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Posts Tagged ‘west bank’

United States-aerial photography IMG_1887

Boston and the Atlantic Ocean

PHOTOS (flight)

During my recent West Coast visit I lived the reality of climate change. California is parched, so at each of my temporary homes hosts encouraged me to flush only when needed, run water until hot into a bucket to use later for a toilet flush, shut the water off when brushing teeth, and in other ways tightly conserve water. Juneau Alaska is dramatically different: situated in a temperate zone, water is plentiful, and I was required by my hosts to flush after each dump, no matter how slight the deposit. In California I might race to the sink if I heard water running; in Alaska I needed to restrain myself from acting when I noticed running water not being used.

United States-aerial photography IMG_1954-Edit

Somewhere over the western half of the North American continent, six miles high, maybe seven

Because of the California drought my hosts in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada asked me to design a slideshow from my Holy Water series that had only existed as a photographic exhibition. In a Napa country home living for four glorious days amidst my beloved Live Oak trees, graciously hosted by Louise Dunlap, I had time to convert the print files into slideshow format and add supplementary materials for later presentation to my foothills’ hosts.

Napa IMG_2053-EditLive Oaks, Napa California

For five weeks in March and early April 2016 I traveled to the Bay Area of California, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and northward to Juneau Alaska to present 14 shows to some 450 people.

I am indebted to many friends, family, teachers, and fellow activists on the issues of Palestine-Israel to organize, host, publicize, supply equipment, house, transport, feed, introduce, and present my shows.

As usual on recent tours, my guiding theme is portraying my experiences in the sorely troubled region of Palestine-Israel. Thru my photography and filmmaking I hope to open eyes and hearts to what I perceive, and thus foster awareness and inspire action. Since 2003, spurred in large part by the martyrdom of Rachel Corrie on March 16, 2003, killed while attempting to block the demolition of a home in Gaza by an Israeli soldier driving an American-made Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, I have visited Israel-Palestine 9 times and Gaza 6, for periods of about 3 months every 1 and 1/2 years.

In Juneau, organizers chose my movie, Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors: Other Voice, but after they’d viewed a rough cut on line they implored me to severely reedit it. Luckily in Juneau, residing with my sister Elaine Schroeder and her husband Bob I had a few extra days to edit before screening the movie. This movie needs yet more work.

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Juneau Alaska

High schools were a special feature of my visit. In Grass Valley California I showed to 3 classes studying history and photography. In Juneau I presented to 3 more classes in world history. Each time the discussions, sadly, were quiet, not too unusual for high school classes meeting a stranger and dealing with tough topics, but problematic and disappointing for me. I hope I planted a few seeds. In contrast, one of the most lively discussions occurred at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall after I showed Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank. I attribute this to the venue’s atmosphere and tradition. My show was part of an ongoing political series and I suspect many in this audience were familiar with sharp debate.

So: as I showed, I made; as I visited, I learned; as I had the year before photographed and filmed 10 times zones east in the Levant, now I presented my results.

SCHEDULE

3/9/2016
Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
Temescal Commons Co-housing, Oakland

3/10/16
The Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank
Hartsough’s home—In the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco

3/14/16
Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
Chico Friends Meetinghouse, Chico, CA

3/15/16
Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad Street, Nevada City, CAHolyWaterGV3/16/16
Timeline Palestine & Israel (3 showings)
Nevada Union High School, Nevada City CA

3/17/16
The Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Fellowship Hall, Berkeley CASkip-Schiel_photo-movie_3-17-16_Historic-Fellowship-Hall-BFUU-SJC
3/19/16
Portions of Thru My Lens: Palestine & Israel, Gaza’s Israeli Neighbors: Other Voice, and Detroit Up & Down
A home in Rossmoor Senior Adult Community, Walnut Creek, CA

3/28/16
Timeline: Palestine & Israel
Juneau World Affairs Council, KTOO public television, Juneau, AK

TimelineJWAC

Televised thruout Alaska and now available on line.

