Al Hissan – The Jenin Horse
Art in Public Space Under Conditions of Occupation
By invitation of the Goethe Institute Ramallah, I led a several week long workshop with Palestinian youths in Jenin in the summer 2003.
Together we built a 5 meter tall horse out of scrounged metal taken from destroyed houses and cars. The horse was subsequently towed through the streets of Jenin and, at a later point, almost 200 km away through the occupied territories of the West Bank.
Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 00:25:45 +0200
dear all, dear friends,
I would like to inform you about my forthcoming art projects in the occupied territories of palestine:
the goethe-institute and the a.m. qattan foundation in ramallah invited me to realize art workshops in june and july:
with the help of a group of 10-15 palestinians I will be building over 4 weeks a horse made out of scrap metal from destroyed houses and cars. I intend to do this in the public space of khan younis, a small town in the very south of the gaza-strip – next to the egyptian border. we’ll try to get it made on a donkey-cart or lorry-trailer so that we can move the horse through the area.
the arab horse is a popular symbol of the freedom to move which seems to be much needed in this particular area of endless violent conflicts.
my starting point for this initiative is the idea to reclaim public spaces for cultural and civil projects. permanent curfews, tank incursions and restrictions to move are the reality for the people in the occupied territories. without civil developments and social activities, without a vivid culture in public spaces a society is going to crumble.
the occupation must stop and make place for a decent development of self-determination and cooperation. there will be no military solution whatsoever – neither through military predominance nor through terrorism.
I am doing this art project mindful that the israeli-palestinian conflict has a lot to do with german history: without NS-fascism, without the holocaust, this conflict might escalate less and it might be easier to find a just solution.
both peoples have a right to live – both peoples deserve our empathy – no one has the right to oppress or rule or dominate the other. equal rights and equal opportunities for all!
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 21:13:01 +0200
on friday morning at 4am, i arrived safely in tel aviv. entered without any problem. the questioning through the boarder police wasn’t that bad. i took a shuttle-bus to jerusalem and met the director of the goethe institute, ramallah, farid chris majari. after a lovely breakfast in the american colonie hotel (east jerusalem) we took the street to ramallah, passing the checkpoint in the land-rover of the goethe institute was no problem at all. i was two days in ramallah. the mood of the people was relatively relaxed, almost null military presence.meeting with farid (goethe) and our project-partner from the a.m.qattan foundation, ziad khalaf in the beautiful house of the qattan foundation in ramallah.
walking through ramallah on my own. everybody gives a warm welcome to me, no hostility at all – but in my head is the sense people would think i would be an israeli undercover agent… roaming through the streets, watching intensively (thinking about my sculpture-project in the public space and where could it be realized…).
live on the streets is very busy – even after it got dark.
since some ten days the gaza-strip is completely sealed off (closed) for foreigners. therefore we had to decide to alter our plan. instead of doing the horse in gaza (khan younis) it is planned to do it in jenin, an area which is heavily attacked and put under permanent curfews for a long time. last week they had a two day curfew again. and tanks and armoured patrouls, arrests if not killings and shootings are almost a daily reality.
today farid and i made the way from ramallah to jenin, through the jordan valley, passing the dead sea… and about four checkpoints. privelleged we, on a proper land-rover with the goethe-logo on its doors and a german flag on the back (so we are clearly not from the army…) and with german passports: we could pass without any bigger problems… the palestinians can’t go this way, they are not allowed to travel their own country. only very restricted or via the fields which often is very dangerous.
we started at 8am and arrived at 11.30 at hussein’s house, our jenin-partner and local scout who can speak german very well. he already spoke to the head of the jenin youth-centre and to the local authorities to promote our project and to ask for support.
we met at 12 with sharek, and a member of the jenin council. they both gave us a warm welcome and are happy to collaborate on this project. together we then went to the major and where cordially welcomed by his deputy. he gave his okay to support the project though the technical workshop of the municipality, so we can use the welding or angle grinder machine and prepare the project in their workshop. and we’ll get a lorry for any transport etc. that’s wonderful!
then we checked a flat for me – and were lucky again through hussein’s help. it’s quite expensive though – rents are not cheap here. and then we got a wondeful dinner at husein’s house. palestinian cooking is really great. i enjoied nice lamb, chicken, vegetables, salads, etc… whow…, and the arab coffee was offered a floor below at hussein’s parents flat in the presence of some 12 well established, wealthy men… we were told they are the local judges and advocates etc. who had a gathering there. quite patriarchal… but again we were warmly welcomed from everybody. in the evening we met the representative from the UNWRA for the jenin refugee-camp to ask him if he would like to join the project with some 5 or 6 participants from the camp. it seems to work out and we will meet together tomorrow morning with all 12 participants, coming from the town (youth-center) and the refugee camp (through the UN).
and now i tried to set up my e-mail in an internetcafe. hope it works so that you get my message.
and we just learned: today ramallah and some other towns are under curfew – some friends in ramallah were taken by surprise when the army entered the town and got stuck in cafe’s or shops or or or…
so they keep on putting pressure on the daily live of the people – but talk publicly about easing the restrictions. it is redicoulous. it’s not true. it’s just propaganda for the bush trip to the middle-east this week.
so far – all the best
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 22:02:39 +0200
a roadmap to nowhere
today it took chris farid and me a long time to leave jenin, even with a german flag on the landrover, the soldiers didn’t take notice of us, but when chris tried to go towards the check-area they shouted “stop” and pin-pointed the gun on him. we where the only people trying to pass the checkpoint until a white ambulance from the medicines sans frontieres came. they were more pressing and may be a bit less frightened than we (at least me) and managed to talk to the soldiers in the end…
so we could pass, and one mile later the next checkpoint came – now the border of the westbank to israel and a long cue with some 100 palestinians where waiting, – with a feeling of beeing completely privileged we passed the cue which seemed to be stuck for a long time (all the motors/engines were shut off)…
today ramallah is under curfew the second day in a row. “precaution”… making people angry and feeling frustrated. if we have no freedom to move – we are not in the mood to be particularly peaceful! so we got the feeling they provoke attacks and outbrakes of aggression.
tomorrow my talk in ramallah might to have been cancelled. fingers crossed, the curfew is not anymore in place. we’ll see. you can’t really plan your live under such conditions.
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 22:23:21 +0200
jenin, 6 june
on the motorway from jenin to tel aviv, after waiting at the checkpoint in jenin for about 60 minutes, we got stuck at least in three traffic jams. i was about to meet ella cafri in tel aviv. ella is the mother of ifat cafri who was co-organising and co-curating my exhibition “drowning hercules” (my tree-project at st. thomas’ hospital in london) in september 2001 and who was a graduate from goldsmith college. at the age of 24 she got run over and killed by a car-driver in london just five days before the opening. so, my tree-project was the last exhibition ifat worked on in her short life, which was extinguished far too early and so incredibly brutal.
in our short time of working together i got deeply impressed by ifat’s courageous attitude towards not only the israeli-palestinian conflict but also towards the authorities at st. thomas’ hospital. without her fantastic help the exhibition might haven’t happened. therefore i was keen on meeting her familly – even the cause was very sad and the visit not just easy.
stuck in the checkpoint and on the motorway… we arrived almost two hours late. but finally we were happy to meet each other. ella picked me up and brought me to her house, south of tel aviv. compared to the palestinian towns and houses it was unbelievably comfortable and luxurious. almost another world. during a delicious meal we were talking intensively: about ifat…, about nazi-fascism, the holocaust, germany today, israel and of course the palestinian-israeli conflict…
“i used to say, i hate the arabs… but if i want peace i have to change that attitude… you don’t need to make peace with your friends… but with your enemy…”(ella), but there was little hope that peace could be reached with bush and sharon, that the “offer” of sharon is completely inacceptable for the palestinians. a really intense discussion and to be continued.
the next morning ella showed me the tel aviv tower, with a public plattform on its 49th floor, beautifull view, hyper-clean, air conditioned… and with security checks, soldiers in uniforms all along. impressive architecture – residential houses may be from the bauhaus-period. after a trip to the old town next to the sea side i had to head to the main bus station to take the shuttle taxi to jerusalem.
i arrive in west jerusalem – the driver doesn’t want to go to east jerusalem, so i have to walk. on my way to damascus-gate i am passing the preparation for a demonstration with the slogan… “no palestinian state!”.
before i arrive the old city i catch a taxi which brings me close to chalandia-checkpoint – but drops me some 3 km away from the actual checkpoint and i have to take another shuttle taxi to the checkpoint.
there it was easy walking through the checkpoint. i think because a tv-team was filming at the same time an israeli peace-demonstration “stopp occupation – for a palestinian state within the 67 borders”… nevertheless the tensions were running extremely high. behind the checkpoint i got a lift to ramallah from a nice guy, trader of office supplies.
so i arrive in ramallah just in time to prepare my talk at the qattan foundation at 6pm. some 15 people turned up and i had the impression the talk (about my previous projects) was well received, especially from some local artists and we had an adjoining discussion about my forthcoming project in ramallah and what we still need to get it realized.
next morning: meeting with mohamad from the “young artists foundation” (ramallah), he is now the local “scout” to prepare the ramallah-project (the shade-giver/umbrella)… together we go to the ministry of culture (to liana badr) – asking for permission that we may cut out steel from the destroyed mukata (the head quaters of the palestinian authorities), and to get her general support and backing of the project. than we walk through the center of ramallah – to find a suitable site for the project… and we meet a local authority at the town hall – to informe him and ask for permission to realize the project in the public space of the town. everybody welcomes the project and promises support… fantastic and exciting.
at about 2.30 I leave for jenin – accompanied by chance by german film-maker, frieder schleich.
taxi to chalandia checkpoint, where about 200 people were waiting/queing. it took us some 45 minutes to get through the checkpoint, I was fed up, queuing/ standing in the sun… waiting so long to get through… so arriving at the soldiers I asked them if they are not ashamed to do this job and had my first experience how nice they can be…, silly me. thomas, just keep your mouth closed!
behind the checkpoint we took the shuttle taxi to jenin. 5 km into this 120 km journey we arrived at taiba checkpoint. some twenty taxis and trucks (with cement or so…) were waiting in a queue. nothing moved. after 20 minutes I asked the taxi driver if it might be a good idea to go to the soldiers and show my german ID card.
