This is part of our Tales of a City by the Sea video series. To learn more about this project click on the home page, or visit our youtube channel and watch other short videos from the various key artists involved in this project. We are now half way through our fundraising campaign. Please bring us closer to our goal by making a donation, and by helping us spread the word by way of sharing our videos on social media and talking to your friends about this unique new and exciting project.
The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is near completion and is expected to set sail for Europe in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.
If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.
Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.
“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.
Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.
“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.
“We have great experience and produce great furniture,” Abu Salmi boasted.
“We exported to Israel and from there to Europe before the blockade, and people abroad are asking for our products,” he said, pointing proudly at the dining tables and chairs fashioned in his workshop.
Among the items which are to be carried on board for export are fruit and farm produce, furniture, embroidery and other crafts, organisers say.
“The aim is not aid or humanitarian like the boats that were coming to Gaza, it’s a commercial venture to support the Palestinian economy and pave the way to exporting Palestinian products,” project manager Mahfouz Kabariti said.
But a sense of apprehension marks the preparations.
A plaque at the entrance to the quay on which the Ark is being built remembers the nine Turkish activists who were killed in May 2010 during an Israeli raid on a six-ship flotilla trying to reach Gaza in defiance of the blockade.
Although the international outcry which followed the deadly raid forced Israel to significantly ease the terms of its blockade on Gaza, which was first imposed in 2006, tight curbs remain in place on exports and travel.
Breaking the siege ‘from within’
Under the terms of the current restrictions, Gaza fishermen are not allowed to enter waters more than six nautical miles (11 kilometres) from the shore, with naval patrol boats known to fire on those who step out of line.
It is the prospect of a confrontation with Israeli forces that is worrying some of those planning to join the boat on its blockade-breaking mission, with Abu Salmi afraid the navy might “open fire and sink the Ark, or arrest those on board like they did in 2010 and seize the goods”.
Organisers of the project are unsure what action Israel might take.
“I hope Israel won’t stop the boat from sailing to European countries,” said Kabariti.
“It is natural that the Israeli authorities might not allow a boat to set sail from Gaza. But we want to send our message to the world, whether the occupation allows it to sail or not,” he said.
“We want to draw attention to the blockade which is preventing Palestinian products from being exported, and we have an ark that we can use to do it.”
Among those planning to join the Ark on its maiden voyage are a number of foreign activists, who include Swedish national Charlie Andreasson who also took part in the ill-fated Freedom Flotilla of 2010.
The aim, said Andreasson, is “to break the siege”.
“Why would they stop it?” he asked, somewhat naively.
“We’ve been sending ships to Gaza to try to break the siege, and this time we are turning it around and sending a ship from Gaza out to Europe with goods — so we’re trying to break the siege from within,” he told AFP.
Andreasson has been working on the project since early June, when activists managed to raise enough money from European donors to buy up the old fishing boat.
From its purchase to completion, including labour, Gaza’s Ark will have cost an estimated $150,000 (114,000 euros), with its website showing that so far, $110,000 has been raised.
Dozens of people are working to restore the Ark, with local fishermen receiving a salary for their labour and foreign activists volunteering.
The project’s mission statement, according to the website, is to “challenge the illegal and inhuman Israeli blockade”.
For fisherman Bakr, it would be a huge blow if the Ark — which will sail under the Palestinian flag as well as several international ones — never left port.
Fisherman and factory workers would have to watch their goods “festering in warehouses because they’re unable to export them”, he said.
This article first appeared here
Palestinian singer Mohamad Assaf, a finalist in the Arab Idol TV show has responded to the Israeli occupation army spokesperson Avichay Adraee denying the allegation that he faced pressure to withdraw from the competition by the Hamas government in Gaza. According to Quds news Assaf wrote an angry response on Avichay Adraee’s Facebook page saying he regretted being forced to visit Adraee hateful page which reeked of lies and deception, but he felt he needed to respond.
Assaf wrote that neither him nor his family were threatened or pressured to withdraw and he pointed to how his pictures are hung everywhere in Gaza as proof that the people in Gaza support him. Assaf also responded to Adraee’s comment about him having a ‘brilliant’ voice saying what would really be ‘brilliant’ is if you stop killing our children and stop occupying our land so that our people can enjoy hearing our singing and not the sound of your bombs falling.
Translated from original article in Arabic which appeared at this link http://www.qudsn.ps/article/17585
|Date posted: April 29, 2013
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: 4TH MAY 3:30PM, NABI SALEH
Our Sign is the Stone is a production based on testimonies gathered from the village of Nabi Saleh. The play traces the political development of a young boy as his community organizes an extraordinary campaign against the Israeli Occupation.
