Unprecedented Beauty… the life, faces and true side of Gaza

12715741_600786150077582_1541146658767962665_nWhat do we see when we think of Gaza?  The majority of the world sees only the bleak side of Gaza, Palestine.  The side of it that has and is under constant conflict and war; an ongoing Intifada from one degree to another.

But there is a side of Gaza, Palestine that not many see or appreciate and it is this side of Gaza I write about in this article.  Specifically from the perspective and through the lens of my esteemed friend and partner in this project, Fadi Thabet (pictured).  Fadi was born, raised and lives in Gaza, Palestine.  A brilliant teacher, loving and devoted husband and father, and one of the most talented Palestinian photographers I have the honor to know.

12359979_580168558806008_6629681144378964015_nFadi has an exceptional gift for capturing the beauty, humanity, strength, resilience and dignity of Gazans in their day-to-day lives.  What Fadi does not say in commentary, he speaks volumes through his photography.  His photos provoke emotion, thought and show us the side of the Palestinian people we all need to see and know.

Gazans are diverse in their heritage and this makes the people of Gaza exceptional.  Every photo has its own story, never just random pictures and most caught in the moment, bring us the viewer into the lives of the Palestinian people of Gaza.  People who forever find reason to smile, to hope, to resist and believe that Gaza will be free again, that Palestine will be free.

12417938_589442587878605_2439505561062160326_nI am most inspired by the inner spirit of the Palestinian people.  Their struggle and sense of hope is something I personally relate to on intimate level.  There is ongoing conflict throughout the world, and especially in the middle-east, but there is something so distinctly different about the Palestinian people and how they face these ongoing conflicts with a level of hope and endurance that surpasses so many others.  That even through the worst humanity can experience, Palestinians still smile.  A genuine inner joy they find in the darkest of hours.  We, the rest of the world have much to learn from the Palestinian people.

It is so easy for us who live outside of the middle-east, especially in the western world, to find things in our day-to-day lives to complain about and be unhappy about.  Personally I am not one like this, but I, like the Palestinian people am unique this way.  I always find the good even in the worst, and still I smile.

12321235_591562684333262_6628143658417444079_nWhat touches the emotions so deeply is what is seen in the eyes of the children of Palestine.  Especially in Gaza, and Fadi captures these emotions in the moment so profoundly.

There is an innocence that survives the brutality of humanity, but an innocence that is wise before its time.  No child in the world should have to ever experience conflict, war, and destruction; or oppression like the children of Palestine do living under Occupation.

Denied basic human rights, denied the right to human existence, persecuted at every turn, for no other reason than they are Palestinian.

12715767_602266879929509_6123170059249478549_nWe the world, the citizens of the world with social conscience cannot continue to be complacent about what is happening in Palestine to the Palestinian people.  The world’s media works very hard to keep the spotlight off of Palestine, in the hope that we will forget about Palestinian people.  But this will not happen, because of brilliant photographers like Fadi Thabet and others who continue to share their work with the outside world through sites and collaboration like this project, and through the power of social media.

The reality of how some Gazans are forced to live is subhuman at best.  Like what you see in this photo of a man and his children.  The shipping containers you see in the background are salvaged and used as what was supposed to be emergency, temporary shelter for those Gazaz displace due to the wars and conflicts.  But these have now become the only shelter for those lucky enough to have them, because many still live in displacement camps within tents and little to no protection from the elements.

12745566_601859696636894_844800832238474259_nEven among the devastation and destruction, Gazans still find reason to remain strong and to strive to live as normal a life as possible, including celebrations of accomplishments of students (pictured).  A stark contrast of the darkness and despair of war and the hope and determination for a better future with the newest generation of Palestinians.

12718260_601599963329534_6075440608797888336_n

I cannot express enough how much respect and admiration I hold for the Palestinian people.  I learn from each of them so much each day, my life forever changed.  The unrelenting perseverance of the Palestinian people puts life into perspective. For example, this young boy continuing his studies boldly in the face of adversity.

This article is just one of more to come featuring Fadi’s work.  It is the hope that you will catch a glimpse of the real side of Palestine, of her people, and begin to question preconceived ideas and misinformed knowledge you may have of Palestine.

