I have had a number of people ask me about why have I undertaken such a challenging project and topic for a first book. My answers to such questions as to why are of a deeply personal nature, but most of all, out of a strong conviction to represent truth about the Palestinian people, their lives, their history, their culture, their daily struggles, triumphs and losses, from the perspective of the Palestinian people themselves. Written with compassion, empathy and again conviction.
Many books and articles have and continue to be written about Palestine for many years. A lot of these books and articles have been written from the Israel-Palestine conflict perspective, the media perspective, or written with specific political or religious agendas.
I want this book, The Faces of Palestine to stand out from the rest, to be different, a multi-biographical first hand account of life in Palestine. What the mainstream tends to do is write about Palestinians as if they are numbers, purely statistics, devoid of names, culture, emotion, stories and tears.
Through the local volunteer work I do in my city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, I have had the great opportunity to meet and help refugee families coming from conflict hot-zones in the middle east, specifically Syria. However, yesterday I had the amazing privilege of meeting a family from Palestine that made their way to Canada and arrived with the influx of Syrian refugees in the last two months.
I was introduced to this family by a dear friend I have the honor to work with as a volunteer, she introduced me in such a way that I felt so honored and humbled, she said “this is Maria, she writes about you, about Palestine, her heart is in Palestine”, and this is very true. As I spoke with this family, they asked me questions about what this project is about, The Faces of Palestine – when I explained, I was embraced by the mother, who in tears told me, “thank you, because of what you are doing, together in partnership with Haitham Khatib, Fadi Thabet, Sary Baraka, Hani Qtra and others, Palestine is not and will not be forgotten.”
I will be able to meet with this family again very soon, and will include their story about their journey to Canada and their great desire to one day return to Palestine, a free and peaceful Palestine.
As this project moves forward and I am getting to know Haitham, Fadi, Sary and Hani better, more closely, I find myself using words like warriors, leaders, and heroes to describe them. They are examples of resiliency, strength and determination to their families and their communities. They risk their lives to share their work with the world on a daily basis.
Haitham especially, in many pictures, some you will see here, he wears bullet proof vests, helmets, gas masks, to achieve one of his greatest passions, photography and photo journalism. Unlike the occupation forces that surround him, his village and country, Haitham’s weapon is one that is stronger and more powerful than any rifle, tear gas launcher, or tank – it is his camera. Much like the expression “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so together, with my writing, and Haitham, Fadi, Hani and Sary’s photos, our force to bring truth is stronger than any conventional weapon; put this together with social media, and the faces and voices of Palestine will be seen and heard, clear and strong.