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Posts Tagged ‘schiel’

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. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

A special note from Zochrot, responding to the exacerbation of the Ongoing Nakba because of the Coronavirus crisis (shortened message).

PHOTOS

Andrew Haddad, working for a new nation

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in April 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests, he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part one.

We think, as Israelis, that Jews and Arabs should live together. Palestinians have rights of self-determination just like we have. We have to fight also for their rights. One of our slogans is “we refuse to be their enemies.”

—Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, 2006 AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

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How do you work for that change (for Palestinian Israeli rights thru political action)?

The only way that I can do that by law is to send a representative to the parliament, the Knesset. In that arena we can fight. I don’t want to fight on the street. I don’t want to fight with rifles. I don’t want to kill anybody. I don’t want to throw anybody in the Sea. And I don’t want anybody to feel less than me or more than me.

So that means the political game. That’s why we send our representatives. Most of them are actually in the left-wing of the Israeli policy. The majority of our representatives are Arabs because nobody else feels your pain like people like you.

Other than voting. How are you active in electoral politics?

In what?

In the US we call that electoral politics. Holding signs for example, writing letters, signing petitions going door to door for your candidate. Do you do any of that?

Yes, we do that for our candidates. We try to make some educational campaigns. To make those candidates known. The problem is still we have a lot of people who are afraid of being Palestinians or afraid to say that they are Palestinians. And in that case, they prefer to be silent or in a shadow instead of speaking out. They think that it’s breaking the law. And actually, they are short-minded. Sorry to say that.

We have our own newsletters and newspapers. We have our own nonpolitical organizations. They focus on education. Sometimes we make some demonstrations. They do not reach the level they should. You have to understand, this is not the United States. It’s not Canada. When you’re talking about demonstration of Arabs, that means it’s [understood as] anti-Israeli always. Not a civil action. That’s what how it’s understood here. Totally different from when you make any strike or any demonstration in the United States against some issue because you are a citizen. You do that because you feel it’s your duty. Here, when we do such a thing, it’s thought to be anti-Israeli. We are talking about our rights to be fulfilled. And people are afraid of that.

 

Editor Pal newspaper SM

Credit: Ilya Melnikov

 

Andrew, could you fill out your family tree going back as far as you know. Where did your earliest ancestors live?

The earliest that I can recall is about two hundred plus years ago. They were living in Nazareth, but I know that the root of our family and actually most of the Christian Arab families here in the Middle East, the source—it sounds very unusual—should be here in the Holy Land. This is the land of early Christianity, the land of Jesus Christ.

Because of a lot of factors that happened since that era, like the Crusades, many Christians are not actually from here. So the origin of my family is in the Syria of today. You have to understand, when we say “the Syria of today,” we are talking about political borders, artificial borders, not natural borders. So Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria were all part of Greater Syria. People were moving from one part to another part and they did not feel they were immigrants.

Like if you live in Boston and you moved to Louisiana you’d still to be in the United States; you haven’t changed your status, your identity, only the city or the town or the state where you live. The United States is part of your identity. You are an American. So people, when they moved from part of Syria of today to somewhere that is part of Palestine today, they felt they were moving from the living room to the bedroom or to the kitchen. They were still in their own home. We are not newcomers to this land, we are deeply rooted.

We are part of this land, we stayed here, we have never gone anywhere. So the idea that people came over here from different places and they do not belong here is false.

Our family existed in this land for about between 470 to 500 years.

Greater Syria 3

Greater Syria/Assyrian Empire 617 BCE and 824 BCE (click image to enlarge)

Part of them lived in Haifa—actually Haifa didn’t exist at that time because Haifa is a new city. It’s about 270 years, 260 years old. That’s it. The old one, the historical one, was a small fisherman village, but it was demolished. We are talking about Nazareth and the Galilee. So they stayed in Nazareth and the Galilee. Part of us stayed in Jenin [the West Bank] of today. Also in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and down to the shore. Jaffa, Lod, and all that area.

Are they all Haddad?

Haddad is actually the second largest Christian family in the Middle East.

Are they still in Jenin?

Yes.

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Jenin

Because I’m going there today.

Yeah. You can meet my cousin over there. He has a big hotel in Jenin, a large tourist village. Ibrahim Haddad. Yes.

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Haddad Village, Jenin (photo: Haddad Village)

I will try.

You should.

Can you go to Jenin to visit?

Yes, yes. According to the law, no. You know, because an Israeli should not go inside the West Bank. But I’m not sneaking in. I go to the checkpoint and then get in. So I’m not breaking any law. The Israeli troops set the rules. If I’m breaking the law, they should stop me. Right? So I come to the border and I get in. Nobody says anything.

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Jalameh checkpoint with the West Bank north of Jenin in the background; the luxurious-looking homes in the upper left are presumably in an Israeli settlement. Click here for my blog entry about crossing this checkpoint.

They don’t check your identification?

Yes, sure, they do.

But they don’t stop you.

No.

And coming back?

Sure. Yeah. They will stop any Jewish because they are afraid that any Jewish person inside might be lynched. But the soldiers know that the West Bank is part of us. People there are my cousins My wife’s brother lives in Ramallah. Should I consider him an enemy? Come on.

And you go to Ramallah?

Sure. I’m invited to a wedding in Ramallah ten days from now. Sure we do. It’s part of us. We feel home. And they come over here always. When I say Palestinian, I leave myself out of this sector. I’m talking about Palestinians from the West Bank.

I mean, the Palestinian Authority Palestinians.

