Beyond Sides: Toward Reconciliation – Photography Workshops for Israeli Settlers and Palestinian Women in the West Bank

Beyond Sides: Toward Reconciliation – Photography Workshops for Israeli Settlers and Palestinian Women in the West Bank

Saskia Bory Keeley (Saskia Keeley Photography, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7585-6.ch013

Abstract

The author describes a program of photography workshops for Orthodox Jewish and Palestinian women in the West Bank she has conducted since 2016 in partnership with Roots, an initiative led by a Palestinian and Israeli settler committee. The workshops provide an environment where the women can interact with “the other” in an informal and safe setting, many for the very first time in their lives. They enable the participants to work together on joint projects in a setting where they can explore each other's life narratives as they learn a new skill, which engenders an awareness and understanding of similar life paths and shared humanity. The mutually illuminating activity promotes respect and is a step forward to a future of potential change. The program's participants describe its perspective-altering results and voice a hope for further engagement.
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Photo Workshops For Israeli Settlers And Palestinian Women In The West Bank

Since 2016, I have conducted photography workshops for Orthodox Jewish Israeli and Palestinian women. Though they live side by side in the West Bank, for political reasons, these women have virtually no contact. To arrange the workshops, I partner with Roots, an initiative led by a Palestinian and Israeli settler committee working at the heart of the conflict.

My West Bank photo workshops provide an environment where women can interact with “the other” in an informal and safe setting, many for the very first time in their lives. Bridges of empathy that help heal communities come in many forms. In the workshops, the act of looking through the camera creates a human connection. The workshops break down barriers and foster contact as women take portraits of each other in exploratory and intimate ways.

Bringing out the humanity of others is the essence of the workshops. By looking through the eyes of those we might feel separated from, participants discover both interconnectivity and empathy. The workshops support the engagement of each in the process of recognizing parallel lives and narratives. Seeing and acknowledging personal moments creates a new feeling of shared belonging.

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