Archive for March, 2006


A friend once asked me, “Jim, why is it that you always root for the underdog?” Why is it that when watching a sporting event I know nothing about I always cheer for the losing team?
The story of David and Goliath is one we all know. A man with a slingshot takes down a giant against all odds. In society we seek out these examples of inspiration. If the Red Sox win the World Series we hold our drinks up high and give out a primal scream that comes from nowhere and everywhere simultaneously.
In Palestine the story of David vs. Goliath continues but with a conclusion much less inspirational. Palestinians seem to feel this ending and seek icons of hope in a hopeless future. They attempt to resist what feels like the inevitable.
Maybe this is why I feel sympathetic for the underdog.

Low Intensity War

Some people say it’s good to find out what you’re good at, what you want to do and what you’re natural talents are in life. It’s also important to find out what you’re not good at, what you don’t want to do and what your natural talents are not.
Maybe no one is good at dodging rubber bullets or born with lungs and eyes capable of coping with tear gas. Today I realized I’m not much cut out for war photography. When a flash bomb went off about two meters from where I was making pictures I could barely think. My fight or flight instinct when directly into flight mode.
Rocks have been flying towards Israelis and bullets flying towards Palestinians for decades now. A soldier dies here and a protester dies there. It’s a “low intensity war” a German journalist was explaining to me. “It will go on for 40 years and then the Palestinians will be gone,” he said after interviewing a retired Israeli officer.
What I started to think about was whether a low intensity war backed by the blind wealthy world is worth dying for, or even taking a rock across the noggin.

Palestinian Commute

There was a time I can remember punching the innocent dashboard of my ailing car on the way to somewhere, only to get nowhere with the punch and nowhere with my car because of unexplained traffic. We call it road rage west of Greenwich Mean Time. It’s such a whimsical phrase for a pent up anger we think and care little to resolve.
Imagine every time you’re in a line of traffic you’re actually not in a car at all. You’re on foot and all those in front of you are waiting to get their identification cards checked by the police officers standing between you and your destination. After the police officers, you have to make your way up a rickety ladder made of scrap wood and over the eight-foot cement wall it poorly aims to get you over. You are a Palestinian on your way to visit family. You are a Palestinian on your way to work every morning. Welcome to the Palestinian commute.
What whimsical words do will we utter when a Palestinian punches the dashboard?


A week’s time brought me to Aqaba in the south of Jordan. The coastline is blessed with sun and all the wonders that life-giving ball of burning gases creates. At times when I contemplate the existence of a God, I can’t help but think the evolution of religion came solely from the unknowing worship of the sun. It is truly the sun that creates life. Surely I have pondered the “let there be light” rumor, but the thought of someone up there flicking a switch simplifies the complexity of the heavens and the beauty of nature. My God, if I have to give it a name, place it in a category and corral it into the hog’s pen of human oversimplification, then surely I must call it Nature.
Plerogyra sinuosa grows at depths of 3-65 meters (Americans multiply by three for feet). Seeing something like this reminds me of when I went to a rainforest for the first time. Even someone who isn’t an environmentalist must think to themselves in times like this, “We need to do something to protect this!” I’m sure we all should do something to protect these slowly dying ecosystems, but what is it? Do we boycott these tourist towns who develop around the reef? I’m sure in the end the poor natives would damage the sea with careless fishing practices, like farmers do rainforests, so why not give them work in eco-tourism. But then what does tourism do for an economy and culture so vastly different from the West?

Foreign Investment

On a recent trip in Aqaba I was invited on a train ride that was to take a promotional trip from Aqaba to Wadi Dana in the desert. All the big folks involved with tourism in Jordan and those investing in the future of tourism were invited along.
The ride was long enough for me to think about the effects of tourism on a developing country, and who benefits from the revenues and who doesn’t. What it also made me think about was the way these forces guide a society in certain directions and how this guidance can come from outside money and influence.
This image made me think of how strange and alienating foreign investment can be in tourism.