These harsh desert landscapes are home to a small population of farmers and herdsmen, whose way of life is threatened with extinction. We want to show those who have not entered this world what it is like to live its reality. To make palpable the experience of being transformed from a mere outsider to someone who, simply by being with these people, is implicated in their fate.
We aim to bring the visitor into the spaces of the South Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley, where in our experience it is not possible to remain indifferent. We ourselves have for years been deeply engaged with that reality, with the Palestinians and with their oppressors: Israeli soldiers, settlers, policemen. Our photographs and texts converse with all of the above.
We thus reference ourselves in conversations and reactions to events, and to the environment, verbally and visually, making clear our own point of view as it evolves, occasionally eliciting eye-contact or a gesture from a soldier or settler.
These pictures were taken between 2014 and 2019. Both of us are long-time volunteers in Ta’ayush, Arab-Jewish Partnership, a grassroots peace and human rights organization active in the areas we have mentioned. We accompany Palestinian farmers and shepherds to their fields and grazing grounds in order to protect them from violent settlers. We help them harvest their crops, pick olives, and plow their fields. We’ve been involved in many dozens of land ownership disputes, following the rightful owners through the Israeli courts and sometimes forcing soldiers and police on the ground to obey the court’s decision. There are solidarity visits to communities living under constant threat of demolitions and expulsions.
Part of our responsibility and our hope lies in documenting what we have seen.
Photographs by Margaret Olin and texts by David Shulman, 2020