To begin, the title needs some explanation. I named the photo ‘Palestinians in Wonderland’ as a referential to the sign on the wall that’s being pictured by the man. Truth is, in the times I visited Palestine I never experienced it as a wonderland. The title ‘Palestinians in Wonderland’ is more correct in the way of the craziness and surrealism of the situation. Obviously caused by the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict, for both parties.
I realize that I start the description of the photo with a sense of precausion. There’s no conflict in the world that’s harder to discuss than the Israelian-Palestine conflict. Even when I was in university, teachers started their lessons with a disclaimer and precautions. The lessons ended most of the time in emotional debates where intense feelings were taking over the facts. Still, not mentioning the conflict is like not mentioning the elephant in the room. So here we go.
About the photo
Now back to the photo, what do you see? The photo is made in the suburbs of Bethlehem, Palestine. The wall separates the West Bank from Israel. Several entrances make it possible for some people to go from the West Bank to Israel or vice versa.
This part of the wall -close to the Banksy hotel/museum- has many mural paintings, most of them politically orientated. Without doubt, they are interesting to see and in a weird way beautiful. Apparently, even for the Palestinian taxi driver who’s making a photo of the painting. Still, there’s a discussion about the degree to which the murals are enhancing the separation in a way that it shouldn’t be enhanced.
I made this photo the first time I visited the West Bank. I started to photograph in Bethlehem and went the second day to this part of town. Honestly, it was shocking to me. Of course, the concrete wall was an intense place to be. But second, the overpriced Banksy hotel and the murals at that place were presented as an amusements area. Cappuccino with oat milk was available for a price that costs a meal for Palestinians. The line between entertainment and the seriousness of the situation was thin.
One thing for sure, it was interesting to see how people responded to the murals. This photo is one of the responses.
About the conflict personally
In my photos, I have a strong emphasis on the daily life of people. Despite any political view, religion or ethnicity. I want to make photos with dignity for all human beings. In the beginning, I was convinced to not photograph any conflicts or related situations. In the years that has changed. I realized that conflicts are part of the daily life of people in many Middle Eastern countries. Especially when being in Israel/Palestine the daily life means being confronted with the conflict.
For as long as I can remember I have a fascination for human behavior in intense or dangerous situations. I’m educated in psychology and the modern history of the Middle East. The reason why I started doing photography in the Middle East is that those topics come together on a political and religious level that keeps me fascinated.
One thing for sure is that I don’t want to be the next one in line to have an opinion about the conflict. I don’t think there will be any progress in the Israel/Palestinian conflict in this way. Part of why the conflict is so complicated is that the discussion has shifted to the question if the land should be separated into two states or one state for all. Opinions become answers to this question. Honestly, I don’t think that the conflict can be solved -even a little- by answering this question.
About the conflict generally
As a psychologist, I’m convinced conflicts can’t be solved by practical terms only. Psychological concepts as direct trauma and next-generation trauma, safety, mourning, and recognition are of more importance than the regulation of land or politics.
During classes of political psychology, I was fascinated by the Justice and Reconciliation process of Rwanda. In a couple of months, millions of people died in Rwanda’s genocide. Today both groups are living together. Among others, an intense reconciliation program made it possible that both groups live peacefully. The emphasis was on the recognition of emotions, treatment of trauma, and communal mourning. Palestinians in Wonderland
The case of Rwanda shows that no war can be solved in practical and political terms only. The consequences of war inside people’s heads need to be stopped to end any conflict. Trauma needs to be recognized and cured, people need to experience psychological safety to express their fears and start mourning and emotional pain needs to be solved to name a few psychological concepts of importance. When that’s processed the mind will be ready for open for a future. How that future will take place is for the Israeli and Palestinian citizens only to decide.
Solving any conflict, wherever in the world, isn’t done in a quick period of time. A shift of mindset needs generations to pass before it becomes natural. To me, there’s no doubt the Israel/Palestine conflict can be solved. It will need another perspective of conflict management, but for sure it will be possible. My hope is that’s this will come soon, before the Israel/Palestine conflict becomes a way of life for the next generations to follow. Palestinians in Wonderland