Maggie Nazer

Posts by Maggie Nazer

 
 
 

Faces of Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This is an excerpt from a Middle East Eye article I published in the summer reflecting on the social documentary project my dear friend Asala Salhab and I carried out on the West Bank, Palestine in the summer of 2014 :) 

1514603_1430720227209369_5364267311972803203_n 10429386_1434777663470292_3707355913859075924_n 10456025_1432816900333035_5637746490813295473_n 10501971_1430719227209469_7163826703981202603_n

Despite the war in Gaza and the intense military operations carried out recently by Israeli soldiers throughout Hebron; the biggest city on the West Bank celebrated the holy month of Ramadan with fasting – and praying for peace and for change.

In times of great danger and insecurity, people reveal both their most raw and most humane faces. Ramadan, however, is a month dedicated to cherishing the community, the self and its relation to God.

Can religious and cultural traditions work to bring people together, sooth the disadvantaged and inspire good acts and brotherly love, even in times of war, injustice and death?

These questions and more drove my enthusiasm to be among the people in Hebron, in the midst of the happening, instead of hiding, as I entered into the second month of my student internship in Hebron.

When I first went out on the streets of Hebron (or “Khalil” as the Arabic name of the city reads) with a notebook, camera and a local friend in hand, I had no idea that the photos and interviews I would take would spark and exciting new project- and a social movement.

Three days after the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli settlers in Halhul, just outside Hebron, sick of hearing about new clashes, dead and injured, my friend Asala Salhab and I went out after work to take some interviews.

Our task was to examine the pulse of the community, which was suffering through one of its most difficult times. In the beginning of both Ramadan and a new Israeli massacre in Gaza, was there any hope left? How were these contrasting events influencing each other?

Since the first afternoon we started to photograph and interview random passers-by at different locations around Hebron, including The Old City. People responded enthusiastically and we were able to capture the faces, stories and insights of Hebronites, which conveyed their hope, faith and integrity. The same evening, I started the “Khalil’s Faces of Ramadan” Facebook group to host the profiles of men and women, young and old. Every photo was accompanied by an English and Arabic translation, and in less than a week, the group received over 1,000 likes; the posts were shared and discussed both online and offline.

As we captured the faces of those who carry on their everyday lives, religious and spiritual practices, despite the dangers and insecurity that Hebron faces, media and community leaders shared their positive feedback about the project.

“This initiative is very important because it allows us to see the diversity of individuals and richness of points of view that we don’t often acknowledge otherwise,” Anas Sarabta, manager of the Hebron Youth Development Resource Center said.

Haya Abu Shkaidem, a student in Hebron sent a “thank you” message reading, “I really like this page. It reveals the pretty side of Hebron which people all around Palestine and all around the world should see. It is something I could share with my non-Hebronite friends to let them know more about Hebron.”

In the days to follow, the project gained momentum and was promoted by word of mouth: “I saw your page and I was hoping I could run into you.” Mustafa Abu Sbaih told us smilingly, calling us to visit his shoe stand from across the street.

As we walked through The Old City on a Friday afternoon after one of the major prayers, people were requesting that we take their photos and hear their stories. And, interestingly, they were not all about politics and war. Love, future plans and desire to make a change made some voices tremble with passion.

“We, Palestinians have always paid attention on the need to document our political struggle for freedom. There are many documents, articles and books written on that. But we have done almost nothing to document the social life, the individual, who may not be a martyr or a fighter, but who is still fighting in his own way- and that is not any less interesting.” Tareq Tamimi, founder of “Visit Hebron” told us in acknowledgement of the project’s impact on the community.

The project will continue beyond the month of Ramadan with the support of locals taking on the enjoyable task of unlocking secrets and capturing fellow Hebronites’ faces.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/photo-essay-memorable-ramadan-hebron-1657019404#sthash.o7UKZZVy.dpuf