“we have on our land what makes life worth living"-DarwichSM.jpg

We have on our land what makes life worth living. (Mahmoud Darwich)

TO BE CONTINUED: MORE ABOUT HIS FAMILY ROOTS IN GREATER SYRIA AND THE NEED FOR ONE STATE FOR ALL ITS RESIDENTS, SOON TO BE CITIZENS

LINKS

COVID-19 in times of settler colonialism by Zochrot and Osama Tanous (March 2020)

Baladna, Association for Arab Youth
A developmental and capacity building agency for Arab-Palestinian youth in Israel

Association for the Defence of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID)
Operating in the 1948 areas among the masses of the displaced

7amleh-The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

“The last generation”: How occupation is driving Christians out of Palestine, by Peter Oborne (2019)

What It’s Like to Be a Palestinian Journalist, According to an East Jerusalem Editor, by Carolina Landsmann (2016)

Israel Must Choose: Give The Palestinians A State – Or Equality, by Sam Bahour and Tony Klug (2019)

The Chilling Effect among Palestinian Youth in Social Media, by Palestine News Network

What Can South Africa Teach Palestinians: Reflections on our Palestinian youth organizer delegation to Johannesburg, by Palestinian Youth Movement (May 2019)

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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. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

PHOTOS

Andrew Haddad, about being Palestinian

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in March 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests, he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part one.

A strange stillness lies over all the mountains and is drawn by hidden threads from within the empty village. An empty village; what a terrible thing! Fossilized lives! Lives turned to fossilized whispers in extinguished ovens, a shattered mirror, moldy blocks of dried figs and a scrawny dog, thin-tailed and floppy-eared and dark-eyed. At the same time–at the very same moment–a different feeling throbs and rises from the primordial depths, a feeling of victory, of taking control, of revenge, and of casting off suffering. You see empty houses, good for the settlement of our Jewish brethren who have wandered for generation upon generation. War! That was our war!

—Josef Weitz, land official of the Jewish National Fund and chairman of the first Transfer Committee, 1948

Nakba-Haifa-Palestine-Israel-_DSC4596

[Being Palestinian] is about our history and our story. It’s become part of our DNA. We actually suck it with our mother’s milk. We know that. It’s not fake. It’s our truth. We know who we are, why we are here and what happened. Even without anyone telling us, we know our identity, we can smell the air, we can taste the land, and we know the people. We are proud, and we cannot hide our core identity. It’s part of us. And we don’t want to redesign our DNA again. This is who we are and this is what we are and this is what we want to be—Palestinian.

To be Palestinian is not just a title. It’s not just the word. It’s beyond that.

And I think being Palestinian escalated more after the Nakba. If there had been no Nakba I think that we Palestinians would be regular people like everybody else. Like Tanzanians or Louisianans or Germans. It doesn’t matter. The word Palestine or Palestinian became only a title. Now it’s more than that.

I have relatives spread all over the world. All of them fled from here because of the Nakba. Actually, I was supposed to have fled because I’m the first generation after the Nakba.

Some of us fled because of the 1948 war. I was supposed to be a Palestinian refugee, to live in some camp in Syria or Lebanon because my father and my grandfather, they left. I don’t know. But I believe there was no other choice for them but to leave. And they left from Nazareth to Lebanon and then continued to Syria. But eventually they could come back to their homeland, their hometown, Nazareth, before it was captured [by the Israeli army]. So in that case, if the border had already closed, I suppose I would have been born in Syria or somewhere else. But I was born in Nazareth and I am a full Palestinian, born to a Palestinian family within the borders of Israel.

Nazareth mural

Nazareth’s mystery mural as an emblem of Palestinian resistance
The Israeli authorities have painted over a mural dedicated to the 1948 Nakba seven times – but local activists continue to repaint it, writes Gawain Mac Greigair.

And so I become an Israeli. And for a long time, nobody would tell us that we are Palestinians. We were just Arabs or Christians or Muslims or whatever. It took a while because the first generation was mostly afraid to speak out.

I remember as a kid we were told not to speak about politics or other controversial issues because even “the stones would hear.” So it was a type of mind control of our people during that era. And after that, we had no resources. Most of our resources were gone. So the only resource that we still had was our location and our mind.

The first, second and third generations after Nakba became more educated than the first. The only weapons we can control are our education and mind development. We began to understand the issue in a totally different way. So we struggled for our identity and existence. Now we see this country struggling against our will in a lot of the laws controlled by the majority. The last one, The National Law of Israel. What does that mean?

Nakba-Haifa-Palestine-Israel-_DSC4669

I am Israeli by citizenship, but Israeli citizenship is not part of my identity. Whether I am Christian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, whatever, Israel has decided to put Jews and Judaism before democracy. Israel says it’s a Jewish democratic state, but it cannot be both democratic and favor Jews. I believe Israel should be a democratic state. Period. No more. No need for any identification more than that. If that were true, I will feel like an Israeli. If I lived in Canada, I’d feel like a Canadian, not an alien.

Let’s go back to 1967 and the Six-Day War when Israel took over the West Bank and Golan Heights. It’s called Naksa or Defeating Day.

Then a lot of Arab youth discovered that they have no hope here. So the Israelis start encouraging Arab youth to lead a better life outside Israel. Actually, my father’s family consists of seven brothers. Four of them, they are in Canada. They left Israel in 1968 and 1970 for a better life. So my family, more than 50 percent of it, is in Canada. Instead of being in their homeland. And that is true for a lot of families and communities here. If you take Beit Jala [part of Bethlehem] as an example in the West Bank, the majority of people originally from Beit Jala now live in Chile, not in Beit Jala. In Chile they actually have a football (soccer) team called Palestino. One of the best football teams in Chile. So we are just regular people, normal people, but we have no normal life here in Israel.

Palestino players.jpg

Why did you stay, not go with your brothers to Canada?

