Testing the Waters—
Palestine & Israel, 2006


Journal, March 4, 2006—On the morning of departure

Last day at home, 6 hours before Katy [my daughter] picks me up for a ride to the airport, packing, fretting, forgetting, remembering, and wondering what might go wrong, what right, what will happen, will I survive? more

Journal, March 6, 2006—Arrival

Having arrived in East Jerusalem late last night, via Ben Gurion airport and a long sherut (shared taxi) ride dropping me off near the Damascus gate, I feel home. Or almost home. Today Ramallah and finding the owner of the apt I've rented near Al Manarah, the city center. more

Journal, March 7, 2006—Birzeit University

Dreaming , for a change, about IP events, the night before last, while residing at F hostel, I dreamt that I'd overslept and missed looking for a cell phone with H. I awakened with a start—I'd actually slept late, later than usual for me—and pushed myself up to make sure I did indeed find him still at F. more

Journal, March 11, 2006—Bil'in

Dedicated to Tom Fox, giving his life to peace and justice in Iraq

International Solidarity Movement’s message

A first for me: resistance to the Separation Barrier in the Palestinian village of Bil’in.

After reading so much about the villagers stalwart resistance to occupation—tearing down a part of the fence, placing a caravan (temporary dwelling, like what the Israeli settlers use to establish a new settlement, a fact on the ground) on Palestinian land, having it torn down by the military, then putting another up, this torn down, and now constructing a small one room concrete block building that will serve as a sort of organizational center, generally a continuing nonviolent defiance of authority, a peaceful resistance to the incursion of the apartheid wall so close to their village—I had the opportunity to observe and witness with my camera this exemplary group of people. I’d heard about the weekly action from Hisham at Faisal, contacted the International Solidarity Movement’s media center (conveniently for me) located in Ramallah, found the office in Ramallah’s Old City, and after waiting around the apartment for some 2 hours meeting people from the Philippines, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Australia, and the US, all younger than 30 years I’d estimate, we headed out in a jammed service taxi. more

Journal, March 15, 2006—Southern Hebron Hills

Shepherds live in the southern Hebron hills, the same hills Abraham and Sarah might have traveled thru on their way to Hebron some 4000 yrs ago. In fact, wasn’t Abraham a shepherd? Water is scarce throughout this general region but especially in the hills. Only a few trees, no shrubs, maybe some wheat, some wildflowers, and luckily an aquifer that is tappable by wells. One particular family has the misfortune of owning land and living near an expanding Israeli settlement or colony. As part of the pattern of forcing the native people from their land, the settlers find many ways, some ingenious, to disturb lives and thrust people from their land: what can gently be called transfer. Or relocation. A more inflammatory term might be removal. It is not genocide, some might call it proto-genocide, a step just before the real thing. more

Journal, March 16, 2006—Ramallah Rally—Stop the Attack on the Jericho Prison

Driving back from Hebron on Monday with Sonia and Tracy, I think it was then that I first heard about a confrontation in Jericho over a prison and certain prisoners. Apparently two men, Ahmed Saadat and Ahad Abu Ghulmi, were being held for the assassination of an Israeli minister some few years ago, held by the Palestinian Authority but monitored by US and British guards. Somehow the monitors decided to leave—alleging the PA was not protecting them—and soon after, within minutes or so, the Israeli army entered the area and began demolishing parts of the prison to force the prisoners to surrender. more

Journal, March 18, 2006—At Kalandia checkpoint: The story of Osama R. Shweiky

The story of Osama R. Shweiky, resident of East Jerusalem.

I was coming thru the Kalandia checkpoint yesterday morning, and stopped to photograph the decrepit toilets for what seems to be my ongoing Kalandia collage series. When a man emerged from one of the toilet sheds and seemed to be following me. My first thought—he was security and would ask me why I was photographing the toilets. I kept him within my peripheral vision as I stood idly outside the waiting area looking thru a fence at the ongoing construction of this mammoth checkpoint, now euphemistically called a terminal. more

Journal, March 22, 2006—What can we do for you, dear child? or Aspects of the Ramallah Friends School

Yesterday Anna Siefert (a Friend from the UK) and I toured some of the elementary Ramallah Friends School, mainly to observe the special needs section. One very touching moment occurred when we met a young girl, about 8 years old, with cerebral palsy. She walked with canes and seemed well loved by some of her classmates. I marveled at the risks she took to walk—in narrow hallways, her canes extended to each side, kids careening by, they could easily kick one of her canes and knock her to the ground. more