“Yes… might be good, to pass quicker…” – but the soldiers angrily rejected me and shouted – not only at me – but at all passengers who had left their cars and walked to the checkpoint. one soldier completely freeked out taking his uzi-gun and pinpointing to the head of one ot the palestinians, shouting very aggressively. the palestinian guy stayed relatively calm – without any expression of fear! respect, respect!
after some more 20 minutes – nothing moved forward, appart from israeli cars some of which passed even without stopping – arguments with the soldiers began again. one soldier took out his army-knife slicing some tyres of the waiting taxis. at least one taxi had a puncture, we were very lucky although he tried three times at our taxi to cut the tyre, he didn’t come through…
tensions came to a peak, when the taxi with the flat tyre drove and it’s passengers walked up to the soldiers very angrily… shouting loud, exchanging arguments etc… –
we were waiting a further 30 minutes, than after about 90 minutes (!!) at a sudden all taxis made a u-turn, leaving the checkpoint towards chalandia. after 2 km we left the road and took a little track for tractors… off we were in the fields of the westbank.
at some point we had to leave the taxi, as the rocks were too rough and the car touched too heavily the the ground…
after some twenty minutes we came to a small tared road. obviously the hidden path worked out. but there were still more checkpoints to come: after 45 minutes: adam’s bridge, which took us just 15 minutes to pass – and a further 20 minutes later came ‘al hamra’-checkpoint, which took us again about half an hour to get through.
the shuttle taxi got emptier and emptier, passengers were dropped and some 20 km before jenin we were the last passengers. in the meanwhile it was dark and the driver refused to take us to jenin. he dropped us in a small village and suggested to stay here and sleep in the local church. on the way to the church we passed a pharmacy and i asked the chemist if he knows a taxi-driver and if it was reasonable to try to go. he phoned an acquainted taxi-driver who came 15 minutes later and offered us a lift through the fields sharing it with a colleague who would take over half way for 70 shekels. i happily agreed after consulting the chemist, who encouraged us “it’s safe” and whom i trusted… so off we went through the pitch black night, on small paths and hidden tracks. the driver called his colleague on his mobile and explained him our position and where to meat and after a ride of thirty minutes we met him and changed the cars in the middle of a huge field with olive trees. i was deeply impressed, how precisely it fitted together. fifteen minutes later we arrived safely in jenin in front of my house.
if you haven’t experienced the way you have to move – it is hardly to understand. and i think it’s a big difference to be with the palestinians in a shuttle-taxi or beeing in a land-rover with id-card-holder of the german embassy and a german flag…
during the night (in jenin) shootings were to be heard, tanks roared through the streets – but on the level of ‘every-day-life’, nothing extraordinary.
today is friday – (muslims sunday), in the eveneing we went for a waterpipe with a former prisoner, talking about the actual political situation. people on the street seem not to belief in the bush-sharon-abu mazen sumit. the facts on the ground are completely different.
tomorrow we start working with the group of 12 youngsters. it’s exciting.
will keep you posted.
all the best
Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2003 16:43:27 +0200
after a noisy night with shootings and tanks roaring for some 2 hours through the streets in jenin, amazingly my art-workshop with youngsters from jenin started yesterday.
as planned we met at the municipalities metall-workshop. everybody was present, the kidz, hassan our local scout, samir, to whom I got introduced to and who will be my technician and welder for the next weeks… we just had to get our tools, an angle grinder, extension lead and a generator and drive with a lorry to the destroyed “mukatta” to start with our work.
as you will know most of the buildings of the palestinian authorities and security (“mukatta”) got smashed and litterally pulled down by israeli forces during last years incursion. my plan is: to take steel rods from the rubble of the mukatta and use them in the art-project. the message is simple: they might be able to destroy the buildings and signs of a palestinian state but the people will rebuild their society, their life and culture.
hassan managed (after long sessions of conversations over the last days) to get the okay from the palestinian side to take out some of the metal rods.
beeing on the site, a huge pile of rubble… the concrete walls and ceilings flattened like a house of cards, bent and broken steel wires show in all directions, silence but the chirping of the locusts over the whole place until we start our generator and angle-grinder to cut the rods and wire and bring it to the lorry…
sun burned like crazzy – no shadow, but we were happy to get the workshop running and to make first experiences with each other. 4 kidz where from the town, three from the refugee camp. the difference is obvious, those from the camp were much more cheeky, tough, direct, no formal well behaviour… the others better dressed, more disciplined, partly cautious. good to have them both and together at any one time.
after two hours at the mukatta, we went to a scrap yard near-by collecting metal scrap from old cars (to be the surface of the horse). at the end sandwiches and drinks could be enjoyed and one of the guys from the camp (sorry forgot his name) provoked a friendly scrap / row with me. trying out the limits.
the collected scrap was brought to the municipality workshop (where the horse will be built over the next weeks) and unloaded. everybody was quite exhausted – at least me.
a great day.
in the evening in my local grocery ‘abu amar’ (arafat) was live – an interview – on tv, everybody was listening, – he criticized the akaba declaration as too vague and insisted (as far as i got it with help of a by-stander who translated) on the 67 borders, the right to return for the palestinian refugees and east jerusalem… the new prime minister, abu mazen is not very much trusted here from people on the streets. everybody seems to be very critical / sceptical if not rejective towards bush’s (and abu mazen’s acting on the) “roadmap” for a palestinian state. watching at sharon’s “offers” (of a cantonized and partitioned westbank of three seperated districts… far away from the 67 borders) this is more than understandable.
ps: in the “perlentaucher.de” i found this:
“Jeder kennt heute die Gruende fuer das Scheitern von Oslo. Die ‘Road Map’ wiederholt die Fehler. … das Verschieben der wirklichen Probleme auf ‘spaeter’ ist die exakte Wiederholung des Oslo-Konzeptes. Jerusalem, die Rueckkehr der palaestinensischen Fluechtlinge, die Siedlungsfrage – all diese heiklen Punkte werden nicht sofort in Angriff genommen, weil man wieder erst einmal ‘vertrauensbildende Massnahmen’ schaffen will. Dabei koennte nur die Loesung der Kernfragen Vertrauen schaffen.”
Richard Chaim Schneider, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 06.06.2003
“everybody knows the reasons why ‘oslo” failed. the ‘road map’ repeats the mistakes. … the delaying of the real problems is the exact repetition of the oslo-concept. jerusalem, the return of the refugees, the settlements…
all these sensitive issues are not addressed because they first want to establish confidencial measures. but only the solution of the main issues can develop confidence.” (my rough translation)
Richard Chaim Schneider, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 06.06.2003
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 21:08:25 +0200
wednesday, june 11
after the illusion/fata morgana of akaba it’s back to normal – means to the conflict; that is the real thing people go through here.
after yesterdays rocket attacks on rantisi, the political leader of hamas, everybody knew it is a matter of hours that revenge in form of a suicidal terror attack in israel will take place. that israel carried out a murderous attempt on a politician in the middle of bush’s advocated ‘peace-process’ is proof that the us-administration does not put real pressure on sharon and the israeli government to come to an end of oppression, occupation. their policy of liquidation of the leaders of the palestinian national movement – if we like them or not – is clearly a roadmap to killings – not peace but deathly silence.
as israel’s government is so much dependent on support from the US sharon is obviously certain to have still bush’s backing even he carries on with such bloody rocket attacks. it seems to be a bad game.
for two days I had as a guest – german writer norman ohler – in my flat.
traveling the region he came from jordan with an israeli car – the yellow number plates, clearly indicating it as such – which puts him a bit at risc in this area, at least that his car gets smashed or stolen…, especially at night. so we were happy that we were allowed to put it in the back-yard of my landlord.