Actually, in the beginning, I thought to go. I made an application and I’m so happy that the Canadian government rejected me because I was poor.

I love this place. I love this land. I’m connected. My roots are here. The political situation here is a problem. But it cannot be like this forever. And that doesn’t mean that I want to demolish Israel, because I have to be careful using that word. But I want to change Israeli politics [to benefit all its] citizens. That’s my right as a citizen and as a law keeper. I’m not breaking the law if I say that I want Israel to be more democratic than it is now. I believe that I’m developing the state to a higher position, not lowering it to be an ethnic state. Now it’s semi-democratic, a Jewish Democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs. So I do not understand this idea.

TO BE CONTINUED: HIS ANCIENT FAMILY AND HOW HE ATTEMPTS TO FOSTER CHANGE

LINKS

Op-Ed: Israel just dropped the pretense of equality for Palestinian citizens, by Yousef Jabereen (a Palestinian Israeli Knesset member), July 2018

Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

Palestinian Internally Displaced Persons inside Israel: Challenging the Solid Structures by Nihad Boqa’i

These Jewish and Arab Israelis Are Creating a New Type of Grassroots Activism, by David B. Green (March 12, 2020) 

Still Locked in Conflict, Israelis and Palestinians Need Each Other To Fight COVID-19, by Daniel Estrin (NPR, March 26, 2020)

Welcome to Lockdown: COVID-19 quarantine and the Gaza experience, by Abdalhadi Alijla (March 20, 2020)

Haddad Guest House

The Rise of Palestinian Food by Ligaya Mishan (February 2020)

In Her Footsteps, by Rana Abu Fraiha, a documentary movie made in 2018 about a Palestinian family living in a Jewish Israeli town

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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 and more recent writing. 

PHOTOS

VIDEO

The past as it is and has been represented- the inquiry into the archaeology of memory’s representations following Michel Foucault—is but a facet of this study. The power of the past as it was lived and is remembered, as it is commemorated and represented, continues to limit, define, and inspire current narratives of Arabs and Jews.

Susan Slyomovics, The Object of Memory, Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village

July 2, 2019, Israel, Haifa, Haddad Guest House

In a gleeful mood—the guest house, the family and Haifa generally—I wrote my chevrah and adapted the message for the Agape steering committee and a friend, Peter, who’d also recently written:

earlier, driving to haifa somewhere north of tel aviv, i stopped for gas and food along the big israeli highway. pulling in, two dark-skinned young men greeted me with what i thought was unusual welcome. one pointed at the bracelet i wear with the palestinian flag colors, smiled, and asked, “what does that bracelet mean to you?” i wasn’t sure he was israeli or palestinian. i answered, “it means palestinian rights, their human rights.” he smiled again, and thanked me, saying, “i spotted your bracelet before you even stopped your car. we’re palestinians.”

The power of symbol.

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July 3, 2019, West Bank, Jenin, Freedom Theater guest house

A big deal, a dream realized, another pilgrimage (as was finding Deir Yassin): finding and exploring Ein Hod and Ein Hawd, the first, the village Israel confiscated in 1948 as part of the Nakba, now an artist colony, and the second, a previously unrecognized Palestinian village. This constituted a major personal achievement of yesterday and perhaps this entire trip. As Deir Yassin is legendary and known to anyone with any knowledge about the Nakba, the two Ein’s may be less known but still familiar to a few. The artist colony the Israelis constructed when they took over Ein Hawd, kicking out the Palestinian residents who’d been there for centuries or maybe millennia, and what the stalwart Palestinians did to relocate themselves within viewing range of their old lands are both truly impressive—the first of creative reuse, the second of sumoud (steadfastness). Together—perhaps, a huge perhaps—a model window into the future of a shared land.

Ein Hawd, the Palestinian village, is less than 1.2 miles/1.9 km from Ein Hod (straight line), from the Israeli artist community, but reachable only over a torturous up and down road, often pockmarked and partially eroded, 1.7 miles/2.7 km driving. I made lots of photos and filmed part of the connection trip.

 

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Ein Hawd

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Ein Hod

In retrospect: The Two Ein’s, Hawd and Hod-Recent writing for the blog

February 28, 2020, Cambridge Massachusetts

In brief, for millennia (at least since the time of Sultan Saladin’s conquest of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1180s), Palestinians lived in a village called Ein Hawd (Spring or Fountain of Trough) south of Haifa, in the foothills of the Carmel Mountain Range, within sight of the Mediterranean Sea. During the Nakba in 1948, the Israeli army forced the residents to leave. Many left the country for Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan; some to refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, especially Jenin; and about 35 villagers, led by the family of Abu al-Hija, improvised temporary housing across the valley from their village in a barn on village land.

Initially, the Israeli authorities did not recognize the village. In 1988, residents helped to form the association of the Arab Unrecognized Villages in Israel. In 1992, the state finally officially recognized the village, but it was only granted full recognition in 2005, when it was connected to Israel’s electric grid. (Wikipedia)

In 1953, an artist from Romania, Marcel Janco, fleeing the Holocaust, persuaded the Israeli authorities—who’d planned to erase all signs of the village—to leave the buildings remain so he could organize the first-ever and still-only artist colony in Israel.

Bidspirit auction | Marcel Janco $20,000.00* Marcel Janco, - 1895 - 1984. Refugees, 1939,, Oil on cardboard laid down on canvas.jpg

An expulsion by the Nazis in the Soviet Union, 1941, by Marcel Janco (however, he was empathetic with the Palestinian expulsions)

The situation is steadily deteriorating. I had to go. And as soon as possible. I had only been convicted of being born a Jew.

