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Posts Tagged ‘ramallah’

2013 may be the big year of transitions for Quaker and Quaker-related institutions in Palestine-Israel. First the Friends International Center in Ramallah (FICR) is currently evolving, having been initially an experiment in connecting better with the local community. Its founding coordinator, Kathy Bergen, has retired. FICR had become a significant source of transformation in the West Bank thru its cultural, educational, and political programs. The FICR board and the Ramallah Friends Meeting are currently working toward clearness on what will come next. I am exceedingly grateful to have been in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel during spring 2013 while some of this transition emerged.

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Ramallah Friends Meeting House, photo by Anarchopacifist

The American Friends Service Committee has ended its main project, Popular Achievement, after nearly 10 successful years and will turn over implementation of several new directions and funding to Palestinian organizations. While the Ramallah Friends Meeting continues to provide an invaluable spiritual base for residents of Palestine and international visitors, regularly hosting groups such as the Christian Peacemakers teams, when I attended, the majority of participants were internationals. The Ramallah Friends School and the main regional AFSC office continue, both as far as I can determine, with strength and stability.

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Kathy Bergen, retiring FICR coordinator

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Jean Zaru, presiding clerk of Ramallah Friends Meeting

A little more detail: FICR was affected from two directions. The bank that had been serving the Ramallah Friends Meeting and FICR was undergoing an international investigation for some possible irregularities. Because it was found that the Ramallah Friends Meeting account had been operating a sub account for FICR, the bank examiners determined that this presented a problem and closed the account.  At the same time, the Israeli authorities responsible for issuing long-term visas would not provide any response to questions about whether Kathy’s shortened visa was a sign of termination or if renewal might be a possibility. Such uncertainty made it impossible to plan for a future that required keeping a non-citizen as a Program Coordinator.

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Jean Zaru with Saida Khader, West Bank AFSC staff person, in front of the Ramallah Friends Meeting annex

The FICR Steering Committee is presently in a period of expectant waiting and looking forward to the planning meeting with members of Ramallah Friends Meeting in October. Possibilities that have been suggested by the community would be short-­term Friends in Residence, Muslim/Christian conversations around specific subjects of direct concern to Palestinians, ongoing conflict reduction/Alternatives to Violence programs, and spiritual foundations of peace-­making. In general, requests from the community have been for going deep in a few specific things rather than going broadly in many. Most agree that the Meeting and FICR are one entity so another outcome is likely to be a name that reflects the unity going forward.

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Deborah First, clerk of FICR’s board

At Kathy’s goodbye party in April 2013 (which I attended) when she was feted and lauded for her 7 years of devoted work, many of us felt that if the energy present at that party could be focused into leadership—preferably not an individual but some form of collective—FICR would continue. To further quote Deborah First in a recent email to me:

…We (the Meeting and FICR) have retained Hekmat [a local woman] …at least through the end of December [2013] and perhaps for much longer. Plans for ongoing spiritually connected workshops (that is a vital connection for the maintenance of our church status) will unfold this fall. Meanwhile, much repair work is happening on the Meetinghouse and the Annex ­roof tiles, leak, irrigation system, and so on ­ and the stream of visitors keeps coming. Hekmat has been arranging, and is present for, hospitality at the rise of Meeting each Sunday and is glad to do so. There is a sense of peace about the slow and steady work of the spirit….

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Omar Barghouti, founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel 

As for the AFSC: since 2004 the Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza and the West Bank has concentrated on training youth, college age and high school. In an interactive and playful manner its Popular Achievement Program taught leadership and community building skills to volunteers. Once the graduates (now termed coaches) had successfully completed this training, the program required they recruit a group of high school youth to train in the same manner. The coaches then helped the younger youth design and implement a community service project such as a library, landscaping, first aid workshop, and conversion of an abandoned Israeli military base into a football (soccer) field. The AFSC joined with 11 strategic partners including NGO’s and universities to train more than 6000 young people.

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Gaza office of the Quaker Palestine Youth Program

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Popular Achievement programs in Gaza and the West Bank

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Photography workshop students (and friends) in Gaza taught by Skip Schiel

The new direction has 4 main goals, all in my view characterized by enhanced political content: challenging and transforming militarized societies in Israel, Palestine, and the US; fostering cohesion of disparate Palestinian groups (West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and the diaspora); supporting the boycott-divest-sanction (BDS) international campaign as called for in 2005 by Palestinian civil society; and supporting active nonviolence and social change movements to transform the occupation and inequality generally.

