Neve Dekalim, Gaza Strip
29 July 2005
It was a 13-year-old settler boy from a ramshackle collection of trailer homes along the sea that may have saved me.
For five months I have been living in the Jewish enclave of Gush Katif, getting to know the human side of a community that feels it is demonized both in Israel and abroad for stubbornly refusing to leave land they claimed as their Biblical birthright but that Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Amid the chaos I suddenly heard the words, "He's with me, he's OK. We trust him!" from the boy with sidelocks that stretched down to his chin. I had come to know his family over the past months. I even had dinner at their home the week before. With the boy's words, the crowd backed off. When I lifted my camera again I saw they had returned their attention to the criss-cross of stone throwing with Palestinian boys across the street. Once again I had full, close-up access to shoot the scene.
After living in a small stucco house on the sand-swept edge of Neve Dekalim, the largest of the 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip I have become both chronicler of the news and part of the landscape myself. The settlers know me by name, invite me for Sabbath dinner, wave hello. But I feel the contradiction of knowing, and in many cases liking, the people here, and yet feeling at odds with the ideology they hold dear.
I wake up every morning to see the sun rise over the settlement's green lawns and trimmed rose garden suburbia. I notice the high concrete wall and watchtowers that surround the settlement and cut it off from the sprawling Palestinian refugee camp that is its neighbor. I am aware that I have been given a tremendous opportunity: an extended assignment on the front rows of history to witness another potential turning point in the troubled relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
But every day I pick up my camera and look for the next image, knowing that very soon what I am photographing will no longer exist except in pictures.
© David Furst
Dispatches are brought to you by Canon. Send Canon a message of thanks.
Back to August 2005 Contents