Samia A. Halaby

In remembrance: Ismail Shammout, 1931-2006

Ismail Shammout’s career as an artist and popular hero of Palestine began with his 1953 exhibition of oil paintings in Gaza of the catastrophic march through wilderness. The exhibited paintings objectify and socialize a pain that had simmered on a private level. Refugees in Gaza saw themselves reflected in Shammout’s work and felt relief. An immense attendance of the general population in Gaza, including those living in refugee camps, overwhelmed Shammout, then studying in Egypt. This stunning response to the show was a hint of the bottled up hope for liberation. 

Valley of Fire

I am thirsty, sitting here in the wrong corner of the ‘service’ (pronounced ‘serveece’) taxi. It is hot. The seat belt is tight, scratching my neck. I am sweating. The sun is beating down on me. I am hungry. My mind meanders, searching various avenues of escape. Could I walk through the checkpoint, leaving my fellow Palestinians behind? Would I find a car on the other side? Could I pay a sum to a private car waiting in line on the other side of the dead, closed closure point? Could I persuade someone to leave the line and turn around and take me to my destination? 

The First Day of Ramadan

Today (October 15) I planned to go photograph a new discovery of the visual art of Al Quds (Jerusalem). The Coptic Church in the old city is filled with two rows of murals on all of its walls, executed in 1961 by a Palestinian artist who had experienced the Nakbe. A friend stopped me, saying go run now or else I’d would be stuck in the crush of people going to pray the noon prayer at Al Aqsa. Not only is it Friday, but it’s also the first day of Ramadan. And oh, she added, the place will also be full of Israeli soldiers and police — they will seem to number as many as the worshipers, she said. 


“The news from Palestine is so bad and the process of strangulation applied by Israel is so constant and murderous that one expects the worst. But I always find silent resistance, the natural tenacity of life, and the stubbornness of the Palestinians erasing my mental pictures of doom. Still yet, the disastrous applications of the Israelis take my breath away.” Samia Halaby, who was forced to leave Palestine in 1948. Her family emigrated to the United States where she became an artist and taught at American Universities, including the Yale School of Art. These days she is back in Palestine and writing about her experiences.