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SodaStream (targeted by the BDS campaign) factory in an illegal settlement industrial park in the West Bank,

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Landfill illegally operated by Veolia (also targeted by the BDS campaign) in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank

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Sahar Vardi, AFSC staff, East Jerusalem, at a demonstration in Al Masara

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Al Masara, near Bethlehem

To implement this new direction AFSC will close down its West Bank and Gaza offices (West Bank immediately and Gaza in 3 years, altho the Gaza office may transition into an NGO with AFSC support), devolve direction to local partners (such as Baladna and Pal Vision), and continue funding. It will maintain its East Jerusalem office. The new program, “Palestinian Youth: Together for Change,” is slated to run until 2016. Quoting the regional director, Patricia Sellick, directly:

This is the context in which we are working:

20 years after Oslo the Israeli military occupation is entrenched and conditions of Palestinians are deteriorating Israel remains a highly militarized society and is attempting to extend a militarized civilian service to its Palestinian citizens US continues to support Israel with military aid The vulnerability of Palestinian refugees across the region has been highlighted by the predicament of the stateless Palestinians living in Syria

Within this context, AFSC reviewed its plans for Israel and Palestine programming in June 2012 and identified the following priorities (explained further in the attached document):

Demilitarization Economic Activism Non-violence and social change Palestinian cohesion

These strategic priorities have led to the redesign of our Israel, Palestine and US programs. These three programs are coordinated but separate.

…The new project started July 2013 and like the previous project has funding from Bread for the World. I would like to emphasize that our overall funding for the Palestine Program has increased. Staff cuts do not mean budget cuts, they reflect the fact that the Middle East region will now be spending a greater proportion on our partners and a smaller proportion on AFSC staff.

I raise the question: how can AFSC effectively end control and influence while it maintains funding? What if a partner wishes to advocate or at least allow a more militant approach to resistance, one that contradicts AFSC’s non-violence principles? Another question: if the direction is more political, ie, toward ending the occupation and siege, will Israel allow the AFSC the latitude it’s experienced over its more than 60 years in Palestine-Israel? To compile this report I’ve spoken with most staff, including Patricia Sellick, and the general secretary, Shan Cretin. I’m in touch with key people for constant updates. AFSC has produced an exciting new newsletter specific to the region.

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Shan Cretin, General Secretary, AFSC

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Patricia Sellick, Regional Director, AFSC

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Amal Sabawi, director of the Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza

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Ibrahem Shatali, program officer, Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza

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Islam Madhoun, Intelligence Technology office, Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza

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Firas Ramlawi, business officer, Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza

From most Palestinian staff I heard some hard feelings. Some claimed they’d not been consulted and of course they were not happy about losing their jobs (altho some may transition into new AFSC positions or be able to use their expertise with other organizations). To some it felt like a classic top down decision-making process. Ms. Sellick claimed all staff had been consulted and AFSC was responding to suggestions and requests made by Palestinian organizations. Furthermore she said the big picture is hard to view from a staff position. I am happy to wait and see, revise my thoughts as new programs unfold, and support them in any way possible with my photography. I am grateful to be a small part of a large process, one that dates back to 1869 when 2 Quakers from my region of New England, Eli and Sybil Jones, met a young Arab girl in Ramallah. They asked, what can we do? She answered, provide education for girls. From such a humble origin, great and worthy institutions formed. They will continue. Contact info for the AFSC: regional director Patricia Sellick (p.sellick@afsc.org) and her team in the Middle East Regional office. And for FICR, board clerk Deborah First, (deborahfirst@mac.com).

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Early 20th century

LINKS

AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) in Palestine-Israel

FICR (Friends International Center in Ramallah) Popular Achievement Program

AFSC position paper-2013 (also available in Arabic)

AFSC-BDS Campaign

Quakers in Israel & Palestine—Timeline by Skip Schiel

Notes on My Quaker Connections in Palestine 

Photos by Skip Schiel

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SEEKING VENUES, CALIFORNIA TO ALASKA

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)

Photos

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

SLIDE SHOWS

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

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITS

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.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE

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

MORE ABOUT SKIP SCHIEL

TO BRING SKIP SCHIEL AND HIS PHOTOGRAPHS TO YOUR CHURCH, SCHOOL OR CIVIC GROUP/FOR MORE INFORMATION

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

Hosting Agreement

ORGANIZATIONS I’VE WORKED WITH IN PALESTINE-ISRAEL

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

PHOTOS

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

LINKS

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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Ein Samiya, Occupied Territories of Palestine, aka, West Bank, (click for enlargement)

Well and pump house in Ein Samiya. From an aquifer in Ein Samiya 20 km northeast of Ramallah Occupied Territories of Palestine, paid for largely by Jordan in 1963, replacing an earlier system relying on cisterns and a few local springs for drinking water, pumped in several stages over hills thru pipes, water reaches the city of Ramallah of 25,000, supplying about 18% of its water, the rest bought from Israel.

Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards (not always), last to first.

