As FB friends know, I’m just back from an incredible two weeks in the Middle East; first in Lebanon, as a member of charity Interpal’s Bear Witness women’s convoy, visiting refugee camps; then the West Bank, where I was exploring the Palestinian eco-resistance to the Israeli occupation. I chose to write about my trip on Facebook partly because I didn’t have time to travel, share on social media *and* blog, but also for security reasons: Israel and Lebanon are not the best of mates, and I was worried about storing my photos on my camera and laptop, which Israeli airport guards have been known to rifle through. Posting my pix each night to Facebook was the answer, so I turned my albums into photo diaries, a habit I continued in the West Bank, again because I wanted to delete any evidence I’d visited Palestine before I went back to the airport. (My devices weren’t searched in the end, but I wasn’t wrong to be paranoid: I was interrogated on the way in about my choice of reading material – turns out The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran is a suspect text to Israeli security!) I also tweeted the links, but although it was great to share my travels as they happened, the problem with FB and Twitter of course, is that your posts soon compost down into the mulch of dead news. Photo albums at least can be accessed via links, so to assuage my guilty blogger’s conscience, I’ve decided to collate them here, in two posts, one for each trip.
BEARING WITNESS in LEBANON with INTERPAL: Feb 14 – 19th 2016
DAY ONE: Syrian Refugee Camps in Bekaa Valley
Barelias and al-Farah are two of the better-organised Syrian refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley, a fertile plain between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, across which lies Syria. More photos and reflections here.
DAY TWO: Nahr el Barad Camp, Northern Lebanon
Nahr el Bared camp was shelled by the Lebanese army in 2007 in an effort to rout what I was told was a Syrian branch of Al-Qaida. The camp was destroyed and its 45,000 Palestinian inhabitants evacuated to nearby al Beddawi camp, seriously straining its resources. Nine years later, Nahr el Bared is only half-reconstructed. More photos and reflections here.
DAY THREE: El Buss and Jal el Bahr Camps, Tyre.
No photos were allowed of el Buss camp, where we visited a women’s programme center and two centres for children with disabilities. But waiting to get in, we took a snappy stroll along Tyre’s beautiful old corniche, and later on in the unofficial camp of Jal el Bahr, Haneen and her friends were happy to have their picture taken. More photos and reflections here.
DAY FOUR: Ein el Hilweh Camp, Saida.
Ein el Hilweh is the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon with about 100,000 inhabitants living on top of each other in its chaotic concrete maze. Between buildings collapsing in storms, and clashes between illegal Syrian Islamist militants and the camp’s internal security force, Ein el Hilweh is a dangerous place. But the many murals of Palestine keep the dream of return alive. More photos and reflections here.
DAY FIVE: Shatila, Beirut.
We ended our visit to Lebanon in the camp that, more than any other, is synonymous with the brutal persecution of the Palestinians: Sabra-Shatila, where between 800 – 3500 refugees were massacred over three days in September 1982 by a Lebanese Christian militia, who left the narrow alleys and small rooms of the camp littered with the bodies of raped, tortured and butchered civilians. Today the camp is also home to Syrians and Lebanese, and a few creative NGOs, supporting schools and community projects in the overcrowded buildings -which also host many declarations of the Palestinian commitment to return to the homes they were forced to leave 68 years ago. More photos and reflections here.
Well, that’s my online experiment for the day. I hope it’s not too fragmentary, is easy to navigate, and gives a sense of this remarkable journey. Next, Palestine gets the cross-platform treatment!