Journal, March 24, 2006—Friends Preschool in Amara refugee camp

I finally found the preschool run by the Ramallah Friends School in the Amari refugee camp and directed by Muna Khleifi. Thanks to bumping into all the right people in the Ramallah Friends School elem office—Diana, Hala, Salim, Salma—they called me a taxi driven by a man that regularly goes between the elementary school and the preschool. more

Journal, March 27, 2006—In the Heart of the Great Mother: Water in Silwan & the City of David

Jerusalem was a revelation, if I can use that word in this location, an epiphany. I wished to explore the Silwan area, for the second time, otherwise known as the City of David, mainly because of the home demolitions occurring here, and also because of the region's 5000 year history. Clinching my motivation was hearing that a Disney-like museum about the region had opened recently. Unlike the last time when I visited in the winter of 2004, virtually alone, no staff, no tourists, this time the archeological park was fully staffed and teeming with tourists, large groups, Scandinavian, South African, USA from the south, American Jews, Israeli Jews, and me. Tourism in the Levant seems on the rise, not necessarily a good sign. I happily joined the throng, not minding at all being the tourist. Because I had a special mission, to show the tourism, as a minor theme, but to depict as a major theme the region and how water works and worked and how the Palestinians living in the neighborhood are being threatened with removal, much like District 6 in Cape Town. more

Journal, April 3, 2006—The Basics of Quakerism, taught by Joshuah Lilande

Photographing Joshuah Ligane Lilande, Quaker in residence from Kenya at the Ramallah Friends School, teaching Quaker ethics for the year (among other duties, such as establishing a museum and helping design a conflict resolution and peace building curriculum) as he taught a sixth grade class. I was astonished at his energy—unrelenting, funny, demanding, interactive, dramatic, engaging, joyous. All the qualities I hope for in myself as a teacher. Eventually he inspired the students to list what he regards as the pivotal Quaker virtues: including honesty, discipline, truth, community, peace. He rarely purely lectured, but always worked in the manner of, "Now when you have work to do and you are too tired to really want to do it, what do you need?" more

Journal, April 4, 2006—Protecting the Lands of Bil'in

Now about Bil'in, my second journey there . Begin with a dream, I believe directly about Bil'in.

I was sitting on a Palestinian terrace, opposite one of the neighboring massive Israeli colonies, watching the settlement grow before my eyes. The swarming settlement was a spilled ink blob, an ameba or a thriving cancer, swishing and pulsating and expanding in a terrifying manner. I felt—despairingly—utterly unable to stop the growth. more

Journal, April 5, 2006—Wandering around Jerusalem: Silwan and Mordechai Vanunu

I want to go home, where it is clean, dry, warm, and springy. Currently the weather here is wet and windy, thundery as well, fog rolling in during the night, after a relatively bright sunset. Strong winds flapping the shutters prompted me to get up during the night and close them. Now, morning time, grim, leaks in the veranda (but I know where they are, moved my shoes just in time to prevent another soaking), thinking, today I'm to meet someone at an office far from home, plus gather students for a photo trip, I'd rather ditch all this nonsense and get on the next plane home. This is my state of mind. more

Journal, April 11, 2006—Water in Salfeet & Ariel, part one

Salfeet (also spelled Salfit) is a cluster of Palestinian villages lying halfway between Ramallah and Nablus. A city now with a population of 7,000 (some 60,000 more in the immediate region, called the Salfeet governate), historically the region is known for its rich lands producing grapes (Salfeet is alleged to mean box + grapes) olives, almonds, apricots and other delicious gems of the earth. The richness seems a combination of good water, sitting atop the western aquifer, one of the largest in the West Bank, and what I observed to be about 1 meter of topsoil. Usually there is not much soil in the West Bank—much more rock, usually limestone. The rock is a gift of the oceans once inundating this region. more

Journal, April 14, 2006—Water in Salfeet & Ariel, part two

About the wall: many might agree with Israel having a right to protect itself by building a barrier, fence, or wall, but on its own land, either on the green line or on the Israeli side of it. But no, the barrier often runs on the Palestinian side, confiscating land, water, homes, and curtailing freedom of movement. It is especially onerous when it blocks farmers from their lands. In the region of Salfeet and Ariel, the fence punctures much Palestinian land. Over the years, the building of he settlement block has confiscated some 45% of Palestinian lands. The Salfeet Mayor expects that another 25% of the land will be confiscated by the Apartheid Wall. Apparently the US administration in a rare move, disagreed with this routing. Israel's response? To clear the path of the fence and defer building it, as if to say, maybe not today, but for sure tomorrow. They then built sections of the fence, but did not connect the pieces. As if to say, eventually this will be complete, encircling our settlements, our "neighborhoods." In this region the fence departs 13 miles from the Green Line. Encircling Ariel and related settlements, the entire block is inside the fence and well within the West Bank. Outside of course are the Palestinians and so Farid's story of how long a trip now takes is common. more