I was not physically abused, I was not raised by legionaries. But I was morally ill. I endured with great intensity the sufferings of my whole people: I experienced, every day, [in Romania] the pain of the Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, who were begging at my door and talking about horrors that seemed unbelievable to me; we suffered with them and wept with them, thinking of the desperate situation of our brothers in the concentration camps; I wept when we learned how our synagogues were burned and our sacred books burned, how the graves were spoiled, the Jewish cemeteries destroyed; I was filled with despair when I learned that the elders and children and women together, the people of an entire nation, were being driven out of their homes and transported in wagons … to be killed in the gas chambers or burned alive.

Their suffering shook me. I felt threatened – me and all of me – by a great, irreparable danger, I felt that if, by an unexpected chance, I would still save myself from this danger, I still would not be able to, in such a world devoid of freedom, work. You don’t even live. I had to go as soon as possible.

I did not accept to go to France or America, where so many of my friends called me insistently.

Identified with my oppressed, stacked, mocked, humiliated, shattered nation, which the enemies intended to destroy, I decided for Palestine.

I was drawing with the thirst of one who is being chased around, desperate to quench it and find his refuge.

—Marcel Janco, VISUAL ARTS. The confession of a great artist (in Romanian but can be mchine translated)

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On the Way to Ein Hod, Marcel Janco

From the beginning of my work in Palestine-Israel in 2003, I had known about this peculiar juxtaposition. I’ve yearned to visit both villages, maybe reside in both for a few days to explore, photograph, meet residents, and interview. Finally, on my most recent trip last spring-summer (2019), exploring the coast in my rented Palestinian car to locate and photograph destroyed Arab village sites, I managed to briefly, cursorily, explore both sites.

Curiosity was one factor that drew me; but another, discovered only recently, is that the two villages, with decent relations between them, at least not hostile, could represent the future for Palestine-Israel. As do Haifa and the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews and Palestinians live, pray, and work side by side. Usually without violence.

“Briefly and cursorily” means I walked around Ein Hod, the Israeli arts colony, for a few hours in the hot mid-summer sun last year, photographed art installations and the Janco-Dada art museum established in 1953 by the colony’s founder, Marcel Janco; and met several artists. Meeting people there is easy: I am a tourist, a potential buyer. The art, mostly decorative, often abstract, did not much appeal to me. Plus, how could I afford any of it?

The museum, however, did appeal. I explored it thoroughly, appreciative of Janco’s Dadaist approach which resonated with my impulses. The big find for me was the Dadalab in the basement, serene, mysterious, dark, filled with all sorts of objects like bells, horns, tools, furniture, etc that could be converted into Dada installations, or drawn or painted or sculpted with. And the light! Cool, shadowy, subtle, lilting, like the chords of early Miles Davis jazz.

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Dadalab

I’m embarrassed to admit that in Ein Hawd, the Palestinian village, I only left my car for a perfunctory view of houses and across the valley to Ein Hod. Driving, videoing thru Ein Hawd, holding my phone camera in front of me, easily visible thru the windshield, I noticed several men glaring at me. Who’s this? they might have thought, an Israeli Jew contemplating another removal? To extend their artist colony perhaps? Only months later, while writing this blog, did I learn the crucial role played by the man who brought Israeli recognition, along with municipal services—and respect—to Ein Hawd, Mohammed Abu al-Hija. In effect, matching Marcel Janco: visionary and persistent.

Today [2018], the population of the entire country from the river to the sea is at least half Palestinian, and that proportion is growing. The natives are still there, unified by decades of occupation and colonization since 1967, and they are restless. Those Palestinians who have managed to remain in historical Palestine—in spite of the ceaseless efforts to dispossess them—continue to resist erasure. Outside of Palestine, an equal number remain profoundly attached to their homeland and to the right of return. The Palestinians have not forgotten, they have not gone away, and the memory of Palestine and its dismemberment has not been effaced. Indeed, wider international audiences are increasingly aware of these realities.

Rashid Khalidi, 2018

On my next trip, I intend to explore both Ein’s more fully, reside at least one night in each village, eat in the Ein Hawd restaurant, sip coffee in the Ein Hod café (formerly the village mosque), meet more people, especially founders of Ein Hawd and artists in Ein Hod, and photograph and interview. And ask, what are you doing to create one land for different peoples?

Or are the Palestinians in Ein Hawd subject to further removal? The Ongoing Nakba.

After struggling for recognition for so long, I now recognize, how a group of people, a village, can finally obtain official status of their home, recognition of their right to live lawfully in their own village after so many years. It is true that many years have gone by, but this is a great achievement for everyone, a big step forward. The State of Israel has finally applied a policy of equality to us and I am hopeful that this will prove to be the case for other villages that are in similar situations as well. This step shows that there is hope for additional changes for the better as well. It helps to convince me that equality is attainable, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Mohammed Abu al-Hija, mayor of Ein Hawd (2005)

Mohammed Abu al-Hija, 2004, photo by Skip Schiel

LINKS:

Ein Hod by the Lonely Planet guide book

Trailblazers: The Man Who Changed a Country, New Israel Fund (2018) with a video of Mohammed Abu al-Hija

Tarek Bakri: “We Were and We Are Still Here”

A Free People in Our Land: The Status of the Arab Sector in Israel, by Ilan Jonas (2005)

The Object of Memory: Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village, by Susan Slyomovics

On the way to Ein Hod | A frame from an interactive new media Installation | 2018

The installation was presented in Janco Dada Museum in the village of Ein Hod. It is influenced by a series of paintings by Janco depicting the village, sometimes burning, with refugees leaving it.

