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Historical Tourism in Israel

religious-tourism-001.jpgHoly Land tour group poses for the Dome of the Rock.

religious-tourism-002.jpgWoman at the Wailing Wall

religious-tourism-003.jpgPhotographing inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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mixing thoughts on demonstrations

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Demonstration is a fitting name. They call them peace walks or non-violent protests, but we run from the teargas, and the youth most often come with slingshots. These “demonstrations,” held all over the West Bank, protest the past and present construction of the apartheid wall between Israel and the West Bank. Internationals, Palestinians, and even Israeli’s march together with flags chants and provocations for soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force. ”The goal in Beit-jala is to get to the bulldozers without getting arrested,” I was told most recently.

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Palestinians suffer great injustices; their land, their families, their ways of life are trespassed by Israeli occupation on a daily basis. Jewish settlements and housing demolitions grow hand in hand as more and more land is colonized by the Israelis. Arabs suffer violence, oppression, and arrest for peaceful and aggressive resistance alike. And all of this, you can find at a demonstration. Their cause and effect is symbolic. Both sides provoking an assumed response.

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When people see my equipment, I’m herded towards the demonstrations, they’re unavoidable. Press is everywhere, Foreigners are everywhere. Their cameras keep the people safe, while secretly hoping for a soldier to step out of line and respond in violence. As I see it, any still image of violence, acts as a symbol, an ambassador of all the violence and oppression suffered by the Palestinians under Israeli control. But in the setting of the demonstration, those acts feel provoked. As an Israeli soldier, what else can you do in the face of a shouting mob, hurling rocks, threatening to interfere with construction, or tear down the walls.

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I have mixing emotions about demonstrations, but my strongest and most consistent reaction is the one I feel when the adults stand by and watch as the youth hurl stones at the soldiers and the settlements. You can’t call something non-violent if people are hurling stones. I understand their frustration, their anxiety, their desperation, it’s all justified in my opinion. But when you respond in even the smallest forms of violence, you affirm any perspective of the Palestinian people that sees them as a danger and threat to the Israeli population.

Young_demonstrations-005.jpgphotos taken during demonstrations in Beit Jala and Beit Omar

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Hani Amer, A Home Imprisoned.

I spent the last night in the home and hospitality of Hani Amer; his home is now completely surrounded on four sides by walls built by the Israelis.

Since the 1970’s the town of Mas’ha in north-western West Bank has lost over 7,000,000 square metres to the Israeli colonization of their land. Hani Amer, 53, lives with his wife and six children in a house at the western tip of Mas’ha, adjacent to the Jewish settlement of Elkana. Hani Amer’s story of loss started in 1991, when part of his house was demolished because it was ‘too close to the asphalt’.  In 1994 the restaurant he owned was demolished. In 2003 and 2004 his nursery and agricultural shop were confiscated and demolished to make way for the wall.

Young-Hani-Amer-001.jpgRefusing to leave his home to accomodate the expanision of the settlement,  Hani’s home is now completely enclosed by high barb-wire fencing and a 8 meter high 40 meter long concrete wall 20 meters from the house.

Young-Hani-Amer-001-4.jpgTo the north of his house, several fences block him from the Jewish Settlement of Elkana, built in the 1980’s. Hani says the settlers throw rocks at night, frightening his children and keeping his family awake. A shattered solar panel on his roof is evidenced of the attacks, and the soldiers that patrol the wall have banned him from making any repairs to his home.Young-Hani-Amer-002.jpgThe Elkana settlement seperates many of Mas’ha’s agriculture population from their farming land near ‘Azzun ‘Atma. Hani used to take a donkey 10 minutes work, but must now drive for an hour around the settlement and through two checkpoints to reach his land.

Young-Hani-Amer-003.jpgA small yellow “farmers gate” is Hani’s only access to the outside world. When it was first installed, Israeli soldiers monitored the gate at all hours and only allowed Hani in and out during 30-minutes in the morning, midday and night. He’s now been given the key to the gate, but the soldiers change the lock every couple of months, and Hani has to wait to get a new key from them.

Young-Hani-Amer-004.jpgFamers from Mas’ha wait at a checkpoint to access and farm their own land. Permits allow them access to their land through the gate during 30-minute windows in the morning, midday, and night.

Young-Hani-Amer-005.jpgHani doesn’t profit much from his crops, but he loves the land and it provides for his family. His wife and children brother help to tend the crops and make the land fruitful.

Young-Hani-Amer-001-3.jpgHani prepares a meal for his family while sitting on a roof overlooking his land.

Young-Hani-Amer-006.jpgHani says his home is like a prison. Shortly after the wall was erected the soldiers locked the gate for a week while one of Hani’s sons was outside. Friends and neighbors threw food and supplies over the gate to the seperated family to keep them alive. The Israeli’s have threatened his life and the life of his family, as well as offered to pay to move them to Austrailia. Hani says, “It is easy to kill me, but to break my will to stay is impossible.”

Young-Hani-Amer-007.jpgFrom the roof of Hani’s home, he can barely see the buildings of his home town of Mas’ha.
The wall secludes him from his people and his only view is of the luxurious houses of the Elkana settlement.

 

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Wall construction in Beit Jala

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