These images are of the Separation Wall in Bethlehem that marks the borders that Israel has built to mark the land it claims to be its own.
Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel left us with mixed feelings about this attention-attracting project. It is built in Bethlehem, right next to the 9m high wall in an Israeli-controlled C zone – an area where Palestinians are denied planning permission to build homes or offices. We were left wondering whether the hotel’s proximity to the wall will bring more awareness of the political situation to visitors?
The good thing about the building was an excellent exhibition space for Palestinian artists. Anisa Ashkar’s work used marker pen, oil, tar and ink to create very powerful images and Banksy’s video on the history of the politics was clear and concise.
And in the other gallery – that is the actual wall – work by the Palestinian artist Benji.
Many of the lock-up shops in the souk in the town of Hebron are empty and the entire culture of trade that Arabs have relied on for centuries is steadily being denied. The inhabitants in the nearest settlements lob detritus into the souk which is protected (of sorts) by a mesh roof over the ancient walkways. A closer look at the top of the image shows the stinking rubbish that is renewed daily.
A walk from Nebi Musa South of Jericho took us round precipitous rocks whilst a constant flow of water from springs fed into the Wadi Qelt. A Bedouin shepherd passed us leading his herd of goats to drink whilst rock Hyrax bellowed across the valley. Masses of wild flowers filled the landscape and the occasional trees provided shelter from the heat of the sun.
The route led us past the St George Monastery, a cliff hanging complex carved into the rock wall of the Judaean dessert. At the base was an unexpectedly lush garden with olive trees, oleander and cypresses.
We walked in the most beautiful and timeless landscape that allowed us to experience open skies in a space with no walls, no barriers and where nothing had changed in centuries.
Finally a walk late afternoon led us towards the Dead Sea…
… to a Bedouin community for an overnight stay.
The Bedouin family greeted us warmly with the words ‘You are welcome’ as did all the Palestinians that we met.
Our trip was organised by Siraj Centre an excellent travel agency that made it possible for us to walk through rural Palestine. We were able to explore its natural beauty, history, culture, cuisine whilst being welcomed by authentic Palestinian hospitality along the way.
In Bethlehem Abdelfattah Abusrour the founder of the Alrowwad Centre for Culture and Arts in the Aida refuge camp talked about their work with young refugees. It provides dynamic community arts projects, promoting the cultivation of creativity as an alternative to violence. They call it ‘beautiful, non-violent resistance’ to empower children, young people and women. As well as offering a child-centred, safe and inclusive space, the programme uses creative opportunities as a platform through which individuals can build in confidence. They express themselves and tell their stories through theatre, dance, music, photography and film.
‘As Palestinians we don’t have the luxury of despair-we choose Beautiful Resistance’