Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 3, 2014
Palestine: In words and pictures
Local activists get out and see for themselves, share experience
Rob Shetterly, of Brooksville, Maine said he needed to travel to Palestine to experience the reality of the lives of Palestinians.
by Jessica Brophy
Local activists Rob Shetterly of Brooksville and Dud Hendrick of Deer Isle offered an overview of their recent travels to Palestine on Sunday, June 22, at Reversing Falls Sanctuary in Brooksville.
Shetterly and Hendrick recently traveled to Palestine with the group Barefoot Artists, a nonprofit that visits impoverished communities around the world and brings art to them, often in the form of community murals.
Shetterly met Lily Yeh, the co-founder of Barefoot Artists, as part of his Americans who Tell the Truth portrait series. Shetterly has traveled to Rwanda with Yeh in the past. When Yeh asked Shetterly to join her on a trip to Palestine, Shetterly suggested Hendrick join them.
“I wanted to learn about the situation myself,” said Hendrick about the issues facing Palestinians. Many Palestinians still live in refugee areas after they were evicted from their lands in 1948, Hendrick explained. The Palestinians also have very little wealth or power in relation to the Israelis. “I’ve grown increasingly agitated about what our foreign policy causes us to do, and I am agitated and irritated about what I saw,” Hendrick continued.
Shetterly said he felt like he needed to go to Palestine to “see, hear and smell” the reality of the lives of Palestinians.
The group did several art projects, including in Balata refugee camp, which houses 28,000 refugees in a square mile.
“Many people stay in the camps because they think they will be allowed to return home,” said Shetterly. “Many of them still have keys to houses.”
Hendrick said traveling around Palestine in many places it’s difficult to find walls that aren’t pockmarked by rifle or small arms fire. Forty percent of Palestinian men have been imprisoned for political reasons, he said. Palestinians only have access to 17 percent of the water on their land, he continued.
Something that shapes the everyday life of many Palestinians is the wall between Palestine and Israel, which in some areas does not conform to the actual boundary, said Hendrick. And everywhere in Palestine there are Israeli military checkpoints, he said.
The pair showed slides of people they met and murals that were created during the trip, in public areas of the refugee camps, in a women’s center and other spaces.
Toward the end of the slide show, an audience member asked what could be done about the situation.
Hendrick noted that in 2013, the United States provided $8.5 million a day—more than $3 billion for the year—to Israel. He suggested supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is a campaign to put economic and political pressure on Israel (including on Israeli companies) to change the situation.
For more information about Barefoot Artists, visit barefootartists.org.