—i struggled to remember where i was, what i needed to pack and do, and how to formulate my story when confronted by airport security. trucks delivering airport construction materials lumbered by as I groggily checked out at the Avis rental office. now i wait until the airport check-in opens for my flight, three hours prior.

my last full day was monumental—mainly with bedouins in the negev desert and their israeli supporters. it was a fit finale to my ten-week journey of discovery. i photographed a long discussion about strategy to stop the land confiscation and forced removal from homelands (reminding me of american indians of course), followed by a fairly large demonstration at a major highway intersection. a bus pulled up and disgorged about thirty bedouin youth who then drummed, chanted, clapped, and smiled at the passing motorists.

i’d hoped to photograph bedouin communities, which i did earlier during the discussion (i couldn’t follow the hebrew of course). instead what i showed were mostly buildings, tents, toilets, animal pens, solar panels, fences, a cemetery and goats, sheep, and horses—not people. the demonstration provided the people, most vitally the women who usually don’t allow their photos to be made. the demo is public; thus they’re more willing.

so that was the kernel of my last day. i’m eager to prepare the photos. i have much to do when home as follow up. i’ve made many promises and received some praise. the work now continues, in many ways harder than while traveling because of other paths, not necessarily conflicting paths, but hopefully always mutually supporting ones.

Near Bethlehem, in the shadow of surrounding settlements-colonies, the weekly protest Catholic Mass at the Cremisan Monastery

As Martin Luther King Jr claimed, those with nothing they’re willing to die for are not fit to live. A harsh statement perhaps but, to me, convincing. The question of Palestine and Israel is my issue, I am fortunate to engage.

This was one of my best trips of seven. Why? Mainly because my nine-year-long accruing experience in Palestine-Israel generates insights, trust, motivation, ability to anticipate, navigational skills, multiple and often contradictory perspectives, and a clearer sense of what is best to show and how best to show it. As I wrote M, I know not to photograph traditional Muslim women unless they are in public situations like the demonstration or if I’ve been invited into their homes. Contacts have led to contacts. David N, an Israeli activist who I met on my first trip in 2003, led me to Haya N and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, which in turn led to the Bedouins. Gilat B from Friends of the Earth Middle East led me to Tal H and not only the community garden project near southern Gaza but to the party at the swimming pool in a settlement to celebrate Shavuot. My many months in Gaza during previous trips generated a desire to explore the militarized perimeter from the Israeli side—a personal highlight, dangerous, delicate, revealing, a theme rarely photographed. Quakers in Palestine-Israel and at home continue to be a huge help. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Ramallah Friends School, Ramallah Friends Meeting, Friends International Center in Ramallah (FICR), my home meeting of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, etc. provided prayers, guidance, leads, and much appreciated financial backing.

On the Israeli side of the militarized barrier between Gaza and southern Israel

I am also slowly learning how to confront my anxieties. A list from this trip might inspire laughter: denied entry at the airport arrested, detained, deported or shot by the Israeli army; run out of gas; lose the car keys; fillings fall out or need a root canal; heart attack; misplace my passport; money and cards stolen; computer breaks or is lost; camera equipment malfunctions; etc. Some of this actually happened—my laptop’s hard drive failed, my credit card inexplicably stopped charging, my memory cards suffered corrupted files, and I had minor problems with a lens. However, I never ran out of gas, I never lost my car keys, I was not injured or arrested, and I experienced no thefts. As Mark Twain said, I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Bethlehem checkpoint

My primary impressions about the Palestine-Israel situation are these: First, Israel is a laudable country, successful and innovative in so many ways such as agriculture, transport, art and science, image building, and yet the incontestable fact remains that its success is to some extent based on the oppression of another people who have equal if not greater rights to that land. Israel relies—not entirely—on the resources and labor of the Palestinians.

Israeli middle school students help excavate an ancient cistern in the heart of West Jerusalem, a project of Friends of the Earth Middle East and Emek Shaveh

Second, referring only to the West Bank (and not Gaza which I did not enter this time), conditions superficially seem improved—slightly expanded economy and slightly more freedom of movement with fewer internal checkpoints. However, settler violence has dramatically increased, the Israeli government has shifted rightward, the Palestinian Authority appears moribund, and settlement construction continues at a high rate. Impunity and futility reign supreme.

Construction of a dormitory at the Ariel University Center of Samaria, in the settlement-colony of Ariel, deep in the West Bank

Dormitory at the Ariel University funded by the controversial Irving Moskowitz

Ariel settlement

Third, Palestine’s Second or Al Aqsa Intifada (shaking off in Arabic, or uprising) has mostly transformed into nonviolent resistance. Some regard this as the Third Intifada, and much of my photographic work aims at support.

Nonviolent demonstration in the village of Al Masara near Bethlehem

After the demonstration, the commander of the Israeli unit with Palestinian media workers

And fourth is my growing conviction that much Palestinian-led resistance—and Israel’s responses—are formulaic, lack strategy, and prove useless and counterproductive. I witnessed much back and forth between tear gas and bullets responding to rocks and sometimes Molotov cocktails responding in turn to tear gas and bullets. As my colleague Mustafa said, one Molotov cocktail and you can expect five dead or injured Palestinians. In addition I observed that media, including myself, allows itself to be sucked into coverage because of the drama. I write extensively about this in my blogs.

