Some of my ancestors before the Spanish
Inquisition were Jewish and probably some of them were Arabs, since my family
comes from Andalusia. My father’s family were in the Spanish Army during
Franco’s dictatorship and my uncle is known to have collaborated with the
German secret service during World War II. When I worked on my book “To Hell
and Back” about Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, I felt the 6 million dead
were part of my story. In Jerusalem, after many years of not believing in God,
I felt Jesus’s presence along the Via Dolorosa and since then it has never left
me. Later on, I worked on Muslim women in Bosnia, I put on the veil to attend
the Mosque and I felt I was touching an important issue. Two years later I met
a Senegalese Muslim man and gave birth to my daughter, who was baptized Muslim.
My story contains all, and this happens to many people today. 

When I went to Jerusalem in 1996 I met
Elia, an Armenian photographer in his 90’s, who had survived the Armenian
Holocaust, and after being a slave of the Turks, became a photographer, who
captured magnificent images of Jerusalem from the 30’s to the 80’s. His son,
who now runs the ELIA PHOTO SERVICE in the Old City, gave me this beautiful
picture, where you can see the Jewish shoe mender with his Muslim client. Elia
had hundreds of photos like this one, where you could see Jews and Muslims –and
Christians- living together in peace. To see more of Elia’s wonderful work:

The same happened in Bosnia: Muslims,
Jews and Christians have lived together for centuries.

The problem comes –as usual- when one of
the parts becomes more powerful than the other. And this happens when they get
foreign money or weapons. When you have more power, you often loose a sense of
reality and your values, you loose solidarity. You are not together on the same
boat again. You think that with power and money you can get what you want, but
you don’t realize that war destroys your own country and your own people.

This is how we humans behave…This is
human stupidity. And we don’t seem to learn the lesson…

I believe it is all about uniting, not
separating. Israeli should have never left their homes in Gaza. The U.S. should
have never supported Israel financially. Peace is a delicate equilibrium and it
should never be disturbed by foreign action, except for the UN and humanitarian

and, on our side, make our best to unite different cultures, to mix with who’s
different. This is the future of our planet. There is no other way towards
peace and human evolution.   

This is Khader al-Awshah’s self-portrait
in Rahat, Israel, photographed by Ted Swedenburg, who writes “Khader was
born in Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, and his family is originally from a
Palestinian village not too far from the Gaza Strip (I forget the name). He
married a Bedouin woman from Rahat, Israel, and has taken Israeli citizenship,
and settled in Rahat. He works full time as a teacher, full time as an artist,
and full time as a father (11 children). He has produced a dazzling array of
artwork, in many styles, with many different sorts of material.”

Ted Swedenburg is professor of
anthropology at the University of Arkansas and an active supporter of the Gaza
cause: check 

I hope to publish more Palestinian
self-portraits these days. If you know any, please send them to me at