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Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

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

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As Israel prepares to extend its rightful sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), we bear a historic – and moral – responsibility to accurately call this event what it is: reunification. Israel is reuniting families, communities, and the Jewish people. It is reuniting with its history, which stretches back thousands of years. It is reunifying the traditions and culture that have survived and even thrived through adversity, animosity, and the horrors of countless wars….

It’s not ‘annexation’; it’s reunification, By Gerard Filitti, in The Times of Israel (June 28, 2020)

PHOTOS:

Khadija Alazza (Um Ghazi) was born in 1932 in a small village between the flat land of the coastal plain and the mountains to the east, which she described as a paradise. “We lived the best of life; we planted wheat, barley, corn, sesame, tomato and okra, in addition to olives, apples, figs, cactus and almonds, and we were self-sufficient.”

The village of Tal Essafi is located on a hill between Hebron and Ramleh, bordered by the villages of Ajoor, Dirdaban, Moghlis and Berkusia. Moreover, Jews built a kibbutz named Kfar Menachem on Palestinian land between Tal Essafi and Masmiyi. At the edge of the village, there was a water storage shed where water pumped from the well was stored in the water tanks. Khadija’s father owned much land, and plowmen and harvesters worked with him. She was not required to work in farming, and so was spoiled.

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Tal Essafi, 2013. photo by Liadmalone

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Tal Assif, 2010, from the mound looking east, photo from the internet

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The Jewish gangs, especially the Haganah [one of the precursors of the Israeli army], began to attack the Palestinian villages after they had conquered cities. Agrarian people heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin and were frightened. Jewish gangs displaced Arabs from one village to another. “It was midsummer and the people had already harvested; they had laid down the piles of wheat to be threshed. Some Palestinians resisted the gangs but had only a few old guns. They were not able to respond to the large attacks by Jewish gangs. Khadija says: “The gangs surrounded the village from the west side and left the eastern side open, and killed a number of people of the village. Our fighters withdrew, and we fled to the nearby village of Ajoor, walking on foot and without carrying anything with us. After a day and a night of walking we arrived in Ajoor.”

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Khadija spent three days with her family in Ajoor. “The people of Ajoor kindly received us; they fed and accommodated us in their homes.” Then the Zionist gangs attacked Ajoor, and the people again fled to the east, this time to the village of Beit Jibrin, which is located in a high area. People walked two days without water. They stayed in Beit Jibrin 3-4 months, and then Jewish gangs started attacking Beit Jibrin. There was strong resistance which lasted for three days. “They bombarded the town with artillery and warplanes, and people fled into the caves in mountains. The gangs entered the town from the west, and we again fled east. We walked for 3 days, and we passed through the village of Ithtna and slept there for a night. We continued 2 days more walking until we arrived in Hebron.”

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Ajoor/Ajjur, 2019, photo by Skip Schiel

“We sat under the vineyards for twenty days, and there were lots of displaced people. A friend of my father from Hebron named Haj Osman al-Hamour, was looking for us, took us to his house, and we lived all summer and winter in his house. There was much snow that year.

“Due to cold weather, the Jordanian army came and took the people to the mosques. Some people went to the caves, and when the snow came down, they died there.

“We spent a year and a half in Hebron, during which my brothers were ‘infiltrating’ into the ‘occupied land,’ that is, into our own village, to bring food, wheat, and money from our house in Tal Essafi. My father did not like what my brothers did, and decided to go down to Jericho to prevent his children from infiltrating. We had settled in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho and my brothers worked in the citrus fields because they were good farmers.

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Refugee camp, Jericho, 2005, photo by Skip Schiel

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Jericho, 2015

“I married Mahmud Sharqawi, a refugee from Kafr Ana, and we moved to the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. After the 1967 war, my parents and siblings were displaced to Jordan, while I stayed in the West Bank. In 1975, my husband died, and I remained with my children and daughters in the Amari camp.

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After the setback of the 1967 war, Khadija went to Tal El Safi several times with her children—the last of which was in 1998—and found the village completely destroyed. On the ruins were some fig trees and cactus. Part of the mosque was still standing. Um Ghazi lives now with her children in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah and visits her siblings in Jordan from time to time because they are forbidden by Israel to return or visit Palestine. Um Ghazi bemoans the homeland and her life there. She remembers the pile of wheat which remained un-threshed. She wishes the time will come when she can die and be buried in her hometown.

Cafit030.jpgArcheological site of Gath, in Arabic Tal Essafi, photo from Wikipedia
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With Fareed Taamallah, my colleague, from Ramallah

LINKS

Khadija Alazza bemoans the pile of wheat, which remained un-threshed, (from which I draw this blog), by Fareed Taamallah (2019)

Tell es-Safi

Ibriq (Community)

Palestine Film Institute

TO BE CONTINUED

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

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Neama Zaid

…refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible; Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations…

—UN General Assembly, adopted Dec 11, 1948, 35 for, 15 against, 8 abstained

PHOTOS

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1880 Palestine Exploration Fund (click map for enlargement)

Notes from our interview.

She lives alone in a large house in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah.

She was 10 years old in 1948 when Israel forcibly expelled her and her family from Beit Nabala.

She recalls many details of her life in the village

Beit Nabala was a prosperous, agricultural, self-sufficient village.

Her grandfather owned a quarry. He partnered with Jewish people but during the Nakba lost the business; she doesn’t know what happened.

The Jews from nearby Tel Aviv spoke Arabic.

Villagers west of Beit Nabala fled earlier, her village was one of the last to flee toward the east. Rushed and frantic, her mother accidentally brought salt instead of flour.

Her family fled first to Budrus and then Ramallah.

The British supported the Jews; she believed they plot against the Arabs. The British caused or facilitated or allowed the Nakba.

Arabs had no weapons; the British would execute Arabs with weapons. “The Jewish” as many Palestinians call the Jewish militia and military bombed the village. Jews came from mountains, and the Arabs fled to other mountains.

Later, post-Nakba, Jordan stationed its army on the “truce line” (Green Line?), as if an agreement to stop Arabs from returning to their homes.

Budrus residents fled to Ramallah, and then were told to return; thus, her father expected to return to Beit Nabala, but her mother realized they wouldn’t return. (This during 1948-1951)

Why did she settle in Jalazone?

No jobs in the refugee villages; some jobs in Jordan.

She married, stayed with (friends or family?), and had 5 boys and 3 girls. Some of her children live in nearby villages, her sister in Jalazone. She travels to visit kids and siblings mostly in Jordan, some live in Jalazone. Some of her family live in Jordan and can’t come into Palestine, but she can go there.

(At the end of our interview) she sang for us a sad song about her village, as had another woman we met. And made us coffee.

LINKS

‘Raining Bullets on Beit Nabala’ – Beit Nabala, Ramle district (VIDEO FROM BADIL-2013)
Miriam Backer was 15 years old when Beit Nabala came under sustained Zionist military assault and was eventually entirely depopulated in 1948. Her memories of those days are still very vivid but also very painful. Fleeing whilst cradling her newborn baby daughter in her arms, Miriam remembers the ‘bullets raining down’ on the village and her fellow villagers who never lived to tell their stories.

For the first time in 70 years, Palestinians return to their villages [including Beit Nabala], by Shatha Hammad (2018)
To commemorate Land Day, group of Palestinian refugees returned to the villages they were expelled from in 1948.

The return to Bait Nabala by former residents—video by Zochrot (2016)-below

Beit Nabala (Zochrot)

Beit Nabala (Palestine Remembered)

society Palestine جمعية بيت نبالا-فلسطين/beit nabala society palestine

Also from Beit Nabala, Fatima Nakhli (Um Yousef)

Memories of Nakba from those who survived it, a review of the book Palestine is our Home, edited by Nahida Halaby Gordon, published in 2016, reviewed by Rod Such (2017)

Israel, annexation and the West Bank explained, BBC (June 16, 20200
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is planning to effectively annex parts of the occupied West Bank in what would be a major – and highly controversial – act.

Minnesota police trained by Israeli police, who often use knee-on-neck restraint (June 2020)

TO BE CONTINUED

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On the occasion of the UN-declared International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2019

With continuing gratitude to those who’ve already generously funded my Nakba photographic project, now I seek further funding for “The Ongoing Nakba, photographs of internally expelled Palestinians in the West Bank.” Early in 2020, I plan to return for another two-month trip to locate a few key survivors and sites, like people who lived in Deir Yassin, the site of a massacre; and Lifta, one of the few original villages still reasonably intact. I will need to hire colleagues to help me locate survivors and their destroyed villages.

TO HELP FUND THE NEXT PHASE OF MY PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, PLEASE GO TO MY GoFundMe campaign. THANK YOU.

The human enterprise, yes….I’m trying to reiterate the possibilities that are held out to us by various horizons. I’ve seen horrible human behavior in so many places. I see the pleasure some people take in injustice, and I see their appetite for the violent enforcement of prejudicial beliefs. The question this forces on us is “Are we ever going to outgrow this hatred of the Other?”

—Barry Lopez

PHOTOS

In the fall of 2018, I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first-generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. In the spring and summer of 2019, I photographed another 24 Nakba survivors. I’ve also photographed many of their original regions, their destroyed villages, sites of expulsion where many had provably lived for multiple generations, now in Israel.

With help from many others, I meet the survivors, now often living in refugee camps in Palestine, interview and photograph them, photograph their current living conditions, and return to their ancestral homes (now in Israel) to photograph. I include photos of where and how they live currently in internal diaspora to contrast with their earlier, often pastoral lives, in destroyed villages—in contrast also to how Israelis are privileged to live. Eventually, I’ll add archival photos of their regions before the expulsion.

The project has 4 parts: black and white portraits, color photos of their current environment, color photos of their former villages and towns, and black and white historic photos.

My immediate goal is what I call a multi-platform book, meaning a traditional photographic book but with links to the videos and audios I’ve made, plus resources like maps, timelines, analyses, etc. An example of this in exhibit form is “The Promised Land,” info here: promisedlandmuseum.org.

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My overarching goal is to draw attention and activism to this particular issue in the larger struggle for a just peace and full human rights for Palestinians.

Since 2003 I’ve visited the Palestine-Israel, photographing a variety of themes, water, youth, occupation, Gaza, and women, among them. My current project is locating, interviewing, and photographing Palestinians living in yet another of their many diasporas, this one internal, meaning in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. In the fall of 2018, I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first-generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. In the spring and summer of 2019, I photographed another 24 Nakba survivors. Early in 2020, I plan to return for another two-month trip to locate a few key survivors and sites, like people who lived in Deir Yassin, the site of a massacre, and Lifta, one of the few original villages still reasonably intact.

In 1948, Israel expelled some 750,000 indigenous Arabs to clear the land for Jewish settlement, leading to the foundation of the state of Israel. Thus the Nakba (in Arabic), or Catastrophe. Some 5 million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and Gaza—the “internally expelled.” And, with few exceptions, they are not permitted to return to any of their original 400 villages and towns, even for short visits.

Before the Nakba

During and after the Nakba

In Israel, a state established as a national homeland for Jews, in the direct aftermath of one of the most atrocious crimes against humanity,  it is truly mind-boggling that the protection and application of these rights is a struggle. 

Rabbis for Human Rights

For background on the Nakba and refugees, please read the book, “My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century,” by Adina Hoffman, and the article, “Lydda, 1948,” By Ari Shavit.

PALESTINIANS IN THE UNITED STATES DECLARE THAT
FREEDOM IS THE FUTURE-A CALL TO ENDORSE

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

PHOTOS

The 1948 Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle, also known as the Lydda Death March, was the expulsion of 50,000–70,000 Palestinian Arabs when Israeli troops captured the towns in July that year. The military action occurred within the context of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The two Arab towns, lying outside the area designated for a Jewish state in the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and inside the area set aside for an Arab state in Palestine, subsequently were transformed into predominantly Jewish areas in the new State of Israel, known as Lod and Ramla.

Wikipedia

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Rajab Mustafa Ghanem

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In Israel’s first months, largely Arab cities emptied as inhabitants were forced to flee. Photograph by David S. Boyer / Corbis

 

For this writing I draw gratefully from Fareed Taamallah’s interview in Arabic, translated by him and revised slightly by me. Published on his Facebook page.

Rajab Mustafa Ghanem, 19 years old in 1948, the Year of the Nakba, worked with his father in a grocery store in the city of Lod/Lydd. Hearing about Jews forced to flee from Europe, he believed Palestinians were to live with them and give them shelter because they were victims of war. Forced from his home by what he called “Zionist gangs,” his family fled by foot, carrying no food or water, first to Ramallah, and then by truck to Gaza, the Bureij refugee camp. After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, he moved to the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. He never saw his city again, nor his father and mother who remained in Gaza and died there. Today, 90 years old, he told us his only wish is to die and be buried in dignity in his hometown, Lod, and not in Amari as a refugee.

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Dahmash mosque, Lod/Lydda

One early morning day in May 1948, the Zionist militia or gangs attacked the city with planes, tanks and artillery and told people to surrender. The men were asked to go to the Dahmash mosque. Many went there and the mosque was filled with men. But there was no room for Rajab and his father. The gangs entered the mosque and ordered the men and boys to lie on the ground, shot and killed hundreds including some of Rajab’s friends and relatives.

The Zionists forced thousands of people of the city, including Rajab and his family, to go east out of the city on foot without allowing them to carry anything, out of town, into the unknown. They walked all day without water or food, and some died on the way. Until they arrived in Ramallah a few days later. Then from Ramallah, he went by truck with his family to Gaza, specifically the Bureij refugee camp. He lived in Gaza until 1967 after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, he moved from Gaza to the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah where he lives with his family to this day. He has not seen his city since 1948, nor his father and mother, who died in Gaza in 1995. Today he is 90 years old and he told us the only wish he has is to die and be buried In Lod, in his hometown in dignity and not as a refugee. 

History of the expulsion in 1948

The Friends’ Play Center in the Amari refugee camp was operated by the Ramallah Friends School, and was located in one of several refugee camps in Ramallah. Thanks to Rosi Greenberg, kids and internationals designed and painted this mural—suggesting their dreams, not their reality (photos from 2007—in 2019 apparently the Center no longer operates).

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Ramallah

Ismail_Shammout's_Where_to_1953..

Ismail Shammout’s “Where to?” (1953)

As the bus drew up in front of the house, I saw a young boy playing in the yard. I got off the bus and went over to him. “How long have you lived in this house?” I asked. “I was born here,” he replied. “Me too,” I said.

—Father Oudeh Rantisi, a former mayor of Ramallah who was expelled from Lydda in 1948, visited his family’s former home for the first time in 1967.

LINKS

Israel’s Law of Return

Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd

Israeli army veterans admit role in massacres of Palestinians in 1948, Published in Middle EastNews (2014)

Lydda, 1948, By Ari Shavit (2013)

TO BE CONTINUED

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

PHOTOS

July 5, 2019, Friday, West Bank, Jenin, Freedom Theater guest house

The conventional names should be replaced by new ones … since, in an anticipation of renewing our days as of old and living the life of a healthy people that is rooted in the soil of our country, we must begin in the fundamental Hebraicization of our country’s map.

—from a 1948 letter sent to first Israeli Interior Minister Yitzhak Gruenbaum

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What next? Today [July 5, 2019] drive from Jenin in the West Bank north to the Jalamah checkpoint (which I’d always heard as first the Jeffery and then the Jeremy checkpoint) into Israel and then west, consider either try again to find the village site of Ijzim or head to the Mediterranean coast and my first new village site, Miska.

Yesterday, waiting for word from M, my colleague in Jenin (he’s rarely clear about who we’re to photograph, in large part because the availability of people we hope to photograph is rarely clear), turned up one woman who had cancer and couldn’t speak. A primary challenge of this project is that the people I wish to meet are rapidly dying. So I concentrated on planning the last two weeks of my two-month journey. On maps, I’ve located (tentatively) most of the destroyed village sites, reordered my route sequence to go from north to south along the coast and then southwest of Jerusalem. I doubt I’ll be able to find all these places in my remaining time. But there is always the next trip, when hopefully, I’ll have an able in-country colleague with me. Or the equivalent.

I’ve begun marking on my paper map of destroyed villages the sites I need to find. This will help as I’m harried with the needs of driving and my shrinking time—plus where to reside overnight. I hope to explore Lifta, even tho I’ve unearthed no one from there. As I explored on my last trip Deir Yassin, I have yet to meet someone from there who survived the expulsion and massacre.

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Arab structure along the highway

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Precisely where it’s located, thanks to GPS coordinates embedded in the photo file (look for the red pin) I add a large regional map at the end of my post.

As often happens on my travels, I have no idea where I’ll be tonight, where I’ll rest my perplexed body. So I’ll “just put out the fire and call the dog” and be off, as Lynn and I used to say when departing, especially when camping or otherwise packing light.

Being Friday, the Muslim holy day, the Freedom Theater is quiet. Few people if any are using the Internet so it is at its most robust, about 10 Mb/s download and 13 Mb/s upload, even while uploading my photos. Despite its little traffic, this morning my Gmail drops periodically and begins again.

July 6, 2019, Saturday, Israel, Ramla, Sadot Hotel in the Assaf Center complex

Last evening I ended up in the same mall-hospital-hotel complex I’d resorted to in the fall, the Assaf Center, just outside Ramla. Earlier for the first time ever I tried Airbnb, located a room in an apartment in the Ramla city center, paid in advance ($34), and then tried to find it. All seemed fine as I opened one of my two map apps. Straight away I landed at the designated site—a parking lot and industrial complex. I had no address, no other info to help. So I tried the second map app. This led me about 1 mile further to a small residential area. I went up to an old man sitting slurping watermelon on his porch and said, Airbnb? Hiba (the owner of the B and B)? Room for the night?

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Destroyed mosque (or synagogue?), Ramla, Israel

He was deaf, I shouted into his ear. No reaction. Eventually, a short dark-skinned woman came out, equally confused about my request. Neither spoke English. I’m not sure if they were Israelis or Palestinians. I tried in a building across the street. An older Jewish man taking his grandchild out in a stroller and a young Jewish woman also did not understand my question. I found another building that might be Hiba’s home, my residence for the night. No one answered. I tried the map again and found it merely returned me to the first site, the parking lot.

Because my phone service vexingly does not allow me to phone out (only receive calls), I used my Google voice service on the computer. Which meant, because the computer did not connect with the Internet, I had to set up my hot spot, all in my overheated car. Soon a young man angrily told me to move my car, can’t park here! I moved, phoned the Airbnb host, no answer, multiple times.

I’ve applied to Hiba for a refund:

i request a refund. i could not find your home. google maps and apple maps gave different directions. neither brought me to your home. i tried to phone and message. your phone was busy or would not answer. later i found a text message in hebrew  which i do not understand. i am frustrated. please refund my money.

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Near the moshav, Gan Haim

Extremely frustrated, tired, hungry—I’d been driving all day, searching for village sites (usually futilely, very little payback compared with what I recall last fall), navigating traffic, names of places I do not recognize, avoiding a crash—I decided to try to find the mall complex I‘d used last October. Again to sleep overnight in my car. Since I carry the laptop I found my journal entry (Oct. 14, 2018) and got the name. With maps, I found the mall. Closed. Shabbat. No easy refuge as I had last time to eat and do my toilet duties.

Let’s check out the hotel, I know it’s expensive and possibly filled. (As was true last year during a Jewish holiday). 650 shekels, $185, yikes and holy shit! I’ve never paid this much for a room in my life; it’s the equivalent of 1/3 my month’s rent at home.

Inquiring, they had a room. I’ll think about it, I told the hotel clerk, a large affable man. So I strolled around outside, scouted the hospital, knowing it would not close on Shabbat. The mall won’t open until 8:30 pm Saturday. Ok, I have 2 possibilities: sleep in my car again and use the hospital for toilet or stay in the hotel.

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Sadot Hotel in the Assaf Center complex, Ramla (for my budget, a stretch; for my needs, perfect—I found no other alternatives, including Airbnb)

Hotel! So here I am with shower, hot water for coffee, good view, fast Wi-Fi, wash my hankie, big double bed, write and read and plan.

What I do feel much more than I did last year is the presence of the historic people, namely the expelled, as if ghosts, as if wisps of memory, lightly curling smoke. Their presence is more palpable to me than last year. In fact, during my HOW (Hour of the Wolf, an intense period of non-serial thinking, often nightmarish) last night I thought I might retitle my project: Expulsion, Return (or The Right of Return). With a subtitle that specifies more precisely what the project is, a plea for the right of return. Add the word “home” to lend it more currency with an audience. The right of return home.

Nakba-Palestine-Israel_IMG_6038

Ramla

Perhaps because of my present and hopefully short-lived homelessness—I worry about where I will find housing tonight—I might be better attuned to the situation of refugees. Not only the Palestinians, but millions of others without homes. According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, by the end of 2018, 70.8 million human beings were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. And according to Help Refugees, 1 in every 113 people around the world is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee, What those millions might give for a night in the Sadot hotel? And the right to return safely to their homes.

Big question of the morning: should I recharge my phone account so I can use it, assuming it needs recharging even tho I’d bought an unlimited voice package?

Bigger question: route, where next, which sites to try to find? And related, where to stay tonight? I’m near Jaffa so maybe the hostel there which I know and like. Phone now with my computer?

detailed-elevation-map-of-israel-with-roads-cities-and-airports

LINKS

In Search of Fatima, a Palestinian Memoir, by Ghada Karmi

Remapping of Palestine: Why Israel’s erasure of Palestinian culture will not succeed, by Ramzy Baroud (2019)

Refugee statistics (UNHCR)

More refugee statistics (Help Refugees)

TO BE CONTINUED

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

(Thanks to Fareed Taamalla)

The world should not have to constantly catch up to what Palestinians have always known about the Nakba… Israel fears the ghosts of its dark and violent origins. Palestinians are those living ghosts. Listen to what they have to say.

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

PHOTOS

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Palestine-refugees-Nakba-Tulkarem__DSC3110

Fatima’s sweet smile captivated me, especially when she sang or chanted a sorrowful song about the loss of her home in Beit Nabala. Her smile quickly vanished and grief and tears took over.

She’d married when about 14, probably common during that era, and thus had a child before the Nakba which she must have carried when her family fled the Israeli militias. Her village—stone cutting one industry—about 10 km (3 miles) northwest of Ramla, was connected by train to Tel Aviv. A British military camp was near the village housing soldiers from Africa and India who acted as guards. Villagers and soldiers had no interaction, nor did they with the few Muslim soldiers who prayed in a local mosque. Jews worked inside the camp, also with no village interaction.

However, Arab villagers did interact with Jews who lived in a small settlement between Beit Nabala and the town of Lydda (Lod). They had friendly relations. She told us her father had once asked for water and received it from their Jewish neighbors.

In the first days of the Nakba, village fighters traveled west to help other fighters near Haifa but soon returned to defend their own village. It was being bombed. Villagers fled to Kibiya/Kebbia east of Beit Nabala. During the first day of flight, they sought refuge in another village where they slept under fig and olive trees. This was early summer.

Asked if she and her neighbors knew about the massacre at Deir Yassin, she said they’d heard everyone in Deir Yassin had been killed, some by Jews who’d shared life with the Arabs in that village for decades. Fatima and her neighbors were demoralized even further after they’d learned that a key Arab leader had been killed. News spread rapidly during this period of assault, including the infamous massacre in the Umari mosque in Lydda. There, Israeli militia herded many of the men into a mosque (which I later visited and photographed from the outside) and then shot them.

Her husband returned to Beit Nabala periodically to rescue other villagers and save some plants, this at great risk of being shot as an “infiltrator.” She told us that during World War 1, in 1917, when the British had attacked her village, people had fled and remained away for 14 days, so this time they assumed they’d soon return. Thus, as was true in many attacked villages, people brought very few belongings with them.

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Fatima’s son

According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, in 1992 the village site “…is overgrown with grass, thorny bushes, and cypress and fig trees. It lies on the east side of the settlement of Beyt Nechemya, due east of the road from the Lod (Lydda) airport. On its fringes are the remains of quarries and crumbled houses. Sections of walls from the houses still stand. The surrounding land is cultivated by the Israeli settlements.” She lives now in the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah. 

Naballa13

Former schoolhouse of Bayt Nabala, presently used by the Jewish National Fund in Beit Nehemia (Thanks to Wikipedia, 2013)

LINKS

‘Raining Bullets on Beit Nabala’ – Beit Nabala, Ramle district (from BADIL, a video interview with Miriam Backer, former resident of Beit Nabala)

Bayt/Beit Nabala (from Zochrot)

TO BE CONTINUED

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

(Thanks to Ayed Al-Azza)

Of all the ironies of history none throws a more sinister light on human nature than the fact that the new-style nationalist Jews, on the morrow of the most appalling of the many persecutions that their race had endured, should at once proceed to demonstrate, at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs whose only offence against the Jews was that Palestine was their ancestral home, that the lesson learnt by Zionists from the sufferings which Nazis had inflicted on Jews, not to forbear from committing the crime for which they themselves had been the victims, but to persecute, in their turn, a people weaker than they were.

—Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, abridged ed, vol 2, 1957 

June 10, 2019, Monday, Bethlehem, Palestine-Israel

PHOTOS

Palestine-Israel-refugees-Dheisheh-_DSC2481.jpg

Palestine-Israel-refugees-Dheisheh-_DSC2601

From my speaker notes:
Abdul Qader Hassan Monjid Al-Lahham
Interview assisted by Ayed Al-Azza, my colleague from Aida refugee camp
June 9, 2019
In Deheshe/Dheisheh refugee camp
From the village of Beit Etab/Bayt Itab 11 miles west of Jerusalem

  • Like other refugees, he is reluctant to engage in yet another interview.
  • Age 29 when expelled.
  • Ayed didn’t know him (but referred to him as uncle, an honorific, even tho not-blood related).
  • Lives with 2 unmarried daughters (about 68 and 72), sons and daughters, including great-grandchildren.
  • He’d worked for UNRWA in charge of water.
  • At first, he was separated from family, including his wife.
  • After a few days, the family reunited.
  • He was devoted to his sheep.
  • He’d been arrested near the village of Beit Nattif when with his sheep. The Israelis confiscated all his sheep and never returned all of them.
  • He sold his remaining sheep at a price less than their worth.

Ayed and I met him as Abdul left a small store with a bag of fruit. He was much bent over, walked next to Ayed. I photographed as they walked thru the camp to home. He looks easily the part of an aged refugee. He didn’t change facial expression much, looked down mostly, and his thick long eyebrows tended to conceal his features.

Nes Harim-Dehesh-earth SM

Nes Harim, the westernmost point on this map, is an Israeli moshav (cooperative agricultural community) built on the lands of Beit Etab, which of course is not included. (click HERE for actual map)

I was with Ayed from 9:30 am when he generously picked me up in front of the Manger Square hotel, and, nearly 6 hours later dropped me there after the interviews. Generously he bought me lunch. I raised the question of payment. At first, he asked me what I thought fair. I returned the question to him. $200, he said. $200 seems high, I replied, and suggested half. Oh no, can’t. So we settled on $150 which I calculated to be about $40 per working hour (because the other 2 were largely social and not directly related to the project).

I hope you don’t hate me now, he said. No, not at all, I can appreciate all that went into the organizing before the interviews. And he explained: finding people, overcoming people’s reluctance, deciding times, etc. Lots of unpaid work, like a teacher not paid for preparation and follow up.

Today I meet Fareed [my colleague on this project, helping me find and interview people] in Ramallah, traveling thru the Valley of Fire that so terrifies my friend Alicen and me. Someone told me death by auto accident is the largest category of death in the West Bank. So, if unlucky today, this might be my last journal entry. Will the photos survive? Will anyone be able to work with them to continue or complete the project?

LINKS

Deheshe/Dheisheh refugee camp

Beit Etab (video)

Al-Ahram
March 15, 2000

…The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is a fundamental right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the European, the American and the African Conventions on Human Rights;

The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is an inalienable right and has been affirmed by the UN Resolution 194 over 110 times since 1948;…

TO BE CONTINUED, WITH MORE DETAIL TO COME LATER FROM MY AUDIO RECORDINGS

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

(Thanks to Ayed Al Azza)

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

—Hannah Arendt

PHOTOS

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

From my journals of June 10 and 11, 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

Jibreen-Guvrin SM

Beit Jibreen (press here to enlarge)

Map Beit Jibrin

One walking route to Bethlehem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestine-Israel-refugees-Azza_camp-_DSC2360

Azza refugee camp

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MAP-Expropriated land by JNF.jpg

JNF = Jewish National Fund

LINKS

Bayt Jibrin by All That Remains

Zochrot about Bayt Jibrin

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

Mapping what’s been lost, by  (

Archival photographs—David Staniunas

Tour Beit Guvrin (nothing mentioned about Arab habitation)

TO BE CONTINUED

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

PHOTOS

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

—Edward Said

MAJOR THEMES EXPRESSED BY THE REFUGEES

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

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

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

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

 

FUNDING

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

I welcome donations.

WHAT IS MY MAJOR CURRENT PROBLEM?

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

YET TO DO

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

 

GOALS AND PURPOSE 

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

WHAT MOTIVATES ME?

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

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

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

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

LINKS

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

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

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

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

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

Trial booklet from Schiel’s first season

GoFundMe appeal for Skip Schiel refugee project

TO BE CONTINUED

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

PHOTOS

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

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

 

(Captions indicate name-current home-ancestral village)

WHERE AND WHEN?

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

WHAT IS THE NAKBA?

In 1948, Israel expelled some 750,000 indigenous Arabs to clear the land for Jewish settlement, leading to the foundation of the state of Israel. Thus the Nakba (in Arabic), or Catastrophe. Some 5 million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and Gaza—the “internally expelled.” And, with few exceptions, they are not permitted to return to any of their original 400 villages and towns, even for short visits.

With help from many others, I meet the refugees, now often living in refugee camps in Palestine, interview and photograph them, photograph their current living conditions, and return to their ancestral homes (now in Israel) to photograph. I include photos of where and how they live currently in internal diaspora to contrast with their earlier, often pastoral lives, in destroyed villages—in contrast also to how Israelis are privileged to live. Eventually, I’ll add archival photos of their regions before the expulsion.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS

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

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

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

DIRECTORIES

Directory of names and places from the first trip

Directory from the second trip

DISAPPOINTMENTS AND FAILURES

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

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

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

 

COLLEAGUES

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

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

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

LINKS

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

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

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

TO BE CONTINUED

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