Tuesday, November 15, 2011



Handala the film in three parts




Thursday, September 4, 2008

11:30pm in Ashraf's Taxi Office

Eleven thirty PM and the men in Ashraf’s tiny taxi office were up to their normal nightly rituals. Cohwe (coffee), cigarettes in plenty, and the usual half play, half deadly serious argumentative roundabout concerning the day’s profit that centers around how to most equitably distribute the money.

Brittany and I approached the taxi office; I peaked under the poster on the glass door commemorating the life of Mahmoud Darwish (quite possibly the greatest and certainly the most widely celebrated contemporary Palestinian poet to have penned word on page). The poster was hung in honor of who he was, what he wrote, and in remorse for what the world, most acutely, what Palestinians lost with his death. I peaked under the poster and saw the bright, smiling, wrinkled face of my friend Abbad. He saw me and his mouth opened into the kind of deep calming smile I came to characterize him with last summer. I opened the door and Abbad and I embraced after a year of separation. We kissed; left cheek, then right, and so on for a few seconds. I asked Abbad about his new wife and learned that a month previous to our arrival Abbad had become a father. He called his daughter Ragad—an Arabic name that means something like luxury or comfort or the good life.

Abbad offered me a cigarette and sent some young boys who were hanging around the taxi office off to bring us coffee. The conversation for the next minutes hovered around how life had been in the US, in Palestine, around me and Brittany’s recent marriage, how our families in the US, in Palestine, were and so on. We talked about Mahmoud Darwish and how deeply his loss is felt in the Arabic world. Soon, a man I had only known as an acquaintance last summer pointed up to a poster on the wall in the taxi office. The poster had four men on it, dressed in black, standing proudly with assault rifles in hand. I knew immediately that what I was looking at: It was a shahid poster, a martyr’s poster. The man who pointed at the poster grinned and explained to me in broken English that one of the men pictured was his brother and that it was his third brother to be martyred. Brittany and I expressed disbelief and sorrow for his loss…and he grinned. He grinned still as he took out his cell phone and turned on a video he had taken the night of the killing of his brother and the fellow martyrs. The footage was gruesome. The four men had been assaulted by Israeli occupation forces while driving together in a small car. The Israeli occupation special forces unit had entered the refugee camp were the assassination happened by using a Palestinian car that they had hijacked somewhere in the Beit Lehem area. In the video I could see that nearly every inch of the car had bullet holes in it. I assume that the Israelis put at least a few hundred if not a thousand rounds of fire into the car. All four men in the car died. The footage dragged on as the man I mentioned went to each passenger in the car and detailed their brutalized bodies while they still sat in the car. The footage had been set to tragically triumphant Arabic music. The music was in conflict with what was silently apparent in the scene: tragic hysteria. I could see medical personnel rushing to try and save the men, I saw a man pick up the lifeless and shredded arm of one of the martyrs and scream into the night as if cursing the god’s for his loss. I saw more blood and disfigured body parts that I cared to and I noticed tears in the eyes of my new friend in the taxi office. But still he grinned.

After the footage ended multiple men in the office pointed back at the poster and said akhto, his brother, his brother. The man who lost his brother grinned and we all went back to smoking, drinking coffee, and discussing recent life in Beit Lehem.

While life is made cheap in Beit Lehem by the ongoing brutalities of the occupation, the cost of fuel is up; they said this happens whenever a Republican is in American office. So it goes.

The cost of everything seems to be up in Beit Lehem even while the inestimable dignity of human seems to continue to plummet. Every single night last week there were Israeli incursions into Deheisheh refugee camp…where Britt and I are staying. In total, twenty five Palestinians were arrested just from Deheisheh camp, just last week. Israel recently released over a hundred Palestinian prisoners to appease Mahmoud Abbas (the corrupt Autocrat illegally heading the Palestinian Authority)…last week in Deheishe Israel replenished in its prisons by almost ¼…just from Dehiesheh camp. One man that Brittany and I spoke with yesterday put it this way: Each day people live, in this city, under this occupation, they lose a little hope. A little hope lost every day. I can feel the truth of those words in the air; hopelessness surrounds this city like a dark cloud and it is inexpressibly better here than in Gaza or the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon.