Marcel Janco

Ein Hod Artists’ Village

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (February 16, 2020) lauding Trump’s “Peace Plan” and support and how they solidify Israeli control over the entire Palestine-Israel region

My photos from “In the Steps of the Magi,” a Christmas Pilgrimage (that included Ein Hawd) in 4 parts, 2004

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Road between Ein Hawd and Ein Hod, about 3 km/1 mile, or 15 minutes by car, nearly the same distance as by air, with more contortions—video of part of the ride between the two villages

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Agape Community is an ecumenical nonviolence center advocating and organizing large scale, faith-based systemic change. Celebrating the birth of that exemplary luminary from the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi, we hold a day-long celebration, outside on our 32-acre grounds three miles east of Sacred Quabbin Reservoir. In recent years we’ve heard from Muslim, Native, and Black and Brown voices. This year we honor our founders, Suzanne and Brayton Shanley, and all our successors, young adults with vision and energy.

The major achievement was partially turning over leadership of Francis Day and by implication, Agape itself, to younger people, part of our painful, fitful transition as Suzanne and Brayton Shanley, co-founders and co-directors, mellow into elder years. Paradoxically, the crowd seemed older than usual, more grey, white, and silver heads.

For me and perhaps many of us older, more Catholic Worker-related people, Frida Berrigan and her mother Liz McAlister, were the hits. Frida, daughter of Phil Berrigan, spoke about place, being uprooted from her original home, Jonah House in Baltimore, her parents saving nothing of the old house to move to their new home as custodians of a cemetery. And then how she plugged into the new community, New Haven CT, running for mayor on the Green Party ticket. She doesn’t expect to win, only to raise issues, many of them related to neighborhoods, thus place, her main theme.

Altho few of the youngers in the crowd may have recognized those two, now venerables, they heard powerful words from both. Liz was recently released from 20 months of pretrial detention and faces a trial on Oct. 21 when we’re all encouraged to stay tuned and pray, with possible prison time following for her. Her infraction? Kings Bay Plowshares 7 to expose illegal and immoral nuclear weapons that threaten all life on Earth.

On the ride home with El (other than her announcing her plans related to Agape), she asked, why different religions? What purpose do they serve since they mostly have the same core message wrapped in various skins, that is systems of practice and belief, activity and theology? I offered the following: partly it’s tribal. We seek people of our own kind, using the same language (I am led, in the light, meeting for worship, etc, from Quaker Speak, my language, opaque and confusing tho I often find it), birthed from the same parents (George Fox and Martha Fell in mid 1600s England), sharing a name (Quaker, Religious Society of Friends, Friends, People of the Light), and with the ability to connect with others nearly instantaneously by reference to our tribe (Oh, Parfaite Nthuaba, you’re from Burundian—and Quaker? And you from Nepal—and Quaker?). Families across borders. Mostly, unless in schism mode which constantly threatens.

Another key reason is individual propensity to a structure or scaffolding. I prefer non-deism. Thus Buddhists are one of my key tribes. I prefer a social-politically radical teacher. Thus my man Jesus. I prefer to be grounded in earth. Thus my Native Indianism. I prefer to eschew hierarchy. Thus my opposition to mainstream Catholicism. I’m just not familiar enough with Islam to be drawn to it. I have many homes.

Agape Community

Francis Day 2019 – A Short Video

Five days at the Agape Community in Central Massachusetts, 3 miles east of Quabbin Reservoir. Five days to recover from the disappointment of postponing my trip in June and July 2018 to photograph Palestinian refugees in Northern and Central Europe. Instead, I concentrate on water, friends, prayer, and bugs.

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field while I continue my photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Here in Palestine-Israel thru July 10, 2019.

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the one who hated, and this is an immutable law…I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

—James Baldwin

PHOTOS (leaving the Old City of Jerusalem after Friday prayer during Ramadan at the Al Aqsa mosque

JERUSALEM-FRIDAY-RAMADAN-CRUSH  (video of same topic)

May 17, 2019, Friday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City, Golden Gate Hostel

Yes, arrived, for what may be my 12th trip here. The only problem at the airport was the long line at passport control. As I waited I observed what may have been visitors blocked from entering who were about to be interrogated. A small room, officious looking young Israeli men, hesitation and nervousness. Am I about to be part of this select group?

No, not one single question, altho I’d prepared: smile and say shalom, let my travelers’ prayer with its Hebrew text wave itself from my breast pocket (I swear the older, bearded officer behind glass noticed it), here to visit friends (list ready, Amos, David, Yony, expecting to visit my American friend with family in Israel, Rebecca), volunteer with an international organization (Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP, not going into details because of possible confusion), and make a slide show for my church community (anticipating why I need a 3 month visa), toda. (thank you)

Well rehearsed (in my head, silently as we landed and as I walked thru the airport), not needed. I reported such to my colleagues back home (short form)—Linda, Rebecca, and Diane (my new cohorts called the chevrah (Hebrew for intimate association, as I understand the word) who replied within hours, and daughters and Susan R—earlier that I’d arrived, SF later and a few others who might care.

The fact is, I am now here for another 2 months’ duty.