10384587_601804506642413_1286857031052484437_nThe Palestinian people are proud, rich in culture, from a long lineage and heritage in this land, on this land, and nothing can or will ever change this.

The children pictured here are one of many groups of Palestinian children and youth proudly demonstrating the beautiful dance of Dabke.  A music style and dance full of energy, joy and strength.

12376395_583647205124810_2919244015084276930_nAnother wonderful quality of Fadi’s is his love for the children of Palestine, his heart is big for the coming generation, and his encouragement of them and for them through his teaching and his photography is something quite special and can be tangibly felt through the faces captured in his photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

Senseless Harassment, Brutality and Murder

Where is the humanity in Israel, in Occupied Palestine?  The only humanity that exists are the Palestinians themselves, a diverse people of Arab Jew, Arab Christian and Arab Muslim, that have lived together, intermarried and prospered for generations before Nakba of 1947-1949.

Every day Palestinians are harassed in the streets, in their homes, some brutally beaten and others killed in cold blood for alleged crimes that go unsupported by evidence, families left with little to know recourse.

QusayAt the time of writing… another young Palestinian youth has been gunned down.

There is a saying in English – “same shit – different day”.. this is inhumane madness. This young Palestinian, no longer a small child, but not yet a man, has been gunned down, executed for alleged attempt to assault an IOF Soldier, claims that go unsubstantiated by IOF, and no one holds them to account.

LOOK! please look, at these pictures, look at the face of Qusay Abu Al Rab, age 16. Where is the justice for him? What is the world doing to stop this genocide of Palestinians?

The media focus seems only to view conflicts selectively chosen by executives and governments that decide what should be seen and how to “spin” the commentary on what is shown.  You will not see the daily incidents of cold-blooded murder in Palestine on you local news.  I leave you the reader to question why that is?

Myself and others like me however, work to expose the atrocities, the humanity that is being extinguished a little more every, single day in Palestine at the hands of the Israeli Occupation government and their forces.  Every international activist and humanitarian aid worker that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and talk to, who have spent ample time on the ground with their organizations in Palestine attest to the truth of what is happening there.  They have seen it first hand.

12733567_10153957108478832_1554418332003708011_nChildren cannot live without the sight of IOF and their guns every day.  IOF’s presence is as static as the buildings and trees that blanket the land.  Always armed, always ready.  Highly trained and skilled military who use their training and skills to serve as thugs, as executioners under the guise of “protecting Israel”.   Protecting Israel from what exactly – peaceful people, Jew, Christian and Muslim alike, who want nothing more than to live, exist and thrive in peace.  The Zionist Occupation does not want this.  Palestinians are all of the above, Jew, Christian and Muslim.  The Zionist IOF are mandated to extinguish them all at will.  This is the truth.

Yesterday, in Jerusalem, during a news report being filmed live, IOF executed in broad daylight, Mohammad Khalaf, shooting him with multiple rounds of live fire, his body riddled with more than 50 bullets.

 

The claim by IOF is that this young man attempted an assault against them.  I have watched and re-watched this video, I do not see such attempt.   What I do see is inhumanity at the most heinous.  Unwarranted use of force.  Another senseless murder in cold blood.

Palestinians cannot breathe for fear they will be shot.  Palestinians cannot peacefully walk in their cities and villages without random stops, checkpoints, harassment and provocations all at the hands of IOF.  This video taken on February 19, 2016 attests to such harassment.

 

Home-invasionChildren in Palestine cannot sleep safely in their homes.  Anxiety and fear rule their nights.  All too often IOF at random conduct nightly home raids, never explaining why to the homeowners, and if any explanation is given it is always the same one “this has been deemed a closed military zone”.  What does that mean exactly?  Sleeping children, in their homes warrant the title of “closed military zone”.  The first picture is of such a home invasion that took place in Hebron, Palestine.

 

Gaza-Home-Invasion1This next photo is of another IOF home invasion in Gaza.  What kind of threat can an innocent sleeping child pose to warrant an IOF Soldier armed to extremes standing over her?