But then again, on Friday, tomorrow we will demonstrate. il-hamdiallah…praise be to God…il-hamdiallah. On the first holy day of the holy month of Ramadan we will articulate the poetic intifada (shaking off) of nonviolent resistance.

Brittany and I are glad to be back in Beit Lehem.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Handala Trailer: A documentary about nonviolence and desolation in Palestine

Hello everyone.

Though we have been somewhat inactive here on the blog, we have been quite active showing the film.

Recently I (adam) finished editing a Preview that we will be using to promote the film in the future. Please feel free to direct others to this preview.

The video can be found at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5638786940143173624&q=handala&ei=p_WASOmFLYyarAO86YmcBQ&hl=en

Or watched below.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Film Venues

Here is a working list of past and future venues:
Suggested donation per venue is $200.

  • Coming soon to: Switzerland, Germany and Italy.

  • Baylor University in Waco, TX on Sunday, October 26th at 7:30PM .

  • PCPF in Dallas, TX on Saturday, October 18th in the AM.

  • Roxy Theater, Burlington, VT on Saturday September 20th at 10:30AM.

  • Calvary Baptist Church, Allentown, PA on Wednesday August 27th at 7PM.

  • Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, PA on Tuesday August 26th at 12noon.

  • Black Rock, Lancaster, PA on August 5th at 9PM.

  • Astor Hotel Best Western, Manila, Philippines on July 30th at 7PM.

  • Cambridge, MN on July 14th at 4PM.

  • Vermont on Wednesday June 4th at 7PM at the FLYNNDOG at 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT.

  • Frazer Mennonite Church, 57 Maple Linden Lane, Frazer, PA on May 31st at 3PM

  • Akron Mennonite Church, 1311 Diamond Street, Akron, PA on Sunday, May 18th at 6:30PM.

  • The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA on Wednesday, May 7th in the Evening (TBD).

  • Penn State Brandywine in Media, PA on Friday, May 2nd, 2008 at 12:30PM in 203 Large Conference Room in the Commons Building.

  • Eastern University in St Davids, PA on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 8PM in the Baird Library in Walton.

  • Eastern University in St Davids, PA on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 8PM in the Baird Library in Walton.

  • Messiah College in Grantham, PA on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 7PM in Boyer 336.
  • Abbey Theater in Durango, CO on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 - Evening.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Handala Film Preview

Watch the Preview of our film Handala.

Enjoy! Comments and suggestions welcome.


Add to My Profile | More Videos

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Update: Handala Coming in May 2008

Since returning from Palestine we have seriously neglect keeping up this blog. I would say that a large part of what could be expressed from the trip has already been expressed--the stories of the people we met; what we saw and heard; and some of our own reflections.

I am considering beginning to write regularly on here but until then I wanted to at least let you know how the film making process is coming along.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Durango for my second trip of a week of heavy editing with Meg. Both Meg, Peder, and I are excited about what we have so far. What we have is a rough cut of the first 17mins of the film, which we have decided to call Handala. Handala is an Arabic word that roughly translates to bitterness in English. More importantly, Handala is the name of a famous Palestinian cartoon (as seen on the top of this page) originally created by a Palestinian refugee named Naji al-Ali. Handala has become an important symbol in Palestine--most directly of the Palestinian refugee crisis. Handala has also become an important symbol in the popular Palestinian nonviolent movement.

We are planning of having the film completely finished in early May, this year. Until then we have various screenings and photo exhibitions and have already been telling the stories that came out of this summer any chance we get.

Sometime soon I will make up a short synopsis of the screenings and photography exhibitions we have planned in case any of you happen to be around and would like to come.

Again, thank you for all your support.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nakba to Hope Images

The house demolished

Seham and one of her sons


The house rebuilt

From al-Nakba to Hope

After very many years of hardship, a family was finally able to build a house. A place where they could raise their children in safety, where they could sleep in peace, and where they could enjoy meals, tea, and coffee with neighbors. The family was able to rest. They had been refugees for years.

Not long after the family built the house, the machines roared in. The bulldozers. The men in green ordered the family to leave the home or get flattened beneath the rubble. They protested but the authorities told them their house was too close to the border, so for security reasons it had to be destroyed. They were forced to see their home demolished. A sense of despair was creeping into their hearts.

