May 31, 2020 Sumarin family, Silwan. Texts and photographs: David Shulman

The Wadi Hilwe neighborhood, Silwan

Job—Ayyub in Arabic—the most tragic figure in the Hebrew Bible, lived and suffered in Silwan, in east Jerusalem, as the Silwanis proudly say. His well, Bir Ayyub, is just down the road from the Dung Gate that leads to the Haram al-Sharif and the Western Wall. Near the top of that hill, in the Wadi Hilwe neighborhood, stands the stone house of the Sumarin family. It  happens to be adjacent to the visitors’ center that the settler group El’ad has created in order to indoctrinate schoolchildren and tourists in their nationalist narrative about Silwan, which they call the City of David. They mean King David, the Psalmist. Settlers like to tell their visitors that he walked the streets of Wadi Hilwe, with their barbed-wire settler enclaves and guards carrying machine guns. I rather doubt that there was such a person, but occasionally, over the years, in the Silwan demonstrations, amidst the tear gas and the stun grenades, I’ve caught a glimpse of a heartsick poet hovering nearby, someone like Job.

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Photographic Aggression, Trust, Shame: Susiya, Sheikh Jarrah, June 5, 26, 2015

20150626-IMG_6883lvlcrvYou won’t see the touching photograph I took at a memorial wall in New York after September 11, 2001, when a woman’s smile gave way to tears as my shutter clicked. It amounted to inadvertent aggression. Some regard all “street photography” categorically as aggressive and unethical. But I think photographic aggression needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis, even when that can be difficult. Such moments arise frequently during and between my intermittent visits to Palestine this past year, where I have been thinking about and documenting photographic practices while engaging in them. As a foreigner I learn local customs slowly. In my effort to do no harm, I navigate photography’s interrelations and worry about breaking photographic taboos. Continue reading