Our mental images of Palestine, even for those who know it relatively well, are too often shaped and dominated by media images of conflict. These must, of course, be shown, but it is important to understand Palestine as a place where daily life takes place and as a place with a rich culture and history. It is also important to understand that the conflict is about much more than telegenic explosions and violence – the occupation affects even the smallest details of daily life. So here we’ll bring you a gallery of photos showing these sides of Palestine.
Skateboarding has only recently arrived in Palestine – but boys and girls there have taken to it eagerly as a way to express themselves, be creative and let off steam. Whereas in the UK, skateboarding is male-dominated, it has arrived in Palestine without this baggage, and girls are firmly part of the scene, too. Skatepark-building charity SkatePAL are looking for more female instructors to teach at their skateparks in Palestine this year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form and the chance for an experience of a lifetime. On 19 April 2016 we’ll be screening a film about the arrival of skateboarding in the West Bank.
Palestinian clowns protest in Gaza against the imprisonment of 24-year-old circus teacher and performer Mohammed Abu Sakha, held in administrative detention without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation. For more, click here.
The Palestinian Circus School has become an established and respected part of the Palestinian cultural scene. Learn more here.
Gymnastics with the boys’ club doing their drills at the YMCA, Jerusalem, 1939. This photo is from a wonderful album just posted on the British Mandate Jerusalemites Photo Library Facebook page, which say the Jerusalem YMCA was “a wonderful place for young Palestinians of all faiths to play music, sports, go on excursions, and attend lectures”.
A still from an extraordinary and haunting short film about Ayham and his piano in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Syria. You can see the film here and read more about the story behind it here.
“They are young, and they are fearless. In Gaza, a growing nonviolent movement, led predominantly by youth, is challenging Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands in the so-called “buffer zone” — a unilaterally demarcated and militarily patrolled area that, according to Harvard researcher Sara Roy, “now absorb[s] nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land.”
“The zone officially extends 300 meters into Gaza’s territory, but “attacks against civilians take place anywhere up to approximately 1.5 kilometers inside the border fence,” according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. (That’s about a mile into a strip of land that is seven miles at its girth.)
“In this video, some 300 protesters are shown under fire from Israeli guns, too far to see but no less lethal for it. The protestors’ crime? They were planting citrus trees to replace those destroyed by Israel’s ongoing occupation, which daily deprives Gaza’s more than 1.7 million Palestinians of access to their farmland, to the sea that borders them, to the airspace above them — and, crucially, to their fellow Palestinians.”
For more, watch this.
An extraordinary house in Jericho in the West Bank, made from bags rammed with earth and then plastered. Like many earth-built dwellings, it is naturally so well insulated – keeping out the sun’s heat during the day but radiating it during the night – that it requires no heating or air conditioning. Read more about it here and here.
Young ballerinas in Ramallah take part in a self-portrait project. You can see many more of the photos, including shopkeepers and farmers in Nablus, here.
University students who have returned home for the harvest festival celebration in 2012 at the Zaytoun olive pressing/bottling co-operative just outside Jenin in the north of the West Bank. The local olive farmers’ co-operative funds several local young people each year to study at Bethlehem University.
A group portrait of feminists from various women’s associations in 1930s Jerusalem. This wonderful photograph is from the February 2015 issue of This Week in Palestine, printed alongside an article on photographs and memory by Ali Qleibo. He writes: “It is a riveting group portrait of assertive, independent, active feminists from various women’s associations. Their forceful poise and their diffident composure command respect and admiration. [They] had gathered at the King David Hotel, which was the symbol of luxury and elegance during the British Mandate. The reception was held in honour of leading Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi, whose robust presence dominates the photo. […] In 1923 when Huda Shaarawi, the pioneer of feminist activism, removed her veil in Cairo’s train station, she created what became a landmark (and much-copied) gesture for feminists throughout Egypt and the Middle East.”
A lovely scene showing part of the harbour in Gaza on a beautiful sunny day – but look closer, and there’s a darker story unfolding. An ambulance is visible, people are crowding at the shore. The reason? Gazan fishermen, out at sea in their efforts to earn a livelihood, have been fired upon by the Israeli navy, which patrols Gazan waters and frequently attacks unarmed fishing boats. The patrols constitute one of the ways in which Israel makes a giant prison of Gaza, preventing free movement by land, air and sea, choking the Strip’s economy and making normal life impossible. Photo and story via @WhateverInGaza and Jason Shawa.
A young surfer intends to make the most of the waves caused by the current winter storms in Gaza. For him it offers an opportunity, but for everyday life in Gaza the winter, combined with the ongoing Israeli blockade that prevents the import of essential rebuilding materials, is an ongoing catastrophe almost undocumented by the mainstream media. This photo is by Anne Paq / Activestills.org and appears at 972mag.com. For more photos and for a report on current conditions for Gazans under siege, read 972 and Active Stills’ report here.
Following last week’s image of young rollerbladers, here’s another talented young bunch of Gazans, the Camps Breakerz Crew – the image is a still from this video of their breakdancing skills, which is incredibly moving to watch as the young men, playing characters killed in the war, are resurrected to find their home reduced to rubble. Very powerful.
The crew themselves say: “Please help us to rebuild Northeast of Gaza strip by founding and establishing a dance studio for children there. Their future is a matter for us and the whole world. Let’s replace each piece of rock with piece of hope by donating. Please donate to us to make dream comes true.”
Gaza Freedom Skaters are a group of talented young rollerbladers seeking to relieve the stress of everyday life under Israel’s brutal blockade. You can watch them in action here (the image above is a still from the group’s film) and find out more about them on their Facebook page.
A soap factory in Nablus, West Bank, in 2012. Photograph by Richard Stainton
Dan Cohen with ‘the greatest threat to Israel’. Worth posting as our picture of the week not only to show these infectiously cheeky grins but because of the story of how Cohen’s tweet of the image, and his sardonic caption, went viral, reposted 16,000 times around the world. As Dan explains, his conscious juxtaposition of these adorable kids with the use of Israel’s language characterising Palestinian babies and children as a ‘demographic threat’ really struck a chord. Read more about it here.
Palestinian Santas bring some joy to the streets of Nazareth. Picture from CUFP
A performance at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. This unique theatre company uses cultural expression, and the inclusion of young people living in the camp, as a means of resistance to both the military occupation and to conservative forces within Jenin. This photo is from the Green Belt blog. You can support the theatre’s work by donating here.
Teenagers wind down after their performance at the Zaytoun Olive Harvest Festival – featuring celebratory music and dancing – held at its co-operative olive oil bottling factory outside Jenin in the north of the West Bank (2012). Picture by Richard Stainton
This is a beautiful little project to grow vertically, making the best use of space – an ingenious experiment at the Palestine Museum of Natural History, hosted at Bethlehem University. Incredibly, this is the first every natural history museum in the Arab world. It was founded “to research, educate, and to promote responsible human interactions with our environment.” This picture was taken by a local PSC member on a recent research trip.