There is so much beauty in Palestine; in the land, historical sites, the people and their lives. (picture of Bil’in)
What I find incredibly inspiring and deeply moving about the Palestinian people is their level of resilience and love of life, family, culture and rich heritage. Most of all the people still smile, still laugh, even when there is much sorrow, challenge and adversity. I believe this is just a few of the reasons why I am so drawn to Palestine and the Palestinian people. I can relate to their lives on deeply, personal levels.
In communicating and speaking with more Palestinian people within Palestine, I am constantly humbled, impressed and in awe of their inner strengths, positive attitudes, hopes and ambitions for their futures. Even in the most dire of circumstances, they find within themselves a joy for life, eager to talk with me and share their lives with me.
There are many losses daily in Palestine; loss of land, homes, and lives. The struggle never ends and the uncertainties are forever present, and yet the Palestinian people stand strong, with great dignity and humility, genuine grace and integrity. They are a proud yet humble people, examples for the world to take note and follow.
I think the wisest comment I have heard is from my project partner, Haitham Khatib, when talking about resistance to oppression and the fight for freedom. Haitham said to me, “the best way to fight is to stay alive to fight”, this comment is more profound than it seems on the surface. It is easy to fight an enemy or government with force, but it is quite another to fight with intelligence, strength, honor and grace. Some may think that unless you physically fight, you cannot fight strong, but I believe the best way to fight is choosing not to engage on the level of your oppressor, but instead by example. Setting the example that life is worth something, that national pride runs deep with roots so deep that no bulldozer or bomb can uproot.
Just like the beautiful, ancient olive trees that blanket Palestine, nourishing her people and being a living reminder of strength and beauty, the Palestinian people strive to continue to live, grow and hold hope for their future, for a free Palestine.
This beautiful tree sits on Haitham’s land in Bil’in and Haitham describes her best “This old and elegant olive tree sits patiently and proudly on my family land. She gives us fruit faithfully and I admire and look after her. I will always cherish and protect this beautiful tree…for she holds the memories of my family’s past, is a witness to our present, and gives us strength and hope for the future!”
I cannot begin to explain how much I have and continue to learn from Haitham, not only about the history, culture and heritage of Palestine, but a wisdom he has and continues to impart that most surely has changed my life.
My other partner on this project is Fadi Thabet; like Haitham, Fadi is also a gifted photographer and what Fadi does not say in words, he speaks volumes through his amazing photography.
Through the lenses of both of these brave, strong and persevering men, we can glimpse into the lives of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and in Gaza.
Social Media is such an amazing tool, and an equally powerful weapon. It draws the world closer together. What I have found so amazing, is that Haitham and Fadi are good friends, but have never actually met face-to-face because of the restrictions imposed on Palestinian people by the Israeli government. Haitham lives in the West Bank and Fadi lives in Gaza, but they both share the same passion and the same hopes. Both showing the world the truth about Palestine and her people through their photography and videos. I am so honored and feel so privileged to know and work with these two men.
The written word is also powerful and most effective when it reaches into the hearts and minds of the reader, provoking thought, emotion and question. It is our hope that my writing and Haitham’s and Fadi’s photography, the message we bring about Palestine, the Palestinian people and the truth about their lives under occupation will bring greater awareness and spark positive change for a free Palestine.
Gaza is one of the most drastically affected areas of Palestine, but home to some of the most beautiful Palestinian people, some I have begun to get to know.
The children here in one of Fadi’s photos smile, and exude strength, embody everything that is Palestine. To the outside world, this photo may seem playful and innocent. What is underlying this innocence is the fact that these children are standing around an outdoor fire, not because they are camping like many of us in the west do, nor are they playing. They are trying desperately to keep warm because Gaza is under continuous siege by Israel, a lot of the people in Gaza are living in under inhumane conditions, with tremendous shortages of heating fuel and gas to cook, they are forced to build fires to keep from freezing.
In the face of this adversity, of these daily struggles, the children still smile and a smile is worth a thousand words.
This inner strength is born from generations of Palestinians who have throughout history been a people who overcome great odds, and when all seems destroyed and where others would give up, the Palestinians remain forever strong, beautiful, dignified and hopeful for their future and the future of a free Palestine.