view-from-jala-rest-imagine you are a waiter in a restaurant which overlooks beautiful hills of your homeland.  you are thankful to have this job, but you are surprised that you find yourself struggling with some emotional issues as a result of this good job.  you live in a refugee camp which is very very poor.  many services in the camp are not functioning. there are often water shortages which result in failure of the sewer system.  in certain parts of the village the stench is unbearable.  there is no waste disposal service so waste piles high in and around the dumpsters just down the street from your home.  you and your parents came to this refugee camp after your house was bulldozed so that the people of the neighboring state could build new houses in place of those which belonged to your family and friends.  ten years ago you and your parents left your home village to live in a refugee camp.  

two months ago you began work as a waiter in a restaurant which grows its own organic vegetables.  the restaurant is especially popular with tourists who visit your homeland.  the tourists seem happy as they sit on the back porch overlooking the gardens below on the steep hill. they order big meals and drink beer as they watch the sun go down over the gorgeous horizon.  they are dressed in fine clothes, wear nice walking shoes, and carry bags made with very sturdy materials.  

you overhear the visitors talking about the beauty and also the ugliness of your homeland.  the visitors love the landscape and speak with disgust the soldiers who kicked you and your family from their homes.

one day you see a woman come to the restaurant by herself.  she smiles and is very appreciative of your service. she say it is her birthday.  in order to celebrate her birthday, she says she will make a watercolor painting of the wonderful view.  you long to talk with her, to learn more about her land.  you sense she longs to talk with you.  but you live worlds apart.  the divide is too wide to cross in one evening's discussion around a painting.  

you like the few glimpses of the painting you see before nightfall.

Palestine--Israeli-Apartheid-Wall-at-Aida-Refugee-Campimagine you are a child walking to school in the morning from the refugee camp in which you live. each day you walk next to a huge concrete wall which leads to a tower at the corner of the street on which you live.  you are told that soldiers sit in the top of the tower and look out its windows.  you are told that the men in the towers don't like you because you are of a race and religion different from them. you don't understand why they don't like you and don't trust your relatives.  you are told that the men in the tower look similar to the soldiers in the streets who walk around carrying guns.  you have seen some of those soldiers take five of your relatives--including your cousin who is your same age--out of their houses in the middle of the night.  you miss your relatives and wonder when they will come home from jail.

Palestine-Wildlife-Refuge-Being-Starved-of-Waterimagine you are a biology student who is excited to go out with your biology professor to a nature preserve to collect rare insects and plant species.  as your professor drives into the area which he visited just one year before, he tells you there used to be a thriving stream near the dirt road. all you can see out the window of the car is a trickle of water.  the reason there is so much less water now as opposed to one year ago is that settlements have been built just above this nature preserve.  you see one of the pipes which brings water to one of the settlements. when you get out of the car you see algae in the stream and a few small fish.  you walk into the bush with your professor to find good specimens.  an international visitor accompanies you all into this wild place.  she is happy to make a beautiful watercolor painting of this beautiful place.  she tells you she will tell others in her country about the injustice of the settlement construction.  she tells you she has attended protested against the settlements alongside your professor.  you tell the international that you don't believe in the protesting.  you say it is useless and just a good way to get into jail.  you say that you are working as hard as you can to get into a good graduate school program to help preserve the natural wonders of your land.  you say you cannot understand why all the protesting which is just a waste of time that could be used to organize and build a natural history museum in your country.


Battir-Village-Terracesimagine you live in a beautiful village which has unique terraces and water canals dating back to the days of the roman empire (which once extended into your village).   your neighbors still farm on those terraces.  your village has been designated "area C", which means much of the farmland of your family has already been annexed by the state next to you which claims it deserves to use your land more than you deserve it.  

you are told that a huge wall is going to be built right through all the ancient terraces of your village.  in order to build the wall, many trucks and bulldozers will come through the village and destroy plants, trees and the precious terraces.
you are told this destruction of your village can be prevented if your village earns a designation as a UN World Heritage site.  you and your friends scrape some money together, get a camera, and make a youtube video about your village in hopes you will raise more international awareness about the fate your village faces.


042old monastery, painted from inside a cave.

imagine you are a young man working as a tourist guide in your homeland. in your younger, more reckless days you attended demonstrations on behalf of the basic human rights of your people, whose homes were regularly being taken away. your friends, neighbors and fellow activists were regularly being jailed--and sometimes killed--if they spoke up for human rights.  you yourself were jailed several times for participating in non-violent actions.  you cringe as your remember you were tortured in jail.  you are older now. you are married and have several children. your children are now starting to have children.  you need a steady source of income to help all the members of your family survive in the very tough economic climate of your country.  you have found that taking people on hiking trips to some of the most beautiful places you know and love can be a good source of income. 

one of the destinations you take people is a very old monastery about 10 miles outside of the city where you live.  after you arrive at the parking lot above the monastery, you tell the tourists that the monastery was build in the fifth century and yet is still in use.  monks used to come here to practice strict self-deprivation by living in the caves that line the cliffs near the monastery.  you describe the whole area around the monastery as having a deeply sacred history. 

as you all walk along the rocky trails, the tourists marvel at the beauty of the desert landscape.  you all comment on how beautiful the monastery is in the afternoon light.  the monastery is very large, including many different buildings of many different rooms. the buildings are several stories high. irrigation canals, no longer in use, run alongside the architectural masterpiece.  trees and vines grace spaces between the buildings. 

on this particular journey to the monastery, one of the tourists has requested that the group stop for a couple hours so she can make a painting of the monastery.  in order to get a good view of the buildings, you will have to walk down to the valley floor and then cross over to the caves on the opposite side of the valley. 

as you get closer to the stream that runs below you explain that settlements have been built upstream from the monastery, in jerusalem.  the settlements dump their human waste and other garbage into this very stream which once ran clear and clean below the monastery.  all three of the tourists comment on the disgusting stench coming from the stream.  the woman who came to paint the stream is very angry because the waste is dumped into the stream.  she exclaims, "how can this be?"