(You’ll need to use “Skip Schiel” in the site’s search engine. It’s also on YouTube. Here it is enlargeable.)

3/30/16
Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank (3 showings)
Thunder Mountain High School, Juneau AKGretchen's syllabusSyllabus from the Honors World History class taught by Gretchen Kriegmont
as an example of excellent teaching.

4/3/16
Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
Juneau People for Peace and Justice, Northern Light United Church, Juneau AKGazasNeighborsJuneau-2
PRESENTATIONS

Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice
A movie in process about Jewish Israelis living within one mile of Gaza, heavily attacked, yet calling for negotiations rather than violence

The Freedom Bus Ride thru the Palestinian West Bank
A slideshow about Palestinians under occupation practicing exemplary strategic nonviolent resistance.
The renowned Freedom Theater of Jenin West Bank organized a two week bus journey inspired by the Freedom Movement and Freedom Bus Rides in the United States. Some 60 international and Palestinian riders explored some of the most attacked and resilient communities in the West Bank—Bil’in, Tuwani, Nabi Salih, the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem itself, known for their creative struggles against oppression.

Holy Water—The Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, & Dead Sea
A slideshow about the Jordan River system.
Ample in the upper Jordan, threatened in the Galilean Sea, shrunk to mostly wastewater in the Lower Jordan, and the Dead Sea rapidly dying, this photographic series intersects regional history, geology, hydropolitics, and the global climate crisis.

Timeline: Palestine & Israel
A narrated photographic introduction to the history of the conflict, especially suited to audiences new to the issues, with personal narration of the contemporary period

Thru My Lens: Palestine & Israel
The look and feel and meaning of the situation in this troubled region.
Based on my spring 2015 three-month journey of faith in action, I survey and discuss my photographs about coexistence, Palestinians in Jerusalem, the Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, Gaza’s Israeli neighbors, the hydropolitics of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, and other topics.

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Justice is Love made Public

—Dr. Cornell West

PHOTOS

Based on my current work in Palestine-Israel March – May 2015, my view of the situation depends on my location.

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If in Israel, I do not notice the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, nor does most of the population. If noticed, the Israeli Jewish citizens and the leadership largely support the injustice—95% of Jewish Israeli’s were in favor of last summer’s attacks on Gaza. The recent elections that returned Prime Minister Netanyahu to office are confirmation; they mark another step toward a right-wing government. Exceptions exist of course, and I try to locate and support them—Gush Shalom is one, led by Uri Avnery.

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Purim in an East Jerusalem settlement, March 2015

If in the West Bank, again depending on location, I learn that the occupation can be tolerable and mostly invisible, as in Jenin, where there are no neighboring settlements (altho the Israeli Occupation Force regularly raids the refugee camp looking for people, usually young men, that they accuse of threatening Israel). Or it may be a huge annoyance, as in Ramallah, especially if one needs to pass thru the notorious Kalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem. It can be regularly violent, as in Hebron where the settlers are particularly vicious or in the villages of Nabi Salih and Bil’in near Ramallah which every Friday for years mount nonviolent demonstrations to regain their ancestral lands. They’ve had some success. I visit and support the activists there. Or the occupation may be a continual threat, as in Sheik Jarrah, a district in East Jerusalem where Israeli Jews frequently take over Palestinian homes with army and police protection.

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Downtown Jenin, April 2015

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A nonviolent demonstration, Nabi Salih, March 2015

And if in Gaza (I was last there in 2013), the region is not only the largest open air prison as it’s commonly called, but a graveyard, as a friend confided to me during my first trip there in 2004. Last summer some 2,500 people were killed during the Israeli assault, about 75% of them civilian. Entrance and exit are now so tightly restricted that I’ve not been able to enter on this trip and many notable Gazans such as Dr. Mona al Farra, who was to speak at my Quaker meeting in Cambridge Massachusetts in May 2015 as part of a tour, are unable to leave. (Two Boston-based friends and colleagues of mine, Alice Rothchild and Bill Slaughter, both medical professionals and thus more able to visit Gaza, may speak at my meeting in Mona’s place.)

