Thursday, 23 December 2010

Photos Bethelehem - the wall

The graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem is different from in Jerusalem. It's got a different feel to it. More touristy perhaps? Maybe more commercial. This stretch of wall has been canvas for various famous and underground artists to showcase their work and give their own perspective on the situation. It is most definitely one of Bethlehem's tourist attractions.

Just as relevant and thought provoking but more organized and polished I suppose.

Here are a few examples of larger, more well known art projects on the wall:

Santa's Ghetto


The Wall Lounge & Restaurant

The bits that caught my eye:

This is the latest addition to the wall and was painted by children from around Bethelehem and the Aida refugee camp as part of a project by UK photo journalist William Parry. Images of this and the children drawing it were projected onto landmark buildings in London throughout the Christmas period. Images also included the daily difficulties that Palestinians experience.

I have no idea what super penguin represents, but it was sufficiently random to merit a photo

One day I will put a piece of this wall on the shelf in my living room

USAID has many projects in the West Bank and there's hundreds of signs around in this format extolling its virtues.

Banksy - this one isn't on the wall itself but close by.

Some of you may be familiar with Handala, the little boy who features in Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al Ali's work; the symbolism of this picture renders me speechless.

Photos Bethelehem - out & about

Bethlehem was described by one of my colleagues as a cleaner, more liberal version of Nablus with less falafel.

Maybe he wasn't too far off.

We went the week before Christmas and were surprised to see it still fairly quiet and not actually all that Christmassy. This is putting aside the many shops selling a host of statuettes and a wide variety of religiously inclined household goods.

Admittedly, we may have had some fairly unrealistic expectations. It would not be far off to say that, for us, traffic stopping processions of praying nuns, long robed monks stopping at a corner store for shawarmas or crazed religious pilgrims bewailing society's departure from The Path would have seemed completely natural.

It is, after all,the birthplace of Jesus.

Being that as it may - it was not the case.

There were, however, large groups of non crazed pilgrims arriving by the bus load. They were mostly Nigerian tourist groups with a few Italian and Korean groups hanging about as well.

The Church of Nativity, built over the cave Jesus is believed to have been born in, wandering around Manger Square and visiting the wall were all we had time for that day but I'd say it's definitely worth another visit to get to know the actual city.

The old Roman and Ottoman architecture of the city reflect sunlight off large picturesque buildings. There are spires everywhere and the cobbled streets leading off Manger Square into the market transport you to a place of total whimsy in your head.

Below are pictures of the city itself, the Church of Nativity and a nativity museum which featured nativity scenes from around the world.

The city

The church:

The entrance to the church; the aptly named door of humility. It's only about 4 feet high.

the staircase leading you down to Jesus's birthspot

The spot where Jesus was born

A deserted room in the church that we stumbled on by mistake. The many layers of building that have taken place over the centuries show through the cracks.

Within this spire is a winding staircase.

Nativity scenes

A life size scene from China

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Chapter 26 Hebron - part 3: last man standing

Coming out of the mosque I walk up to my friends feeling a bit disconnected. The feeling soon wears off as we walk back up Shuhada Street and back to the Arab section.

We are looking for the keffiyeh factory. Most keffiyehs are manufactured in Jordan or China and there is only one source for Palestinian made keffiyehs. The Hirbawi Textile Factory in Hebron.

After much direction getting and a futile attempt at persuading the friendly Palestinian police to take us in their police vans, we pile into taxis and find ourselves at the door of a large warehouse room.

It is dark, a little damp and very bare. Large, rusty machines that look about a hundred years old are whirring along noisily in rows at the far end. Two old men work in the factory; walking around and checking up on the machines.

Keffiyehs of all colors are in various stages of production on the machines. The slingshot loom systems shoot back and forth at finger snapping speeds. We wander around lost in it all.

The mass production of keffiyehs has resulted in what feels like a dilution of its symbolism.

In the UK, every other person’s got a keffiyeh, tie-dyed red, green or yellow and purchased from Diesel or Camden Market, which they understand only as a fashionable item of clothing.

Even those who are aware of its roots cannot be aware that by purchasing non Palestinian manufactured scarves they are actually contributing to the dwindling of the Palestinian keffeiyeh industry.

The last remaining factory; the factory that practically clothed the second intifada.

Inside, in the small office room, the walls are lined with shelves and plastic encased keffiyehs. The men are very friendly and take great joy in our interest in the factory.

They are not in it for the money. Anyway they’re not much over breaking even at the end of the month. They feel it is their duty to continue, to maintain the authenticity of the symbol.