Aida and Dheisheh refugee camp...

April 3rd, 2018...

It was 09:00 in the morning... Sitting in the Arabic bus from Jerusalem...

Destination: Checkpoint 300...

I was supposed to meet Omar my guide at 11:00, but I woke up way to early and could't sleep anyway. Also a bit nervous what was on the schedule today. Not only I wanted to capture the way how most Palestinians head over to and from the West Bank but I made arrangements to get guided through Aida en Dheisheh refugee camps.

As soon as I got passed the checkpoint I was officially in the West Bank. It went easier than expected. Only realizing later that it would be easy getting out of Israeli territory. Getting back in is where the difficulty lies.

 Bus stop at checkpoint 300...

Bus stop at checkpoint 300...

I went through the doors and after getting some annoying taxi drivers off my back I gave Omar a call that I was already there. He was still asleep... Btw, if you read this sorry I woke you up too early man haha!

I waited a while.. The sun started shining harder but I refused to get into the shade... I didn't want to him to somehow at the point where I was waiting so he could easily find me.

The taxi drivers left me alone... I told them for whom I was waiting and they understood. Something that normally never happens. Usually they rip-off some lost tourist, ask 200 shekels for a ride and some sight seeing but drop you off around the corner. Omar confirmed that to me later when we finally met up.

When he arrived we finally went walking.

 Path that leads to the turnstile at the checkpoint...

Path that leads to the turnstile at the checkpoint...

My first impression of him was a young and intelligent young man. Reminded me a little bit of myself when I was his age. That makes me sound old, although I am only 35. He was wearing a t-shirt and a necklace with two photographs on it. Both in memory of his uncle and cousin.

Later I also discovered that he is an amazing artist. He made a beautiful painting about the whole situation in the LAYLAC center that is in front of the Dheisheh camp.

He started telling me about life behind the wall. Where he was allowed to come and if he crossed a certain area he would get shot... That sank in... Made me realize and reminded again how fragile life is and how good our life over here is...

Right after we crossed paths with someone who went to work illegally...

That would mean throwing a rope over a part of the wall where there are no camera's and hop over. It is some sort of Russian roulette where you don't know if the army is waiting for you or your friends. The latter is good.. The first means jail or death...

Later we passed the street where most of the clashes happen on Fridays. Friday prayer is the first part of the day, and after that protest happens. You could still smell the tear gas the has been used earlier in some parts...

After we walked through that area we saw a guy selling some fresh juice. Not only it is a totally random place to sell some juice. But hey, why not take a glass. Exactly what I needed.

 Part of the road next to the wall where most clashes happen...

Part of the road next to the wall where most clashes happen...

Omar told me he hadn't seen him for a while because he suddenly disappeared and after a while he found out he was in jail. 

Just a short walk from this place we arrived at Aida camp...

Even though I did my research I still did not knew what to expect. And actually after two days it is still hard to describe how it is...

The camp felt more like a favela you will find in for example Brazil. It has been there since 1948, and the tents got replaced for more solid temporary but also permanent housing at the same time.

The thing that stuck to me the most was the big netting above the playground / soccer field. The whole purpose of it is when tear gas is being fired it does not fall on the kids playing and they can get out...

We talked some more about about life...

After I did my photography it was of to the second camp... Dheisheh.

 Rear entrance of Aida camp...

Rear entrance of Aida camp...

We took a taxi to the other side of town and arrived at Deisheh.

But before we went in we went to the LAYLAC center. The center is a place for youth development and they work on projects. Omar showed me one of his works and it is amazing! the young man really has some talent. Not only graphically but it also had a beautiful message on a deeper level. All about your roots...

I shook the hand of the director of the center and a young girl who was there and we had some small talk. It was good to be in this place. It gave me a positive feeling again.

Enter Dheisheh...

We turned the corner and got into the camp. Like I wrote about Aida that it looks more like a favela is also true for this one. Once started out as a tent encampment and now it turned into this.

 Street in Dheisheh...

Street in Dheisheh...

The whole situation in Dheisheh looks worse than in Aida. It was build around 1949 and according to the UNRWA it is housing at this moment around 15000 people.... But only was build to house around 3000 people on a surface of 330 square meters...

Try to imagine this...

The streets are covered in pamphlets are murals of martyrs. To us in Europe that sounds weird. Because we got a association with this concept with the things we hear in the news. For the people that live there they are friends and families, brothers and sisters...

One thing that also drew my attention was the caricature named Handala. You will see him painted on numerous wall. If you want to know more on him just click on the link. It is a cartoonist symbol for the deviance of the Palestinian people in general and his alligiance to the poor.

 Handala...

Handala...

We walked some more... Talked some more... About the situation and about life... And than it was time to go... Back to Jerusalem...

But man...

I wish I just had some answers how to make some sense out of this. And that is the whole reason I became a photographer. Just to make sense of life in general!

But in the end for now it raises just more questions...

I am not taking sides. That also is also not my job. My job is being a story teller...

And my experience with the Israeli people is nothing but positive. If you see them in every day life the are kind and well educated, well mannered , and just very nice. So this is NOT a article to bash the Israelis. Remember that... I also gained a very close Israeli friend last time I was in the area. You know who you are. ;-)

The thought that is going through my mind most now is how this could just happen and how this is possible...

And hopefully one day there will a solution for what I think one of the most complex situations in the world.

And maybe with my photography I make a small difference... Or at least can get a conversation started in a civil way...

 

 Street in Dheisheh...

Street in Dheisheh...

 One of the martyrs...

One of the martyrs...

 Netting above the soccer field...

Netting above the soccer field...