About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.

In several parts, with photos and videos.

PHOTOS

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

—Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

June 28, 2010, Monday, Traverse City, Michigan, home of AR

Roman aqueduct

Roman mill, to which the water was brought to grind grain

My Hydropolitics in Palestine/Israel slide show played to about 30 people, in and out, more or less, following the concert and in the same general area. Specifically a place called Higher Grounds, a coffee emporium smaller than Equal Exchange but related. The owner, Chris, buys and roasts the coffee, using the route of fair trade. I joked about how the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage in 1998 resided overnight in the Equal Exchange warehouse in Canton MA, with the roaster going all night, creating a slight problem for those of us addicted to coffee. I forgot to highlight the excellent photos in the entry hall of Higher Grounds showing aspects of coffee growing.

I’d rehearsed the show, made minor changes (I lost the monitor calibrations, redid it, and now notice some of the images are too dark) and thus knew the show fairly well, able to anticipate the next slide or slide sequence. The main problem—other than too long and still not with proper graphics and tables—was loss of sound. Mysteriously audio would not play. Neither on the show or thru iTunes. Later, closing the lid and reopening it, I discovered the music plays. As I mentioned to a few there, this is trickster at work, lurking around knowing what annoys me most, waiting for an opportunity. And there it was: I wished to have my sound during the show, had set up speakers, and then zippo, no audio.

Until later, when too late.

The audience was not very lively, especially compared to the conferences. Not many remarks or questions. They might have been deadened as a result of the long detailed show. A Palestinian who knew the Huwwarra checkpoint south of Nablus came up after to thank me. Others did as well. Despite the lack of a vibrant discussion maybe the show went well enough. As well as I could deliver it.

As with the US Social Forum presentation I tried to link local hydropolitics with the global and then with Israel-Palestine. In Traverse City it is the historic dimension, whites settling where Indians had already settled, in part for the water access. Additionally there’s been a controversy over the city-required septic system, and further, Nestlé’s bottled water. I learned that local people opposed a bottling plant, prevailed in the first court episode, lost in an appeal. Some now consider direct action. At this moment Nestlé’s is pumping up huge quantities of water, bottling it, selling it, and the unwary are supporting this with every bottle purchase. When will we see the end of bottled water? Some communities—and this includes Traverse City’s city hall—prohibit sales and distribution of bottled water.

I’ve not yet entered the local lake water, hope to today if conditions are right. I use the free wifi at Arby’s for my internet connection, eating one “value pack” of fries as the price of admission ($1).  Local hosts have been very generous, Mary H who set it all up, Ann R opening her house to me, Terry at meeting, her buddy Mark with lots of info about native people around here, Randy driving me from Detroit and attending my hydropolitics show for the 2nd time in one week (1st at US Social Forum), and others. This touring continues to be a primary joy in my life, a form of working vacation that brings me into new communities, new regions, often surprising me. I’d probably not have otherwise visited Traverse City.

Just before awakening this morning—often the best time for recalling dreams—I was with a group of people, including family, including my young daughters Katy or Joey, and a mom, probably P. We walked to and thru an old railroad car, me asking one of my friends who knew trains what era this car might be from. I found a wagon, boarded it, cruised downhill toward an old building, maybe a garage. Opening the door gingerly I found inside signs of some habitation. Outside we all discovered a painting project, someone had been painting on the sidewalk. Somehow we knew it was a woman who’d painted. I tried painting, Katy tried it, P and I considered that when Katy is older she could come here alone and paint. I found a dead squirrel.

But what about whoever is painting here now? we asked.

Attending Friends Meeting in Traverse City was a joy. The congregation is surprisingly large, some 8 for 1st session, completely silent, unprogrammed, followed by a programmed section which I did not attend, drawing about 20 souls. They are housed in a Friends church, small, handsome, old. A joy because I arrived early, about 20 minutes before start time, sat quietly with a rotund fellow, joined by an attractive woman, Terry, who is one of my hosts, and then the full hour. No spoken messages but a relaxed silence that I enjoyed thoroughly. I enjoyed it so much possibly because it was a sharp contrast with all the noise and bustle of the previous days in Detroit conferences.

Breakfast out followed, 5 of us, all political firebrands.

In the afternoon my hosts treated me to a concert by a folk singing couple living in this area, Seth and May (or Daisy May as she’s sometimes known). Very expert, excellent guitar work, lilting, lyrical songs mostly about the environment since it was a benefit for a local group, the Bioneers. We sat under an occluded sky, never sure if the rains would return. The sun did, however, and with the humidity created uncomfortable conditions. Mostly families attended. The setting was a partially rehabbed former insane asylum, later called a state psychiatric hospital, a huge one, one of 3 in the state around the turn of last century.

