Those With The Least Give the Most

3655019345_428a4126ba_bHumanitarian work on the ground in Palestine involves working on the front lines in some of the hardest hit areas of conflict in the West Bank and in Gaza.

The Palestinians doing this work are helping those of greatest need and those with the least in Palestine are the ones who give the most to those who have less than themselves, and they do so with pride and dignity.  They give of their time, resources, energy and more, and continue to do so even when the needs are so insurmountable.

I have the honor of knowing such amazing young Palestinians that are nothing less than heroes.  They and their teams work selflessly, tirelessly to advocate for support and to ensure that support is helping the people in need directly.

Palestinian people are so compassionate, giving, full of hope and dignity.  They possess an inner strength and drive to help others, to find ways and solutions to help others.  Ever resilient and most resourceful, the differences that these young humanitarians make will forever change the lives of those they help, and they are setting positive examples for others to follow.

I would like to introduce you to these amazing Palestinians and tell you more about the work they do on the front lines; who work hard to make a difference in the lives of their people and build a better future for their country.

12650813_807956409333383_1631459903504882990_n Iyad Abu Hawella, a freelance journalist and a recent University graduate in English Literature and Education (right) and As’sad Abu Hewella (left), are brothers living in Gaza who strive to bring a brighter tomorrow into the lives of the  children and families in Gaza.  Iyad and As’sad receive private sponsor donations for families and children living in some of the most inhumane conditions, displaced by war and ongoing conflict.

12742354_816454025150288_6572490733280019817_nThis is life under Occupation for Gazans.  These families barely have shelter and the shelter they have does little to protect them from the elements of weather and damaged infrastructure.  Not to mention the thousands of un-exploded IOF ordinances that are buried under rubble posing additional risk to the families living in and around the refugee displacement camps.

 

 

Mohammed MagMohammed Mghari is another amazing social activist and humanitarian.  His group Humanity for Gaza strives to also help as many Gazans as possible, and like many others is dependent upon private donations and sponsorship.

12769495_127799004276678_681291497_nMohammed has put together a team of people who work to reach as many families as they possibly can, with necessities of life for the most impoverished.  The children in this photo were a group Mohammed’s team was able to help with winter coats and clothing.

 

EmadAnother amazing and resilient young Gazan who has decided to take control of the harsh uncertainty of life in Gaza with an unemployment rate of 50%, and start a collective of young, skilled, educated Gazans who are ready and eager to work without boarders, taking work online, in the areas of Data Entry, Web development, Apps Development and programming, Translation, Researching and other business needs.  If you have this kind of work available and want to help these young people to support themselves and their families, please contact me and I will put you in contact with Emad.

 

Anees Mansour2Anees Mansour is the Executive Director of the Hope and Peace Foundation for Children in Gaza, which is a NGO foundation.  Anees has immense energy and passion for the children and youth of Gaza.  He tirelessly works on the social and cultural development and support for children and youth.  Hope and Peace Foundation provide a safe place for children to find creative and supportive outlets to help them cope with life living in a conflict zone and strive for a brighter tomorrow.   The Hope and Peace Foundation is run by generous donations and support.  If you would like to know more about helping the Hope and Peace Foundation, you can contact Anees through this link- Hope and Peace Foundation Gaza, Palestine

 

12346415_10153253941493016_3678140042036104444_nSaid Shoaib is a humanitarian activist in Gaza.  I have followed Said’s work for some time and I am deeply moved by what he continues to strive for in helping others, especially those living in the refugee-displacement camps.

Said has an inner strength and resilience, and has overcome incredible personal challenges and works toward a better future.  He is a recent University graduate with a degree in Technological Management and currently working as an Editorial Manager for the Palestine Observer news agency in Gaza.

If you would like more information on how you can help these ongoing humanitarian efforts, please contact me directly at facesofpalestine@gmail.com .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

The Beauty of Palestine in the Midst of Adversity

10399930_10207287576040650_2724086413947299816_nThere 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.

12391873_10207140420841862_6367682972143767518_nThere 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.

12592683_10207380116034092_8130824517245051477_nJust 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.

11406852_503481033141428_2842954878522085789_nMy 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.

12647068_590645524424978_4682047169581463836_nGaza 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.

12359979_580168558806008_6629681144378964015_nIn 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.

Palestine ~ Life in Constant Contrast

Life in Palestine is one of constant contrast between normal day-to-day things and conflict between resistance and Occupation Apartheid.  Both circumstances speak to the strength and resiliency of the Palestinian people.

12570873_951774111580541_1844476624_nThough there is no escaping the reality of life under Occupation Apartheid.  The efforts and fight to live a normal life is an inherent objective of every Palestinian.

Conflict in Palestine has become as routine as breathing.  But unlike breathing of our own free will, it is like breathing through a respirator, breaths we wish to take on own taken but instead with the aid of a machine and the machine is resistance.  Last Friday, January 16, 2016, these photos, taken by photo journalist, Ahmad Hasaballah in Gaza, of strong, young and determined Palestinian men, wanting only peace, wanting the same life and future we all want and some are lucky to have, were taken during a protest against Occupation Apartheid along the border of the Gaza Strip, Nahal Oz.

12576185_951774238247195_1253790341_n

When the outside world see these images in mainstream western media, they assume that the Palestinian youth are the aggressors; but such is mainstream, western media.  These young men cannot protest, in the most peaceful ways without being bombarded by occupation forces who shoot live rounds of ammunition, and launch gases, each with the intention of indiscriminate harm and is some cases death.  In an effort to counter affect these brutal attacks, Palestinian youth light fires to rubber, in the hope the smoke will shield them from attack.

12576249_951774181580534_1290131458_nArmed with nothing more than stones, they continue to protest, to demonstrate, in the hopes that the world take notice, not forget them, not forget that they live in the world’s largest open air prison, imposed by occupation apartheid.

It is scenes like this that occur all over Palestine daily.  The heartbeat of Palestine beats forever strong.  The hope and fight for freedom is undying.  What the Zionist Occupation Government strives to break in spirit, serves only to strengthen the resistance and continued resistance is how freedom is won.

1486702_10207231457037710_4323727660591484658_nResistance comes in many forms, determination, passion, and desire for freedom is humanity’s greatest desire and hope.

Here in the beautiful village of Bil’in, just outside of the city of Ramallah, my partner, Haitham Khatib plants young olive trees on his land.  The trees themselves are a testament to the strength and resiliency of the Palestinian spirit.  And like the green branches of these beautiful and fruitful trees, they bend, yet not break, only grow stronger, day by day, just as every Palestinian child, adolescent and adult does.

12400849_10207312459542722_3699667204299069361_n 12508948_10207312456702651_2758681669371870625_nTilling and caring for the land is a part of the rich heritage and culture that is Palestine.

Haitham takes great pleasure and pride in his land, as all Palestinians do.  But these images carry a power statement of a resistance to Zionist Occupation, a statement that Palestine will be free, that her people are strong, determined, strive to live with dignity and humanity.  Together Haitham and I strive to tell the world the truth about Palestine, her people, their lives, their hopes and dreams.  Together through word, images and videos, we will achieve this and the world will take notice, see the truth of what is happening daily in Palestine under Occupation Apartheid.