Prisoners’ rights demonstration at Ofer Prison, Israel

My itinerary: one month in Bethlehem with the Palestine News Network, one week in Ramallah with the AFSC and FICR, two weeks in the Jenin refugee camp with the Freedom Theater, one week in Jerusalem with Friends of the Earth Middle East and a second week again with the AFSC, and my final week in the Negev desert. My photographic themes included non-violent resistance to the occupation, corporations benefitting from and sustaining the occupation (one photo assignment was to support a limited divestment campaign), youth, arts as resistance, the environment, Quaker activities, Bedouins in the Negev, ancient habitation sites, and Christians in Bethlehem. In Jenin, Bethlehem, and Ramallah I also taught photography to adults and high school students and helped establish photo archives. I volunteered these services with funding I’d raised privately from friends and the Quaker community.

Palestinian prisoners suffering in Israeli prisons conducted a massive hunger strike which at one point included some 1,600 prisoners, more than one-third the entire Palestinian prison population. The strike elicited Israeli promises to make its policies more humane, promises yet to be realized (as of June 2012). At demonstrations I was able to intersect this theme several times, once to include my Jenin high school photo students in what some might term “an appointment with tear gas and rubber-covered metal bullets”—or “real life photography.”

One of my students at the Ofer Prison demonstration

From 13,290 photos (56 separate folders, totaling 68 gigabytes) made with what I hope is my open heart, my central task now is to supply photos I’ve promised to various organizations, put together new collections for exhibitions, slide shows, and my blog and website, update my blog with excerpts from my copious journals, and seek audiences, most immediately on the west coast in the fall of 2012 from California to Alaska and British Columbia. One way you the reader can help would be to let me know of venues that might wish to host one of my photo presentations. I can supply tour details if asked.

Thanks for following the issues and my work.

You photograph not only with your eyes but with your heart.

—Fares Oda, West Bank AFSC staff

Boys and automatic rifles

Caterpillar at work building illegal settlement-colonies (Har Homa)

Nativity Church and full moon in Bethlehem


American Friends Service Committee

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Negev Coexistence Forum for Social Equality

Palestine News Network (English)

Jenin Freedom Theater

Friends International Center in Ramallah

(With gratitude to Maria Termini for help editing this blog.)

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Yoga in front of the Federal Reserve Bank, Dewey Square, Boston

A UN observer inspecting an unexploded cluster bomb-laden rocket in southern Lebanon. (AP)

Photo courtesy of The Independent 2011

Pages from my journal about the Occupy Movement

Occupy Boston

International Day of Solidarity with the Occupied Movement & a march to end US wars :: October 15, 2011

Occupied Wall Street—1

Occupy Boston March on Indigenous Rights Day, Oct 10, 2011 (video)

October 16, 2011

Another iteration of Occupy Boston yesterday [October 15, 2011], my third. The main camp remains. With some reported violence last week the police had dismantled the second camp along the Greenway. Yesterday all seemed calm, even when the peace march reached Verizon and stopped to chant slogans, and later outside the Bank of America, a hated symbol of corporate greed and congressional and administration malfeasance. At this second site, I stationed myself between marchers and the bank, joining a surprisingly small phalanx of bicycle cops to stand between institution and opposition. Speeches, chants, waving fists, and the march continued. I filmed and photographed, prepared at any minute for violence. This reminded me of clashes in Israel-Palestine at spots like Bil’in, the Palestinian village which for more than 5 years has resisted the separation barrier, where one could not predict outcomes. The power of a crowd, a mass, a mob is not easily directed. Or might be effectively directed by the likes of Samuel Adams. Oh Sam, where are you now?

In front of the Bank of America

In front of Verizon

I believe the march had been planned by the Boston branch of the United National Antiwar Committee before Occupy Boston started, as a demand to end US wars. It turned into a march that also supported Occupied Boston. Because of the multivalent nature of the march young people were not the usual high proportion.

Guarding the Army recruitment center

Wishing to not bore myself or any possible audience I strove for unusual photos. One might be at the Army recruitment center, the march reflected in the glass wall with its Army signs. Another might be the low camera angles.  Another might be faces. I tried.

A travel and couple dream. With others we rode in a bus thru the night, arrived in Cambridge after one leg of a longer trip. We all helped the driver remove the folding chairs serving as seats so the bus could be cleaned. I’d acquired 2 large loaves of crumbly bread, one I dropped on the ground but retrieved to eat later. I wished to save both loaves for the rest of my journey.

A young man and young woman who’d also ridden on the bus intended to go further. They needed to catch their next bus somewhere in East Cambridge. I directed them thru Central Sq, confident I knew the way. By now I might have been on a bike. I looked longingly at them, this newly forming couple and thought fondly of when I was in a similar stage of life with P. I felt grateful that P and I had met and loved and married and had children, all when young, and by recalling our history I felt less old, less left out. I kept all this meditation to myself.