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Lobby and porch of the Golden Gate Hostel, Old City Jerusalem, photo courtesy of Golden Gate Hostel

First things first: settle into the Golden Gate hostel and my bed for a short fitful nap, eager to begin scouting; find money (near St George’s, where I found a cash machine on my first trip here in 2003, aided this time by Mo, the café owner who directed me to a line up of ATM’s [cash machines] in the lobby of a continually open bank, reliable source of cash, drink a beer in the day during Ramadan, and chat about his 19 year stay in Los Angeles, returning to aid his ailing, now dead mother, ailing, not yet dead father, a recovering alcoholic, good photographer, reluctantly tried to replicate my cork trick when I challenged him); buy and install a new SIM card with data, and drop by the Educational Bookshop (and meet the young brother of the owners, Ahmad, who might be poised to invite me to a family Iftar [evening meal to end the day’s fast], and drink a fine iced coffee (where else in East Jerusalem could I find even a tolerable iced coffee?); enjoy stretching my legs after sitting compressed for some 14 hours in two planes to get here; not appreciating the sudden heat, thankful it is dry (after so much cold and wet weather at home); and finally, home in the Golden Gate hostel, eat a chicken shuwarma and those delicious, locally baked, miniature chocolate croissants, on top of the Taybeh beer and iced coffee.

Getting from the airport to Jerusalem was a major challenge. Long wait for the sherut [shared van] to depart (needs to fill up its 10 seats), long ride because I and the Palestinian woman were dropped last (at Damascus Gate), even tho we seemed to have passed near it on our way to Jewish Israeli places. (Consider another drop place for the next visit, maybe a light rail station.) The plane landed around 10:20 AM, thru security by 11:30, sherut departed the airport around 1 pm, landed in the hostel in the Old City around 2:30. Which makes about 5 hours airport landing to hostel landing, or about half the time the plane needed to fly from Toronto, Canada to Tel Aviv, Israel.

But: I am here. Healthy, happy, eager to begin again. Nothing stolen, nothing that I’ve noticed forgotten. (Later I discovered I’d forgotten my meds, for diarrhea, flu, etc.)

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On the bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem

What am I worried about? Pesky insomnia (none last night), possible return of urinary bleeding, worsening arthritis, too few contacts for my project, getting to Jaffa for tomorrow’s Nakba day event, making good photos, efficiently running my audio recorder, climate crisis, family ties, consequences of the Trump-Netanyahu era. What am I not worried about? SF, money, making good photos, my purpose in life, dying too soon before I’m finished, outlasting the negative powers in the universe.

May 18, 2019, Saturday, Palestine-Israel, Jerusalem, Old City, Golden Gates Hostel

The story of my tooth: because it was Friday evening of Ramadan (runs from May 5-June 4), the Golden Gate porch filled up with people, who grabbed all the space. In the chaos of moving my gear and self I chomped on something hard, hoping it was merely a small seed and not a vital part of my being. Wrong, apparently it was a part of my upper right premolar. As I tried to assess the damage, feeling with my tongue and finger—I’d been eating bread dipped in hummus, hardly teeth-wrecking food—Sinaan (pronounced sEEnaan) tried to arrange two chairs for me so I could remain on the porch with my computer. But someone quickly snagged the chairs. Trying desperately to avoid obsessing about my tooth, I decided to give up the outdoor space and move inside to write. Four young men had commandeered all the tables and chairs. (This is typical for the Friday evening break-the-day-long fast.) I reluctantly sat in a stuffed chair I was sure they’d not acquire, after thinking more about my tooth, maybe examining it in a mirror. I struggled to move beyond my tooth.

So I wrote SF. Earlier I’d posted my first photo set to my site but hadn’t announced it. So, in my email to SF, I sent her the link.

Next morning [May 18, 2019] I write sitting alone on the porch, the world relatively quiet, many still sleeping (day after holy Friday), sun enough to strike me hard on the back of my head, relatively serene, and, despite my tooth, happy enough to go on living. OK, a few flies buzz me and slurp up the remains of my meager breakfast (yogurt and banana, notably soft) but I persist. Despite it all, he persisted.

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

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The photographer, photo by Kareem

LINKS

Palestinians need a state, not a ‘business plan’ by Sam Bahour (May 20, 2019)

Danger: Peace Combatants (May 3, 2019)

Humanitarian snapshot: Casualties in the context of demonstrations and hostilities in Gaza | 30 Mar 2018 – 30 Apr 2019 (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

My Father Dreamed of Returning to His Palestinian Village. When He Did, It Became His Prison, by Leila Farsakh (May 24, 2019)

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in transition with the resignation of Rebecca Vilkomerson after 10 years of highly successful movement building (May 23, 2019)

Jewish Voice for Peace updates (May 23, 2019)


TO BE CONTINUED

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field and now from home in Cambridge Massachusetts, after I had photographed internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. (I and the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP, team plan a return journey in early summer 2019.)

Amongst ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples in this country. After the Arabs are transferred, the country will be wide open for us; with the Arabs staying the country will remain narrow and restricted … There is no room for compromise on this point … land purchasing … will not bring about the state … The only way is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries, all of them, except perhaps Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Old Jerusalem. Not a single village or a single tribe must be left. And the transfer must be done through their absorption in Iraq and Syria and even in Transjordan. For that goal, money will be found – even a lot of money. And only then will the country be able to absorb millions of Jews … there is no other solution.

—Yousef Weitz, diary, December 20, 1940

PHOTOS

October 13, 2018, Saturday, Jerusalem, Old City, Golden Gates Hostel

I’ve done a fair amount of research about locations and routes. Nidal helped last night when I belatedly realized I’d not included his family’s origin site, Al Qabu (spelled Gabu in my notes), near Tsar Hadassah, which is near Wadi Fukin on the West Bank side of the Green Line. Most of these destroyed arab villages are near each other, which makes sense because all the folks I recently interviewed live in Aida refugee camp, proximate to the origin sites. To a large extent I expect to rely on Google Maps on my iPhone, rather than the paper maps and guidebook I brought. So much for paper, lightens the load. And perhaps directions I ask but I will need to exercise care in what I ask for, not the Arabic name, but the newly crafted Hebrewized Israeli name.