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Trauma program, Nuseirat refugee camp, Gaza, 2013

On my current journey, my 9th since 2003, I’ve attended a 2-day conference called Global Village Square in Bethlehem drawing some 70 young Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, and West Bank Palestinians to work together on solutions. I’ve ridden the Freedom Bus thru the West Bank to learn about popular resistance in villages and East Jerusalem. In Jenin in the northern section of the West Bank thru the renowned Freedom Theater I’ve taught photography to young adults who are already very proficient in the craft but need encouragement and tools to portray their experiences under occupation. I’m about to photograph more of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, a project combining hydrology, history, geology and politics in a multi-layered approach. I will photograph for Grassroots Jerusalem as part of their political mapping project to portray Palestinian experience in East Jerusalem. And finally, if plans hold, I will be with Israeli Jews living within 2 miles of Gaza, often attacked, but who formed an organization called Other Voice courageously critical and outspoken about much of Israeli policy.

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Global Village Square, Bethlehem, March 2015

Here in Palestine-Israel, the vision is bleak. I doubt I can find many who believe the conflict will be resolved soon, if at all. To counter this despair I tell people about the hope I feel erupting in the USA because of growing awareness, more frequent visits to the region, increasing activism among young Jews and others of Arab descent, and most importantly the growing BDS movement—boycott, divest, sanction—with its accompanying support of the One State Solution: one land, multiple peoples, with equal rights for all.

I joyfully wear my Martin Luther King Jr button. Many notice and either recognize or ask. I answer, a great leader, a man of love, compassion, intellect, and sumud. Steadfast in his quest for justice. He died for his truth, a shaheed, a martyr. And people seem to instantly recognize his value.

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TO BE CONTINUED

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

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 Bassam Tamimi with his daughters

Photos

The Freedom Bus project was not started as a way of doing touristic and artistic tours of the West Bank. And this is not why we joined either. It is helping us to understand more fully this occupation and to speak to Palestinians first hand. Our role as witnesses is to go home and share the reality on the ground, which is way too often distorted in mainstream media. We are not innocent and have to transform knowledge into action – action that has been called for by the locals themselves. They are asking for political support, which can be demanded and fought for back in our own countries. They are also asking for the support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which should be implemented on a personal level as well as in our schools, supermarkets, offices and nationally. As internationals we have a role and we can work in solidarity with the Palestinians to make a difference.

—Sama, one of the bus riders

March 20, 2015, Friday, Cinema Jenin Guest House, Jenin, Palestine

Cool, low 50s, 80% cloudy with altocumulus, slight breeze.

Yesterday [March 19, 2015] was another full day: breakfast at 8; at 9 various warm ups for team building on the outdoor stage of Cinema Jenin (touch-don’t touch partner’s knees; call out names during a rhythm game; stretch together; shake out; breathe, stop-go, down-up, referring to the occupation, and then the reverse as resistance; and share a feeling with the group; all good techniques to use during my later photography teaching); a lecture demonstration by Eyad Burnat from Bil’in about what to expect at today’s Nabi Salih demo (gas, bullets, arrests, etc); lunch at the Freedom Theater with an intro to the theater and freedom ride by Joanna; tour of the refugee camp including the cemetery with its martyrs’ markers, then to the horse statue (made of pieces of shattered ambulances, pointing north toward liberation); a brief talk by a bureaucrat about maintaining the camp; a stunning musical performance by beginning and advanced students at the Al Kamanjati music school; a playback performance there (I offered my Gaza kidnapping story); dinner at the cinema garden (sitting with lubna, the translator, and the shy quiet woman from Acca), and finally, after staff twice grabbed the wrong DVD’s, a screening of Arna’s Children about the founding of the Freedom Theater.