In a hotel I found for my overnight stay, I showered by turning the entire bathroom into a shower, spewing water all over walls and floor. I did this wantonly but with permission.

October 18, 2011, Tuesday, home in Cambridge

Australian Delegation Visits Cluster-Bombed Areas of Lebanon, Calls for Ban

I see a connection, albeit a slender one, between our Quaker meeting’s monthly prayerful witness at Textron Industries in Wilmington Massachusetts, manufacturer of cluster bombs, and the popular movements now erupting internationally. Some 85 of us “occupied” a conspicuous space in front of the building, held it for one hour as a multitude of people rode by, prayed for peace or whatever we felt impelled to do during our “occupation,” and created a visible and irrefutable sign and question about the meaning of this building—what Textron made, how it profited, and who lost limbs, sanity, and lives because of its product. One year earlier I’m not sure we’d have found many from Friends Meeting at Cambridge willing to sit in prayer in front of Textron. Or if we had that we’d have so many participants. Our visits to Textron date back nearly 2 years when John Bach—love that man!—initiated nearly single-handedly a monthly series to Textron. I joined early, regularly participate, and for this recent manifestation, contributed a display about the company and its nefarious work.

John Bach, founder of the Textron Industries monthly prayer sessions

October 20, 2011, Thursday, home in Cambridge

Cool and wet, after a day of rain, heavy at times, mid 50s, overcast, calm.

Photographing the tents at Occupy Boston reminded me of the Simplex Tent City set up in 1987 to contest MIT’s take over of residential property between Central Sq and the university. So I investigated my archive. The negatives must be at P’s and so for now remain unavailable.  In my basement I found a few prints, and then I remembered that I have photocopied sets of many of my earlier photos on the shelf above my computer. So I dragged a bunch of notebooks down and perused them. I found only a few from that tent city, and they were not very inspiring. I found other photos from various political projects. I’d assess them as of mixed value. Juvenilia perhaps. One or two images might warrant inclusion in a retrospective. (Will I ever reach such a point? Hang up my cameras, get out my archives, make a selection for a retrospective?)

1970 MIT Tech File Photo


1997 Agnes Borszeki — The MIT Tech

The important point is precedent. Simplex Tent City is one small but important local precedent, as is the wave of factory takeovers during the labor movement, and after that the lunch counter sit in’s and the freedom bus rides. And obviously the much more recent uprisings and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Israel, to a limited extent Palestine, and extending to Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Kansas. (Before that, Serbia and the downfall of the dictator Milosevic and the “Battle of Seattle” in 1999 and other revolts against dictators and world domination by corporate and financial institution powers like the World Bank and IMF.) Each of these was a takeover or occupation of territory and with that, the claim to human rights.

Textron is one immediate local manifestation that’s affected me powerfully. Another is the recent temporary occupation of the Israeli Consulate in Boston. Tomorrow’s rally [November 9, 2011] to sustain Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the face of pending cuts might be joined by Occupy Boston. Across the country such occupations supply an often eager cadre of marchers, ralliers, and occupiers for a variety of issues. I hope the list lengthens. Occupy is an infectious model, a template for building awareness and expediting action. It is curiously and perhaps unconsciously reminiscent of occupation—the occupation of Iraq, the occupation of Palestine. Whether this is a productive reference or one that is self-defeating is yet unknown.

Another unknown of the movement is the meaning of declining public support, or so suggest some polls. Currently it’s something like 45% oppose, 35% support. However I suppose this is true of all movements and actions. None garnered widespread support thruout their entire duration. I know many people opposed the Freedom Bus Rides, and later the Poor People’s Campaign organized by Martin Luther King Jr shortly before his assassination. Certainly his stand against the Vietnam War was unpopular among many supporters and might have been one factor that led to his murder. This is simply part of the dynamic. We now laud at least the Freedom Bus Riders, and many of us view the Poor People’s Campaign as a paradigm for wide-spread action. One works to increase support but lack of support does not necessarily point to failure.

OK, the dream: about X for a change. She agreed to help me conduct a photo workshop about rivers or some other element of the environment. The assignment was vast and challenging. I asked her to do lots of background reading. She was taking time off from her studies which were about law (the professions of medicine and law eliding together in my dream). I looked forward to working with her. She was to share a house with me and others.

Around this time, D came to visit. She brought lots of her stuff and we couldn’t manage to find a space to store it that wouldn’t interfere with X’s stuff. While trying to sort out space I introduced D to X. At that very moment X was on the computer and D recognized the program X was using. It was about international law. They immediately connected. I felt good about this.

The phone rang, one of many mobile phones, it belonged to X, I answered. It was Amory. I think I knew that he was X’s lover or boy friend. I answered, hello, this is Skip answering for X. I then announced the call to X who seemed overjoyed to receive it. I was jealous. Dream ended.



Occupy movement

Occupy Boston

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Together

Simplex Tent City in Cambridge

Ten Years Later, Simplex Issues Remain Unresolved

Boston project creates new niche, November 28, 2005, by Christopher Montgomery, in the Plain Dealer Reporter

Textron Industries in Wilmington Massachusetts

Made in Mass., bomb stirs global debate

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