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Recognizing our common humanity through photos

West Bank and Gaza, September 10, 2009

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For two days now, we've hand-carried photo frames from Israel's border to the Gaza Strip, walking through a long silent tunnel and crossing a high cement wall. We've gotten got ten frames into Gaza for the photo exhibition; 20 more to go.

As you watch these pictures, please try to live the real story of this photo exhibition: 100 students take pictures in Gaza, where quality printing and framing is nearly impossible. Two weeks ago, in a petite flash-disc we "smuggled" the raw pictures from Gaza to Jerusalem. After one week, we finally have beautiful photo prints in elegant thin silver frames. Our next puzzle to solve is how to get them back from Israel in Gaza with no mailing service and no transportation of goods either.

I tremble from the fear that the Israeli soldier who sits at the border will not allow the frames to enter into Gaza with me. As I expect, she (the soldier) is suspicious when she sees me with frames almost as tall as me, hanging on both my arms. I look more like a décor for the frames.

"What do you have in your bags?" asks the soldier.

"Picture frames," I answer.

"What kind of photos?" she says.

"Hmmmm...they attempt to capture those moments that make us all recognize our humanity in each other," I answer.

Pause.

"Open them, please," says the soldier.

I rip the seal off the frames, which are compressed together, and she gets a quick peek.

Pause. Phone call. Hebrew. Then English again.

"You can go," the soldier says.

With a deep breath, I am absolutely happy as I walk through. Ten frames are in Gaza now, with 20 more to go between tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Convinced that the frames will be there, students are assigning a place for each frame on the walls of the hall we rented for the exhibition. It starts on Saturday. I doubt we will get them there on time and express my frustration. One of them tells me quietly, "They will be there on Saturday."

I need to trust her. After all, this photo exhibition has a message: "Recognizing Our Common Humanity."

While we still struggle to get photos into Gaza, one by one, in less then 3 hours Mahmoud uploaded all of them online. Instantly the photos were available for people to see globally. Some, may call this fact ironic, but I call it heroic.

Here are the pictures. For more information on the contest, click here.