after film-maker frieder schlaich it was already my second guest in jenin. that is nice, having guests here. in the morning norman joined me to my workshop. four tough kids from the refugee camp came. discovering his mobile phone and digital camera they grasped and played with it, undoing the battery, pressing all the buttons etc. it took norman completely by surprise (normally nobody here touchs your stuff) and he had a short argument with the boys. again they were testing their limits with us…
than: an hour into our workshop at a sudden everybody was listening to the small radio in the office next door: “attack on rantisi…” people here (in jenin) received the message of the assassination attempt quite calm – I was astonished. nobody took to the streets. after some 15 minutes we continued work. but discussions and news-reporters were to be heard everywhere.
in the evening norman and I visited a familly – subhi’s familly. they keep two horses and I wanted to take photos of them to study/learn the horse’s anatomy for my project. we were presented a male and a female horse – they adored eachother and the male started neighing and got an errected, dripping penis, – everybody was laughing (we were only men!) but not without respect for its massive dick. but it didn’t come to the intercourse because she is three months pregnant and was not keen on him…
after showing us a short ride on the back of the horses we were asked to take a seat in the garden and we were brought lovely arab coffee (and later on tea) and it began a lively debatte about the actual political situation. the father, subhi is in his late sixties or even seventies. he was born in haifa (now israel). during the nakbah (the paelstinian catastrophy in 1948) his familly was forced to leave their home. they came to jenin and he became a teacher (english for beginners).
subhi has got five children, his eldest son was a freelance photographer and journalist. in july last year when on duty, taking photos of an israeli tank during the military incursion he got shot in his leg from the machine gun on that tank. as the ambulance was forced to stay away and the doctors not allowed to rescue him he bled to death. when the father briefly went into his house his youngest son showed us photos of these moements: someone from jenin took photos of him with his own camera shortly after receiving the bullet, bleeding like crazy, but obiously he was still fully conscious and keeping his fist onto the wound. the photos were shocking, as you can see him alive but suffering from his wound.
…firstly shooting (from a tank!) at a civilian, secondly stopping the ambulance to rescue this wounded civilian… – clear methods to clamp down terrorism…!
asked what solution of the conflict might be acceptable from their point of view subhi made clear, “we have to give away half of the apple in order to get the other half…”, that means: the 67 borders without any settlements within the palestinian state, a compensation for the famillies who got evicted from israel after 1948 (like he himself), the full citizenship of the refugees (lebanon, jordan, egypt…) or if they prefer to come to palestine (not israel) the right to do so… and of course east jerusalem as part of palestine.
clearly a reasonable compromise from the palestinian point of view. and this meets with all my experienced conversation so far, they know they have to arrange themselves with israel. so far I didn’t hear any statement like: “as long as any jew will live on palestinan soil we’ll fight them” – which I was told would be hamas’ language/position. I doubt. strongly sympathetic to hamas subhi’s soul – and I would say the palestinian soul in general – is split: they have a anti-jewish and a anti-racist one.
“in haifa till 1948 we lived side by side with jewish neighbours… we haven’t had any serious troubles…, any jew can stay with us in our house and feel save, he can sleep side by side to my daughter in the same room and nothing will happen to him…” – but on the other side, I heard such comments like:”hitler wanted to protect his country from dominant jewish influence… if you see how the jewish settlers dress themselves, they look like apes and wild tribes…”
I made very clear that I do not share his view and that the problem is racism, the thinking any race would be superior to another one. hitler followed this propaganda and the jewish settlers / orthodox’ and the islamists pray it…
but even they are not free of racism it is a matter of fact: the palestinians are extremely hospitable and do not lock themselves up (like the settlers) – they are very much welcoming strangers and seem to respect our differences.
thursday, june 12
at work during our lunch I asked about yesterdays suicide attack in a public bus in jerusalem. not easy this one, but quite important to let them know, that someone like me, coming from europe in clear solidarity with their issue rejects such an attack as terrorism. one man got furious about my statement – he lost one son and a second one was severly injured by the israeli army and could just leave the hospital some days ago… hearts filled with hatred – fully understandable…, – and I wished I could ease and share their sorrow and pain…, but I insisted that all the suffering does not mean that methods like this are politically acceptable. I said I believe they are not leading to any positive result for their aims.
even it got a controvers debatte I had the feeling they very much respect me.
the workshop goes well, hard work – the shape / sceleton of the horse is to be seen.
we collected more metal rods – yesterday at the palestinian ground zero, the centre of the refugee camp, where the israeli army destroyed about 300 houses! samir, my assistant lost his house here, too!
today we got the okay from the palestinian red halfmoon (similar to the red cross) to integrate in the horse parts of the destroyed ambulance car in which a well-known local doctor got killed on emergency duty!
I hope we can carry on working in the next days, but I expect more difficulties (i.e. curfew, israeli army…) to come. the shooting (guess it is training) tonight was the most extended one I heard so far…
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 19:26:24 +0200
info no. 6
jenin june, 13
today is friday – that means the muslim holiday. no traffic on the streets – I sleep quite long, feel the need of it and that the work is more strenuous than I have felt in the last days.
hassan, my local scout just told me on the phone: yesterday evening here in the eastern part of jenin, not far from my flat, two palestinians were shot dead by israeli under-cover agents / secret service.
one of them has been an activist of the jihad islami group. the murder reminds me to the methods of latin american death squads. it must have happened at the same time when I was sitting in the internet cafe sending you my reports. we heard shootings and the guys who run the place closed the metal front doors and shutters…
I left the internet cafe through the backdoor at about 11.30 local time and heard shootings not far away. the streets were completely empty, gostly – obviously people knew that israeli military is in town.
lucky me, my house is next to the internet cafe, but the front door of my house was closed and I had to wait on the streets to get let in! the landlord does not want to give us (from the goethe institute ramallah) the key for the front door. may be because he does not know us. we were told he might be afraid that fighters could get access and use his house for an attack and that in return it would be destroyed by the israeli army… on the one side his wariness is understandable on the other it means I have to stand and wait allone in front of a house, bypassing cars can see me, I feel like in the limelight – quite naked and unsecure… imagine an army patrool would turn up! easy target!
I hear some twenty shots and can even see the fine bullet-lines of yellow sparks coming from the city going to the north (where a checkpoint is located?) through the dark sky. must have been somthing bigger than just a gun. I rung the bell, to get emad, my landlord to let me in, no respond. tried to call him on his mobile… already switched off… than I shouted – he was sitting on the roof top…(amazing view) and a minute later I happily was let in. puuh!
later on (in my flat) I heard a megaphone with political statements / propaganda driving through the streets. can’t understand the message. thought it would be about the israeli apache-rocket attacks in gaza, which happened the same day killing 18, injuring about 50 palestinans… now I do guess it was about the jenin murders an hour ago.
at midnight I listened to the german radio, “deutsche welle” with adjoining political comments. confusing news: they say hamas calls all foreigners to leave not only israel but also explicitly the palestinian territories!!
I think the news are not correct. does “deutsche welle” false such news? or do they just adopt the israeli version without any journalistic care? or what is going on? in the morning (today) I phone farid, the director of the goethe institute ramallah, he thinks that hamas calls foreigners only to leave israel and not the palestinian territories, to prevent them getting killed or injured (‘collateral damage’) in the announced terror attacks to come… you may have learnt that hamas called publicly for the first time all its militant members and cells to attack israel right now (as revenge for the attacks on dr. rantisi and the cities in gaza over the last two days).
as you may understand this news-“detail” is quite important to me. if hamas would call foreigners / me to leave the palestinian territories, I would feel less welcomed and less secure and my project and stay here in jenin would be called into question. I belief this is false information and it would fit the israeli policy of making us thinking that we are threatened by the palestinians. the israeli government issued a statement to foreigners to leave the occupied territories in the westbank and gaza as safety can not be guaranteed and as if saftey in israel could be guaranteed! none of this is true.
I am frightened to enter israel – and I am quite horrified about the days to come and what will happen there. from what I saw, of course hatred for israel and its policy is understandable, but to make this the driving force of their politics… leads to a desastrous strategy.
on the other side the israelis do not understand that we only feel threatened by their soldiers. when I entered jenin for the first time I was asked by the israeli soldier at the checkpoint, if I wasn’t scared to go there… of course they hardly can differentiate between themselves as threatened soldiers as part of an occupation force and the status of a welcomed guest.