The play attests to the struggles, sacrifices and steadfastness of Palestinian communities engaged in civil resistance against practices of land confiscation, ethnic segregation and racial discrimination.
Each performance will be followed by a Playback Theatre event, in which audience members will share their own stories of struggle against Israeli human rights violations.
Wednesday 1st May 4pm: Jenin Refugee Camp, The Freedom Theatre (Preview performance)
Saturday 4th May 3:30pm: Nabi Saleh, Community Hall (Premiere performance)
Sunday 5th May 4pm: Al Walajah, School Hall
Monday 6th May 4pm: Arabeh (Old City), Palace
Tuesday 7th May 10:30am (Women-only performance): Faquaa, Community Hall
Tuesday 7th May 7pm: Faquaa, Community Hall
Wednesday 8th May 4pm: Qusra, Community Hall
The Freedom Theatre dedicates this play to Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi.
THE FREEDOM BUS
Our Sign is the Stone is a production of The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus initiative. The Freedom Bus uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout historic Palestine and beyond. Endorsers of the Freedom Bus include Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, John Berger, Judith Butler, Maya Angelou, Mairead Maguire, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Noam Chomsky, Omar Barghouti, Remi Kanazi and Peter Brook. A range of other Palestinian and International artists, activists, academics and organizations have endorsed the Freedom Bus.
By Henrique Dores – April 24, 2013
Roll up, roll up – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and foes – please put your hands together and give your warm welcome to the unparalleled, the outstanding, the one and only Palestinian Circus School.
This could perfectly be the opening line of one of the shows of the Palestinian Circus School. Currently submerged in an ambience of red noses, big shoes, squeaky flowers, stilts and many other props, the Palestinian Circus School (PCS) began as a small circus group in August 2006 thanks to the determination of Shadi Zmorrod and Jessika Devlieghere, who initiated the pathway to introduce circus arts from Palestinians for Palestinians, amidst Israeli checkpoints and M-16 rifles.
The whole idea of creating the first circus school in Palestine was to provide an effective alternative to the massive effects that the Israeli military occupation has had over the lives of young Palestinians, particularly since 2000.
The stories of unlawfully demolished homes, personal humiliations at checkpoints, physical abuses and arbitrary detentions, together with accumulated grief of having loved ones killed by the Israeli military, constituted the sole motivation of the initial core group of the founders of the Palestinian Circus School. To them, too many young people were turning to the streets for an outlet, struggling to achieve nothing else than survival.
However, before becoming one of the most credited and successful Palestinian NGO’s, there were some bumps on the road. From the very beginning, the idea of creating a Palestinian circus school raised suspicions about its necessity. However, the general skepticism did not affect the initial core group.
Shadi Zmorrod was given the opportunity by the Belgian circus school ‘Cirkus in Beweging’ to start with a first intensive training course for young people living behind the Apartheid Wall. Further contacts were made in order to ensure training for the people who would be involved in creating the future circus of Palestine, through an intensive three-week workshop. The excitement about these first achievements can only be compared with the disappointment that took over the group when this first initiative was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006.
“We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive”
Nevertheless, the resilient group persisted on the foundation of the PCS, and despite the lack of financial support, they managed to obtain the required training throughout the help of some Jerusalem circus students and later on, after launching an international appeal, from Italy, France and US circus professionals. This was the definitive step towards the birth of the first Palestinian Circus School, which would culminate with its premiere in Ashtar Theater, where an encouraging audience of 250 people applauded their effort.
Progresses and ambitions
The new premises of the school, which only became PCS’s home in November 2011, are inspiring. Located next to the Latin Church in the old city of Birzeit, the building and site was given for a period of 15 years free of charge by Dr. Hanna Nasir to allow PCS to develop to its full potential.
“When we first saw this place, we thought it was desperately needing some work, but also that it was the perfect place for the school,” says Jessica Devlieghere.
Indeed, the PCS has been constantly developing, and the two small circus training halls existing in the building brought the school to heights impossible to reach under the previous conditions. Currently teaching three levels of education in the art of circus (beginners, preparatory and professional), the Palestinian Circus School provides annual summer camps and open days in order to allow communities to get more acquainted with the goals and the approach of the school. Moreover, since its foundation, not only was PCS able to tour all around Palestine, defying checkpoints, borders and other movement restrictions, but also performed in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.