I’d seen the movie before so it looked familiar, but I recalled very little of it. I was puzzled by the time sequence and asked Jonathan, the managing director of the Freedom Theater, who suddenly appeared for the discussion, about this. Most takes place during the battle for Jenin in 2002. Arna died in the late 1990s of cancer, and the Freedom Theater opened in 2006. I set myself in the movie’s time frame and realized I may have visited the camp with the delegation one year after the fighting, and the theater opened during my early period in Israel-Palestine. In fact I may have first visited shortly after it opened.

Trying to sort out what I will bring on the Freedom Ride, realizing I may lack some vital things (like a sleeping pad, suggested by Bryan), with all we human beings jockeying for space, with virtually no sort-out space like my bed available, is—as was true during my various pilgrimages—daunting. But rather than this lasting for 1 year as with the Middle Passage Pilgrimage (retracing the transatlantic trade journey), this is only 12 days. Thus it is tolerable.

Maybe differing from the pilgrimages, especially the Middle Passage Pilgrimage, is the feeling of camaraderie, mutual support, shared mission, and above all else, exceptionally fine organizing. Unlike that pilgrimage this is not a first time effort. This tour is the 4th annual.

March 21, 2015, Saturday, Guest House/school, Bil’in, Palestine

Cool, mid 40s, clear, slight breeze.

We are in Bil’in (pronounced with the accent on the 2nd syllable, and adding a sort of grunt at the ‘ —Bil-hi-een.). I believe we are in a school or community room, men in the main room, women in 3 separate rooms, all on the floor, luckily with plenty of mattresses and cushions, relatively quiet after about midnight (Fidaa asked for quiet around 11, reminding me of when I tried this on the Middle Passage Pilgrimage and was angrily opposed), me again next to Bryan (as I’d been in the Jenin guest house, after I seemed to have swiped, in his view, his corner space and his cushions, a very curious relationship), all leading to a fair night’s sleep (but short, 6 hours). I am back in pilgrimage mode.

NabiSalihMapDetailedArrowsSM

Nabi Salih and the colony of Halamish

Yesterday we were at the village of Nabi Salih most of the day, for the demo, village walk around, and dinner. We heard of course from Bassam Tamimi, probably the chief leader, who gave a nuanced discourse about resistance. He joked that “we don’t need more tears, we have the tear gas.” Apparently he is originally from this village settled by Tamimi’s and is now filled with them, but in 2009 when the settlers in Halamish took over the village spring (on the other side of a divide), he returned to lead the resistance. His children are in the forefront of the struggle and were clearly the main presence at the demo when they loudly confronted the soldiers, all 4 sisters, ranging in age from about 6 to 11.

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Halamish upper left, spring middle right, demonstration in the middle, Nabi Salih behind the photographer

As the sisters scurried up the hill, warned by the soldiers to leave within minutes or they’d be tear gassed, breathlessly one told me she could speak Hebrew and told the soldiers this was not their land, no one invited them here, the Palestinians were the rightful owners, and the soldiers and settlers should leave. To me she spoke in good English. Later she and 2 of her sisters spoke to our group, encouraged by their father and mother, electrifying us with their courage and articulation of the struggle.

Their mother, Nariman, was injured fairly recently, shot in the leg at close range with a tear gas canister. She used leg braces but attended the demo.

Unlike last week when the Israelis arrested 2 women and injured a boy, yesterday [March 20, 2015] they merely shot opening salvos of tear gas, and then allowed resisters to approach to about 5 meters, the kids closest, face-to-face with the army. I remained back, not at the very back where many stood on cliffs, but about 300 meters from the front line. Partly because I have trouble navigating the rocky hills, and mainly because I appreciated the new vantage point afforded by the elevation. Maybe a little confusion and fear as well.

Palestine_Israel-Nabi_Salih-Tamimi-Popular_Resistance-6626

Tamimi girls confront the soldiers

There I perched for about 30 minutes using primarily my telephoto lens, chatting with Lorenza, a young woman from Switzerland. So she could see the action better thru my long lens, we shared my camera from time to time. I felt I was photographing a tableau—lines of people constantly changing their geometry. (I thought of Henri Cartier Bresson, known for “the decisive moment,” his use of evolving human geometry in photography.) The kids, the acrobatics from one of the Freedom Theater members, the casually positioned soldiers, and the spring off to one side now developed by settlers. I used my wide lens to show the positioning of settlement, confrontation, and spring. I’d read about this but now could picture it.

