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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

With The Sun Comes Hope

1888454_10207192556065210_8997645204048485790_nVery few photographers can capture the soul of what they see through their lenses.  Not only the souls of human subjects, but the soul of all they photograph.  The ones who have this gift have the ability to speak a thousand words, touch a thousand emotions, and stir the very soul of those who see and enjoy their work.  Such a photographer possesses a deeply profound and beautifully poetic flare.

My Partner, Haitham Khatib epitomizes and possesses all of these gifts and qualities.  His photography is a visual documentation and testament of his history, of life in Palestine, and the very essence of Palestine’s soul.

In talking with Haitham about his work as a photographer and my work as a writer and a poet, we find we share the same perspectives, and personal introspection of the Palestine and the Palestinians we want the world to see, to feel, to sense, and to be forever moved and changed by.

12360248_10207125113899198_5954398593356885989_nThere is something quite remarkable about the rising and setting of the sun from and upon horizons.  To behold such amazing beauty, let alone capture in the moment, is moving, romantic and spectacular.  Many photographers capture these moments in their work, but for Haitham the rising and setting of the sun over his beloved Palestine is very personal to him, the sun is a favored subject in his work.  For the Palestinians, every sunrise brings a fresh sense of hope for their future, encouragement and strength; and with every sunset brings a calm, peaceful and quiet reflection of self, of hope, of purpose and of something greater than themselves.

1936541_10207192555225189_4803221565003273270_nThere is calling to the soul with every sunrise and every sunset, a personal, emotional time, and one that through Haitham’s work we can all share in those moments with him, with Palestine and the Palestinian people.  A connection that without his work we would not have the privilege to experience.

12631358_10207407638922147_7487545467186298821_nI look forward to the day that I stand with Haitham and view the magic of sunrise and sunset over Palestine firsthand, to see, to feel, to experience what he does every time his lens steals a moment in time, of beauty beyond measure.

 

 

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.