After a long pause I have yet come back to being creative again. A lot is going on and has been going on in my life. Almost all good, and now I have decided to yet again share my life with you all.
On a short note I can tell you that I have just returned from a trip to Cairo – Istanbul – Antakia and over the border to Syria where I experienced with my own eyes the horrors that goes on in the refugee camps there. This will all go into a documentary that I’m editing for the time being. Its a hard and long job but its all worth it.
But hey stop! Arn’t you a still photographer? Well yes, but I got my self a video camera since I wanted to start shooting video. Both documentary and also some more layed back fun stuff. I have also desided to now and again post old pictures form all my travels that never got posted online.
In a while I will start to post my diary from my latest journey as a countdown to the documentary being finished.
See ya all :)
In Jerusalem it is not only the Palestinians who fight for justice. When I stopped at Sheik Jarah on my journey, I was meet by mostly Jews who where demonstrating. That day I came directly from one of my many stops by the Silwan valley and I was troubled from what I had seen. This was for me a light in the dark. Finally I came across people who both where Jews and could see the trouble that settlements was bringing to the area.
Sheik Jarah is a part of East Jerusalem that slowly is being taken over, with plans already made to expand the whole area. Some internationals stay in the houses of the families that have gotten an eviction notice. And this keeps the take over at bay for some time, but not actually stopping it. At the demonstration some people where asking what they could do to stop or work against the spreading of settlements and some advice where given. But it seemed that nothing was really working.
“when you get back to Denmark they well believe you more then they believe us”.
I do not know how true this is. On some levels yes, I have been there and so what I talk about is first hand experience, but still I am not sure how much effect it has when looking at the broad picture.
Palestinian and international activists protest over stolen agricultural soil in the small town of Belaen outside of Ramallah, in the Palestinian Territory. The local settlers have taken 60% of the usable soil in the area leaving the population with little to grow there crops on. The settlers have been sentenced to give 1/3 of the land back but this has not happened yet. The demonstration evolved into a small riot, with stones, teargas and a lot of running.
In the city of Jericho, on the West Bank of Palestine close to the Jordan River about 20.000 Palestinians live in a place that not only is the lowest place below sea level populated by humans, but also the place that has had civilized people living for the longest. The heat and humidity combines a harsh environment that leaves the streets almost completely empty in the day time.
Banners hanging in the trees in Akko showing the picture of Gilad Shalit. An Israeli soldier captured June 2006 by the Hamas, and has been held captured in the Gaza Strip ever since.
At the Yafa Cultural Center in Nablus hard work is being put into changing the minds of the young that live within the confines of the Palestinian refugee camp Balata. The camp is infamous in more ways then one with its share of violence in the past, the time for a change is now. The camp is known for having the largest population on the smallest peace of land. 25.000 Palestinians within 800 houses live here on a one square kilometer of slum.
In 1948 when the camp was first established it consisted of rows of tents with only the most needed facilities. The electricity was installed in 1975 and this flourished the education amongst the young. Now they could study at night and, the old people in the camp can still remembers how the children was gathered around the lamps like mosquitoes at night. Studying and thus came the second generation of workers that the camp produced. Before the labour that the camp and its population could offer was focused on plowing or other primitive types of work, the next generations moved further and could offer work at a higher level.
Over the years like many other camps it has developed into an overcrowded community where over half of the population is below the age of 18. About 80% of the children here are under nurtured, and this kind of poverty seems to be one of the biggest struggles in everyday life.
In recent years UNRWA have cut down the rations of relief, that are sent to the camp. Now they come at 3 month intervals and this is fare from enough that is needed, Mahmoud Subur, one of the dedicated souls at the Center, says. A year ago the checkpoints that surrounded Nablus got removed and yet again the people from Balata could travel outside the city for work. But with a mere 3-5% of Balatas population that are able to enter into Israeli controlled areas for work, the situation is not looking positive. Some have accumulated enough money over the years to start there own businesses within the camp and now about 350 shops have been established.
The educational advance in the camp has acted as a catalyst, as Mahmoud, describes it. The desire for education has spread amongst the young. On the darker side Balata also catalyzed both the first and the second intefada. They spread from the camp like wildfire in the West Bank and a lot has to be done to ensure that a third does not come along. “The fist consisted of stone throwing, and in the second intefada, guns and bombs was introduced”, Mahmoud says, “no telling what a third will bring”. During the second intefada no less then 16 suicide bombers was derived from the young men of the camp, 230 lost their lived in battle with funerals every week. Today 800 Palestinians here still suffer from handicaps after being hit by bullets or fragments.
The team at the Yafa Cultural Center tries to stimulate the children in the camp to keep them in school and away from violence. It is the aim to make Balata the frontier of education in the West Bank. The most active participants at the center are being sent as exchange students around the world to experience life in other cultures and to make them able to advance further in life then the previous generations. But it is hard work especially with the poverty and low living conditions that the people of the camp face everyday.
Marhmoud hopes for the future is, that the third intefada will be peaceful and will come from the outside. “Now it is time for the rest of the world to protest agents that is happening here”.
Nablus is trying to improve its image from a tourist town to the industrial capital of the West Bank. During and after the second intefada, Nablus suffered great economical consequences, but now relations with the Israeli government are softening up and improving little by little. Last year the Israelis removed the permanent checkpoints around the city, so Palestinians yet again could travel ind and out of the city, with no permits. This has nurtured the industry and exports are flowing yet again. But not all seems to be all that easy, Nameer T. Khayyat, the General Director of the champed of commerce in Nablus, tells me. “It is not that there are restrictions from the Israeli side on what can be produced here, it is an open marked just like in Israel“. He takes a sip from his tea and continues; “goods from the West Bank are usually delayed, sometimes for weeks at the border. Before we can export them we need the proper documentations and so on. If we are talking about food with a low expiration date then delays at the border can be troublesome“. He also points out that transport costs from the Palestinian territories to the port of Ashdot, sometimes are 4 times as high as the normal transport from the much closer Israeli factories.
6 month ago the Palestinian Authorities stopped the goods that where produced in the illegal settlements from being sold in the West Bank, this seems to be more of a political move, thus the much cheaper Chinese wares are widely available in the region. Many businesses suffer from this kind of dumping. This is something Fatayer can recognize. He is the manager of one of the last two traditional soap factories in Nablus. “Here used to be 35 factories that produced olive oil soap the traditional way. We do not use additives in out production only pure olive oil”. He points to a big mixing bath at the ground floor of the factor. “Now, there are a lot of soap on the marked from China, and people here have forgotten the benefits from using olive oil soap”. With a price that sometimes is 4 times lower then the traditional soap it is not hard to understand why people here would result to buying cheaper goods.
He feels economical pressured and even though he believes in an open marked, he still fells that the Palestinian Authorities should do more to secure the businesses in the West Bank. “I think the situation is getting better day by day, and this is largely because of the stability that the Authorities have given the area. “Still we do have problems when sending out production out. We export to many European countries, and we can only use Ashdot or Heifa. So we need to deal with checkpoints and delays during the transport”.
Textiles, soap, building materials, marble, plastic and aluminium is all something that could be produced on an even larger scale in the West Bank, and not to forget vegetables and fruits. With an more easy method of exporting these goods, an improved economy could be in sight in the territories. Initiatives are being set into motion with exhibitions in different cities in Europe and Tel Aviv, and a new commerce building in Nablus is also on the drawing board. Mr. Khayyat sees the next years as a good opportunity to improve the relations even more with the Israeli government, “open borders is a sure road to peace“.