Would the solders attack? A key question. This time, no, perhaps influenced by the large number of internationals, or perhaps wisely realizing, as police in the United States seem to be doing more now, that waiting out the demo is simplest, cheapest, and least likely to lead to negative publicity.

Writing this entry in the early morning, I sit now in the main room of the Bil’in center, leaning against the wall, cushioned by a pillow, on my sleeping bag and blanket (kindly lent by Ayman from the Jenin guest house), while others slowing awaken and rise.

Last night traveling here from Nabi Salih, the driver became lost. Which seemed to lead to a raucous songfest that disturbed me. I was sitting alone in the front, about 5 seats back, the front seats occupied by Palestinians, when they began singing. One woman in particular, who I’d earlier noticed seemed depressed, sitting sullenly and separately with her phone in hand, maybe not loving the bus experience, suddenly became suffused with wild energy. She jumped about, screamed, clapped her hands madly about her head, and was eventually subdued by the Palestinian with dreads. I thought she might be manic-depressive.

Later one of the men explained they sang traditional songs, often sung at weddings, similar perhaps to folksongs in the USA. This episode reminded me of terrible moments on previous trips, pilgrimages, especially the Middle Passage one, where the new living mode I’m subjected to just does not appeal. Let me off this bus, please!

During the spring of 1961, student activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals. Traveling on buses from Washington, D.C., to Jackson, Mississippi, the riders met violent opposition in the Deep South, garnering extensive media attention and eventually forcing federal intervention from John F. Kennedy’s administration. Although the campaign succeeded in securing an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) ban on segregation in all facilities under their jurisdiction, the Freedom Rides fueled existing tensions between student activists and Martin Luther King, Jr., who publicly supported the riders, but did not participate in the campaign.

—Freedom Rides in the United States during the freedom movement

Palestine_Israel-Nabi_Salih-Tamimi-Popular_Resistance-6495

On the wall of the Tamimi home

TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Freedom Bus blog

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Political power is controlled by the corporate elite, and the arts are the locale for a kind of guerilla warfare in the sense that guerillas look for apertures and opportunities where they can have an effect.

—Howard Zinn

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Young man in a park, Gaza City

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Inbal Yahav, telling how she lost a close friend in a Gazan mortar attack, Netiv Ha’asara, an Israeli moshav (cooperative agricultural community) next to the Gaza Strip

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During a trauma healing session in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

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Nader Abu Amsha, director of YMCA Rehabilitation Program & Beit Sahour Branch

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West Jerusalem

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Watching a performance of the Jenin Freedom Theater at a water rights demonstration in the Jordan River Valley

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Coaches at a training for the Quaker Palestine Youth Program, Gaza City

PHOTOS

An interlude in my series of journal extracts about my recent trip. That series will continue.

Often while photographing in Palestine-Israel for 3 months this spring I despaired. For several reasons: in Gaza and the West Bank, the paucity of popular unarmed resistance to the occupation; by Israeli Jews, the absence of awareness about the occupation and siege; and my own sense of futility about my work. There are exceptions of course, Gush Shalom, Other Voice, and Emek Shaveh for instance in Israel, and some local popular resistance groups in Palestine, such as struggle in the villages of Bil’in, Budrus, Al Masara, Al Walaja, and Nabi Saleh in the West Bank and a few locations in Gaza. Yet, in my 8 trips there since 2004 I’ve never felt so crushed.

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Beneficiary of the East Jerusalem YMCA’s rehabilitation program

However, I returned to my home in the USA to join with activists on campaigns such as BDS—Boycott-Divest-Sanction. I work with Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights and other local and regional organizations struggling to bring justice with peace and security to all parties in Israel-Palestine. This work nourishes me, offers me ways to use my photography, provides hope. As a friend, Loretta Williams, signs her letters, “In Struggle is the Hope.”