These are the faces of Palestine, the innocent people of Palestine; and these are the faces of the IOF, Israeli Occupation Forces, funded, trained and supported by western governments.  This is what your tax dollars are paying for.  All the money sent in aid and support to Israel is paying for these inhuman, heinous crimes against humanity and the world turns a blind eye.  When is the conscience of the world going to kick in?  When are the people going to take a stand against their governments, their corporations, and independent financial supporters and say – enough is enough!

Silence condones violence.  Complacency is guilt by association.  Stand for humanity, for human rights, and hold Israel to account.  Not doing so is equal to the blood of innocents being on your hands.

 

 

The Faces and Lives in Gaza: part two…

imag0313Gaza, Palestine, an oceanic jewel of the Mediterranean.  Once a thriving, industrious, prospering and beautiful sea port; one that welcomed the world.  Now, Gaza is a place that possesses remnants of its former self, a paradise now in a surreal existence between living and hell.  An open air prison and active practice target range for IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).

The people of Gaza continue to impress me, amaze me, inspire and humble me.  Gazans are so strong, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually; forever holding onto and believing that Palestine will be free.  A people that in spite of incredible odds, challenges and despair strive to better themselves, educate themselves, and preparing themselves for a better future.

For some that means leaving the land they love so dear to pursue better opportunities for higher education and employment.  This is easier said than done for many, but the ones who do make it out, do so with every intention and purpose of making their way back home to help others, to help their families and build a better future for Palestine.

What I find frustrating on behalf of those who have honored me with their individual stories of their lives in Gaza, is that Occupation goes to extremes to exterminate the Palestinian people at every turn, and yet, when those fortunate enough to be accepted into Universities outside of Gaza, outside of Palestine all together, or are granted international Visas, are often denied exit from Gaza to pursue these opportunities.  This is a living contradiction of what the Zionist Occupation desires most.

12107046_758686997577013_5556221131851724603_nOngoing strife and conflict, hardship and for many displaced still after aggressive IOF action in the last four years, the choices to be made are difficult at best; people being forced to choose alliances in order to survive, something that is directly unspoken, but indirectly implied.  Forever cautious of what they speak and how they speak, especially to outsiders, I have come to gain greater respect for the Palestinian people.  Trust has been betrayed all to often, and broken beyond repair in many cases.  It is not easy for Palestinians and those especially living in Gaza to speak freely about their lives and existence.  Especially with ever-increasing threats from the Zionist Occupation Regime to control and eliminate those that speak out against occupation and its actions against Palestine and her people.

12096576_761478657297847_8423740922874530974_nI am ever protective of those with whom I have the honor to speak with, whose trust I have earned and been granted with great care.   These are amazing people, from those with families to those still hoping to one day have families of their own; the level of ambition, dignity, integrity and pride are qualities they all possess and ones I admire and look up to.  People who have so little, yet give of themselves so much to those who have even less is commendable and speaks to the true human spirit of compassion.

Gazans are happy, strong and dignified people, that in spite of tremendous loss, tragedy, ongoing daily conflict and intimidation at the hands of IOF, they still find reason to be grateful and to smile.  The more I get to know the Palestinian people, and those specifically in Gaza, the more I am deeply touched emotionally.

10432532_4855501202416_8886210532923147255_nIt is quite a surreal existence to live in such a compacted, high density population and yet, not have hatred and bitterness, at least not on the scale we on the outside would assume they should have.  This is the very nature of a peaceful people and the Palestinians are a peaceful people at the core of their being.

The conflict and resistance actions that most of us see in mainstream media, when put into perspective really forces you think.  You too would fight back when you and your entire existence has been controlled and dictated to brink of breaking your very will to live.  One point I continue to try to make for you the reader, is to put yourself, allow yourself, to actually think and feel what these people have had to live with and against now for three generations and beyond.  To have your every move, every action, thought, effort to be controlled.  Occupation in Palestine is occupation not only of land, but of the people themselves, every aspect of their day-to-day life existence is at the hands of their oppressor, the Zionist Occupation Government of Israel.