When asked about the current projects of PCS, Jessica promptly replies, “I don’t like to use that terminology. We want PCS to stay away from the whole NGO’s way of thinking. This is an initiative from Palestinians to Palestinians and everything we do has a social impact.”
The merits of PCS are easy to identify. Operating in difficult scenarios such as Jenin, Al-Fawwar refugee camp, Birzeit or Hebron, the school has been distributing hope all around Palestine.
“At the moment we have more than 150 students,” Jessica says. “We present circus as a form of therapy, as an alternative to the hopeless lives of many youngsters.”
PCS has also been working together with Social Rehabilitation Center in Jenin, where they try to improve the lives of young women.
But the vision of the adventurers that made possible PCS is bigger than ever.
“We are trying to extend our field of action, so that more people have access to our initiatives,” Jessica explains. “We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive. Another of our immediate goals is to provide a real circus tent on the courtyard, to allow the many disciplines needing lots of height and space.”
The Palestinian Circus School is flying higher than never, and the people involved are committed in keeping the same enthusiasm they had in making this project come alive. In a sea of disappointment, where bombs and aggression are the language used, the Palestinian Circus School emerges as a safe port to everyone willing to resist occupation with a smile on the face.
A quote at the bottom right corner of the graphic reads: “We are not in search of death, we are looking for real life.” The words are from the 1989 declaration of the Tiananmen Square hunger strike.
This was Visualizing Palestine’s first infographic and it was quite a compelling start.
More than a year later, other stunning infographics were produced. These elegant images range from a simple demonstration
of childhood births at Israeli checkpoints to a more complex image detailing the inequality of water distribution in the West Bank.
“Visuals are important because of their speed, its adaptiveness to social media, and the fact that the mind captures more from visuals than from texts,” Joumana al-Jabri, one of the co-founders, remarked to Al-Akhbar during a lunch on a Sunday afternoon that gathered most of the VP team at her apartment on Bliss Street.
The use of images and graphs to emphasize the daily injustices experienced by Palestinians by the Israeli colonial occupation is not entirely unique, but what makes the works produced by VP groundbreaking is the group’s ability to streamline and bond documented facts with eye-popping visuals.
The bread and butter of the project’s work are rooted in its embrace of a multi-disciplinary approach. In this way, diverse strands are tied together, further strengthening the emotional and intellectual impact of each graphic.
The staff of VP are very much aware of the power they hold.
In the Beginning…
The idea of VP was conceived by Ramzi Jaber in the early months of 2011. Like most good tales, it began with a journey and personal questions.“The story I tend to tell is this: I was part of TEDxRamallah, and for a year and a half I was going from village to village, asking myself why as Palestinians are we in this mess and who is doing something about it,” he said.
On his trips, he’d hear shocking statistics, like the fact that each year, 700 Palestinian children are incarcerated in Israeli jails. To Jaber, the injustices committed in Palestine are “the most documented injustices on earth.”
“I was shocked on two levels – shocked by the whole colonial aspect and the sheer injustice, and shocked by my own ignorance,” he said.
At the same time, Jaber was in awe of the growing popularity of TED, prompting him to think about how to take Palestine’s statistics and “present it through the power of storytelling.”
In April of that year, Jaber attempted to establish such a project using volunteers. According to him, he spent months organizing two workshops that brought in researchers and designers, but zero graphics were produced. According to him, the problem they faced was two-fold: the amount of expertise required was difficult to find since this was a new endeavor and it required a stable, committed team rather than volunteers.
Soon after, Joumana al-Jabri, a designer and architect mainly based in Dubai, and Ahmad Barclay, an architect by training, were brought into the fold. Immediately, they began looking for others.
Naji El Mir, a designer based in Paris, and Hani Asfour, founder of PolyPod, a multi-disciplinary designing company located in Lebanon, became key partners at VP, as well as the main designers behind many of the graphics.
“Infographic is like an iceberg, you see one-tenths of it and there is so much below that of work being done. We needed researchers, people who sit down and do huge amounts of research and we still need more,” Jaber said.
Today, VP is a small core team of eight individuals, most in their twenties and thirties, and each providing their own unique skill set. Recently, Saeed Abu-Jaber, a young designer from Jordan was hired. In terms of research, text, and copy-editing, Zaid Amr, in Palestine, and Chris Fiorello, in Beirut, were added.
“Most of the people are from a mixed background so this adds a nice flavor to the design. We aren’t brought together by nationality or driven by jingoistic tendencies, and we are not an activist project that simply wants to save ‘the poor helpless victims,’” Barclay stressed.