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Al Qabu/El Kabu, Ottoman period, 1870’s (click map to enlarge)

I look forward to discoveries, disappointments, good food, overnights in moshav guesthouses (no hostels that I discovered reviewing my literature last evening), and even in my car, if I can rock the seat back and sleep comfortably. I plan to go light, leave most of my luggage at the Golden Gate hostel, and hope I decide correctly what to bring.

Thinking I’m at a crossing point in this project, thus a good time to send a dispatch as I’d promised to my financial benefactors, yesterday I wrote a string of people, virtually the same message each time, personally adjusted to each person. Starting with Paul D, my first donor, followed by Shola, my second, and ending with my last so far, Diane M. They qualified by donating $25 or more. I was heartened by the list, by the image of each person, as if I carry them with me, and they carry me. I don’t recall ever doing this sort of fundraising before, where the mechanism creates a digital trail that I can readily access. Unlike earlier when I sent a physical asking letter, deposited checks, kept a record, left it at home when I traveled here, thanked only once upon receiving the money.

The message core:

diane,

thanking you again for your support and for being a neighborhood inspiration.

from the old city of jerusalem after one week in the aida refugee camp in bethlehem, now during a day off: finished with photographing (for now) internally displaced palestinian refugees in the west bank (blocked from entering gaza, maybe next spring), finished with photographing and videoing trainings of the alternatives to violence project (avp) in 3 west bank cities, now about to drive to some of the villages the people i met were expelled from in 1948 and 1967. 

samples below at the links.

onward. and later, when home in six days, i begin the next phase of this multi-trip journey: post production. as a wise person once stated, falling out of an airplane is the easy part of the trip, the hard part is when the trip ends.

—Skip (from the Old City of Jerusalem, occupied territory)

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Click image to donate

While eating a delicious chicken dinner with salad and bread that I’d picked up at the local family restaurant about 200 meters to the south of the GG hostel, and reading the latest bulletin from Friends Meeting at Cambridge (FMC), my phone rang. Minga! She dropped in via Whatsapp, asked what I was doing, heard my news, asked about my (Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) experience, who I’d met, given her cards to, and told me about recent FMC news, the Quaker birthday timeline that Chris J put together for the family meeting (which included me), and her uncertainty about going to the Texas border, El Paso for accompaniment, or to El Salvador for AVP. She then put JVB (her husband and my good friend, Jonathan) on who asked that we switch to video. I showed him around the hostel, introduced him to Lutfe, the hostel manager, who they both knew from previous stays here, and asked that we have a conversation, the 3 of us, shortly after I return, “to talk all about me,” I said. Meaning a decompression period, a digestion period, a time of reflection. I reminded him that he and Minga are the only Quakers who share so many details of Palestine-Israel experiences. Including the Christian Peacemakers Teams, Hebron, Ramallah, Jean Zaru, Ramallah Friends School, Ramallah, and right on down to the GG hostel.

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Minga via Whatsapp

Minga asked what I’d like her prayers for. Mostly in the realm of open heart, open eyes, good health, and relative safety, not too much safety, just enough. She asked me if I minded traveling alone. I answered no. Maybe now, in my current station in life, I might even prefer it. As the joke goes about the 102 yr old woman: anything good about being so old, yes, no peer pressure.

Traveling alone means no wrangling with a partner about where, when, why, and how. I recall all the fights Louise and I experienced driving cross-country in 1990, and yet, despite our fights, that trip led to one of the highlights of my experience with her, the Bigfoot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee. And the drive itself was monumental and unforgettable.

Also traveling with the AVP team earlier on this journey was a delight and I miss them constantly.

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Alternatives to Violence Project team at a memorial for a friend of Skip’s, Jerusalem Old City

Leaving Bethlehem thru the checkpoint I’d thought earlier I might write Katy [one of my two daughters] another note with some more photos but didn’t really have the chance. I made a few surreptitious photos as I went thru the vast mechanism, turnstiles, waiting people, and workers rebuilding the checkpoint, probably all Palestinian, and might consider, if I have time, sending her one or two with a brief account. I might include several acts of gentle kindness I experienced during this brief trip.

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Palestinian worker,  Bethlehem checkpoint 300

Among these acts of kindness:

As I stood outside my Aida guest quarters waiting for Mousa to drive me to the checkpoint, a man pulled up before the house, picked some people up, and then asked me if he could help. I told him I was waiting for Mousa. He phoned Mousa who told him he, Mousa, was waiting for me to phone him that I was ready. I didn’t know this requirement. Without that surprise benefactor I might have been waiting much longer: where the heck is Mousa?

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My luggage outside the guest house, waiting for Mousa

Mousa himself of course who’d offered to drive me when I’d asked about taxis.

Mohammed (Mousa) Al Azzeh, my organizer and translator, an accomplished photographer-videographer working for the Lejee Center in Aida-Palestine-Aida-refugee-IMG_1602 SM.jpg

Mohammed (Mousa) Al Azzeh, my organizer and translator, an accomplished photographer-videographer working for the Lejee Center in Aida refugee camp

Waiting outside the checkpoint for the big bus to Jerusalem, a long line of older folks presumably going to Al Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, I wondered how to signal the driver to open the luggage compartment and not lose my place in line, risking he’d drive off without me and with my luggage? After I’d loaded my luggage from the outside a man told me to enter the bus ahead of others, but in effect regaining my place in line.

On the crowded bus, standing room only, me with my heavy bulky backpack and second small pack, a man who looked at least as old as me wearing a sort of turban, motioned for me to take his seat for the relatively short ride to Jerusalem. No thanks, I motioned back, pointing to my pack. Too much trouble but thanks anyway.

Maybe because it was Muslim prayer day or simply natural good heartedness and Arab hospitality, I was richly treated.