10276060_10153358175693325_998773002538043109_nImagine also the dire circumstances of living with government factions of Palestine who cannot agree among each other how to rule fairly and justly.  This creates a triangulation of control with the Palestinian people caught and trapped in the middle.  Professionals that work within Gaza, and in the West Bank, some who have not been paid regular wages and salaries for two years and beyond; why? because one faction insists the other is responsible.  It is common sense knowledge that a house divided surely falls; but it is obvious that common sense in government and governance is not a common occurrence.  Who suffers then?  the citizens, the innocent people of Palestine.

Is it not enough to suffer under Occupation?  let alone suffer at the hands of your own leaders who cannot agree on how to best help to unite and strengthen their own country.  Yet, Palestinians strive to unite, to become one, of like mind and purpose and as long as these efforts are continually made, Palestine will be free and strong.

*Photo credit:  M. Baroud

*Photo credit: I. Abu Hewella

 

 

 

 

Resistance To Occupation

bilin

 

Today marked the 11th Anniversary of peaceful, non-violent resistance and demonstrations in Bil’in, Palestine.  Many attended today’s demonstration and peaceful protest in Bil’in; Palestinian families, men, women and children, international and Israeli activists against the Occupation of Palestine; Jew, Muslim and Christian all in solidarity with Palestine, protesting peacefully and demonstrating in unity.

However, today’s event was met with aggressive and brutal assault by IOF who bombarded the peaceful crowd of people with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Reports at the time of writing… five people were injured and many others were affected with respiratory difficulties from inhaling the tear gas.

The resistance movement in Bil’in specifically, is as strong today as it was 11 years ago.  This speaks to the resilient spirit and will for freedom that all a Palestinians crave and fight for daily.  The weekly peaceful, non-violent demonstrations against the Occupation of their land and country is forever determined, with many supporters standing with the Palestinian people on the ground in Palestine and internationally. The Palestinian people are undeterred by the aggressive and hostile counter efforts of IOF making their presence at these demonstrations known and felt, smelled and tasted. Still, the Palestinians resist to exist and nothing will change this as they fight for their freedom.

12744072_10207527811406384_8385312092911760881_nMy partner and co-author, Haitham Khatib was there as always, faithfully filming and taking photographs. The IOF’s presence was forceful and the use of tear gas excessive. Here Haitham is helping his friend and colleague, a cameraman with Palestine TV who had been shot directly at with a tear gas bomb. This is how Occupation meets peaceful demonstration – with hostility and barbaric means.  Even with masks and face coverings the intense tear gas permeates through, burning eyes, skin and lungs.  Haitham was joined with two of his long time friends and colleagues that have come every year without fail to cover these events, to continue to document and report on the ongoing resistance and hostilities.

AliAli dar Ali

 

Shmikh al Jagoop

 

 

 

Shmikh al Jagoop

 

 

 

There is added importance to today’s demonstration and that is the need to gather to encourage and to strengthen, to hold on to hope that an end to occupation, an end to apartheid, and an end to the genocide committed daily by the IOF Soldiers and illegal Zionist settlers will soon become things of the past.

11 years11 Years of Resistance and still Palestine will resist ever determined, ever hopeful.

Palestine will be free!

 

 

 

 

 

Silence Condones Violence and Complacency is Guilt by Association

MohammedJust in the last day, four more young Palestinian men were shot and killed in the streets and marketplace; including Mohammed Abo Khalaf 20 years (pictured left) of Occupied Jerusalem. He had a life, he wanted to live longer and make his own life but he was denied the right to live, and was executed today by Zionist occupation forces at Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem, he was shot more than 50 times, denied medical intervention and left in the street to bleed to death like an animal;

and Abed Raed Hamed 22 years of Ramallah 12715688_816836178428761_6483194750105759265_n–  shot in broad daylight for alleged crimes perceived by IOF.  These mark nine young Palestinians gunned down in the last week in cold blood.  Defense for Children International has released, that 49 Palestinian children have been executed by IOF since the beginning of October 2015.