How does VP create an infographic?Mainly, if an urgent news story breaks out, the team decides to develop an infographic in order to give context to what is happening. “Often, or almost always, the news is misrepresented or isn’t given context by the media. The rule of thumb tends to be that if the news is more prominent, it is more likely to lose its context,” Jaber said.
The final element, which is not the main focus of VP presently, is to highlight the absurdities of daily injustices. As an example, Jaber spoke of how Israel prohibits Palestinians holding different color-coded IDs from marriage, a restriction he had personally experienced and was keen on highlighting sometime in the future.
Once a topic is selected and fleshed out through various brainstorming sessions, the researchers gather the data and verify sources. From there, it is passed on to Barclay who molds it into a story.
The hardest part, according to Barclay, is the ability for one close to the data to take a step back and try to look at the bigger picture. He pointed out that there may be topics that simply can’t be visualized easily, topics and data that are segregated by borders, complicated stories that are hard to simplify on a static, two-dimensional image.
“It’s a good and bad exercise, in the sense that how do you get to the core message that strikes people and is rooted in analysis and facts? How do you tell the story to engage and motivate people, without becoming jingoist? How do you get people to understand an idea better or that the continuation [of injustice] isn’t inevitable?” he emphasized.
Abu-Jaber, the newest hire, said, “The beautiful thing is choosing. Finding that point of the story that grabs you. I like the process. It is quite fantastic because you’re learning something new while you’re designing. Essentially, you need to educate yourself.” For Abu-Jaber the work with VP offered a much more meaningful experience than his previous experiences working in fashion and magazine design.
“The work I used to do before made me feel dead inside. But this has a point and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. This is like design activism,” he chuckled.
After this stage, a brief is made and shared with the designers, who proceed to translate the words into an alluring visual. The visual product is reviewed in order to ensure that the story is still intact.
“The facts are always the red-line. We actually go beyond, and try to maneuver the story to put the context in because you can take the facts out of context. So we maneuver it to include context, and puts the fact right where it needs to be,” Jaber said.
Once all parties are satisfied, it is published online.The final step is to track the graphic’s impact, seeing who shares it and what type of debates it generates. This entire process can take anywhere between three days and three months.
The structure behind the process came out of a lot of trial and error, or as Jaber joked, “more error than trial.” But a structure was shaped, and in the spirit of the project, it was presented as an infographic available online for others to see and use.
Yet even now, the production isn’t entirely without kinks. “We need more effort, more people,” Jaber stated, “People who are dedicated, committed, and have the required skills. It’s harder than getting money.”
Funding, the bane for every organization on the planet, is particularly an issue, especially for a team that is independent from political backing. The VP team are planning to tap into crowd-funding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter, rather than the traditional grant route. This way, they hope, will continue to ensure the project’s ideological independence.
Since its first graphic, VP has steadily been building a strong following, particularly within the NGO, civil society, and international solidarity sectors. For Jaber, it’s a sign that VP is on the right track.
“Success to me is that our visuals are being used effectively. I’ve heard that people have used them in conferences and in schools. They use our visuals to deliver a message, and the more that effectively happens, the better,” he said.
As another sign of success, the graphics by VP have been translated into more than seven languages, such as Arabic, French, Spanish, Korean, and Finnish. They have penetrated parts of the mainstream media, popping up in Al Jazeera English, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere. And there is still more to come.
“Our next plan is to move into other media. We are very keen to go into animation, dynamic infographics, or even crowd-designed graphics,” Jabri stated.
But it is the ambitious concept of Linked word Visualizing Justice that has the most potential. The idea builds from the successes of VP and first conceived during an American tour by Jaber.
“We were being contacted by lots of people around the world who wanted to use the same form of visual styles for their causes and communities. They saw that communications is what rallies and mobilizes people together. So we wanted to provide tools and platforms for people to do the same thing in other cause. That’s our plan, but right now we are barely surviving as it is,” Jaber explained.
“Visualizing Justice became our platform that allowed us to transfer knowledge and become an umbrella for other groups to visualize topics other than Palestine – such as Visualizing Syria, Visualizing Burma, and Visualizing Water,” Jabri said.
Jaber reflected on the end-game for VP. He pointed to how the end of Apartheid was brought about by the achievement of a “world-wife understanding.”
“When people understand, it translates into action. Positive change is happening, whatever it is,” Jaber said with a wide smile.
The Japanese technological-fashion designer Issey Miyake once wrote, “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life.” Can design really change realities and lives? In the case of Visualizing Palestine’s designs, it seems to ring true.
This article first appeared here