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Watching the Holy Fire Eastern Christian Orthodox Holy Fire procession on Easter, Beit Sahour (Bethlehem)

To be precise about my itinerary: 1 week in Jerusalem to acclimate politically and historically to the region, 4 weeks in Gaza to photograph the activities of the Quaker Palestine Youth Program and to teach photography to young adults, 4 weeks in Bethlehem to work (nominally—I’ll explain this later) with the Palestine News Network, 2 weeks in Ramallah with the Quaker Palestine Youth Program in the West Bank to photograph their work and teach, and in Jerusalem with the American Friends Service Committee to photograph for their BDS campaign. During my final week of 12, I explored the northern Mediterranean coast, the Israeli borderlands with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and trace the Jordan River from headwaters on Mt Hermon where it dumps (theoretically) into the Dead Sea.

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Watching a man being fitted for a suit, Gaza City

A friend asked, what surprised you, Skip? Some people I met such as Jen Sieu from the USA who volunteered with me as a photographer and reporter at the Palestine News Network. We gave each other leads such as the Battir terraces threatened by the planned Israeli separation wall and early morning at the Bethlehem checkpoint. And Ayman Nijim, a psychosocial worker in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza. He introduced me to a young men’s debka touring group and brought me to photograph his trauma healing program in the camp. And an old friend, Fareed Tawallah in Ramallah, with whom I shared the farmers’ market he co-founded, Sharaka.

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Fatma M. Khateib, Project Coordinator at the psychosocial service agency, Afaq Jadeeda Association (New Horizons), in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

Some places surprised me. For instance Netiv Ha’asara, an Israeli moshav hugging the Gaza wall, often targeted by Gaza mortars and militants. There I met Roni Keider and her daughter, Inbal Yahav. Inbal lost a close friend in a mortar attack. And the border zones mentioned earlier, actually viewing fences and army patrols, while I was able to look into neighboring countries, including Syria where violence rages. And the Battir terraces, ancient agricultural terraces that utilize natural water flows and could be partially destroyed if Israeli’s plans for extension of the separation wall succeed.

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Men’s-only pre-wedding party, Gaza City

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Taher Mhanna and his son Hesham

In Bethlehem I was chagrined to learn that the Palestine News Network made little use of my photos, offered virtually no support, and exhibited what I feel is a self-destructive policy of eschewing connections with Israeli organizations—the normalization policy—that persuaded them against using my and Jen’s photos about the Battir terraces. The reason? The project involved Friends of the Earth Middle East, a joint Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian environmental effort to foster justice and peace thru concentration on the environment.

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Hamas security officers, Gaza City

Three final surprises: the major direction and staff changes in the American Friends Service Committee and Quaker programs which I will report on separately. And my friendship with a woman with whom I wrote and Skyped regularly, a very personal connection to home that warmed my heart. My daughter Katy as well, who cared so lovingly for my home and business.

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Participants in a water rights march in the Jordan River Valley

I’ve made many photos, written some blog entries, made some friends, and raised within myself many questions. For a few: what is the strategy of Palestinian unarmed resistance? Are Israeli occupation and settlement policies suicidal? Why is Gaza so often the center of resistance and the target of Israeli attacks? How does the terrain reflect the politics, especially the control of water? How much should I concentrate my photography on conflict vs ordinary life?

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Drinking water from a school pure water installation provided by the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip 

Photography is one of my primary lifelines, for my own psychic survival at least. I must believe it has some value, even tho I am often disappointed with reactions to it—and my own self evaluations. I am nourished by the awareness that I am not alone in photography and activism. I photograph shoulder to shoulder with some of my mythical photographic mentors—Dorothea Lange, Robert Capa, and W. Eugene Smith for 3 who are long dead, and Sebastião Salgado very much alive. And in politics I walk with Martin Luther King Jr and Jesus Christ, partners as teachers and martyrs.