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 22:17:20 +0200
jenin, june 16
the question if the hamas’ press release three days ago is calling the foreigners to leave not only israel but also the palestinian territories was not precisely to be found out and verify. some said they would not have said that, some said they did but “they would not mean it”(!)… but everybody made sure foreigners and I, we are still totally welcomed. this confirms without any doubt my feelings, but discussing such announcements politically it was necessary for me to let my palestinan partners know that I was upset about it and the confusion it produced.
the project goes well, but quite slow – it is still a lot to do and I hope we can complete the sculpture in time – scheduled: june 25… in 9 days!!
attitude towards work here is very relaxed, three hours work in the burning heat is enough for the participants of the workshop. so I have to do some extra shifts on my own, which is good and I still love the pysical challenge of the project.
our plan is to place / fix the horse first (june 25) on a cart or trailer and pull it for this day through jenin, joined by local riders on their horses…, traditional music groups, youths, palestinia flag and as many people as possible… don’t know if this will be possible… but we’ll try.
the following day we would like to install it in the very centre of the town – at a little site between the refugee campf and the town, opposite a provocative german war memorial from the first worldwar when the german luftwaffe fighted alongside the turkish against the british army here!! so may be we can put the horse as a statement against this sort of boring and offensive colonialistic remaints…
fingers crossed we get permission for that particular site.
sorry, too tired to write comprehensively. soon will come more.
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2003 22:01:29 +0200
jenin friday june 20
the idea to use destroyed and smashed materials in order to create our artwork was taken on by my jenin partners and friends. I shortly mentioned already in a previous info the murder of palestinian doctor hallil suliman.
last year his ambulance car from the red halfmoon while on emergency duty got attacked by israeli soldiers with a rocket granate (launched from the shoulder of a soldier, =stinger?). two other members of the medical service sitting in that ambulance when ambushed at the entrance to the refugee camp got severely injured in this incident. the israeli army declared the attack “justified” because the ambulance would not have stopped! yesterday we attached parts of the door of this very ambulance vehicle to the horse. the idea to do so came from people in jenin, (I neither knew of this assassination nor of the existence of the ambulance-wreck before).
before yesterday – in the afternoon for the first time I went on my own to the refugee camp. it is a difference walking on your own or together with local people friends especially in this part of the town. but shortly before I arrived at the camp I got a loud ‘hello tommaass’ from the other side of the street…. basim a municipatlity worker who joined my horse-workshop recognized me. asking me what I would be up to… I told him I wanna visit samir (my assistant and welder) at his restaurant… basim was with a friend. that friend, jamal got not only very helpfull as a translater – as he speaks fluently english – but (later on) it was very interesting to get to know him and his wonderfull familly…
I asked basim and jamal if they would like to join me to samir’s place… and they happily agreed. so off we went with two smart little kids (2 years and 5 months old) on our arms… that was brilliant. from now onwards I didn’t feel scared at all.
preparing the dough for the falafel it took samir completely by surprise when he saw me knocking at his door… he gave us a warm welcome and showed me his little restaurant, offering delicious houmous and falafel…
as I wanted to see the cemetry of the martyrs they arranged a car for us to get there. in jenin the killed fighters and civil victims are burried together but at a seperate cemetry. after leaving the camp it is just a three minutes ride. arriving at the “old” martyrs cemetry I see a totally smashed entrance gate and a smashed (but reassembled) memorial . defiled cemetries… until now I only knew that from germany and europe where such things are carried out by neo-nazis / fascists against jewish graves. here I had to learn that israeli soldiers did not hessitate to do the same thing with their tanks! how poor!
after a short prayer samir and jamal showed me round. they knew many of the burried and were able to tell the story of their death.
and than we went to the new (“current”) cemetry.
as jenin got one of the most heavily attacked towns of the westbank they had to open a second cemetry. the first had about 60, 70 graves and was used for about fifteen years. the new cemetry was opened just last year and had to take on already more than fifty graves!
after that jamal, who is a teacher at the elementary school but was imprisoned (without any trial) for some nine months and just got released two weeks ago, invited us for a tea to his fathers house. his father, ali, aged 81 workedfor three years in germany (1967-70) welcomed me in german “wie geht es ihnen?” (how are you)… jamal had already told about what happened to him last year: shouting at him “do you wanna die?”an israeli soldier shot from a distance of just one meter first in this right hand and than in his foot. I don’t know how they managed to save ali’s life as the ambulance was kept out of the refugee camp for eight days! the terrible wounds were clearly to be seen. jamal told that after this incident was reported (on tv?) the israeli army said ali’s story would be a lie and that his wounds were caused by an accident and had nothing to do with them. than they showed me round in their house which stands now in the “first row” – that means in front of jamal’s house is now a huge open field, cleared from the rubble… where until last year dense built houses stood.
most of you will know that the capture of the jenin refugee-camp by the israeli army saw one of the fiercest fighting/resistance during last years military operation “defensive shield”. as a revenge for their heavy losses about 300 palestinian houses got demolished by the israeli army. almost all houses in the camp were badly damaged. I tried to follow these news and saw a lot of footage on british tv. and now I am here in the middle of this hotspot.
we are in their living room, the front wall (towards the street) was completely smashed (already fixed again), an embroidery with a koran text sliced by a soldiers knife, almost all walls had big openings. during their seven days stay in the house they used it as a shooting range and embrasure (schiess scharte) for snipers. a graffity with the star of david and a text in hebrew “this is our land not yours” (jamal translated) is still to be seen in one of the bedrooms. bulletholes all over.
we got to the terrace on the roof-top and sweat tea with fresh leaves of pepermint were served. (everything sweat is very very sweat here, no land for sugar avoiders!!) the air cools down – the half moon arises at the horizont, if there wouldn’t be so many mosquitos… and if it wouldn’t be a war zone, it would be more than romantic. wonderfull place to be!
jamal told more about his life, the prison, (as far as I remember he was imprissoned for the third time!), the pain beeing bound to a wobbly chair for the first 4 weeks, not allowed to sleep but tried to get interrogated…
last year’s killing of his younger brother by the israeli army and the assassination of his colleague who got blown up in front of his own (seven, eight years old) pupils when he was walking out / leaving the school-yard…
I found jamal a very quiet and open minded man and I didn’t get the feeling he was exaggerating or telling false stories. heavy stuff!
in the end I got invited to sleep at samir’s house, his wife prepared a lovely bedroom (with adjoining shower and toilet) on the top floor – beautifull view into the valley towards afula/israel for me: it is the flat of samirs brother who is kept in prison since spring last year – accused of beeing a hamas student delegate at his university…
the next morning I got a lovely breakfast with fresh houmous, eggs, tomatoes and falafel… really delicious.
at 8 we started work at the horse – in a good mood, singing “habibi tommaass”, “habibi saamr” – (“I love you tomas, I love you samir…”). what a nice chap.
Subject: joy riding in jenin
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 22:29:51 +0200
final spurt for the horse and our workshop. it clearly takes shape. but I must admit it got rougher / coarser than planned. it almost seems to have a club-foot (klumpfuss). positive reading we developed a new race: an arab thorough-bred (arabischer vollblueter).
today we got permission from the major, to put and install it at our favorite site – a small traffic island opposite the german luftwaffe memorial.
the party / inauguration will be next sunday. if we finish it on thursday we might be able to pull it through the streets on friday afternoon or saturday? would be great! we have already found a trailer, which still has to be fixed (puncture? etc…) and we have to get the right car, strong enough to pull it and especially to slow / brake it!
a further technical problem might be, that here the electric cables are hanging so low across the streets… that one person might have to sit on the back of the horse (hic!) and lift the cables when passing them… oh oh, I think we have to provide a saddle – at least we have to find a rider who is not afraid to take on such a wild ride. (the streets here are in a very bad shape… so he has to have some abilities to stay firm on the back when diving through the potholes.) we’ll see. good news.
now, since two days, as the result of our labour is getting more visible I have the feeling the kids are easier to motivate. at least for some of them it was rather difficult to get connected to the thing. for them it is indeed quite a long period.
the beginning was exciting – quite easy – then a week or so preparations (cutting metal sheets from car bodies, bending the rods, welding the frame etc…) without getting a clear picture and idea how it will work – here may be some kids got a bit demotivated. just my impression.
the coordination and organisation of the labour partly was and still is difficult. the main reason: there are just not enough tools, machines etc… (one hammer for the whole municipality metal workshop, with about 10 employees) – and it is clear, if a lorry arrives there with a broken seat or bumper… it comes first – has to be fixed / welded… and often samir has to do this job and we can’t continue our stuff… sometimes it’s like fighting through the jungle. very very chaotic. but again and again I’m surprised that something comes out of it.
of course some of the kidz (from the camp) began asking for money – already the second day. what shall I do? the third or fourth day I can’t withstand anymore. but once you start giving some you press a certain button. like with the power of an avalanche it hammers down. showing me their poor shoes I decided ‘ok let’s go shopping’ together. two got new shoes (they looked for the best shop in town) two preferred to get money (little bit less than the price of a good pair of shoes). afterwards we went for a cocktail (soft!!) drink (no alc in jenin!!). in the tallest building in the town centre on the sixth floor is a nice pub/cafe – nice view, nice water-pipes.
music tv with western styled female singers attrack their attention. we speak about love. kissing having sex etc… for them “not a problem…” that I am unmarried but have sex with my girlfriend, for themselves… “this is not possible”. asked if they would like to have a girlfriend it was mixed.
some would like to have one – some just want to marry…
are they more inhibited or just different from us? hard to say. but life here is completely masculin dominated/ orientated. (we tried to get girls to the workshop – and planning the workshop they (from the youth centre) said ‘okay’, but unfortunately in the end not one girl came. have to find out the precise reason. of course it is due to the difficulties, but was it through the institution or the parents or the girls themselves that this didn’t happen?)
when invited into a house, normally women get signalled (from the husband, father…) to hide and stay away from me/us before we enter. but this is practised not through-out and not strictly… (to be more examined).
after our shopping excursion the mood of the kids seemed to be stired.
leaving the cafe they were angry with each other, shouting aggressively, I get doubts was it a good idea to do it?
in comparison with them: you may find the (14, 15 years old) kids from the town driving a nice air-conditioned (of course in israel stolen) audi 80 up and down the streets. compared to the london or birmingham kidz: the westbank, at least jenin is providing extended opportunities of joy-riding.
in my last report I told you about the graffity of an israeli soldier with the david star on the wall of jamal’s house. an israeli friend sent me the precise translation: “I don’t have another country, even if my land is burning…” – written by an occupying soldier in your house in the westbank… I can understand that palestinians may read / understand it as a hostile statement “this is our (jewish) land, not yours”, but obviously jamal’s translation was not exact.
