Will Boland Pic

Two weeks in the West Bank

On Will Boland’s trip this summer through Lebanon, Jordan and a Palestinian swath of Israel, he expected at least some hostility from the locals.
Instead, he not only found the locals welcoming, but he took more than 1,000 pictures, including many from two weeks on the West Bank (known to Israel as Judea and Samaria), staying with locals and visiting the region’s towns, villages and refugee camps.

“I’ve never been more well received anywhere as I was in the Arab world,” he said. “They have a tradition of hospitality. It’s fundamental to their culture and I guess I wasn’t quite ready for that ... So it was very much a surprise and a pleasure.”

Before traveling through the Palestinian territory with an organized group, Boland traveled on his own, from Amman, Jordan, to Beirut, Lebanon, through Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley back into Jordan and south to Aqaba, on the Red Sea, crossing into Israel at the resort town of Eilat. He went north to Jerusalem and then the few miles to Bethlehem, in the West Bank, meeting up with a group organized by Whitefish-based Neighbors East to West, a group “promoting peace through personal contact and experience,” going back to the days of the Soviet Union, according to its website.
Boland will share some of what he saw through his lens in a slideshow Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. in the large meeting room in Lewis and Clark Library.

Boland, who also visited Iran in 2009, is well aware of the criticism he may face for making such a trip, and for his potentially positive portrayal of the Palestinian people, in light of the long history attacks by Palestinian forces against Israelis. But he said he aims to give voice, through the photos, to people he says are often voiceless in the Western media.

“If you can bring back images, that sheds light on the subject right away,” he said.

The photos — Boland may show about 140 at the library Wednesday — include images of the people and land, both urban and pastoral scenes. There are children, elderly people and hip-looking students from Bethlehem University, busy street scenes and shots of the security wall and guard towers. Many photos show the extensive graffiti on the security infrastructure and other surfaces, reminiscent of the graffiti on the Berlin Wall. They show barbed wire, open fields, blocky apartment buildings, soldiers and guns.

And while Boland describes the West Bank population as upbeat and spirited, it’s still a place of checkpoints, curfews and a 400-mile security wall, which snakes across the landscape in some of his photos. Everyone there knows the Army, with its helicopters, is just minutes away.
“No matter what they suffer, they tend to feel it’s the will of God, and they can smile through it,” he said. “It’s a feeling of being in a fairly pleasant, open prison camp.”

The West Bank includes the towns of Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, but much of the Palestinian population is agrarian, Boland said. The trip included visits to what are called refugee camps, those settlements that began as tent camps about a half-century ago and now resemble actual towns, housing thousands.

The slideshow is called “Palestine Heartbreak: The slow motion war” and promises to be a little darker than the mostly cheerful images in the library lobby, in a setup called simply “Palestine.”

Speaking about the slideshow last week, Boland said he’s still deciding still whether to end it with an upbeat or negative outlook.

Posted in Community on Friday, November 11, 2011 12:00 am | Tags: Palestine, Israel, West Bank