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: http://www.eliaphoto.com/
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 aid.
We must STOP THE GAZA MASSACRE at once 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 http://swedenburg.blogspot.com/
I hope to publish more Palestinian self-portraits these days. If you know any, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org