Bulgarian media: Wave of online hatred in response to articles about Palestine (с БГ превод)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Incredible to see what кind of responses an article based on my account about Palestine (which is btw more of an overview of the recent and older events of the conflict rather than straightforward criticism) can cause such a great wave of online hatred against me from fellow Bulgarians who are not only name-calling me, but also urging me to go back to Palestine, put a hijab and don’t dare to speak… (in a milder version).
This brings up two points: one is simply the observation how brainwashed many people in Bulgaria are and how we are thought to associate arabs with terrorism to the point where no logic plays a part.
Point two is, of all 5,000 readers of the piece, there are 20+ negative comments and over 100 likes of comments praising the death of Palestinians, while there is 1 positive comment produced by some critical thinking which by the way was written by my best friend
So what I want to say is this: how come we happen to raise our voice (even if it’s online) only when it is to critique (to put it nicely!) something/somebody? Where is the diversity in opinion? How come no one of all the people who probably resonated with something in the article or at least with the presence of an article that challenges what is usually shown on Bulgarian media in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cared to write one line of support?
Here’s a request: dare to support VISIBLY whatever you resonate with and want to see more of, because otherwise the much more inadequate but loud voices will control our common reality despite our unspoken dislike.
Маги Назер
Невероятно е да видя какви отговори предизвикаха статиите, публикувани от Актуално по разказа ми за скорошните събития в Палестина (които на всичкото отгоре са повече описание на събитията, отколкото директна критика)- а именно вълна от омраза. Сред коментарите имаше голям брой вургални обиди по мой адрес и призоваване да “си ходя обратно в Палестина”, да сложа хиджаб и да не се осмелявам да говоря/пиша.
Това ме навежда на две мисли:
от една страна това е доказателство до каква степен мозъците ни са промити и до колко сме заучили да асоциираме арабите с терористи, без дори да прилагаме в употреба каквато и да било логика и здрав разум.
Второ. макар всяка от статиите да е прочетена повече от 5,000 пъти, има 20+ негативни коментари и повече от 100 харесвания на изказвания от типа “смърт за арабите”. За сметка на това единственият положителен коментар е написан от най-добрият ми приятел
Това, което искам да кажа, е следното: защо се получава така, че се изказваме (пък макар и онлайн) само за да изкритикуваме (меко казано!) нещо или някой? Къде е богатството на мнения? Как така никой от хората, които са прочели статията и които хипотетично резонират с написаното или поне с това, че са налични статии, които се противопоставят на масовото представяне на конфликта, не си е направил труда да напише един ред в подкрепа?

И така, молбата ми е следната: имайте смелостта да подкрепяте ЯВНО тези неща, които ви допадат и от които искате да виждате/да има повече, защото иначе неадекватните, но напористи гласове ще контролират реалността, която споделямe, въпреки неизказаното ни недоволство.


No “Occupied Palestinian Territories”

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Маги Назер и приятели на празненството по случай отбелязването на международния ден на Йерусалим

Today I attended the Celebration of the International Day of Jerusalem in Sofia which featured talks by the Palestinian and Iranian Embassadors in Bulgaria and other high profile individuals related to the politics of the Middle East. The talks all revolved aroun the current situation in Gaza and on the West Bank, so at the end I asked to adress the public and was actually given the floor without being on the schedule or even knowing the organizers in advance.
I shortly shared my impressions as an intern who has returned from Palestine just 3 days ago and I emphasised on how engaged the Palestinian youth is and how much perseverance despite all I’ve seen in the Palestinian people.
During the event we were also told that today the Bulgarian parliament (?) has accepted a change in the official protocal and will no more use the terms “Occupied Teritorries” in any of the country’s official corespondence. This is a little act of support, but it’s well meant, so it’s appreciated.
So, dear fellow Bulgarians, please, never use the term “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. It’s Palestine. : )


Sofia today

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

Sofia in its Majesty Photo credit: Strahil Vasilev

(First day back home after 2 months in Palestine)

I don’t know if it’s because I was in the Middle East for the past two months, so my perception is distorted, but I saw disproportionally many people hugging and kissing or both in Sofia today.

Needless to say, I’m very hopefull about the future of my Country Bulgaria : )

Spread this LOVE. please : ) The world needs it. We all do.

Sofia Photo Credit: Strahil Vasilev


Don’t talk about Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Jerusalem old city by Maggie Nazer

Jerusalem old city by Maggie Nazer

I have visited Jerusalem 6 times so far in the past 2 months: more than my Palestinian friends will be allowed to enter it in a lifetime.

For the first time so far the old city of Jerusalem was empty today. I walked alone and people stopped me and gave me gifts for simply being here.

It’s getting more and more dangerous and people are afraid to come. the danger is not only physical. It’s holistic. Your comfort is endangered. Your faith in humanity is endangered. Your ability to live life as you have before, to trust the news, respect your political leaders and rest in your ignorance are all endangered.

So, don’t come to Jerusalem if you can’T bear the truth about all the killed and all the oppressed. Don’t talk about Palestine from the position of a “first world” intellectual while all you know is what your country’s media has told you.