Journal, April 12, 2006 (edited April 16)—Haifa journal, part one

The contrast between Ramallah and Haifa is vast. On a physical level, Haifa is warmer, near the sea, and packed together more than Ramallah. On a social level, Jews and Arabs ( Arabs as they're often called here, and by themselves) live and work relatively close together, at least within the same general area—no checkpoints, no wall, no closures (that are visible and overt). Some 20% of the 250,000 people in Haifa are Palestinian (the same percentage of Arabs in Israel as a whole), but years ago, before the Nakba (the catastrophe for Arabs when Jews formed the state of Israel in 1948), they were the majority. And Palestinians here have more privileges than Palestinians in the territories. But not matching the Jewish citizens of Israel—second-class citizens in their own land, stories about this to follow. more

Journal, April 12, 2006 (edited April 16)—Haifa journal, part two (Peasach & Akka)

Today [April 13] is Pesach, pronounced, pay-sa, Passover. Last night around the world, Seders, the preparatory meal reminding Jews of the good luck their ancestors had when the angel of god passed over their houses marked by blood and destroyed much of Egypt. Elias informed me that the word Seder means order , but he has no idea what the connection is between order and the meal. Near the end of my walking tour yesterday, along Ben Gurion Boulevard, near the Baha'i gardens, I stopped in a building thinking it was the bookstore I'd visited with the Steps of the Magi group [organized in December 2005, from Jordan to Bethlehem]. But no, a shul or school. A pleasant young man wearing traditional Jewish clothing approached me, welcoming me, and invited me in to see the rather banal interior and photograph it. He explained they were holding a Seder later that evening and I was invited. This was indeed tempting. more

Journal, April 15-16, 2006 (edited April 24)—Haifa journal, part three (holidays, Wadi Rushmia)

Here's what I understand about the holiday routines here in this mixed city of Haifa, Jews and Arabs and Christians (precious few of us remaining) living together. Friday is off for observant Muslims, but most Muslims work Fridays. Saturday is off for most Jews, observant or not. Sunday I think is on for most everyone, including me. Even Easter. What's Easter in the land of Jews and Arabs? Off for Jews means no public transport, all government buildings closed, most Jewish businesses closed. Off for Muslims means you can barely tell it's a day off for anyone, most every thing is open. more

Journal, April 17 - 19, 2006 (edited April 30)—Haifa journal, part four (Wadi Nisnas, roommates, occupation, Tel Aviv bombing)

Wadi Nisnas is a neighborhood in one of the oldest sections of Haifa, not far from the waterfront, resided in by Israeli Jews and Arabs. The municipality has renovated and promoted it as an example of co-existence. Some Palestinians I've talked to feel this is subterfuge, layering a hip and artistic veneer to continuing Jewish domination. In this view, the end result is continuing exploitation of the Arab population—occupation with a velvet glove. more

Journal, April 20 - 23, 2006 (edited May 1)—Haifa journal, part five (beach & Wadi Salib)

The beach proved to be a good choice for a field trip. Being the end of Pessach holiday week, parts of it were thronged with families, couples, singles, all mixing together. How many were Palestinian and how many Israeli I do not know, might ask, but it didn't seem to matter—ah, coexistence in action. The restaurant area featured a large theater light shining into the sea, anomalously. It was as if producing the sunset. The sky was partially overcast, lending a soft touch to the light, a bit pastel. Earth mounds moved people up to make odd angles, and acted as platforms for photographers. One activity of the workshop for Baladna I was leading was back light. At the end of the session, nearing 8 pm, the sun had been below the horizon for one hour but the sky continued to glow with the proverbial Mediterranean light. Perfect for backlighting, but challenging to even the most skilled photographers. more

Journal, April 21, 2006 (edited May 5)—Haifa journal, part six (Baladna youth field trip to Jerusalem)

A trip to Jerusalem yesterday [April 20, 2006] to meet about 5 Baladna youth groups from different parts of Israel including the Negev desert (pronounced na-kob in Arabic), the Galilee (I believe), and the Triangle area (in central Israel north of Tel Aviv). Some of the villages are Fasouta, Jdaideh, Nazareth, Kufr-Qassem, and Rahat. more

Journal, March 31, 2006 (edited May 6)—Neta Golan, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement

A long chat for nearly an entire afternoon [late March] with Neta Golan, one of several founders of the international Solidarity Movement, ISM. The American Friends Service Committee has nominated another ISM cofounder, Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace prize (along with Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions). We met in the ISM media office, in the heart of Ramallah's old city (on this second trip I could find it, mainly by wandering around, no one could help when I asked directions, no one I spoke with had heard of ISM, at least the way I pronounced it), had coffee, heard gunshots, thought it might be an incursion, went out to look, learned it was not an incursion but part of the local Land Day commemoration, and ended up going for a long walk to look at wildflowers. We topped off the visit with pizza back at her house, with one of her 2 daughters and her husband and another international with ISM, Dylan. more

Journal, April 29, 2006 (edited May 6)—With the American Friends Service Committee to Jenin

Yesterday, thanks to Fida of AFSC, a journey with AFSC to Jenin, including the camp. And on the way back, hoping to visit and maybe dine in Nablus, a first hand experience with the occupation. More about this dramatic and dangerous incident later. more

Journal, May 5, 2006 (edited May 10)—Water in the Nablus Region

Yesterday [May 4] was a perfect day to tour water sites in the Nablus region, the weather balmy, the sky clear (not so perfect for photography), wild flowers in bloom, and wheat springing green ("in dark earth many days has lain," to quote a favorite song). more

Journal, May 16-18, 2006 (edited May 20)—Dispatches from Gaza - 1 ( OCHA, my apartment, Gaza Community Mental Health Program)

A nervous beginning to the day, neck ache, head ache, slight stomach ache, restless night, maybe all explained by what the day bodes: a 10 day journey into the "Worst of the Worst," Gaza. And yet, tho an awful prospect, where I'm mysteriously drawn. more

Journal, May 22, 2006 (edited May 26)—Dispatches from Gaza - 2 (Shooting & shelling - 1)

Shooting and shelling. That was the reality yesterday as Amani (a water expert with the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA) and I toured more water sites. The shelling occurred after we'd visited the sewage lagoons near Beit Hanoun. Our guide from the Palestinian Water Authority, Amani, several others, and I were up close and down dirty, , in the muck and mire of the sewage. They pointed out to us the craters in the sandy, previously irrigated lands, the precarious sandy roads separating ponds, and the fences. They claimed—and I'm not sure how they'd prove this—that the Israelis fire from tanks without provocation or warning. The tour guide said, the shelled yesterday, they could fire today, maybe in one hour, they could shoot as we stand here now. To be ready, I looked for cover, I decided I'd dive down the ridge and cover my head. more

Journal, May 21, 2006 (edited May 27)—Dispatches from Gaza - 3 (The House of Suffering: Shifa Hospital)

The main work of the day was visiting Gaza City's main hospital, Shifa. Calling it the house of suffering would not be an exaggeration. Expertly toured by Mohanad Al-Helo, a medical doctor working for an advanced degree in community health, we visited sick and dying people, suffering not only from the usual pains and threats of life but the siege, the occupation, the problems induced by the current political conditions, especially the US-led funding slashes. Cause of the injuries include the factional violence that cuts down innocent children, hits by the Israeli army, and even family violence generated by the anxieties of the siege. Most revealing, most difficult to observe were the children. Some on IV tubes, some with advanced cancer, some with bodies distorted by congenital disease, and the babies in incubators. These last touched me deeply, in part because of my daughter Joey's recent experience giving birth to Cid, and my other daughter Katy's impending birthing experience. Had an emergency occurred during Cid's transit out of womb, or should something onerous happen to baby Eleanor, despite the relative poverty of Kate and Joey and families, they will manage and manage well. Here in Gaza, no amount of money can guarantee proper treatment. more

Journal, May 20-22, 2006 (edited May 28)—Dispatches from Gaza - 4 (Shooting & shelling - 2)

Ibrahim Shafali called in last night to ask how I was, then when I asked him the reciprocal question he informed me that he'd been conversing with his family about the shootings.

—Shootings? I exclaimed, what shootings?

—At the Palestinian Authority legislative council building, this morning at 5, between Hamas and Fatah.