Subject: no taxi to jenin
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 21:08:36 +0200
jenin, june 24
the news today: 160 men arrested in hebron and nablus, by israeli army.
in the bush “roadmap” it is one corner stone to release palestinian prisoners. israel says it is willing to follow the roadmap, releases some dozens of their five, six thousand detainees… which brings sharon and his government a big hug from bush. and the next day they fill the empty cells with new detainees. and of course they are all ‘terrorists’ because they are in their late teens or in their twenties, masculin, sportif and angry about their living conditions.
that is enough here to get imprisoned as a terrorist. no court, no juge has to be involved to arrest palestinian through israel – the army has the right to put you behind bars for half a year without any charge and if the time expired they can renew the term…
half a week ago israel announced they would stop their policy of “targetted killing”. before yesterday in hebron the local leader of hamas got killed with the same method like ten days ago two activists here in jenin.
a jenin ambulance officer told me how it went: under-cover agents with palestinan outfit and (car) number plates arrived in their car at the house, shot their targets without any warning and disappeared as fast as possible.
five minutes later a tank and army personel arrived on the spot, picked the one of men who was still alive up and brought him to the next army camp (to make sure his live will not be saved by the ambulance and may be he could be questioned). half an hour later the jenin ambulance got a phone-call from the army they could collect the dead body. it seems there was no attempt whatsover to arrest the men, who – as far as I was told – had no weapons when shot.
even the german “deutsche welle” reports in their news: the building of settlements in palestinian territories is continuing with fresh and accelerated efforts. all the posts which got cleared last week by the boarder police are re-established. to stop israeli settlements in the occupied territories is a corner stone, too of the ‘roadmap’.
so what? any american / european pressure on sharon and the israeli government to be seen?
but the main problem we learn from powell and other western politicians is the palestinian “terrorism”. it turns the facts from the bottom to the top.
the facts on the ground lead in the peoples heart to a bitter mood. rather fight than knuckle under. as I already made clear I don’t accept some of the methods of the palestinian struggle and I think they are politically devastating for their own sake. but beeing here I can understand clearer than ever the feelings and desperation of the people which lead to the readiness of a broad part of the society to take such extrem meassures.
today mr. mofaz, the israeli defense (better:war)-minister made clear that the palestinian side is discussing a truce / cease-fire is dangereous and not of any interest for israel as it would only lead to reorganisation and strenghening of the terror-groups.
I clearly think if the israeli government wants peace it has to make it with its enemy and the enemy are the militant groups of the palestinian national movement. nobody else. mahmoud abbas has no real power. but the militant groups – like them or not – seem to me are deeply rooted within the palestinian society. the steady announcements of sharon to destroy and crush them is an annoucment to crush the palestinian society as a whole.
in my workshop the kids have not only seen fierce fighting, with appache helicopters launching rockets at residential houses, tanks roaring through the streets, humiliating treatments at checkpoints etc. almost all of them have seen dead or even dying people. a father, brother, friend, uncle, neighbour etc. – dying of hostile army activities.
as a result of this “environment” most of them have nothing else in mind than to kill.
quite interesting to discover underneath a pritty rough behaviour an enormeous need for care. from some I get ten or more “hellos” and “tomass habibi” (‘I love you’)… a day. making fun but as well clearly to get back some attention and tender sign.
as you may know: the german aussenminister and former taxi-driver, joshka fischer currently tours the region: lebanon, syria, jordan and today egypt.
what a pitty I thought that he does not make the way to jenin to speak to some of his (former) colleagues. they have not just very nice taxis (see the attached photo), they might be more interesting partners to debatte (than the kings and dictators he visits) and to learn some of their lifes, feelings and their “roadmap” of palestine…
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 22:50:07 +0200
jenin june 27
yesterday was supposed to be the last day of work, but the kids decided not to work so we didn’t finish and I worked on my own throughout the day. quite exhausting. crazy project: welding in the blaze and sweltering heat. about 37,40 degree celcius in the shadow at midday. in the night our eyes water from the dazzling light – during work we loose body moisture, sweating all the time…
one ear, parts of the tail and stomach are still missing. but we have no more body parts from broken cars… and the endurance of the participants came to a limit. so may be we have to leave it like that. why not?
before most of the municipality worker leave at 2pm abu rami, the supervisor at the workshop get a tender treatment: afifi, one of the youngest colleagues shaves him in his little office, next to my horse.
at about five o’clock in the afternoon two israeli tanks and one armoured jeep thunder down the nablus street. the noise of the tanks is unbelievable loud. very impressive. they take position at a mainstreet junction some two hundred metres away from us. the jeep stops in the middle of nablus street between the townhall and the municipality workshop. the jeep slightely changes its position all five minutes.
children are running towards the tanks. without any fear! throwing stones.
young men seem to be more cautious. traffic almost as usual, only some truck-drivers when discovering the tanks leave the main road and try to avoid passing the tanks directly.
I take some photo’s. not without fear. after coming to the street and watching what’s going on the municipality workers and me get back into the workshop. after a while I start working again. I am fixing our last metal sheets to the tail of the horse, standing on our wobbly ladder… when at a sudden a round of about five, six bullets were fired into the workshop. very loud, very quick. klick klick, bling bling…rtrtrtrt… seem to be fired from very close distance. I can clearly hear that metal is hit. I come down the ladder. some workers hide in the backyard others – me too – take to the office of the workshop. we hear the jeep leaving. a minute later the tanks pass by, roaring again impressively loud. the presence of the army in front of us takes about twenty minutes.
in this situation the shots towards the municipality workshop were the only I could hear.
what exactly happened? after the israeli army had left the scene, I can see one palestinian gunman 150 metres away. if he has shot at the jeep we would have been – behind the target – clearly in the line of fire.
we try to find the bullet holes. we see some fresh marks at the ceiling and at a steel girder and at a wall next to the entrance. the shots at the ceiling and steel girder must have come from a lower point. the position of the palestinian gunman was ten, fifteen metres higher than our building.
impossible he shot directly through the windows into the ceiling from that position. ricochet (querschlaeger) of palestinian fire that hit the workshop? as I said: the noise was clearly from shots of close range. was the noise from responding fire of the soldiers in the jeep? or did we – the municipality workshop in jenin – get a warning message by the israeli soldiers. but why? is it my horse-project? (they certainly know about it – but I can’t believe they would consider it that important.) or is it just the fact someone from the workshop (me) took photos of the scene (they certainly saw that) and they were angry about that?
hard to say. hardly to find out I guess.
later on there is more heavy shooting to hear. seems to be real exchange of fire. we see smoke coming from a house some two hundred metres uphill. than the announcement from loudspeaker in the town, that an attack on a nearby settlement was ‘successfully’ carried out. one settler was announced dead and the unit got back safely.
the night after that was one with the heaviest fightings since I am here.
tanks hammering down the streets. (but they did never pass my house directly.) over hours, again and again shots of different calibre and from different dircetions… dogs barking. and then the muezzins at the mosque nearby. his taped prayer has got a terribly distorted voice. strange mixture.
today I got a very nice ride through the jenin area together with montaser.
a very very nice chap, with whom I got aquainted when he once proudly showed me his mother horse with its foal. just fifty metres away from the workshop where we build our “jenin-horse”.
we want to drive to quabatia, the next town – but the checkpoint on the road is busy. about 20 cars are queuing – nothing moves… once more we have to do a u-turn and go through the small stoney paths/roads through the field. the trees along our way turned grey from the dust… bizarre.
we arrive half an hour later in quabatie – visiting friends of montaser, having a nice and relaxed afternoon with very nice people. but again I almost see only men. even they study at the university and turn music of the backstreet boys…
at home my brain starts to work on how we’ll get out the horse through the entrance gate of the workshop. that will be the next step. big task? we definitely have to put it to the side! upright it is too high! don’t know how heavy it is. don’t know exactly how we’ll manage it. we fixed two hooks on its back. hope we get a crane… exciting!
Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2003 23:53:13 +0200
ramallah june 30
saturday june 28, the horse got finished. we built the ears and the tail.
in the afternoon a big lorry with an amazing crane was to come and get out the horse of the building… but despite hard efforts the truck didn’t fit into the entrance gate of the workshop. so we had to develope a totally new plan: to pull the beast somehow into the backyard, grap it with the crane and lift it (about ten meters) through the air to the next street uphill!
whow! could this be possible?
we put a big rope around its two front legs. fixed the rope to a car and pulled, and pushed… and helped easing its weight through lifting it…
what a ‘rude’ meassure. it groaned, got one more punch and groaned again…
in the end we got it moved up to the point where it can get picked up. the big moment for the crane. it spanned his arm spectacularly over half the backyard. we fixed two chaines to the hooks in the horse-back and – ‘burak-like’ off it flew… (the burak is the horse with wings. in the koran the prophet mohammad is said to fly into the paradise on the back of it…).
some ten metres higher it landed softly on our prepared trailer. a jeep had pulled the trailer up there.
with heavy bolts we fixed the horse onto the trailer.
now it is ready to go. intriguing what will happen tomorrow?
sunday, june 29
we meet at 10 in front of the municipality workshop. when we arrive the horse has already received a proper wash with a high pressure cleaner – the colours now look definitely brighter, great!
an abulance car, ‘real’ horses and riders appear, to lead our procession which is now due to start.
everybody is in a good mood, the kids, the municipality workers, the horse-keepers / riders, farid from the goethe institute, hasan my local scout and translater and last but not least samir, my wonderfull assistant who had still a lot to organise…
we fix the trailer to a jeep from the municipality and start slowly to pull out onto the street. of course not without causing traffic chaos.
traffic-jam in jenin! everybody is pressing his horn, nice concert, a mixture of celebrating the extraordinary appearance of such a huge beast…
and emphasizing the need and wish to get through and to move…
I start filming with my video camera, the kids are cheering and kidding all along. they take to the trailer holding on to the horse and creating sort of a nice frame for it.
after about 15 minutes we pass the site where the horse is to be installed and where municipality workers had already carefully prepared deep concrete foundations. we take the street towards the refugee-camp.
asked if I would be happy I said yes, I just miss the palestinian flags…
we discussed that beforehand, don’t know why they are missing. forgotten?
even after I mentioned it they are not to get hold of.
some more 15 minutes in the procession we pass the ambulance station where hallil suliman used to work as emergency doctor when he was killed (and two or three colleagues got seriously injured in that attack). we stop here for a short prayer. everybody – even the loudest kids – keep silent for a moment.
getting closer to the camp more and more children join our bandwagon, cheering and shouting louder and louder their intifada slogans. the street are getting narrower and more sandy and dusty. we literally walk in a dust cloud with about fifty or more excited celebrating kids. shortly before we arrive “ground zero”, the centre of the camp where 250 houses got destroyed by israeli bulldozers and tanks… the clutch of the jeep packs up – just in front of an old partly destroyed building, the former jenin railway station (I think built by the otomans or was it by the british?)
we have to wait, until the engine of our jeep cools down. not an easy one here in the desert-like blaze. I thought we need another traction engine may be a tractor, but astonishingly after again 15-20 minutes we can restart and move again.
each time when power cables are hanging low we come to a brief standstill, looking for a broom or even longer wooden slat. to lift them over the ears… all obstacles are getting removed one after the other. great. we arrive at ground zero… where new building work is just about to begin. the foundations of at least two houses are already laid.
we want to turn the bandwagon but first the kids have to come down of the trailer… otherwise it’s too heavy for the pulling jeep. its clutch is still to be smelled badly…
our next aim is the cemetry of the martyrs and victims of the conflict. we pass a massive eucalyptus tree – totally bullet riddled… nature suffers from the conflict, too. once we arrive and the horse stands still at a sudden the kids are running to the graves. most of them seem to look out for those graves of their loved one’s. a short prayer again and off they ran back again to get a good place/position on the trailer.
we take the way back and arrive at about midday at the site opposite the german war memorial from worldwar I. red ribbon is brought and bound around the legs… the deputy major arrives at the scene. after a warm hello and short conversation he cuts through the line. handshake, pressphoto… thank you, tomass…
I briefly answer the thanks and express my wish that the horse may get well received and beloved in his town and that one day it might be walking or gallopping in a free palestine without roadblocks and checkpoints and soldiers…
samir starts to prepare for the “last lift”: from the trailer to its final position. we wait for the big truck with its massive crane. but instead a small car arrives at the scene. angry men get out starting arguing and shouting at us who are standing around the horse. I don’t understand what they are saying but obviously there is a problem. at least one of them pulled his gun and shot at the horse. some try to calm him down and to talk to him but he keeps on beeing furious, firing one more shot at the horse and some more in the air. signalling the horse (and we) should leave immediately. some of my kids take it as an order, get in the jeep and drive away with the horse!
the gunmen leave too. everybody seems to feel dazed and confused if not shocked.
friendly fire in jenin!
from one minute to the other the wonderful atmosphere with a mixture of celebrating, demonstrating, comemorating and having fun was blown away.
what is the problem?
as I saw the film “jenin jenin” (an interesting documentary about last year’s military operation and resistance in jenin) I recognized one man, who gave an interview in this film. obviously no one else but the leader of the al aqsa brigade of jenin payed so much respect and attention to this artwork to give us his visit and such memorable performance….
why? the exact reason is not clear to me. but it seems it has nothing to do with the project itself. may be they were upset not having been invited to the celebration? may be it has to do with tensions between the town and the camp?
anyway. the fact they didn’t want to talk to us but shot at the work and expelled it instead… casts some light on the situation here. the process of critical dispute and learning to clearify a controversy through arguments rather than force seems to be underdeveloped. it looks like the war situation makes everybody rougher and at the same time more vulnerable.
we meet at the townhall for some speeches and a dinner. there the atmosphere is pretty tense and depressed. when I start my speech on the podium the first two, three minutes… I realize I have to struggle with tears. the horse, my baby received four bullets, is wounded. it had to flee to escape further more attacks… I now feel it makes me really sad. but I manage to make my speech.
during the dinner a rather sombre mood is laying above all. samir, my assistant is completely shattered and upset. I try to ease his frustration.
not simple to achieve.
after the dinner we go to the horse to check the damage – I discover the entries and exits of the shots, two of which would have to hit the parts of hallil sulimans ambulance! that is really tragic.
we learn in the meanwhile the big quarrel between the militants and the municipality is about the site, where to install the horse. the fighters want to put it in the refugee-camp rather in the town… (as we planned).
we just go for a coffee – when all of a sudden and completely surprisingly these guys turn up again to say “sorry” about their bad behaviour…! they seem to be pretty nervous and left immediately as appache helicopters in the sky above us are clearly to be seen and heard.
next morning we get up at six to leave for ramallah. meeting there with the major. my feeling: I must and want to come back to jenin to accompany the process of finally installing and fixing the horse. don’t know what the municipality decided so far.
all the best so far,
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 19:20:52 +0200
ramallah, july 8
it’s quite a while that I wrote my last account. I might have become a bit confused mainly about two things.
1. the jenin horse is still not installed. that means the project is not completed.
2. the major of ramallah does not approve my proposal.
firstly to the latter:
2. the “shade giver” / umbrella, my ramallah project is not going to get realized. we had at least three meetings with the major. he objects this proposal because in the town centre he wants to get rid of the many young
man (shebab’s) who are hanging out there and my work invites them and everybody to stay for a while and have a breather.
unfortunatelly the objections of the major do not match with my vision of an open society. I made clear the problem are not the men / shebab’s but the fact they are (due to the political conflict) unemployed in large numbers.
instead of that I now try to help artists from the “young artist forum, ramallah” to develop their own public art-project. since a week I assist them. their plan is to build a big bird from metal scrap, technically similar to the jenin-horse.
they are going to start building and welding it in the next days.
to no 1.
after my horse in jenin got shot and had to flee to safety the situation there changed to the contrary: everybody wants the horse in his area. the
jihad islami group wants it somewhere in east jenin and the al-aksa martyr’s brigade wants it in the refugee camp (which is west of jenin)…
this is a bit strange to me, as these groups had nothing to do with actually carrying out the project, so how can they claim the horse now? seems to be a “macht-spiel”, to exercise their power and authority.
on the one side I don’t like this attitude – on the other side for me as an artist it is interesting and quite a success that my work draws so much attention. it touchs almost all sections of the society of the town: people of the refugee camp were involved, kids from really poor famillies to privileged one’s (including the son of the major) took part in the workshop,
municipality workers (very much proletarian, working-class people), employees of the jenin administration, the deputy major, the palestinian committee of the red crescent, ambulance workers and emergency doctors, horse owners and riders, the local youth centres and last but not least the militant groups involved themselves… and the debate where to put the horse is still on. if art’s function is to provoke and develop an “auseinandersetzung” / argument / debate – here it happened.
