Two dozen children, aged 5-17, from the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, cut out stencils of letters, stars and Christmas trees and sprayed painted ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS WORLD FROM BETHLEHEM GHETTO’ on Israel’s illegal separation wall. Photographed by UK-based photojournalist William Parry, images of the children and their message – along with powerful images of checkpoints and life under occupation – will temporarily ‘hijack’ prominent wall spaces in central London throughout the week leading up to Christmas, with the help of projection artist, Beverley Carpenter. (photographs of Bethlehem and of the projection project in London can be found over the fold!)
The idea is to provide a stark political backdrop to the frantic Christmas shopping rush, to remind Britain and the West that Israel’s illegal occupation and separation wall are strangling Bethlehem – and Palestine – the birthplace of Christ and Christmas. We’re bringing the reality of Bethlehem to London this Christmas.
The children who painted the message on the wall are third and fourth generation refugees, at risk of being made refugees again because of the wall’s devastating impact. We are complicit in suspending their rights to justice and freedom through our governments’ biased support of Israel.”
Photos of these ‘hijacked’ spaces, of bringing the reality of Bethlehem to London’s walls, will then be circulated via the web around the world to amplify the message.
Zayed, a 10-year-old in Bethlehem who dreams of travelling around the world when he can get a passport, said:
The wall is an ugly prison. I can see it from my home. I want to tell people of the world that Palestinians want peace and justice. We want to be free like everybody else.”
Parry’s initiative was facilitated by a local Palestinian artist known by the tag name ‘Trash’, who in December 2007 helped Banksy and London-based Pictures on Walls to carry out their Santa’s Ghetto project in Bethlehem.
Among the photos being projected is one of the inhuman image of the thousands of Palestinian workers who daily queue in narrow metal corridors alongside the wall, to work in Israel. One of the labourers, named Mohammed Issa, said:
What do you make of this? It’s fucked up, isn’t it. If Jesus had to do this every day, he’d become an atheist.”
Images of the graffitied Christmas greeting and of the children creating the stencils and spray painting the message on the wall, as well as other projected images from Bethlehem, are available from William Parry. (Parry’s contact details follow the photographs)
William Parry is a freelance photojournalist and author of Against the Wall: the art of resistance in Palestine, published in July by Pluto Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.