I note that yesterday DR gave a forum at Friends Meeting at Cambridge about his recent journey to Israel-Palestine. And me? After 5 journeys, including several working with AFSC? Not a peep of an invitation. Why am I so passive, for now, about requesting a slot?

I find X fading from my awareness, finally free of this seductive albatross. For how long? What happens when I return home? Or if she writes? Or returns to Cambridge for August? Do I once again trap myself in absurd longings?

Here’s what I wrote Anne:

Dear Anne,

Your letter touched me deeply. You write so gracefully, powerfully, and honestly. All you express I could return in kind, if only I had the words.

We are at different stages of our lives, even tho close in age. You are happily married, content with home and family. I am yearning, not content, yet content, confused, between roles in life: solitary figure and “vagabond lover” (a term my former father in law astutely gave me, trying to warn his 20 year old daughter, failing), contrasted with man wishing for a partnered lover, sharing all that is meaningful (or most) to both of us. The eternal quest that might drive me.

You are single pointedly devoted to one primary method of responding to the Middle Eastern tragedy (and hope) we share. I am spread out, not regionally, but by method and topic.

You find yourself “with low and ebbing energy,” while I tend (for now) to find my energy waxing, surging, volatile, endless (for now). You dipped into the social forum, I swam in it and before it the US assembly of anti Zionist Jews and before that the allied media conference. And after all 3, a week or so exploring Detroit.

Contrasts and unities.

I’m so happy we could hug each other for the brief USSF moment, after being physically apart since 2008. I rarely feel distant from you since you are such a vivid presence in my life. I owe so much to you, from connecting with other Israel-Palestine Quakers to being such good friends. You know more about my inner life and understand me better than many of my closest friends. And I may be one of your inner circle on Israel-Palestine matters. I cherish all this, as I do you.

More later, and thanks again for finding me the gig in TC.

Love always,

TO BE CONCLUDED

LINKS

Traverse City Water Treatment Plant

Short history of Traverse City

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Main pump delivering water to Ramallah

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Pumping station, Ein Samia well field

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Ein Samia

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Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles

Photos

Special thanks to Fareed Tamallah for this lead, and to Malek Baya who guided and hosted me.

July 26 & 27, 2009, Sunday & Monday, Ramallah Friends School apartment:

A story about a water source north of Ramallah, in the valley of Ein Samia, 20 km northeast of Ramallah: my friend, Fareed had told me about Malek Baya, who lives north of Ramallah in a village, Kufur Malek, near the source of a considerable amount of water supplying Ramallah. It is one of the few Palestinian controlled sources. This is the furthest in a long line of villages that seem water rich, compared with some other regions of the West Bank. Malek picked me up at Manarah Square (after he first suggested I take a taxi out, which would have been confusing and expensive), his little white car loaded with the rest of his family, wife, 2 daughters, one an infant, and two sons, one an invalid from a fall, brain damaged perhaps for life, unable to speak or move much, we headed north.

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Malek Baya

First along the “Ancient Route” that Adel had told us about on the Nablus tour, the traditional route over the mountains north and south, connecting Syria with Egypt, but the Israelis had blocked this and so we left it for smaller roads. First thru the village of Ein Sinya where we observed what may have been an ancient waterway, now dry (partly because of the season), carrying a putrid smelling sewage viaduct, bordered by green fields, some with curious white hoops covering plants. We found an old building which Malek claimed once housed a flourmill, now used as stables for sheep. Also a spring with a man filling up jugs. He did not want his photo made.

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Spring, Dura Al Kre

Further north to Dura Al Kre, another well watered village, with a similar configuration of waterway, but this time with numerous springs up about 5 meters from the lowest point. Water drained from splits in the limestone ridge and was collected in various ways, the overflow held in a cistern and later flowed to the fields. Debris floated in the cistern but the men told Malek that they periodically cleaned this out. A woman had gathered water and was carrying it on her head. They showed us another site further up which had been piped, the system paid for by a wealthy Palestinian-American who returned every summer. Apparently all of this infrastructure was built and paid for by local villagers and friends, not a government entity or non-governmental organization.

They told us that during the summer the main water supply thru pipes is turned off by some regional authority, presumably Mekerot, the Israeli company which supplies—at, the villagers claim,  inflated fees and capriciously—much Palestinian water (Palestine’s own water, by the way, stolen as some believe since the aquifer lies beneath the West Bank), and then the village relies on these springs. Which also can slow down but apparently never stop. People have to lug this water.

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Spring water, Ein Sinya

My constant question was how this region looked hundreds or maybe even a mere 20 years ago, before global climate change and before the expansion of the population? From the geological record it appears much water once flowed thru here, perhaps gradually diminishing over millennia. I have to remember—and this requires a fertile imagination—that this entire region was once beneath a vast sea or ocean, and the limestone is the deposit of the aquatic life once flourishing here. It is organic rock.

