News from Nablus
by Matthew (Repost by Spencer) Wednesday January 26, 2005 at 02:54 PM

This message comes from a friend of mine who is currently in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He is a photographer.

Much love, Spencer


I havenít been to Nablus too many times, even though it may be my favorite west bank city. This past week a friend asked if I would go with her, I said yes.

Everytime I go to Nablus it means meeting people that have multiple relatives in the prison and/or martyrs killed in the intifada. Hearing their stories can take a lot of you. Not so much the stories about what he/she was doing when they were killed, or why he is in the prison, but the stories about that person, what kind of person they are. These are the hardest to handle, always the family will tell you the little things how their lost son would every morning kiss his mother and father on the cheek before he left home, or how just the day before they were killed, they lay with their family on the floor and watched television. Always you can tell through these stories that the people who are active in resisting the occupation of their land are people with big hearts, not crazy minds like the western media likes to portray them.

For instance we met with the family of a boy who bombed a market in Tel Aviv and killed 3 people. He was 16. Two years before the bombing his father, who by the way always has a smile on his face from ear to ear, was walking in the camp where they live as refugees and a tank shell was fired near him sending bits of shrapnel into his leg permanently damaging his ability to walk. His son (the martyr) took his father to the hospital afterwards and stayed there with him for 3 days straight. This happened while he was only 13, his family said after seeing his father hurt in such a way he was deeply affected as any child would be. Just weeks before the bombing, a lifelong friend of his was killed right in front of him while they were doing as most boys do in refugee camps, throwing stones at the Army jeeps.

People may say whether or not they agree with such actions, but no one can say why exactly he decided to go to Tel Aviv and do what he did. People in Nablus and those who have seen what they have gone/are going through can at least better understand how one could.

This morning we left Nablus. As we crossed a road, a Palestinian friend of mine grabbed me as a settlerís car rocketed past us. I joked a little and told him that it was ok, thanks for looking out for me not expecting what would come next. He told me 3 years ago while his uncle was taking him to school across that same road, a settlerís car drove and didnít stop sending his uncle flying into the air. He was killed instantly and my friend only 20 feet away witnessed the entire thing.

We crossed the road and went to one of the many checkpoints separating the city from its surrounding villages. My friendís father went ahead of us. At most permanent checkpoints now they have turnstiles that the people must go through before reaching the young soldiers that check your id to tell you if you can or cannot pass, or if you will be or wonít be forced to wait, get arrested, etcÖ One man passed through the turnstile no problem, then my friendís father started to go through, all of a sudden the soldier pressed the little red button marked, ďstopĒ and I saw his face and body slam into the bars in front of him. I immediately looked to the ground as if I didnít see because I didnít want for him to be more embarrassed than he already was. I donít know if embarrassed is the right word, and if he actually was embarrassed, but whatever anyone thought or felt, it was uncomfortable to see a grown person being treated in this way by a young woman at least half his age just by pushing a little red button. But this is the occupation, and sometimes itís hard to tell the many stories of humiliation that people are forced to go through everyday. After a minute the young soldier pressed the green button and lifted her hand only an inch signaling for the man that it was now ok to ďcome.Ē

I can imagine how these stories must sound for those of you in the US and elsewhere that have lived in much different conditions. I know because before I came here they were hard to believe, perhaps too horrific to comprehend. But please donít think about Palestinians as different than you and me. Palestinians are humans that because of their history and present situation live in unimaginable conditions. I hang out with my friends sometimes sitting, drinking, smoking and always itís easy to forget that one was in prison for 3 years, and another one has lost a brother to the occupation. If there is one stereotype to be made, it is that they are a strong people. People who are willing to fight for what is right, for justice. If their culture seems violent thatís because it is. But why? From the start in 1948 until now they have faced violent aggression from the Zionist movement. Itís only to be expected that people take up arms in response to those that wish to oppress and kill them using arms to do so.

On another related but different subject, while there is a lot of money coming here from mostly the EU and other European orgs, a lot of it never reaches the people on the ground that need it most. If anyone ever wishes to make donations to a family in need of things like food or clothing, they can contact me and I will tell them how.

Also, while in a refugee camp this weekend we were climbing a narrow stairway in the poring rain, I watched as my camera fell from my bag 2 stories to the stone ground below. I donít know what the cost will be to get it repaired, or if it is even worth it. If anyone would like to contribute to help me repair my broken camera or to get a new one I would be very grateful. The camera is probably worth about $200 and the lens another 200. I do have another camera, but it has given me a lot of problems in the past and Im worried (*knock on wood) that it will quit on me again leaving me here without the tool I need to do one of the things that Im here to do, take photos. Or if anyone has a Nikon (so it works with my other lenses) 35mm body lying around picking up dust I can tell them how to ship out here so I could use it and return it when I get back to the states.

Again, you can see a lot of the photos I have taken thus far on my website,


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"I hear too many familiar sounds today, sounds which are being amplified by the war. I hear 'dirty Arabs' and I remember 'dirty Jews.' I hear about 'closed areas' and I remember ghettos and camps. I hear 'two-legged beasts' and I remember 'Untermenschen.' I hear about tightening the siege, clearing the area, pounding the city into submission and I remember suffering, destruction, death, blood and murder... Too many things in Israel remind me of too many other things from my childhood."
-Dr. Sholo Shmelzman, Holocaust survivor

"Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change."

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Thank you Mom Thursday January 27, 2005 at 12:31 PM