It was a deeply tragic time for the family. But soon the whole community got together and decided to help them rebuild their home. The community gathered enough money to build their home once again. They told me, “there are many good Israelis that helped rebuild the second house.” A great relief for the family, a great hope. Building one’s house is like building one’s life up again, one’s family, spirit and soul.

Again the family was able to be in peace in their house after such suffering.

No more than eight months passed and the bulldozers were back.

Let me take time to introduce the family. The father is a man in his late fifties—slender, gray-black hair, and a soup-strainer mustache. He is quite a character; his face has so much expression when he talks. His name is Monthers. Seham, the mother, is a woman who’s been through many trials in her life. But her eyes show a sense of peace, while not forgetting the hardships of her past. Sensible steadfastness is how I’d describe her. I met one of their sons, Almuataz. He’s a hardworking student studying Computer Science at the local University. He loves America.

This family is from Palestine. Their home is built within a mile of the Green Line, or 1967 border, between Palestine and Israel. This is the internationally recognized border. However, the Israeli government has decided to build the Wall (much like the one being built on the US border with Mexico) very close to their home, on Palestinian land, and so have decided to demolish this family’s home and possible hundreds other homes throughout the West Bank. (I quoted Monthers several months ago saying, “Everywhere this is the same, the same story, the same same. Go to Jenin, same same. Go to Lebanon, same same. Go to Gaza, same same. Same same.) And all this is done in the name of Security, Israel’s new Golden Calf.

The bulldozers came back and demolished their home again. Again the family has faced despair, has looked it in the eyes, and chose hope.

Monthers, Seham, and Almuataz lived in a tent next to the rubble of their home. Almuataz said, “I know there are many people, maybe they do not believe me that we lived in the tent. But it’s true, we lived in the tent two months in the winter.”

Their house has been rebuilt for the third time this summer. It is a beautiful small house sitting on a hill overlooking a valley. We were able to help them rebuild their home, carrying bricks, hauling sand, and sweating in the hot summer sun. People from all over the world joined in, people from Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Palestine, and many other places. We pulled our strength and commitment together.

We participated in nonviolent resistance by rebuilding this home despite what the Israeli forces have said. The demolition of this house and the confiscation of this land is injustice. An unjust law is no law at all.

The very fact that this family is leading us in this beautiful act of resistance in such a personal way, and the very fact that they are putting their lives on the line is such a fascinating sign of hope and or courage. Of steadfastness. This is hope.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yallah Back

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for your support during our time in Israel/Palestine. We have been working on the documentary since we have been back. As you know, we plan to have a full-length documentary put together by December, 2007 about "Life Under Occupation," with a dose of Hope.

When we were in Israel/Palestine we were interviewed by Mark Helpsmeet of the Northern Spirit Radio. The show was aired on Sunday, August 12th. You can hear the interview online if you click Northern Spirit Radio.

After you listen to the interview, we encourage you to comment about the show on the Northern Spirit Radio website.

If you would like to contribute to the making of this film, please visit BuildaBridge Donations.

We will continue to post stories and pictures as we continue producing this film. Stay tuned!

Thank you!

peace, salaam, shalom

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Kind of Life: Photos

What Kind of Life?

“So this is life?” he said, gesturing at the cracks in the walls, at the light shining through the tin roof that covered his living room. He stormed into the kitchen, turned the faucet in the sink violently to left, to the right, to the left again.

“You see? No water.” He threw his arms in the air, exasperation dripping from all of his movements, from all of his words, from his very thoughts. He took two long strides and jerked open the refrigerator door. Several flies flew out, leaving only empty shelves in their wake.

“No food, you see?” He slammed the door shut, grabbed a pot off the stove. He opened the lid and with a large spoon scraped hardened instant spaghetti to the left, then back to the right.

“My daughter make for us last night. All we eat today.” He tossed the pot back on the burner and returned to the fridge, opening the freezer this time. He lifted a bag of frozen pita and dropped it. It thunked and echoed in the empty space.

“What kind of life is this??”