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Water to Ramallah

Finally, Malek’s village, Kufur Malek (odd that his first name is his village’s last name), and after resting and eating, a trip to our target, Ein Samia, site of the well field supplying some of Ramallah’s water. His wife served muqlubah, upside down casserole, with chicken, potatoes, carrots, onions, and rice, with a few skinny noodles thrown in. Along with salad, sweet drinks, water, and later, after we’d returned from the main excursion, ice cream. A feast in many ways.

While waiting to leave for Ein Samia, Malek’s uncle, also father in law (he married his first cousin, after medical tests which found their genetic profiles safe for marriage, a love marriage, not arranged, he was quick to point out, 9 years, and they seem very happy together) played with the youngest, a mere babe in arms, another lovely child in this family of extraordinary and precious people. I played minimally with the 5-year-old daughter (5 next November), lending her my mechanical pencil with which to draw or write, after she’d showed me her coloring book that she and her older brother had colored. I raved about her coloring, solidifying our relationship. Who can resist strong, heartfelt praise? While playing I made a series of photos of her, moving the camera down low, at times using my Canon’s S3 fold out screen, and finding later a few might show her radiant spirit. There is something very special about this child, as is true for the entire family.

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Daughter of Malek Baya and his wife

And about the uncle who I learned is a jolly and robust 69-year-old widower. At first when I noted our age equivalence, I thought, he looks very old. Do I look this old? How creaky is he? As creaky as I feel? Not at all, he is nimble, agile, truly bouncy where I, by contrast, despite X’s belief that I am bouncy, feel like and might be creaking to a halt, a permanent halt. I’ve never felt so old. (Tho today I feel younger. Is it the food supplements? The night’s rest? The beautiful people in and around Ramallah?)

OK, enough domestic verbiage, let’s keep on point: hydropolitics. Uncle, Malek and I bundled into the car and drove off. Up and up some more. First past a limestone cutting facility spilling chips along the road. The beginning of viewing the long pipe line between the source at Ein Samia and its destination, my mouth in Ramallah—and that of about 25,000 other thirsty mouths waiting to be watered.

What is the story of the line’s construction? Dates back to the early 1960s, after electrification of the region but not Malek’s village, and during the Jordanian occupation. If I have the story from Malke correct, the brother of King Hussein of Jordan, a prince, met and loved the beautiful wife of the Ramallah mayor. Prince abducted and raped the woman, she committed suicide in despair and shame. Ramallahans were outraged. King did not punish his wrongful brother but as penance paid for the installation of the water system, including the electric line needed to power the pumps.

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Israeli placed road block

A long diversion here (with some legalese thrown in), since I’ve not been able to corroborate the story of the Jordanian prince, what follows is the official version as promulgated by the Jerusalem Water Undertaking (JWU), the agency responsible for this system:

Until late 1950s, the population of Ramallah and Al-Bireh cities depended almost entirely on cisterns for drinking water with the exception of a few local springs. Following the war of 1948 and the resulting influx of Palestinian refugees into the area, the need to increase the water supply in the region became vital. Thus, Ramallah and Al-Bireh Water Company was established to deal with this burden.

The new company planned to draw on Ein-Fara springs northeast of Jerusalem and succeeded in concluding an agreement with Arab East Jerusalem Municipality. A distribution network and a main pipeline were constructed for the purpose of conveying water from Jerusalem to the Ramallah and Al-Bireh area. Though, the limited quantities of water were insufficient for the served population.

In 1963, the Jordanian Government concluded an agreement with the International Development Agency (IDA) for a loan of US$ 3.5 millions to develop drinking water projects in some parts of the Kingdom. The Government decided to utilize the groundwater resources in Ein-Samia wellfield, 20 km northeast of Ramallah, and initiated construction in what later became known as the Ein-Samia Water Project.

Pursuant to the respective agreement between the Jordanian government and IDA, the founding law of JWU was issued in 1966 with a mandate to develop new water resources and control all water projects in the area with the responsibility of providing the population with potable water. According to this law, JWU was established as a non-profit, independent, civil organization run by a Board of Directors including representatives from the three main municipalities in the area; Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Deir Dibwan, in addition to a representative from Kufr Malik village and an assigned Official from the Government.

Since 1967 occupation, the Israeli Military Authorities subjected all works and projects pertinent to water and water resources to its direct control through the Military Order No. 92/1967.

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Illegal (under international law and UN resolutions) Israeli settlement/colony

The mentioned order prevented any organization or undertaking from the execution of any work connected to management, maintenance and development of water services or resources without obtaining prior approvals and licenses from these Authorities.