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Participants in a Quaker Palestine Youth Program in occupied Palestine, West Bank

My next steps? Exhibit portraits at a regional Quaker gathering in August 2013, produce new slide shows and supplement old ones for upcoming national tours, perhaps publish a second book (the first is Eyewitness Gaza, available at blurb.com), post more blog and website entries, and develop new print exhibitions. The usual.

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Avi, proprietor of Abraham’s Tent, housing for travelers in the Golan, near Mt Hermon

I’ll end with some insights from James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men:

For in the immediate world, everything is to be discerned, for him who can discern it, and centrally and simply, without either dissection into science or digestion into art, but with the whole of consciousness, seeking to perceive it as it stands: so that the aspect of a street in sunlight can roar in the heart of itself as a symphony, perhaps as no symphony can: and all of the consciousness is shifted from the imagined, the revisive, to the effort to perceive simply the cruel radiance of what is.

That is why the camera seems to me, next to unassisted and weaponless consciousness, the central instrument of our time; and is why in turn I feel such rage at its misuse: which has spread so nearly universal a corruption of sight that I know of less than a dozen alive whose eyes I can trust even so much as my own.

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The photographer resting in a field of aloes, West Jerusalem

I can imagine how tough it was to be over there. It’s reached a state of stasis, maybe. All the power held by Israel. All the Palestinian strategies of the past have failed in the face of that really evil state-power/religious-zealot-power/dysfunctional state/helped by holocaust drums and US Jews and Christian Zionists. And the Palestinians, too, in their government apparently tribal (legacy of the Tripoli-Arafat approach–non democratic really). Yikes.

—a friend (in a recent email to me)

Ramadan

Courtesy of Islam Madhoun & AFSC Gaza

A Long, Slow, Soft Landing in Boston

THIS SERIES WILL BE CONTINUED

LINKS

To learn more about Palestinian unarmed resistance to occupation (American Friends Service Committee):

“A brief overview of the situation in Palestine-Israel” by Skip Schiel

Playground Tour of Palestine” by Ilse Cohen

“Life Is A Catastrophe Now” by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, May 2013

“Israel is Outgassing its Unhealed Trauma,” by Paul Levy

“Why Land Day still matters,” by Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis, March 30, 2012

“In Their Shoes (Obama in Israel & Palestine)” by Uri Avnery April 2013

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Tulkarem, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Al Masaara, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

—Thomas Merton

DIALOG ABOUT MY ART WITH A FRIEND AND CURATOR

In this ongoing pilgrimage [to Palestine-Israel] of yours, where is the art? (Thanks to Chuck Fager)

In two places, ethics and graphics, which is precisely where art needs to be located.

In the case of ethics, I strive to ground my art in the deepest compassion and wisdom I can muster. This is particularly crucial for my work about the Middle East. Secondly, as much as possible I share experiences with those I photograph, currently mostly Palestinians, going thru checkpoints, blocked by the annexation wall, confronting the Israeli military, etc. Two quotes that might help: the first about my recent work, “You photograph not only with your eyes but with your heart.” (Fares Oda, West Bank American Friends Service Committee staff). And the second from Charlie Parker which I often use with my photo students when they ask me how they can improve their photos—“If you haven’t lived it (life), it won’t come out of your horn.”

Zohar, Negev, Israel, 2012

Cistern evacuation, Jerusalem, 2012

In the case of graphics (perhaps esthetics is a better word), I play with angles, lighting, vantage points, frame, etc, the usual techniques photographers like to concentrate on. I use what I call “wild mind photography,” a term I derived from “wild mind writing” as taught by Natalie Goldberg. No restrictions, no judges, total play and experimentation. For me my must frequent form of this is not using the viewfinder to frame or find the view, but rely on my instincts about what the camera sees. This often results in useless images which I cast away but from time to time produces something I regard to be extraordinary.

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Additionally, the Mediterranean light pervading the Levant captivates me. Light is central to photography. I strive to know it, use it, affect others by how I use it. This also is art.