Journal, May 23, 2006 (edited June 5)—Dispatches from Gaza - 5 (Water)

The water tour was exclusively about wastewater, its lack of full treatment. Our first site was just south of the city, near the dismantled Netzarim settlement along Beach Road. Here sewage spews from a pipe into the sea, nearby fishers are plying the waters because fish tend to accumulate in the nutrient-rich but heavily polluted effluent. The stench was unbearable, and completely unvisualizable, one of the key problems with visual art—how express odor? more

Journal, May 24, 2006 (edited June 7)—Dispatches from Gaza - 6 (Water—Rafah & Khan Yunis)

For a 3rd day, yesterday Amani brought herself and me on a water tour, this time south, all the way to Rafah, Khan Yunis, and the 2 southern border crossings. I could title my series from this Gaza journey, Arez to Rafah. Altho I'd asked to visit the site of Rachel Corrie's martyrdom, we didn't reach that point but did stop by the Rachel Corrie kindergarten in the same neighborhood. Kids were not around, but the playground was, and adjoining it was the shell of a sports court that had suffered from Israeli bombardment. more

Journal, May 19-22, 2006 (edited June 14)—Dispatches from Gaza - 7
(Popular Achievement thru the American Friends Service Committee)
part 1

A bevy of beauties, last night, that is, dreams. Beginning with teaching a raucous high school level workshop in Quark Xpress, making mistakes pedagogically, running out of time, the equipment not working properly, so that all was chaos and I was shouting when the bell rang to end the session. Then, in a subsequent dream, I filled a small tube with gasoline, the gas would not stop flowing, I contaminated my hand while trying to twist shut the cap. Then I photographed a dance, finding a position as the dancers disappeared behind doors, ready for them when they came out. They’d changed costumes, I could now see legs, very tantalizing, and finally, one dancing gent came to a friend and me and invited us into the dance. We all hugged and sat down together. And in the last segment of my dream-filled night someone commented that “he always wears baggy suits,” describing my clothing style. As these words were uttered I saw myself in a mirror. Yep, baggy suits. Got to do something about that. more

Journal, May 24-28, 2006 (edited June 14)—Dispatches from Gaza - 7 (Popular Achievement thru the American Friends Service Committee) part two

I consulted with AFSC about their media outreach. Amal especially feels they could do much more locally, regionally and internationally to broadcast the good story of the Popular Achievement in Gaza. We began with a discussion of 2 questions I posed: what is your story and who is your audience? These drive me crazy in my own work so I thought, why not share the anguish? And they are evocative  orienting questions. more

Journal, May 20-23, 2006 (edited June 19)—Dispatches from Gaza - 8 (Bureij refugee camp)

Yesterday [May 19, 2006] Marwan [from the Gaza Community Mental Health Center, a friend and colleague of the woman, Ragdha, who invited to her home in the camp] picked me up from my flat. We sped south thru the city, about 5 km to the Bureij camp with his 2 boys, one crying the entire trip. more

Journal, May 26, 2006 (edited June 30)—Dispatches from Gaza - 9 (candle light vigil)

As usual, after a long full day [May 25, 2006, my last day in Gaza], I yearned to be in my Gaza apartment and settle in with my work. But no, Ibraheem S invited me to “meet with my group.” Also, someone I’d met at the peace demonstration, his best friend, had said she wanted to talk with me. I found myself sitting next to her in the small informal coffee shop next to the Ministry of Culture’s art gallery where we’d seen the painting show the night before. She identified herself as the woman with the mask and noose that I’d photographed the day before. She sat with her younger sister who I mistakenly asked if that was her daughter. This group, an initiative in their words, not an organization, planned and implemented the mask and noose demonstration that called for peace between the warring political factions, Hamas and Fatah. They discussed 2 questions while I attended—whether to stage a demo that evening in front of the building housing a 2 day conference between Hamas and Fatah, and whether to accept funding from a Jordanian business man who is willing to sponsor their work. more

Journal, May 14-15, 2006 (edited July 4)—Our Spirit is Stronger than your Wall (multinational opposition to the Separation Wall in A-Ram)

Two objects sit on my writing table: a tear gas shell from yesterday’s demonstration in A-Ram, and a batch of honeysuckle I found in my neighbor’s front yard. One is heavenly, the other deathly. The juxtaposition is life itself. more

Journal, June 5, 2006 Home at last, thank god almighty, home at last!

Home at last, thank god almighty, home at last!

Yes, I'm home and grateful to be here. more

Report, August 23, 2006

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." more