Guest contribution by Elif Fâtıma Görken
This winter I spent time in Palestine visiting dear friends who invited me to their city, Al-Quds, and showed me their beautiful homeland which has been occupied by Israel for the past 65 years. We traveled to some of the most ancient and vibrant Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, and Yaffa. I witnessed Israeli apartheid firsthand in every single city. The checkpoints, the apartheid wall, the segregated roads, the illegal settlements — all tools to maintain Israel’s system of violence and colonization. I could only stay for five days so I have come to deeply cherish the moments I spent with the most kind and hospitable people I know. Whenever I go through the photos from the trip, I feel like I am there all over again. I can hear the kids running around Masjid Al-Aqsa, I can almost taste the soft rainfall in Nablus, and I can still smell the scent of my friends’ homemade sahlab which we sipped as we spent the hours talking, looking at her wedding pictures, reminiscing about the past, and dreaming about the future.
An empty street cart waits along the edge of a stone-paved pathway in between apartment buildings in Jerusalem.
A man stands outside of his storefront in Nablus.
Decorations done by neighbors and family members as part of a celebration for someone who recently performed Hajj.
Two young boys eat candy outside of their home.
Knafa Nabulsiyya is served.
A miniature Dome of the Rock is painted on a wall.
Two men recite from the Holy Qur’an together in between prayers inside of Masjid Al-Aqsa.
Jewish Israeli settlers take photographs with an Israeli soldier.
A man takes a break inside of a small store packed with odds and ends on a rainy day in Nablus.
Another elderly man reads from the Qur’an as the sun begins to set behind him.
A display case houses bullets, tear gas canisters, and other paraphernalia salvaged from then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s break-in into Al-Aqsa Mosque which sparked the Second Intifada in 2000.
A road narrows as it winds between buildings in Jerusalem.
A family heads to the city center on New Year’s Eve in Bethlehem.
An ice cream cone from Rukab in Ramallah.
Signs in various languages direct people to Masjid Al-Aqsa.
This street art in Ramallah serves as a reminder of the tragic Sabra and Shatila Massacre of 1982.
A vendor sells light-up toys on the night of the New Year in Bethlehem.
Three youth on their way to join the New Year festivities walk down a busy road in Bethlehem.
It is late afternoon at the Aqsa compound.
There is an immense appreciation of books and libraries in Jerusalem, reminding many Muslims of the first Qur’anic revelation: “Iqra'” (Read!).
A sign advertises Jerusalem’s well-known Aqsa Sweets.
One of the sweet shop owners prepares slices of Nablus’ world-famous knafa.
Elif pauses to take a photograph from a hill in the West Bank as the sun begins to set.
Elif Fâtıma Görken
Elif Fâtıma Görken is a 21-year-old film student at Hunter College in New York City. She also studies Arabic language and literature. Her work focuses on issues surrounding the Muslim diaspora, women, and identity.