In 1982, the Israeli Occupation Authorities dissolved the city councils of Ramallah and Al-Bireh cities, thus, disabling JWU Board of Directors from performing its duties. For five years and without the Board of Directors, JWU top management met the challenge and made all daily and strategic decisions to achieve the Undertaking‘s Mission.

At the end of 1987, the mass public Uprising Intifada started in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The whole political, social and financial situation in the area changed. Many people were put out of work, thus, putting an extra burden on JWU. Through these tough days of Intifada, the Undertaking managed to survive.

In the wake of the rule of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) was established in 1995 assuming the regulation powers of the water sector in Palestine. In 1996, the Government representative in the Board of Directors of JWU was invited to join the Board for the first time since 1967.

Nothing about the Jordanian prince, true or false, Malek says true.

With more data here.

So hydrologically the water has accumulated in a low place on its way to the Jericho valley. This is in a wide wadi that in the old days might have flowed regularly with much water. Wells, pumps, and the water is brought to the surface. Then it has to be pumped over the hills and up to Ramallah which is not only about 20 km distant but 500 meters higher.  Should electricity fail—and Malek told me it very rarely does—that’s the end of this source of water. Or should the aquifer deplete further, as it is doing, and should Israeli restrictions continue to apply about well depth, so long water. Or should the water become polluted from sewage and farming chemicals, a real possibility, the end of this source of water. Likewise the vulnerability of the pipes themselves, which would be catastrophic if violence again hit this region. The pipeline could be easily destroyed by Israeli incursions. I’m surprised they did not attack it during the 2002 invasions, if they didn’t. This remains a constant threat.

This water, this life, is precarious.

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Grain mill from the Roman period

So back in the car, higher and higher, road narrower and narrower. The road, uncle tells us, was built during the Jordanian period, between 1948 and 1967. Malek told me that now hikers regularly traverse this same region, Ramallah to Jericho. I might try this sometime. Jericho is only about 30 km from Ein Samia, and maybe 40 km from Ramallah itself. Distances are shockingly short here, yet long because of the matrix of control, the occupation.

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Uncle told me about the quarry pit which is clearly on Palestinian land but often the Israelis prevent them from using it or if they allow use charge them a fee. Where else in the world would this be allowed?

Uncle is a study in traditional Palestinian life. His trade is stone cutting; he also sells cut stone and gardens. He is not retired, tho at retirement age, 69, one year older than me. He will not leave the village for the city, should the family decide to move to Ramallah permanently. (Malek, with a flat in Ramallah closer to his job as software engineer and less subject to closures and road obstructions, wishes to eventually move back to the village, when conditions ease more.) Uncle cares for the infant and the children, obviously good with them as I try to show in my photos. He grew up when this land had no road access to the fields in Ein Samia where his father farmed. So he’d ride a donkey to bring the lunch food. He knows the plants, picked for us early figs. He also seems expert in the history of the region, overjoyed to find someone like me so interested in learning. And then when Malek and I had had enough and wished to return to Malek’s village, uncle wanted to go further and did, lingering in fields that must bring back many memories. As I’ve written earlier, tho he’s one year older than me, he is much more agile and perhaps stronger.

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Malek’s uncle & father in law

His wife died 6 years ago and Malek told me they’re trying to find him a new wife. Is he lonely? Does he enjoy life at the homestead when the rest of the family is in Ramallah?

I wonder about how the family is changed by the presence of the 7-year-old infirm boy. He’d fallen from a swing or see saw, injuring his brain, and because of the limited medical resources will probably live out his years in this condition. Can’t speak but can understand speech. Can barely move. Cries when his siblings go off to school or play. They treat him with respect. His body is contorted. I wished to photograph him, especially with siblings and mother, but never found the opportunity. Maybe another time, should we meet again. This family also is a story in itself. A marker of the current occupation.

While waiting to go, for the rest of the family to pack, Malek toured me thru part of the village. Very hilly, pretty, many new homes, and this being summer, the wedding season. Several each week. All in the village of about 3000 are invited, but only the core element will be fed.

Lights were coming on as we departed, and just as we left the driveway a group of 3 young girls met us and chatted. This gave me one last opportunity to photograph the village, the lights on the horizon.

And this might end my lengthy account of water and life north of Ramallah. For now.

