Maja Daniels

Published on 03/10/11

© Maja Daniels

Zion­ism was ini­tially a spir­itual theme, deeply rooted in Jew­ish tra­di­tion, based on a long­ing to return to “Zion”. It sought to estab­lish a national home for the Jew­ish people in and around Mount Zion in Jer­u­s­alem in order to provide a set­ting to ful­fil the renewal of Jew­ish cul­ture. The first Zion­ist set­tle­ment in Palestine was estab­lished at Petach Tik­vah (“Open­ing of Hope”) in 1878 by a group of Jew­ish pion­eers. The set­tle­ments were shaped like for­ti­fied towns, often loc­ated on hills with mili­tias, mil­it­ary train­ing camps, barbed wire fences and stone­walls. Zion­ist lead­ers asso­ci­ated the ful­fil­ment of the Jew­ish national renais­sance with col­on­iz­a­tion, a pro­ject that they were determ­ined to real­ize and, if neces­sary, use force in order to achieve.
A declar­a­tion issued by the Brit­ish in 1917, prom­ised the estab­lish­ment of a Jew­ish national home in Palestine.
How­ever, the same inter­na­tional law that pro­tects the rights of Israel and gives it the right to defend itself, also states that its pres­ence in East Jer­u­s­alem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is a mil­it­ary occu­pa­tion and there­fore illegal accord­ing to inter­na­tional law.
About 500 000 Israelis live in illegal set­tle­ments within the West Bank today. Israeli sol­diers pro­tect the set­tlers and there are more than 500 check­points within the area. In addi­tion to the mil­it­ary pres­ence, the Israeli gov­ern­ment have built a wall to pro­tect them­selves as well as mon­it­or­ing and reg­u­lat­ing the move­ments of the Palestinian people. The Israelis argue that they need to defend them­selves as they are facing a grow­ing threat from Muslim fun­da­ment­al­ist groups, sworn to their destruc­tion. Among the Israelis there is much dis­agree­ment whether a state should be defined in ethno-religious terms and if the occu­pa­tion is justifiable.
Israeli tourists at Rosh Hanikra near the Lebanese border. (Maja Daniels)

© Maja Daniels

The con­tro­ver­sial ques­tion of Israel’s ‘right’ to exist as a Jew­ish state is how­ever over­taken by urging ques­tions of how to put an end to one of mod­ern history’s longest con­flicts and whether or not Israelis and Palestini­ans will be able to share the land as equals.

We traveled to Israel in August; its hot­test, driest period. We drove across the coun­try for three weeks and in that time, tried our best to get to know, and per­haps under­stand its people a bit bet­ter. This was my first trip to Israel and these images are a start­ing point to a pro­ject that needs to be pur­sued further.

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