But be aware that you are not safe anywhere. Not anymore. Images will find their way to you, stories will be told even if you try to avoid them. Ignorance is not a choice when it’s responsible for the death of innocent. We will not keep silent.

The suffering of one nation is not limited by its boarders. My stolen childhood is my example. But there are many.

Where to now? Maggie Nazer at the closed Shuhada street in Hebron, west Bank

Where to now?
Maggie Nazer at the closed Shuhada street in Hebron, west Bank

My father didn’t know how to love us because he learned how to defend himself through the means of aggression before he could learn to love. He learned to throw stones before he learned to give roses, or hugs, or kisses. He didn’t feel worthy of love because he learned that as a Palestinian he could have either his life or his freedom and dignity. Never both.

Today I prayed on the grave of Jesus Christ that we will hear of no more death, no matter who’s on the receiving end. I prayed that all people’s dignity, mobility and rights will be respected.

See you soon, Jerusalem; Hebron, don’t forget what we shared; Palestine, we met at last and you are part of me.


Last day at work: Happiness in Palestine.

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Today was my last day working at the Hebron Youth Development Center as an intern. The amazing performance and exhibition which the participants in my leadership training “Art for Social Change” organized were exceptional. It was exceptional what they managed to do just in two short days of preparation left on their own. It was so fulfilling to actually see that my words and actions inspire others! My amazing co-trainer Asala Salhab said: “They told me yesterday: “Maggie said we are leaders so we should organize the performance alone and that we can do anything” and indeed after hours spent in the theater space yesterday, today they came at 9 in the morning on a Ramadan day only to rehearse and perfect the showcase of their work.

It’s unbelievable to me how close I have grown to my English students and how dearly I love them: all of them at once and each of them in a unique way. I spent the last 3 hours in a coffee shop having one of the best times in my life (seriously!), discussing passionately all possible topics imaginable (which I didn’t imagine to be possible when I first met them) despite the many cultural norms which otherwise do not allow a girl to be smoking nargille in the company of guys.

I want to tell you all again that I love you so and you have given me more than I have ever expected! Never have my ideas and efforts for social change and youth empowerment been more well accepted and celebrated.

Last but not least, you have brought me back to Life (no exaggeration!) after a very difficult year in which I many times lost hope in the power of my voice to influence any actual change and in which I was almost about to lose my trust in others…

You have given me hope, you have given me love, you have given me an enriched sense for identity (“We Palestinians teach Life, Sir!”), you have given me your unconditional support and trust.

And I’m way too happy and inspired to even be sad that I am leaving! (Although, I guess it will hit me once I’m no longer on this sacred land.)

Carry the magic we created together with you at all times and spread it generously!

P.S. Don’t forget: WE ARE CONNECTED NOW!

Special THANKS to Center for Careers and Internships at Middlebury College and my hosting organization Hebron YDRC.

Pure Joy

Pure Joy

 


My 21st Birthday in Palestine

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

In second grade I invited my classmates and friends from school to celebrate my birthday. My mom and I cooked all day and prepared a one-of-a-kind home-made Barbie-like cake with a real doll inside. It was perfect.

When nobody came I stayed at our apartment’s balcony hoping that people are just late, crying. The only kid who showed up was a girl I used to go to kindergarden with whom I had randomly met and invited the previous day. This girl, Lina Stankova, soon became my best friend and has been a best friend in the true meaning of the word ever since.

As I grew up I stopped being excited for birthdays. I think it was just less painful than expecting much and getting dissapointed, especially on the day the world tells you should be your one “special day”.

Of course, I have had great birthdays afterwards that I have shared with amazing friends.

This year, for the second time, I celebrated my birthday out of my homeland Bulgaria. And this time for the first time in a very long while I allowed myself to really be excited!

May be it’s the culture, or simply the people here, but I have felt so much loved and supported here that I have indeed grown to love this place as my second home which, by the way, it is supposed to be (my father is Palestinian). I’m also happy to say that I have found a place which I not only want to visit again, but to stay at (for a while) and work at.

on 8th of July, my birthday, I was nourished in the love of my students, my colleagues, my cousins, my friends and other beautiful people that I may not have yet had the chance to connect deeply. They all gathered and planned my celebration, gave me beautiful gifts, but most importantly granted me with their attention, their acknowledgement and unconditional positive regard.

I was so delighted to hear my cousin Dana Nazer say she saw the boys from my English classes walking around the Hebron Mall going inside all the women shops to search for a present for me!

Thank you all who were present with me yesterday and who thought of me from across continents! I am deeply touched and so HAPPY!

Happy birthday, Maggie Nazer!