Water

Courtesy of the Internet

LINKS:

Jerusalem Water Undertaking

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Display about Mahmoud Darwish

Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles

Photos

July 27, 2009, Tuesday, Ramallah Friends School apartment:

These sketchy dreams: I smashed a man in the face and stomach, knocking him out cold, after arguing with him about passage thru a confined space, or so I recall. He was shorter than me, and tho I fought regularly when a boy, I rarely dream of fighting. Perhaps an effect of where I’m living and what I’m witnessing? The most interesting dream had me hitchhiking with a small child, I didn’t know precisely where we were going so I couldn’t say exactly to the few drivers who stopped to offer a ride what our destination was. Someone reminded me several times about the destination but I could not remember it for more than a few seconds. Was I then doomed to live out my years on this small road not knowing where I was going? IMG_0228 The Popular Achievement (PA) festival was truly gala. And large. And noisy. The Ramallah Cultural Palace was filled with excited youth as young as about 8 years and into their early 20s. I met Grace, from the same Minnesota university that originated PA (usually called Public Achievement); she is here as an intern researching the program. She told me she is the first person from the university to visit here, and that PA in Israel-Palestine is one of the most successful incarnations. Inquiring about why this might be she offered that it is badly needed here, there are few alternatives; whereas in the States, where PA has not proved popular and maybe not effective, there are many programs for youth. She feels it is also well used in the Balkans and Northern Ireland, with a strong connection between PA Palestine and in Northern Ireland. IMG_0211 We both noted, and I’d asked Thuqan, the regional coordinator, earlier about this, that this year’s sites are clustered around Jerusalem. She and Thuqan explained this was because Jerusalem needed attention, mainly the Old City, East Jerusalem and the refugee camps. By contrast, the northern West Bank, Jenin in particular, has already had many programs. I noticed also that a fair proportion of programs were one offs—meaning, the project was to do something once, like hold a conference or party, rather than a sustained activity like the library in Gaza, or the landscape maintenance work there, or the abandoned army base converted into a sports field in Jenin. Thuqan hinted that access and mobility were other factors, since I doubt anyone would have imagined the relaxation of travel restrictions that has occurred when planning sites last year. Some of the projects this year included: an education exhibit about Mahmoud Darwish, the late acclaimed Palestinian poet, projects with orphans and the elderly, establishing a gateway for a village, renovating and cleaning a youth center, enhancing a school’s wall space, developing a young child program, attending to those with special needs, teaching thru play, helping children with cancer, among others. For the festival the groups had made displays which I photographed finished and in process, and then I think some performed on stage. Here comes the dabka, in several forms, and singing, and play scenes, one about a shooting by an Israeli soldier. This phase of the festival was very lively and robust, with much participation from the audience.

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IMG_0297 The general idea of the PA is to train college age volunteers in leadership and community building skills, then require each coach, as they’re now named, to recruit a group of high school age youth and teach them the same skills in an interactive manner (using tools of Popular Education). Those youth are then required to decide on a community service project, design and implement it, and in turn require participation from sectors of the community—financial donations, volunteer participation, etc. IMG_0173 During the performances in the huge auditorium of the Ramallah Cultural Palace (which had been jointing constructed by the UN, Ramallah municipality with funding by the Japanese government, a sturdy “fact on the ground”) I was sitting midway back when suddenly a quartet of young boys began dancing in place, mostly the dabka I assume. I photographed this, then videoed it. The photos do not show the movement or the idea, the video very effectively does. (Please scroll down for the video.) During the routine the music suddenly stopped but the dancers continued, responding to clapping from a large contingent of audience sitting to one side. IMG_0291

Dabka, the traditional Palestinian dance

The show seemed self running. Thuqan had introduced the program, greeted the honored guests, which included the prime minister, Dr. Salam Fayad. Earlier as I wandered the halls looking for photos I noticed men with guns, Kalashnikovs, Uzis, pistols, men wearing with different uniforms. Who are these guys? I asked Thuqan nervously, they seem to contradict the non violent tone and principles of the PA program. They’re preparing for the visit by Dr. Fayad, he explained to me. I assume security is tight because of the threat from Hamas. Or perhaps there are other political and personal rivals I’m not aware of. At any rate, their presence added excitement. IMG_0257

Thuqan K. Qishawi, Middle East Coordinator for Youth Programs, American Friends Service Committee

The auditorium was frigid. And the presentations became repetitive, and I couldn’t understand the language, and being with so many jubilant people tires me out, especially when I don’t share the jubilation—tho I share the appreciation and wish to express gratitude. And of course I have to decide if I’m made enough photos. So, peeing, watering up, snagging a few pastries on my way out, I departed, walked home, and began working on the photos. Soon I’ll be in Gaza, working with the counterpart to the PA there, and photographing their festival on August 13, Providence willing. Finally, my Nikon camera. It now works, or seems to. I am curious. Card problem? I should use only Nikon approved cards. Heat problem? Let it sit in the sun awhile and see if problem repeats. Can I pinpoint exactly when the files first were corrupted? On the Jerusalem trip, during the cave exploration? Earlier? Later? Certainly by the trip home, since all the files from the light rail series are lost. My photographer daughter, Joey, believes the ringing of a cell pone, if too near a digital camera, can corrupt files. First I’ve heard of that. Very odd, another page in my massive and rapidly expanding Book of Mysteries, an idea that dates back to a discussion Dan and I had on the Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage in 1995.

