This time last year, I was ready to get out of the Holy Land. I was sick of the intensity, the thickness of the Jerusalem air. It was time to go. But before I did, I was determined to squeeze in as much as possible and I set hesitation aside for the last week of this first leg.
But an overpowering sense of ‘now or never’ led me back to Silwan, one last time, to bear witness to the destruction of the neighborhood community center. The building I had sat in a few weeks ago lay spread in front of me on the asphalt, twisted metal, a crate of chickens, Foosball tables and green onions. The video had been sickening to watch but I could not look away as the crane tore into the tin roof and dragged metal around aimlessly across the ground. In person, it was heavier, emptier, no crowd gathered to shout and protest, instead neighbors peered cautiously from shuttered windows.
I felt empty as I walked out of the valley with the sunset.
On this day in 2012, I went down to Silwan again. While I was there, young men and women with guns carried a number of heavy bags into the City of David “National Park.” This event is far more strange in my memory than I found it at the time. In Israel/Palestine, there is nothing very unusual about young men and women with gun carrying heavy bags, or doing any number of things, although there should be.
I had been focusing my lens on the doorknob of a Settler house in Wadi Hilweh when angry voices burst out of the intercom in front of me. It was going to be a pretty innocent photo, a detail shot for a photo essay I was working on; not that this would have helped my case with the occupants. I was badly startled, and without hesitation started walking away as quickly as possible. Paranoia gripped me. The entire neighborhood was thick with cameras and it would have been easy for anybody on the other end to see exactly where I was headed. I imagined the occupants had called up to the security guards stationed at the City of David plaza, where I would have to pass through. In fact, the occupants could have been following me themselves.
To my surprise, no one seemed suspicious when I exited the neighborhood or the City of David area. It seemed I had made good my escape as I passed into the Old City and through large crowds. Later, I decided that it had been a decent adventure and that getting yelled at by a Settler in Wadi Hilweh was, in fact, a good achievement.
Here’s the audio from a multimedia piece on Silwan I’m putting together. Went back and shot today, but my plans were cut short by a settler yelling at me through the intercom/camera system outside his house. Anyway, images are a work in progress, but the audio is mostly cut together. Thoughts and feedback are most welcome.
I tagged along on a tour of Silwan with a group from Williams College today. Silwan is a predominately Palestinian neighborhood just outside of the Old City that is an epicenter of conflict between settlers and Palestinians in Jerusalem. It’s a long, complicated story, but the short of it is that Jewish settlers are moving into the neighborhood by evicting Palestinians, based on ancient Jewish claim to the City of David, a legitimate archaeological site in the neighborhood. It’s easily one of the most tense and sensitive places in Jerusalem, if not the entirety of Israel/Palestine. Mori (who works at Rabbis for Human Rights) had been invited to add up-to-date information and commentary since he does a lot of work fighting Palestinian housing evictions in the neighborhood. We also heard from a Palestinian activist who lives in the neighborhood and had been shot by a settler. More to come later, but here are some photos.