Bedouin village, Negev, Israel, 2012

How has your art in this project changed over time? Has it?

I struggle to shift from the generic to the specific, from shallow to deep, from diffident to more confident, from personal to universal, and to better use metaphor and synecdoche. Whether I achieve this goal I can’t say.

Where is the spirit in it? How has it affected your life?

My response to the spirit part of this question is in my response to your first query. In addition, I pay homage to my muses and  to the endless stream of photographers which constitutes my lineage: my ancestors, my contemporaries (who I refuse to compete with, but feel they are colleagues sharing our passion), and descendants, those I teach thru my formal teaching and my photo examples. Is this spirit? You can decide.

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

My art is central to my life. I identify first as a human being, then as a photographer. Quaker, Christian, Buddhist, lover, friend, father, etc. come later. For amplification, if you’re interested please check my artist statement on my website: teeksaphotography.org.

Thanks Friend for your questions. I hope this begins to answer.

Zohar, Negev, Israel, 2012

What most of us must be involved in—whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do—has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.

― Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays

LINKS

Artists in Times of War, by Howard Zinn

Slide show: “And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness &  summary (for the moment & as of 2005) of my photography

“And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness 
Part 8 & earlier, added April 2 – May 24, 2010 (click on links to read earlier chapters)

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 1 
Revised and added January 16, 2010

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 2
Revised and added January 21, 2010

As an Artist, How Do I Survive & Thrive?
Revised and added February 15, 2010

Notes on My Quaker Connections in Palestine
Revised and added January 28, 2010

West Coast tour, fall 2012 (September 18 – October 18, Alaska to California)

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SEEKING VENUES, CALIFORNIA TO ALASKA

Photographs by Skip Schiel from Palestine & Israel

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

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

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

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

A slide show of recent photographs (2012)

Photos

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

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

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

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

West Coast 2012 Tour Announcement

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

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

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

Falafel, Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

SLIDE SHOWS

Descendants of Abraham, Sarah, & Hagar

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

Eyewitness Gaza

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

On the way to Gaza

Tracing the Jordan River

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

Dismantling The Matrix of Control

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

The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel

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

Bethlehem the Holy, the Struggle for an Ancient City

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

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

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

Negev desert, Israel

Other Presentations Available

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

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

Negev desert, Israel

PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITS

Female in Palestine

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

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

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

The Living Waters of Israel-Palestine

A print version of the Hydropolitics slide show.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE

Eyewitness Gaza (movie)

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

Skip Schiel in Gaza, photo by Mesleh Ashram

MORE ABOUT SKIP SCHIEL

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

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

Hosting Agreement

ORGANIZATIONS I’VE WORKED WITH IN PALESTINE-ISRAEL

Al Quds University (Gaza)

American Friends Service Committee

Birzeit University

Christian Peacemakers Teams

Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel

Friends International Center in Ramallah

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

Holy Land Trust

Interfaith Peace Builders

Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information

Jewish Voice for Peace (in the United States)

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

Palestine News Network

Palestinian Hydrology Group

Parents’ Circle-Families Forum

Ramallah Friends Meeting

Ramallah Friends School

Right to Education Program (at Birzeit University)

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

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

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

—Avot D’Rabbi Natan

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

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

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

PHOTOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem checkpoint

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

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

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

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

Dormitory at the Ariel University funded by the controversial Irving Moskowitz

Ariel settlement

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

Nonviolent demonstration in the village of Al Masara near Bethlehem

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

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

Prisoners’ rights demonstration at Ofer Prison, Israel

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

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

One of my students at the Ofer Prison demonstration

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

Thanks for following the issues and my work.

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

—Fares Oda, West Bank AFSC staff

Boys and automatic rifles

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

Nativity Church and full moon in Bethlehem

LINKS

American Friends Service Committee

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Negev Coexistence Forum for Social Equality

Palestine News Network (English)

Jenin Freedom Theater

Friends International Center in Ramallah

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

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