LINKS:

The Quaker Palestine Youth Program (QPYP)

My photos from the program in Gaza, 2006

Public Achievement in Northern Ireland

“Learning by Doing: the Experience of Popular Achievement in Palestine” by Suzzane Hammad & Tareq Bakri

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By addressing the issues of water inequity, resource management, and waste, Skip Schiel is…creating a body of work that has both immediate and future relevance far beyond the Middle East.

—Sara Burke, co-editor, Peacework magazine

Teaching photography in Gaza, May 2003

Skip Schiel with photography students, Gaza, 2005, photo by Ibrahem Khadra, Quaker Youth Program staff

Can you help?

I plan to return to Palestine/Israel in the summer of 2009 for another 3-month residency. As on my previous 4 journeys of discovery since 2003, I will volunteer my photography to organizations in the region, such as the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information and the American Friends Service Committee. For them I make photos; and I use a set to portray conditions and struggles—conditions of danger and oppression, struggles for freedom, justice, peace, secure living, and reconciliation. I agree with the eminent Israeli scholar, activist, and writer, Jeff Halper, that a new Middle Eastern Confederation is possible, drawing together contending parties into a union based on compassion and synergy. Think Europe prior to 1945 with its seemingly endless wars; and think the European Union, hopefully burying war as an instrument of change.

Rachel Corrie on YouTube

I’ll continue with my usual themes: hydropolitics, Bethlehem, Gaza, youth, non-violent resistance, holy sites, and Quakers. I assemble exhibits, slide shows, publications, a website (teeksaphoto.org) and a blog (skipschiel.wordpress.com). In the fall and winter of 2008 I traveled for 10 weeks on the West Coast from Alaska to California and the South from North Carolina to Florida, presenting my new multi media shows—more than 60 venues to some 2000 audience members (teeksaphoto.org/Pages/PublicPresentations.html). Plans are underway for returns to the South in fall 2009 and in 2010, New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and the Deep South. In addition, people have been encouraging me to have a professional video team construct a DVD of one or more of my presentations, enabling wider distribution of my photos.

Old City wall, Jerusalem, 2006

Light attracts me—the light of the Mediterranean region and the light of all the wisdom teachers, the luminaries, of that region. With an open heart, I hope to deepen my eye, my vision, to encompass both Palestinians and Israelis as they struggle against seemingly intractable forces to right the wrongs and correct the errors in the many legacies playing out in this region—“rage, rage against the dying of the light,” as Dylan Thomas wrote.

Skip Schiel in Dheheshe refugee camp, Bethlehem, 2003, photo by Mark Dahoud

Chief among the legacies besetting the region and the world: colonialism, the Jewish Shoah (holocaust) with its millennia-old predecessors in Christianity, the Palestinian Nakba (the catastrophe coinciding with the founding of the Israeli state in 1948), the role of the United States giving its unswerving validation of Israel, and the lack of beneficence from Arab states to the Palestinian movements for justice. In the new era of Obama-Biden, perhaps we can realistically hope for constructive change.

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Dheheshe refugee camp, Bethlehem, 2003

With funding from private donations, grants, and money I raise through my slide shows and print sales—and with the irreplaceable support of my Quaker community— I will only ask my hosts for housing and a food stipend. If this is
not feasible, I shall simply donate my services.

Erez checkpoint/border terminal with Israel, from Gaza side, 2008

The cost of this upcoming journey—fees, airfare, photo equipment and supplies, uncovered housing, food, and local transport while in country, and postproduction expenses—is approximately $10,000.

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Mens’ clothing store owner, Ramallah, 2007

Realizing many of us are in serious economic crisis and perhaps unable to be as generous as we might wish, I’d deeply appreciate any sort of contribution, large or small, whether money, airline ticket benefits, equipment (photographic or computer) or prayers. I welcome your suggestions about making this journey. You could also help by organizing a showing of my slides or photos in the fall and winter of 2009. Please visit teeksaphoto.org and skipschiel.wordpress.com for examples of my photography and writing on various themes.

Checks can be made out to “Skip Schiel” and mailed to 9 Sacramento St, Cambridge MA, 02138-184 or use PayPal on my website.

Israeli settlement/colony near Ramallah, 2005 c.

In the struggle is the hope,

—Skip

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow—this is the whole [Torah] Law, go and learn.

—Rabbi Hillel

The Rising of the Light photo archive, 2009

Slide shows & print exhibits available

Testimonials

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