We had been talking with Abu for the last half hour. He spoke about the “disengagement,” about the surrounding twenty-seven-foot concrete walls, about living in an open air prison, how everyone had lost work. As he spoke, he inched forward in his seat, his arms flying in and out of the frame, his voice steadily increasing in volume. The grey hair that shot out near his temples and the crowfeet wrinkles around his eyes were the only signifiers that Abu was born in 1956.

“You see this?” he asked us, pointing vaguely into a dark bedroom with a single mattress on the ground. His outstretched finger made our eyes fall on a mass of tangled sheets and blankets covering what appeared to be a sweaty Palestinian boy. Only the crown of his head and the dark skin near the nape of his neck poked through.

“Sleeping all day, he is! Twenty-two! No work, no make money for family, no wife. He just lay here all day!” Abu huffed and pushed past me, walking out the back door. He turned the handle of a low faucet, beneath which was a small bucket filled with murky water. Nothing fell from the faucet to the bucket as he flipped the handle back and forth.

“What kind of life?”

I wondered why he was living life in this way, why he had no work, no money, no food, when no more than ten kilometers away, people were living lives of blissfully ignorant decadence. Was the concrete barrier that kept him from that dream really a measure of security, or was it yet another means to create the end that is a Jewish state?

I suspect the latter.

And security from what anyway? From archaic rockets and suicide bombers? This is not to downplay the pain these things have caused, but to segregate an entire people for the misguidance of a few? To “retaliate” by slowly but surely removing Palestinians from their homeland? Just another step in the “War on Terrorism,” I suppose.

And what is terrorism? According to the American Heritage Dictionary, terrorism is “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”

In the West Bank, IDF (IOF, IAF) soldiers shoot bullets made of steel encased in rubber that carry enough force to, if they hit in the right place, pierce the brain and make people bleed from the eyes. They have fully automated tear gas guns that shoot red hot canisters of debilitating inhalants that cause every orifice on your face to run. This gas also causes vomiting, and if exposed long enough, throat closure. They shoot these at non-violent demonstrators. These same soldiers enter people’s houses in the middle of the night and arrest people suspected of collaborating against Israel; they arrest children suspected of joining groups that aren’t approved of, throw them in administrative detention—a prison in which Palestinians are not granted the right of a lawyer, where they are not given even the luxury of a reason for their arrest, much less a fair trial—for throwing stones.

In Gaza, F-16s approach speeds so high at so low an altitude that it creates a force loud enough to shatter glass and powerful enough to knock people off their feet and even break people’s legs. Tanks fire on groups of children playing marbles in the street, killing seven, eight, eighteen at a time under the guise that the children were involved in “suspicious activity.” Mothers have to watch as their children lose both arms and both legs, as they die, basket-cases in plastic-covered hospital cots, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. People live in constant fear that one day, they will be too close to a targeted assassination, that the anonymous unmanned Israeli drone buzzing high above their heads will hit them this time, and all they will have heard is that ominous


Can you imagine hearing that noise? Knowing that somewhere, something is flying high enough that you cannot see it; but that it can watch your every move. Knowing that this thing is completely unmanned, run by a person a world away, on the other side of an impenetrable barrier, just staring at a screen. That buzzing would be the only sign that someone around you, or you, might soon be blown to smitherines.

I heard once that when people are blown up, the bomb squads call it “pink mist,” because that is all that is left of what was once a living, breathing person.

Of course people leave, run to refugee camps in the surrounding Middle East countries, hoping that one day they too will be granted the right of return. It is no wonder that there are some four or five million Palestinian refugees. How can you live somewhere in that sort of fear?

If fear inspired coercion defines terrorism…well, there you have it.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Visit to Gaza: Photos

Visit to Gaza: Thoughts and Reflections

As some of you may know, Meg and I spent four days in Gaza last week. It was delightful and sickening. It was fascinating and exciting. Yet the suffering we saw and heard about broke our hearts—it is truly unimaginable—massive stretches of demolished houses, whole families killed as they lounged on the beach, a mother who lost all four of her sons to tank fire as they played in the street, poverty to the point of starvation, walls peppered with overly eager snipers, the desperation of hopelessness. At the same time the generosity and warmth with which we were received softened our angry hearts and opened our eyes to the atrocity that is the Gaza strip.