it took me a while to realize that the fact that the horse is still not fixed to the ground but waiting on the trailer may provide a positive chance to develop the project even further. since a few days I was coming back to my very first idea of a westbank-art-project which was to move the horse through this so called ‘holy’ land.
a roadmap to the next roadblock or a roadmap to freedom?
at a time when bush and europe… talk about a “roadmap to peace”… I would like to test and challenge that “roadmap” and see what substance it provides.
as far as I can see this land is still scarred with all the same army checkpoints and roadblocks as before to make the palestinians stop travelling their country. as long as this does not change in its substance I am afraid there is no real thing you can call “peace”. peace of course would include: freedom. freedom to move as a minimum.
in a way it is a simple question: can we bring an art-work from jenin to ramallah (some 50 km) to put it on show there or not? the question as simple as it is, to me and my friends it is exciting and really intriguing.
thinking of this step my heart beat quickens… will it be dangereous? how do the soldiers react, when we approach the checkpoints? do we get through or have we to return?… will we meet any agressive settlers on our
way…??? many questions – only the practise will answer them.
woallla’ – let’s roll. starts saturday. tom kay, british architect teaching currently at bir-zeit university and a friend of mine, decided to join me.
wonderful. maxim, a YPA (young palestinan artist) wants to join, too.
tomorrow: east-jerusalem. will give a talk (about my work…) at the ma’mal foundation / jack persikians gallery.
thursday: taxi to jenin – friday preparations for the procession (have to take a driving lesson with the tractor and its trailer in case I have to do a u-turn that I am able to drive backwards… guess: not easy if you are not familiar with it…)
saturday hopefully start to move the horse…!
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 22:36:32 +0200
info no 13 [no. 14] ramallah july 17
this time you’ll get just images of our horse-ride through the westbank.
simply had not the time to write, will do it later. it was tremendous.
we were happy to arrive in ramallah and two days later back to jenin. it was a great experience for all of us – but this is not a ‘positive approval’ of bush’s so called “roadmap to peace” – the hindrances/obstacles on the way were to enormous. in total we had to pass and cope with 17 checkpoints and controls! as you may confirm this is not a free way to travel!
jumping over all these obstacles… I think the horse did a great job.
I want to thank all participants helping me realizing this project.
samer my assistant, naser our tractor driver (both from jenin), tom and addah kay from ramallah/london (many of the fotos are from tom), peter and maeggi from canada, amira haas from ramallah, farid majari, director of the goethe institute ramallah, and last not least the youngsters themselves – omar, mohammad, mezer, hany, kahled, rasim, rimah, hasan, shaedi, ibrahim and and and…
tomorrow I have to go back to berlin. I had one of my most intense times of my life.
whoever might sympathise with the idea: come and visit the palestinian territories. you will never forget.
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 00:10:22 +0200
on thursday 10th of july tom kay and I travel from ramallah to jenin to prepare our horse ride.
we arrive in jenin at about 1pm and go straight away to the town hall to talk to salahadin from jenin administration. over the last days salah arranged to get us a tractor for our trip (to pull the horse). he calls the owner of the tractor to meet with us in the evening. brilliant!
he phones ziad from the qattan foundation about the matter of insurance.
what if the tractor or the trailer or the horse gets damaged or destroyed etc… who covers any costs of fixing it? not an easy one this – may be we have to close our eyes about that and hope that we have just a bit of good luck.
tom and me go to the steed, examining what needs to be done before we can leave. the hoofs have to be closed again, screws tightened and a rope attached at the horse’s neck to fix it properly to the cart.
on the way to the town centre we pass my friend montaser’s workshop. he, his brother, father and some friends sitting infront of their blacksmith-workshop. we get a friendly ‘hello’ and invite for a drink but we explain we have to go to buy some bits and stuff. really helpful and unselfish he takes us in his little fiat to the shops. we buy screws, screw-driver, rope, gloves, pliers etc…
he then brings us to samer’s house in the refugee camp! what a nice chap, superb!
after a little siesta at samer’s place tom and I go for a stroll to ground zero and through the camp. I take some photos and do filming. suddenly we bump into zakariya the commander of the fatah al aqsa brigades in the northern westbank. this time no appache helicopter is in the air… and he is very relaxed. we sit down and begin to discuss. about the horse-project, their intervention, the proposed place to install it and a bit about the political situation and the difference between legitimate resistance and terrorism. interesting but difficult. unfortunately we don’t have a good translator who can speak arabic and english fluently.
in the evening we meet naser the owner of the tractor and arrange to meet for a “test-drive” the next day, friday afternoon. afterwards I take salah and tom out for a wonderful cocktail freshly mixed from several fruits at mahmouds bar. coming home to samer we
sit on the terrace enjoying a sweet watermelon (bati’ich) and smoking a lovely waterpipe (n’argila). as samer’s wife and children are at her parents house in a nearby village we, samer, tom and I go to bed all together in his living room. it reminds me of my early years in the eightees when we lived together commune-like with functional but private rooms.
friday we fix the horse and prepare it for the tours. in the afternoon naser comes with his tractor and I do a short test-drive. although I feel able to do the job naser is not happy about my driving abilities and clearly hesitates to give me his tractor. so I ask him what might be better for him. “would you prefer to drive it yourself? could you join us?” surprisingly naser agrees to do so. wow! that is even better for me and us – we not just have a tractor but a driver, too. and what a smart one. it is a real pleasure to look at him. deep furrows draw striking lines over his cheeks – sparkling but gentle eyes seem to reveal his cleverness. really love him.
in the late afternoon montaser takes tom and me to a local spectacle: horse racing. about 20 horses and riders meet on a field pritty close to the centre of jenin. some horses are amazingly fast leaving huge clouds of dust behind them with very talented riders: riding without a saddle! in the evening we get a delicious dinner with montaser’s familly on their terrace. his sister is a lovely cook. she works at the hospital as a nurse and speaks fluently english – unfortunately she didn’t join the dinner and stayed with the other female members of the familly in a seperate room.
we just finished the dinner when two of “my” youngsters who worked on the horse – kahled and rimah – turn up, “we want to come with you and the horse to ramallah…” – so far I informed as many participants as possible about my intentions. now it is the first time that two of them clearly express they are determined to join. my palestinian friends and tom kay, who lives in ramallah since 1 1/2 years are very much concerned about that development. “they will get sent back if not arrested…”. we slipped into an intense and partly controversial debate whether it is responsible to take the youngsters with us or not… and I clearly felt: I only can let them know what might happen and if they are still prepared to take the risk I can’t keep them out and say “no, you can’t join me you must stay in jenin…”. they helped me building the beast – so of course they may join it on a journey through their country. their country they almost can’t travel! and what happens if we get stopped or the kids sent back or arrested? my attitude is we have to be aware there might be danger and we have to sort out the concrete problems step by step once they occured.
next morning we finish preparations, collecting a big branch and a provisonal ladder to lift any potentially low hanging power cables or other obstacles across the streets… a municipality worker tells me I have to get a permission in writing to take the horse out “for my ride”… and I try to get samer, my assistant and welder freed from work and on board. so I spend quite a time in the offices of the townhall.
everything seems to be ready for take off… what about the youngsters? how did they decide? there come five of them, not only kahled and rimah but also rasim, ibrahim and hasan. all of them from the refugee camp. I call one of their daddy’s to get a feed back that this is ok with him. I hear in the worst quality of mobile-phone-reception you can imagine a chopped “yes, it is ok.” but I must send hasan back. I feel sorry, but he is younger than the others and joined the workshop (inofficially) half way because his brother kahled participated.
amira haas, a brave israeli journalist who lives within the palestinian territorries for the last 4 years, tom and his wife adah (from london), who live in ramallah and maeggi with her husband peter from the states came to join the bandwagon, too.
