Report from a 3rd photographic journey to the Levant

Testing the Waters—
Palestine & Israel, 2006

—Skip Schiel—

August 23 , 2006

Photos from 2006 journey

Writings from 2006 journey


From earlier journeys:



Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

--The Letter of James, 3:13-18

Osama R. Shweiky, caught in the labyrinth of the Kalandia checkpoint

Leaving Israel-Palestine on June 1, 2006 after my 3 months of photography evoked a mixture of feelings for me: sadness at separating from so many friends and colleagues, more and more as I grow into this role of Holy Land witness; joyful anticipation at seeing family and so many beloveds from my home; trepidation at all the work that faces me from the trip and from my quotidian life; a shudder when I think I have more or less committed to returning to Israel-Palestine, including Gaza, and people now expect me; and regret that I've done so little of what I'd hoped, especially on the water issue. But I knew before I came that for the water theme, this trip was merely a foray, an initial exploration, mainly to make contacts and "test the waters."

I confess to some pride in what I've been able to do. At least quantitatively, I've piled up a heap of photos, some 9,000 digital images, and words. And gotten them out mainly thru my website. I'm especially pleased at how well I was received by some groups, namely the American Friends Service Committee in Gaza and Ramallah, and the Ramallah Friends School. In contrast to experiences that produced piddling results, this time around I felt my stride. Experience counts for so much, never to be discounted.

During a non-violent demonstration in Bil'in against the Separation Fence

Ranging from Haifa to the southern most town in the Gaza Strip, Rafah, the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan river, traveling with water engineers, youth program staff, volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement, and a colleague from France, experiencing the checkpoints, road blocks, separation walls and fences of the Matrix of Control, weather ranging from cold and rainy to hot and dry, I was able to pursue my three main themes:

  • Water
  • Youth
  • Non-violent resistance to the occupation

And discovered several more themes:

  • People in devotion at the holy sites
  • People on the street in their ordinary roles
  • The famed wildflowers of Palestine

Click here for what I can offer thru slide shows and print exhibits.

Click here for my motives.

And here for my photos and writings in various sets.

Since returning home to Cambridge Massachusetts, I've given about 6 slide shows to political and religious groups, also in private homes for neighbors and friends, exhibited prints at New England Yearly Meeting sessions (Quaker), provided hundreds of photos to clients in Israel-Palestine such as the UN, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Friends School, helped several people in Israel-Palestine with their writing, and stayed in touch with some friends in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank during the various Israeli incursions of this summer.

Part of the ancient tunnel system running beneath the City of David, AKA, Silwan

In the early fall, I have slide shows tentatively scheduled at venues like the Community Church in Boston, and an exhibit (along with my students) slated for Harvard University's Landscape Institute. I hope to tour my slides and prints to schools, community groups, religious institutions, and private homes, wherever people congregate who might wish to widen their vision.

Various Quaker funds, private donations, fundraisers, and savings funded this 3rd trip to the Levant. I am very grateful for all the support, whatever form it takes: money, leads, prayers, readings, guidance, love.

For the 4th journey of discovery scheduled for spring 2007, I'll once again ask for support. I intend to continue this project, exploring the main themes listed above, until it or I reach some form of completion. I'm utterly committed to this project, Testing the Waters: Photos from Palestine & Israel , regarding the land known as Holy (in what way?) and Promised (to whom?). Israel and Palestine—and Lebanon and Iraq, the entire region—is a flashpoint for our global dynamic. I ask, with all the wisdom teachers working in the Levant, long ago and now--the thousands of peace and justice makers, Israeli and Palestinian, that intense light of wisdom--why are we not able to settle our problems and share the land of Canaan? How long O lord, how long? I expect to do my part, so they can write on my tombstone: he tried.