There is little to no recourse for the families of these slaughtered youth.  It is said, that children and youth in Palestine are taught when they leave their homes to go to school, to the store, to visit a friend or neighbor, they should always say farewell to their families in a way one would, knowing there is a good chance they may not come home alive again.  This is the stark reality of life in Palestine.  This is what every Palestinian faces.

Imagine having to condition your children to be in a constant state of preparedness for their own demise, for the demise of their loved ones.  These children are taught from such young ages that they should never take for granted their existence because they are hated, hunted like animals, to be abducted, brutalized, tortured and killed at will.

Rahaf Hassan (2 years) killed in Israeli raid on Gaza in October 2015The innocence of childhood is overshadowed by such realities.  (Rahaf Hassan (2 years) pictured right, killed in an Israeli raid on Gaza in October 2015).

Generations born into a state of fight or flight response.  Children and youth are old beyond their time.  When will the world stop participating in these crimes against humanity?  Governments who are now standing in the way of democratic process, by criminalizing their citizens for actively boycotting Israel on the basis of their crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, torture, and genocide.  Boycotting is now considered an aggressive act of antisemitism.  However, the truth is, it is anti-Zionism.  This is another truth the western world and media do not discuss and speak about.

There is a big difference between Zionist ideologies and true Judaism.  To be against Israel and their crimes does not make one anti-Semitic.  It makes one anti-crime against innocent human beings.

4e71bcf9-a80c-47c2-9b1f-6b8bcdbabb75_BDS-movementFor many Palestinians it feels like things are not changing and in many ways in the day-to-day life, it is hard to see that change is coming, but more of the world’s governments are taking a more assertive stand against the illegal occupation of Palestine, against Israel, in support of Palestine; just in the last two months alone, Iceland, Sweden, Cuba, Spain, Greece, South Korea, and soon more, recognize a free Palestinian State and are actively speaking against Israel’s illegal occupation and violation of international laws, and they are boycotting Israel.
What the governments in other countries may not be doing directly, their citizens are; mounting pressures on corporations now under closer scrutiny.  Others under pressure from their investors, have begun to pull out of Israel completely.  More countries and companies are realizing that silence condones violence, and complacency makes them guilty equally by association; guilty of genocide, illegal occupation, apartheid and murder of innocents. 
When the world caught on that the only cement factory in Israel, CRH, owned and operated by an Irish company, was producing the cement used to build the apartheid wall in Palestine, the investors, and international community put so much pressure on them that they have now pulled out of Israel, and closed all operations.  This happened last month. Also, the French telecommunication firm Orange also has met similar pressure and is closing all operations and pulling out of Israel.12417683_1137333219623944_1641006497100839890_n
Even the US is now bending ever so slightly to pressure to reduce funding to the Zionist Regime in Israel.  The BDS movement that is now in some countries under fire and being criminalized have stood their ground and said they will continue to promote and encourage the boycotting of Israel.  Israel is suffering economically and has been on an economic decline for years, specifically since 2012.
Even the Zionists that Israel have paid incentive too, to come and live, work and contribute to a Utopian Israel are now saying it is all lies.  For example, there are currently 15,000 French citizens, Zionist Jews, living in Israel.  They are growing increasingly angry with the Zionist Regime because Israel has not lived up to the promise of a prosperous existence in Israel for these people, so more and more are returning to Europe.
What the world needs to continue to do, is spread the truth of what is happening in Palestine; what is actually happening, not what they see and perceive from creatively crafted media reports.  There is no such thing as ignorance of the facts in the day and age of technology that we live in.  One cannot plead “I did not know the truth”, when the fact is, the truth is there if you make the active efforts to seek it.

What Do You Tell The Children?

12705364_10207502216166519_1983000440533773367_nImagine yourself and your children in the place of the Palestinian people, not figuratively only, but through an empathy and sense of humanity, allow yourself to feel through these words…

For the Palestinian, the only freedom they attain is when they are killed by illegal occupation forces.