I look out for them to inform them that I want to start right now, but I stumble straight into a political discussion in a small office. here I get confronted with some palestinian statements praising germany and its governmental policy. I have to contradict and insist “I don’t feel german, I am just born in germany” – not only our past (two world-wars, the nazi-fascism, the holocaust…) but also the presence is politically devastating (closing the borders for refugees, racism, occupation forces in afghanistan, tanks in kuwait, soldiers on the balkans, may be soon in iraq, too etc…) anybody who thinks this is positive? nobody… nevertheless most of them still think I should feel positive about my country/nationality. but one representative from the refugee camp, jamal he understands and explains it to the others.
at long last we start at 11.30 am. we take nablus street to the south. soon,
after ten minutes the first checkpoint is to be seen. two massive tanks positioned in a 90 degree angle to eachother block the road. I collect all our passports and ID’s and present them to the soldier in charge. “what’s that?” “well, it is an art-project we carried out together over the last weeks… and we are going to put it on show in ramallah…” my letter from the goethe institute confirms that. he takes a look inside the horse’s belly not without a smile. his mood seems to be something between beeing amused and irritated. his colleague next to him approaches the youngsters on the trailer rather provocative: he gives rimah a ‘soft’ slap and asks him in arabic “how are you (ki fa’la)?”. rimah stays calm. he doesn’t take on the provo. the charme of the horse seems to work: after a short while we can pass. great! we are now in a very good mood!
we move quite slowly. the steed squeaks and groans because of the bumpy road strewn with hundreds of potholes. we pass some quarries with many stone hewers, fields with farmers to harvest the vegetables and fruits…, in quabatiya, the first town after jenin, we cross the new vegetable market and later we pass all these cafes with so many men sitting in front of them.
once the horse is discovered they all look happily surprised if not stunned but clearly amused. their twisting hand signals the simple question “what is this about?” and the youngsters shouted hundreds of times “we are from jenin-camp, we are going to ramallah…”
because of the traffic in the town we come to a standstill, what makes it even more exciting and the four rush into their slogans, tremendously quick.
this could be the new beat of arab rap-music. the horse breed – an arab thorough-breed with thick legs – is new, why not creating a new trend in arab music, too?
the project – the moving horse – now has pritty much the character of a little popular festival – so may be I achieved a work of real (palestinian) pop-art.
after qabatyia fields again, olive trees, rocky mountains and dust. the horse provides enough shadow and the deserted country-side the adequate quietness for us to have a little breather. but only twenty minutes. and we arrive again a polulated area. the first houses of zebab’da and if I get it right we are forced to stop by an electrical line across the road right in the centre next to the place where all the yellow cabies are waiting for their passengers… one of the most vibrant and colourful places in palestinian towns. kahled gets the big branch, ibrahim climbs on the tractor and lifts with kahleds help the cable. naser moves carefully and slowly until the ears have passed. the excitment with joyful cheering, some political slogans, reachs a new peak. arab carnival. wounderful. as if the actual topograghy of this area is made for us. vibrant towns and deserted fields take turns with a perfect wave-like rhythm. so we don’t get exhausted too quick…
following this rhythm we have once more the ‘calmness’ of the country-side (apparently calm as the next tank or sniper can be around the corner, behind the trees or on the next hill-top), large fields mainly with olive-trees.
burning heat. the street is glimmering.
next little town is aqqaba. we pass a completely destroyed large building right in the centre of the town, I guess it was the local building of the palestinian authority. perfectly flattened. blowing up – a job the israeli army certainly masters. nonetheless again a noisy welcome, cheering and waving our hands to the local people in the street and vice versa theirs to us.
fields again, trees – some lovely, colourful birds I have never seen…
before we are descending the hill we have a great view into the plain area with the beautiful town of tubas. I get down from the bandwagon to take some video shots with the horse moving smoothly through the fields and approaching the town. to catch up again with the others I try to get a lift – and even he is (downhill) pritty fast one driver stops to pick me up. “do you know a good place in tubas to get a shawarma-sandwich…”. “no problem, I’ll take you there”. we pass the trek and tell them to join his car for our lunch. tubas main street, about 2pm: 13 sandwichs are to be ordered and freshly prepared. everybody is more than hungry and happy about the break.
we know the next checkpoint is soon due to come. it will be a crucial – may be the most difficult one and we have to be fit.
an hour later we start again. soon we are in the middle of vast fields, but now the landscape narrows, after passing the small town al far’a camp we are heading down a little valley, palm trees, water at the bottom – the four almost get flipped out about the water. here where it would be going to be really romantic we have to pass a smelly, smoky waste-land right above the brook… no other place to throw the rubbish?
the valley gradually widens, here we pass more and more bedouin tents, shepherds guarding their flocks, mainly sheep and goats, few cows. only alongside the river green banks and fields are drawing a relatively thin line of prosper agriculture. the vast majority of the land looks pritty dry.
the wind towards us, coming up the valley turns hotter and hotter – almost desert-like. we are just 10 km away from the jordan valley, the lowest area on earth. about 200 meter below sea-level. as if you can feel the glowing of the earth’s core.
hamra checkpoint. we arrive at about 4pm. already some twenty cars waiting in a queue. we estimate half an hour to wait before we get checked. but just five cars get controled, two of them get turned away. loaded with newly manufactured furnitures, (which are only partly covered with plastic sheets, torn up to loose pieces due to heavy air stream…) they are ordered to go back! must be a pain in the arse. and not a good sign for ourselves either.
if the soldiers are not relaxed (‘generous’?) with others why should they be so with us…? and then nothing goes. no car can pass at all for more than one hour. peter – how great, he manages to bring an entire box of apples. refreshing and delicious luxury! everybody grabs at least one if not more.
at 5pm new soldiers arrive. seems to be a change of shift. but they wait until 6.20 when they start further security checks.
2 1/2 hours after the arrival at hamra it’s our turn. the horse moves between the concrete roadblocks and the muzzles of about half a dozen uzi’s and other automatic weapons. the soldier’s faces tell again some positive feelings. surprise and amusement. the force of the horse’s charme. I pass on our ID’s to the soldiers.
in a parallel control an officer of the israeli police (they appeared half an hour ago at the checkpoint with their blue landrover) checks the details of naser, the tractor driver. driving license, tractor insurance etc… after five minutes he seems to be satisfied. naser gets back his certificates, no objections from police’s side to proceed.
but the commanding soldier stays firm, he says he requires a special permit from the CLO (the army’s coordination and liaison office). “if you haven’t got that permit to pass, we can’t let you go. why haven’t you got a permission from the CLO?” I don’t want to tell him, that this was part of my decission, not to apply and not to show too much acceptance of their authority in advance. (the westbank is simply not their land. they are occupying other peoples country…) instead I let him know “it was a relatively spontaneous decission to do the journey, we had not the time to apply…” – so he urges me to call the CLO in jericho.
I dial the number I am given and explain the case to the officer but somehow we get stuck with our communication. the commanding soldier of the checkpoint now takes my mobile phone and explains the situation again, now in hebrew. amira stands next to me, following and translating his conversation. it appears to happen a miracle, the CLO-officer tells his colleague he just issued a permission for our treck to pass!
wow! we get the okay to move on! how come? still excited I call farid, the director of the goethe institute in ramallah. this is rather unexpected.
I learn from farid, that he has sent a fax to the army (CLO?) to inform them about this trek and art-project. did I know about it? can’t remember.
anyway, farid means it would be the first time this would have any impact.
so it is something in between – not a proper application and not a proper lack of cooperation but an information so they may still feel respected enough…
after hamra the streets are going to be at least two classes better, here many israeli cars are underway – foremost settlers. if they get aware of the horse their reaction is so different from the palestinians. not one smile. just motionless severe and cold looking. why this? don’t know.
7pm – we have now a very nice warm light – the sun sinks more and more down and this brings us a nice fellower, everytime we pass one of the embankments or a little hill a second horse appears to be with us. looks great even it is just for some seconds.
between gittit and ma’aleh efrayim settlement comes another checkpoint, just 10 km after hamra. the commander seems to be very young, he – in contrast to his colleagues – has a fairly nasty approach. (we could see that he checked the lorry in front of us up and down and again and again – which didn’t make any sense but to provoke problems. at least we had to wait for more than half an hour…) but with amira’s help talking in hebrew to him he can get persuaded to call the CLO and receive authorization to let us pass. once more.
after this roadblock we gradually climb the mountain and the air is getting fresh. from about zero up to 800-900 metres above sea-level. I have just a blanket (give it to rasim) and my jacket which I pass on to ibrahim who widely loses himself in it. but it looks good, really cute.
the last hurdle (or is it a corral for our horse) to be taken seems now the time, as qalandia, the “normal” checkpoint to enter ramallah closes at 9 pm.
imagine! nine o’clock last entrance into your town! even in the middle ages towns were longer open!
naser shows his tractor the whip, we almost fly up the hills. but we clearly can not match this time-table – at 9.30 we have still some 10 kilometres to go. we are definitely too late for qalandia.
there is only one chance: to call farid from the goethe and get through the diplomats and VIP checkpoint of bet el with his help. I call him and he happily agrees to come and help.
we arrive just in time before this checkpoint closes (at 10pm), too. no lights, pitchdark, rather ghostly this roadblock… a soldier sends us a flashlight-signal to approach the actual control. farid did already speak to the officers, so it goes smoothly. they check us and the horse (inside and outside) but passing the diplomats entrance without problems means we and our horse are treated statesmanlike…
shortly after 10pm we enter ramallah and once again an enthusiastic partly effervescent “hi and hello” is echoeing in the streets. proudly as if a dream comes true the four let everybody know “we are coming from jenin, from the jenin camp!” we circle twice the round shaped central square of al manara, the horns sound and get mixed with clapping, cheering and shouting with cracking voices…
we park the bandwagon at the municipality workshop 10 minutes away from the centre and meet at tom and adah kay’s house. we try to plan the next day, but soon feel too tired – dead tired in fact. at midnight rimah, ibrahim and I arrive at my flat. we prepare our beds, I take a shower – coming out of the bath the kids are gone, my door stands wide open… I call them, the only response I get is the hiss of a nearby cat.
soon more to come
ps: the link to amira haas’s article in the israeli newspaper ha’aretz is: