I arrived in the West Bank the afternoon of Saturday June 7th and hit the ground running starting filming the next day. That Sunday we did a long interview with Daoud Nassar, whose family owns a plot of land in the Palestinian village of Nahalin, just a few kilometers South of Bethlehem. The legal documents date back to 1916 and yet the family has been battling in Israeli courts for over 15 years to have their ownership recognized by the Israeli state. The land lies on a hill surrounded from all sides by Israeli settlements. The neighboring settlement of Neve Daniel already has a master plan to expand across the land of the Nassars and their neighbors.
In parallel to the legal battles the Nassars have done everything to prevent the confiscation of their land. In the summers they host children’s summer camps and non-violent resistance training camps. They also continue to come up with creative ways of resisting Israel’s intention of removing them from their property by gathering winter rains when they are not permitted to connect to the water system of the nearby village and digging out old caves because they cannot legally build above ground. Israeli land annexation is occurring all over Israel, yet the Nassar’s case reveals a rare example of perseverance and creativity and achieved international support to persist in fighting for their land.
Click on this link here to read my good friend Ben White’s article about the Nassar’s land.
Days later I had the longest day of filming in my life, from 4am to 10pm. In the village of Ghwein, the last Palestinian community before the border between the West Bank and Israel lies a small community that inhabits caves as their ancestors have for hundreds of years. In 1948 such farming communities all over the country were forcefully displaced by Israeli troops, the inhabitants of Ghwein also were pushed out of half of their village in the valley. Since that time more and more land has been confiscated, dividing the village from access to much of their farmland and even more vital wells. In these forgotten village lands Israel will destroy any home that is built, so life in the caves remains frozen in time. Having experienced a dry rain season they have barely sufficient water to make it by. Life is becoming increasingly unsustainable. If the families leave, tempted by the luxuries of city life, Israel is certain to annex their land for the construction of another settlement like it has so many other communities around them. So the families of Ghwein are remaining steadfast and fighting the onslaught of occupation.
In Ghwein Abu Mohammed told us of the realities of growing up as a farmer under occupation. Life is suddenly whittled down to the very basics, land and water. This Palestinian Life takes an oral history approach to the Palestinian experience by featuring farmers like Abu Mohammed rather than the “expert” opinion of journalists, historians and political analysts.
Together with a Palestinian film crew from Bethlehem producer Julie Norman and I have 2 weeks left to capture stories of resistance in the West Bank. At the start of July, I will be moving on to the Gaza Strip to connect these stories of resilience to those of a Gaza under severe siege.
I want to thank many of you who have supported this project financially and with the volunteering of your time and skills. As of now we are still waiting to hear back regarding grants we have applied for and thus the project is still under-funded. If you are so inclined use the paypal link to make a contribution.