Reminding us that conflict zones are in the end made up of individual people, in April photographer Saskia Keeley gave a stirring presentation of her work with “Roots,” an organization devoted to dialogue among Israelis and Palestinians. Located within the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank, Roots provides a safe space and programming for participants interested and willing to engage with one another. Finding a way for women to participate was a particular challenge until Keeley developed her photography workshops. For several years she has provided cameras and photography lessons to small cohorts of combined Israeli and Palestinian women. While the women take the cameras home over the course of the program, and are encouraged to photograph their lives, the ultimate objective is to photograph each other and create portraits. Using cameras creates both a barrier that allows objectivity in approaching each other, and also a lens in which to see others much more closely and familiarly. The result in many instances is a comfort level between the women and even an intimacy that allows them to share their lives and to see the conflict between their people from another’s point of view. Running these workshops are not without major challenges, but the testimony from the women, and especially the photographs, that Keeley shared speak to the change they can cultivate.
This presentation was also a thought-provoking prelude to the Dialogue of Civilizations to Israel Professor Lefkovitz is leading in summer 1, May 7 – June 7.
Read the rest of the Spring 2019 Newsletter here.