| Dignity under duress: Scenes from Occupied Palestine: The Doors of Jayyous!

Scenes from occupied Palestine: The doors of Jayyous ~  , Mondoweiss.

No heavy politics in this post, just some visual testimony to the Palestinians’ ability to maintain their traditions and their spirits even under the boot of Israeli occupation.

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The pictures on this page, and several dozen others posted on a Tumblr page I recently created, are of doors on homes in Jayyous, a village of about 3,000 people on the eastern edge of the northern West Bank, looking out over central Israel (at night you can see the lights of Tel Aviv in the distance). I spent a month there in the fall of 2003 as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. The Israelis had just completed the apartheid wall there – in this area an electrified fence with wide roadways, ditches, and endless coils of concertina wire on both sides – destroying countless olive trees and cutting the villagers off from about 70 percent of their land. Jayyous was the first Palestinian village to respond to the wall with a sustained campaign of non-violent resistance: in all, I was told, the village had staged 39 demonstrations! But they attracted little media attention and didn’t succeed in stopping the construction.

By the time I got there, the demonstrations had come to a halt, and things were pretty quiet, except when the occupation soldiers came through in the middle of the night for their idea of sport – setting off sound bombs and shooting holes in rooftop water tanks. Not surprisingly, many of the villagers seemed sad and sullen; most were focused on trying to get permits from the Israelis to cross through the wall to work their lands, via gates on the north and south sides of town. The authorities had pledged to open the gates for 45 minutes three times a day at posted hours – morning, midday, and late afternoon – so villagers the Israelis blessed with permits (i.e., those not considered “security threats”) could get to and from their olive trees, citrus groves, and hothouses.

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Not having much else to do at that point, we ISM volunteers devoted ourselves to monitoring how the gate system actually worked, taking detailed notes (later used as evidence in a major lawsuit) on when the soldiers opened them, how many people they allowed through, and what kinds of harassment and humiliation they inflicted on the villagers.

(The thing that struck me most was how the arbitrariness in practice of a system that was ostensibly highly routinized had the effect of depriving the farmers of any control over their time: on most days the soldiers arrived to open the gates anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour later than the posted times, but occasionally – a few times a week – they’d arrive early, and instead of keeping the gates open for the advertised 45 minutes, they’d do so only long enough to process the people there when they arrived. Since no one ever knew when they might be early, the farmers had to be there early every time, both going and coming, lest they miss their chance. But since most days the soldiers were late, the farmers usually ended up sitting around the gate with nothing to do but scan the horizon watching for the Israeli jeep. This was particularly infuriating at the late-afternoon opening, because by then everyone was exhausted from a long day of hard work – especially because it was Ramadan when I was there and no one ate or drank anything during the day.)

Between stints at the gates, I spent much of my time walking through the village, and I became fascinated by the doors on the houses, with their soft colors standing out against the drab stone and concrete walls and their elaborate metalwork designs (created, I was told, by local craftsmen). I had only a small, low-end camera on that trip, but I ended shooting just about every door in town. Just this past months, after almost nine years, I finally got it together to post them online

Take a look at the others, and enjoy.

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