How much longer will Palestine have to live under illegal occupation before the world cares enough to force change? Occupation is not just militarily, it is occupation of every aspect of life for the Palestinian, physically, emotionally and psychologically; it is control of the land they live upon, the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, their every movement.

qalandia-checkpoint Imagine waking up every day as a child in Palestine, having to face fear, apprehension, dread, uncertainty, and insecurity… seeing death around them, the destruction of homes and land, watching people shot and bleed to death in the streets. Imagine having to go through armed checkpoints just to go to school, to work, to seek medical care… These are the daily realities of children and families in Palestine.

How do you explain to your children that they should have hope, to one day build their homes on their own land that their fathers and grandfathers built upon, begin their lives, to work and start families, when all they know is to be controlled by a people and government whose sole purpose is to extinguish and exterminate their very existence?

How can we teach them of peace and the possibility of peace, when all they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is destruction? Please do not listen to any Zionist propaganda stories… The history of Palestine will never change; the heritage and culture, the land and lives all per-existed Zionist Israel, and the truth of this cannot be changed, or erased, and the truth will always prevail.

15377_781How do you answer your children when they ask why? how? and when? when will freedom come?  Palestinians are strong, resilient, and proud people with equal measure of humbleness and dignity.  A people who even in the darkest hour believe that tomorrow brings promise of change, and hope for freedom.

As you sit in your safe homes, with your families, your lives, think of these things, and imagine if tomorrow you too were living under illegal occupation.  It is not an easy or comfortable thing to allow yourself to do or think about…why? because you are human and if such things did not make you uncomfortable than you would not have any sense of humanity within you.  Yes, these things, these realities for the Palestinians make you feel helpless, like the matter is insurmountable, but I beg to differ.  That feeling you have in the pit of your stomach right now as you read this, that is your conscience and sense of humanity feeling for other human beings.

12714003_1203917762970535_501863132_nWhat can I do? is a question you may be asking yourself.  What you can do is seek out the truth yourself, do not follow western constructed and formulated media reports.  Even scholarly works themselves that debate who is right and who is wrong about Palestine is not sufficient to base your knowledge.

This article is one of many building the end product, the book – a book that tells the real stories about Palestine from the Palestinians that live and die its truth.  Not opinions about politics or religious ideologies, but the humanity side of Palestine and her beloved people who just like you and me desire nothing greater than to live in peace, safety, security and protection.

12373276_577873235702207_3999923954135502275_nMy life through the ongoing research for this book has been forever touched and changed in incredible, positive and humbling ways.  I have sought the truth for myself and what I have found is so poignant and powerful that I now know this book will be first of many about Palestine and her people, the history and the future of Palestine.

Together with my partner and co-author Haitham Khatib, our hope is to open the doors and welcome you into the truth and lives of Palestine.  We hope that you find what you seek and that you too will be touched by the humanity and lives that you will meet through our book.  That such experience will serve to bring awareness, provoke thought and cause you to question what you have known and been told.

The Faces and Lives In Gaza… part one

_78161886_bcb93f9e-d92a-4ea5-bf96-f1f13121b96aThis is a brief introduction, a first in a series of pieces I will be writing specifically about Gaza, Palestine.  There is ongoing conflict and genocide committed against Palestinians throughout the country daily, but Gaza has been hit particularly hard by serious war efforts led by the Israeli Occupation Forces.  Two *Intifadas, the first being between 1987 – 1993, the second being between 2000 – 2003 and the three conflicts between Israeli Occupation Forces and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip: Gaza War (2008–09), also known as Operation Cast Lead. 2012 conflict, also known as Operation Pillar of Defense. 2014 Israeli Occupation – Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge.

The sole objective of the of these conflicts between Occupation and Gaza have been to isolate, control and imprison the Palestinian people along the Gaza strip.  Ongoing hostile actions, conflicts, and brutality prove this.  Gaza is under complete siege, surrounded, cut off from major supplies of food, water, fuel and other necessities of life, electricity, humanitarian aid, medical care and intervention.  Sewage, clean water supply and infrastructure has been drastically compromised and destroyed.

12342557_574282929394571_6864647132469184041_nApproximately 60% of all Gazans are under the age of 16 years.  The unemployment rate is nearly 50%.  The people of Gaza are held in precarious limbo, forced to choose from choices no one should have to choose.  To struggle to survive and work wherever they can find work, to fully submit to the barbaric brutality of Occupation’s continuous efforts to exterminate the Palestinian people, or to take an assertive stand in resistance; some joining Izz ad-Din al-Qassam to fight to protect Gaza and the people of Gaza against Occupation forces.