Please hear these words and consider them carefully. First, it is important to understand a few things. Gaza is a tiny piece of land—less than two miles wide at points and around 15 miles long. One and a half million people live in the massively overcrowded territory. Gaza is under a brutal external Israeli occupation. This means that NO ONE (foreign or Palestinian) can travel in or out of Gaza without a permit from the Israeli government that is nearly impossible to get. Of course the territory is surrounded by massive concrete walls. Fishermen are shot if they venture too far out into the Mediterranean where the healthy schools of fish swim. The people of Gaza are subjected to nearly daily violent Israeli incursions which many times come in the form of heavily armed flying robotic drones which constantly patrol the skies over Gaza. In addition to all of this, sanctions and general economic stagnation has created poverty extreme enough to be labeled a humanitarian disaster. Life in Gaza is without hope.

At least until the markets and warehouses run out of food and goods life in Gaza is closer to "normal" than it has been in a long time. The calm that has settled on Gaza with Hamas in control feels delicate. It is precious and fleeting. There is a sense of baited excitement. For the first time since the clashes began between Fatah and Hamas people all over Gaza are out to restaurants, markets, lounging on the beach. The security is readily apparent, while tense. No one denies that things are enormously better in Gaza with Hamas in control. Yet not everyone is convinced that under such harsh restrictions from Israel and sanctions from the International community Hamas can maintain the level of competent administration that they have since ousting Fatah. Hamas has never been given a chance. They have never been allowed the space to move towards moderation. Amazingly though they have, moved towards moderation.

The recent release of Alan Johnston (BBC journalist held for over three months in Gaza city by a local mafia family calling themselves the Army of Islam) has some interesting implications. First, it exposes the falsehood that Hamas is in any way equivalent to more extreme Islamists groups like al-Qaeda or Fatah Islam in Lebanon. Hamas is certainly an instance of political Islam yet one that has turned out to be fairly democratic in its domestic policy and administratively competent in its domestic, regional, and international dealings. Hamas simply is not a fanatical terrorist organization out to kill infidels. Second, the release of Alan Johnston makes exceedingly clear the level of control Hamas has in Gaza. Even the most optimistic expected there to be clashes if Hamas applied direct military pressure on the Army of Islam. There wasn’t a shot fired and Alan Johnston was released. What this means is that in spite of how well armed and perhaps radical Army of Islam is they know clearly who’s boss in Gaza. This could be said for other armed mafia families in Gaza as well. Third, it proves that Hamas is willing to work towards moderation even without a clear incentive. Israel and the West and even Fatah are now presented with these realities. The UK has already responded. There is a bipartisan motion in the House of Commons signed by a number of parliamentarians calling for direct engagement with Hamas.

It seems clear that Hamas has no intention of acquiescing to Fatah and the International community and has proven its competence in managing everything from traffic to factional fighting in Gaza. However it seems equally clear that Israel and the US are committed to literally and figuratively starving Hamas and the Gazan people to a point of desperation. What will come out of this desperation? No one is certain. The people of Gaza will not abandon Hamas and yet Hamas, while fully capable to govern the West Bank as well, has been abandoned by Israel, the West, and even a large portion of the Palestinian people (predominantly in the West Bank). Hamas' administrative competency and willingness to negotiate if taken seriously may mean very little in the midst of a quickly approaching humanitarian disaster in Gaza. It is sad to see but characteristic of the Israeli occupation and systemic demonizing of the Palestinian people alongside blatant Western media bias and blind American support for Israel’s policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and Gaza. What do I think will happen? I have little hope...Gaza will probably remain as is—overcrowded, subjected to regular wanton Israeli violence, under harsh inhumane sanctions from the West and Israel, surrounded by walls and water patrolled by Israeli gun ships, and systemically starved to a point of desperation that will understandably result in increasingly frequent qassam rocket fire into Israel and perhaps suicide bombings, thus giving Israel the needed excuse to continue its policy of disproportionate violence and coercive occupation. This will break Hamas down slowly but surely. From there I think there are two possibilities. One, internal conditions in Gaza will get so bad that violence will once again break out. Two, Fatah with the help of Israel and the West will establish, through a military coup, a pro-Western dictatorship in Gaza unrepresentative of the people. I know this seems grim but I see little hope without a major shift in Israeli and Western policy.