Image & Identity

 Through their eyes; Children’s lives in Palestine

 

What is childhood like in Palestine? This project follows Palestinian children ages 10 – 13 as they show us their struggle for childhood and their hopes for a safe, secure future. 

The Big Picture

AyamPalestinians can always be found on the streets of their neighborhoods. Starting in the early morning hours, the roads come alive with commerce. Yellow taxis rush through the village picking up hopeful students and satisfied employees — women in skinny jeans and women in abayas, men in slacks and men in suits, boys with gel topped buzz cuts and acid wash jeans, girls with long braids and striped school uniforms — driving and busing to school, to work, to doctors, markets and coffee shops.

The early afternoon is quiet. An occasional splash of water hits the streets as a home or shop is cleaned, a baby cries for their mother, a young man lights a cigarette on the empty street. It is as if Palestine is holding it’s breathe, soaking up a brief quiet before the ruckus arrives.

The clock strikes 3 and suddenly, Palestine leaps forward with youthful energy — children rushing from the confines of their schools onto the streets. Within moments, every neighborhood is transformed. The peep of a bird cannot be found among the laughter and shouting of Palestine’s youth. Young and old youth alike push their way into cheery neighborhood convenience stores stocked with candies and chips for their after school snacks. Large oil vats are lit and begin to bubble turning out neatly packed balls of falafel for hungry kids pinching pennies. It suddenly becomes clear, who is really running Palestine — the kids. 

Children make up nearly half the population of Palestine.

Losing Childhood

What is it like to raise children in Palestine? What kind of childhood can you provide for your children? Manal used to be a typical Palestinian mother. She grew up in a tiny village outside of Ramallah, married in her early twenties and had four children. When I met her, her eldest was 12, her youngest just four years old. This is a piece of her story. 

“By showing only violence, it shows the world that we are a kind of terrorist here… that all we do is violent actions and that this is how we resist,” she said. “But there are many forms our resistance takes — even childhood is resistance.”

Through Their Eyes

For decades, most of the images of Palestine were been created by journalists. Some of the most popular images are of young men, in bandanas and with masks, slingshotting stones or burning tires. Even though the majority of people practice non-violence most of the photographs that end up in the news showcase violence. 

In 2011, when I met Manal Tamimi, citizen journalism had not yet taken off in Palestine. Most people did not have cameras or phones with cameras and children had almost no access to image making. Manal and other Palestinians were struggling to get their message of non-violent struggle to the United States and Europe. 

In an effort to empower the children and give international audiences a broader view of Palestine, I developed Image and Identity, a photo project based on children’s views of Palestine life and identity. Over the course of three years, sixty children in West Bank villages showed us their lives under Israeli occupation. Under the direction of local Palestinian artists, children documented their struggle for childhood. These are their images and their stories. 

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Military Everywhere

A Wall Surrounding Us

Second Class Citizens

International Presence

The children’s photographs and short videos have been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally and utilized for international advocacy materials — some of which reached the Australian Parliament and White House. 

Produced by Alison Ramer; videos by Issa Freij, Alison Ramer, Pietro Bellorini, Bahar Ghoisha, Reem Salem, Dana Fahoum; graphic design by Issa Freij, Stephen Jeter, Alison Ramer; web design and development by Alison Ramer; additional thanks to Manal Tamimi, Bilal Tamimi, Brian Duss, Alexandra Saieh.