This is an entire population of people who have know nothing other than extreme conflict, loss, tragedy and torment.  More than two generations of people.  The most amazing observation for me has been in the incredible capacity of the Gazans to survive with strength, dignity, determination, undying resistance and hope that they will see Palestine free and Gaza once again open to thrive as a sea port and entry for the world.

Abdul KarimI have spoken for many hours to an amazing Gazans, Abdul Karim, one who I consider a dear a friend, who managed to get out of Gaza, out of Palestine, to study Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter in the UK and has in the face of so much inhumane adversity made a success of his life through higher education and hard work.

He lives and works abroad still, but his family remains in Gaza under siege.  He spoke of living through the Intifadas, and additional war conflict, of walking and running through the streets of Gaza while bombs were exploding around him.  The traumatic experiences of seeing friends, neighbors and families killed, shot, burned and blown to pieces; of being part of recovery teams to collect the dead.  In the face of all of this, he never once gave up hope for his future and has never given up hope that Palestine will be free so he can one day come and go freely to see his family and his dearest friends.

Abdul’s story is but one of so many.  It is humbling to speak to Gazans that have managed to find success, some more so than others, in the midst of utter inhumanity, against insurmountable odds.  I speak of those who I have the honor to know, teachers, photographers, journalists, university students, and humanitarian workers.

Iyad AbuHewella3I have learned and seen first hand that those who have the least, work to give the most to those who suffer greater than themselves throughout Gaza. Such as Iyad Abu Hewella, another content contributor to this site and ongoing project, who strives to help through humanitarian efforts and donations to help the displaced children and families in Gaza.  Iyad is a recent graduate of Al-Hazar University in Gaza earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Education and did so within four years during the last two major war conflicts in Gaza at times where he had little to no resources.  During this time Iyad also worked to help support his family and volunteer many hours to humanitarian aid efforts and press agencies.

Ahmad HasaballahThere is a spirit of resilience that words alone do not do justice in describing when speaking of the Palestinian people.  Young photographers, like Ahmad Hasaballah (pictured), who is a content contributor to this site, who risks his life to document through his photography the ongoing, constant conflict in Gaza along the Apartheid wall and fences that serve to enclose the population in what is internationally known as the world’s largest open air prison; as well as journalists that put their lives on the line in Gaza to capture ongoing conflict and share their work, photos and videos with the outside world via social media and writers, and activists like myself, in the hope of continuing to keep the plight and suffering of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.

12717654_597912320364965_8392424495705107041_nTo put life into perspective through the eyes of Gazans, that even in such horrific existence, they all still find reasons to smile, to exude great dignity, pride, and to live, to love, to resist occupation and hold on to hope for the future of a free Palestine.  I see this side of Gaza most through the photography of my partner in this project, Fadi Thabet.  Fadi is both a skilled and experienced professional photographer and teacher in Gaza.  Fadi strives to keep the true inner beauty and spirit of Gaza and her citizens alive and shining bright.  Fadi’s spirit and energy expressed in his work is compelling and moving, drawing the viewer closer into the lives of his subjects.  Fadi’s photos draw us, the viewer, to want to know more about the people, their lives and their hope for the future.

12647508_595618550594342_3097947244721155719_nThe history and heritage of Gaza is rich in culture and diversity of race, faith and beliefs.  Once a major thoroughfare of trade and commerce, one can still observe the remnants of this once thriving and successful city in the beautiful people of Gaza.

These are the faces you will not see on the nightly news of mainstream media, especially media in the Western world.  The Palestinian people are alive, strong, and are struggling every day to exist, and they do so with an unprecedented level of dignity, warmth, pride, and indestructible resistance against the illegal occupation of their lands and over their people, believing that Palestine will know freedom and gain independence.

*Intifada (انتفاضة intifāḍah) is an Arabic word literally meaning, as a noun, “tremor”, “shivering”, “shuddering”.