TO BE CONTINUED

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From my journal and letters, my dispatches from the field and now from home in Cambridge Massachusetts, after I had photographed internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. (I and the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP, team plan a return journey in early summer 2019.)

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October 5, 2018, Saturday, Bethlehem, Aida refugee camp

PHOTOS (of Abdel)

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Abdel was a delight and a challenge. He insisted on talking; he was loud and energetic, especially at his age of 84; he used his hands well, an animated figure; the background was both distracting and intriguing (a small shop with a variety of objects; apparently he sells them, it might be called a junk shop); he was fully engaged with Murad who introduced me to Abdel, translated, and asked his own questions—in effect, conducted the interview—which allowed me more photographic flexibility; and his story, altho conventional, is good to consider. 

A few twists: an Egyptian helped his family flee. Jordanian soldiers worked with the Israelis to expedite removal. For a time the family lived in the forest which later became the huge settlement of Har Homa. He was shot in the knee, I’m not sure when or why, whether during expulsion or later. When seated, which was mostly when I photographed him, he looked sturdy and hearty, but when he rose with the help of his cane, he looked in pain and infirm. I try to show this contrast. Like the family of Abed Abusrour, his nephew, his original village was Beit Natiff which I plan to visit soon, if I can find it.

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Later, as we finished, a friend dropped by and asked to be photographed with the Abdel and Murad. While doing this the newcomer showed me a scar on his upper chest. To insert batteries, he explained. I nearly died. In a coma for a few hours, just collapsed. Now I feel fine. He is about 5 years younger than me. Another result of expulsion or the usual aging process?

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That was pretty much the day, along with working on my new blog about Yousef Albaba from HalHul which is nearly finished. A task for today.

October 6, 2018, Saturday, Bethlehem, Aida refugee camp

PHOTOS (of Asaed)

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Merrily we roll along. I feel good about the project, the use of black and white for portraits, my various collaborators, slowly accommodating to the triple tasks of photographer-interviewer-sound engineer. Yesterday with Murad I interviewed a relatively young man, Asaed Abusrour, in his 50s, good in English, a former English teacher, more of an intellectual than any of the others interviewed. He dodged most or all of my questions about emotions, launching instead into analyses. For the first time I did not need to rely on translation but could speak directly, even tho Asaed was too young to have experienced the expulsion.

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His parents are also from the village of Beit Natiff which he told me is now totally destroyed and remade as an Israeli area. Complicating his family tree, both his mother and father married twice; I’m not sure why. Asked whether he was hopeful, he pointed to the grand perspective—his strong belief that this current situation cannot be sustained and will eventually resolve into some form of coexistence. Luckily I have the audio to refresh me. Trying to photograph and record and ask at the same time is daunting. I’ve never been a particularly good listener (ask Louise) but the recording, if audible, might clarify haziness.

Murad remained mostly in the background for this interview, attentive but quiet until I asked him if he had any questions or remarks to add. He asked Asaed, what would you like to see for our future? Which led Asaed to his remarks about the occupation and siege being unsustainable. And to my separate conversation with Murad about his, Murad’s—way of working toward liberation—media and teaching.

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After the interview we toured Asaed’s home, apparently living on one level with the prospect of a second, the home very large and clean. He lives there with his wife and a few children. He had no reservations about me photographing in and from the house. Again I forgot to photograph the entire building. I did photograph the roof and ground level garden from the roof.

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To get names straight I might choose a representative photograph from each sitting and then ask Murad and Mousa to write the names, attaching names to faces. It would form a sort of directory and help me later when I try to assemble everything.

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Discovered: why the variation in exposure when in the camera’s back button focusing (BBF) mode (or any mode presumably). Sometime in the past I’d set for exposure bracketing (eons ago, then forgotten). Last evening I discovered this when I finally saw a pattern of wrong exposures. A series of one dark, one light, one correct. Repeatedly. I turned off bracketing exposure, made other adjustments, retested, and now I believe I’m no longer afflicted with the problem. Similarly, the rackety noise auto focus makes when in live view video mode. Turn off the frigging auto focus and focus manually. Gotta, gotta, gotta remember this. Small steps, big results.

Nearing the end of my six-week sojourn (as a flâneur, a term I recently discovered with multiple meanings. My choice: a person who saunters around observing society.) I remain unclear about what to do next week, stay or go, remain in Aida refugee camp for more photographs of people and the camp, including Dheisheh refugee camp, also in Bethlehem, or launch the next phase, searching for the destroyed Arab villages of people I’ve interviewed and photographed by car. I am drawn to places like Lydda that I’ve heard about generally or from Linda or the people in my project specifically. Would Murad or Mousa be willing to travel with me to nearby areas germane to the people in the camp? Can they, given the occupation? I might ask.

Yesterday while awaiting Murad at Rowwad, a large group approached the building. I was sitting outside. Immediately I recognized the tour guide, Elias, formerly a guide at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem. He’d been one of our two guides for the In the Steps of the Magi walk across the Judean Desert, a monumental trip in 2004. (Ramzi from Bethlehem for the desert, Elias for after that, Ein Hod, Hebron, etc.) He’s “filled out,” that is grown pudgy; I honored him in front of others as one of the best guides I’ve experienced. Abed then met the group and toured them thru Rowwad-2.

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While sitting outside waiting for Murad, two girls, ages 8 and 9 (they told me after they’d asked my age, 77), photographed the scene, including me. So their photos may be the only photos of me-Skip-the humble photographer resting between action.

LINKS

Report: Trump to Demand Recognized Palestinian Refugees Be Capped at Tenth of Current Number (Haaretz, August 2018)

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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