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The Owdah Family   
6 archival digital prints and written interview  
26” x 54”   

Crossing Over the Land – portraits and interviews from Palestine is an exhibition and project composed of photographs and interviews made in Palestine by Wiggins.

Click here to download the text in Arabic HANEEN and MURAD

Conversation with Haneen
I sat with Haneen in her home in the Dheisheh camp in April of 2009. We talked about her life, studies, work and her family. We spoke in English. Here are some excerpts from our conversation


“I am attending the Open University in Beit Jala and working at UNRWA. I was hoping to study French and to become a translator and to study English as well. My parents have supported me in going anywhere I want to go to study. When I thought seriously about going to France I decided it is too hard to leave my homeland and too expensive.  I have decided to stay and to do something good for Palestine. Palestine needs its young people.

I work at UNRWA in the morning and I work with people in very hard situations.  I help people fill out the necessary forms to get food, work and cash and the help they need.   Then I go to the Open University in the afternoon to study and take my examinations. I work to help my parents because both my brother Murad and I are in the University and the tuition is expensive. Murad also works during his time off  - in building and construction.

My younger sister Moony is in the Dheisheh School.  She plays basketball and she is very good at sports.  Moony is having serious problems with her neck. My parents have talked to many doctors. They say that she needs surgery. They have decided to do the surgery in Al-Quds/Jerusalem  Hospital.  My parents have to get a special permit to take Moony to Jerusalem, it is very difficult. But they say that she will be ok and that the surgery is not dangerous. My youngest brother Ma’an is very good and very active. He is in high school and he has grown so much, now he is taller than me.  Ma’an plays tennis and football and ping pong. My mother and my father work very hard at their jobs.  My father is the director of the Al Feneiq Cultural Center in Dheisheh and my mother works as a nutritionist in Hebron. My mother comes home from work very tired, she cooks and she sleeps a little bit and that’s it.

It is hard for all of us to get enough sleep in the camp. The soldiers come at night and shout bad words and make loud noises with small bombs. They are happy when we are upset and when we are not sleeping.  A few nights ago my friend and I had finished a big examination and we were planning on going to my house to celebrate and eat chips and watch movies. The soldiers came into the camp and we had to cancel our celebration. Sometimes you just want to think about something other than the occupation, but it is impossible.

I went to al-Khalil/Hebron with my mother the other day and I saw the streets full of Israeli flags, I started to cry. It is very hard to see Israeli flags in Palestine on our land. I wanted to take down all the Israeli flags and put up Palestinian flags. Ok, I know that I can’t. If I did they would shoot me. But I will not die for this reason. I will stay and I will face the problems of the occupation.  I talk about this with my mother and my father. Each night we talk about the news: about Gaza, about Bi’lin, about Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Ramallah and all of Palestine. We want to know what is happening in all of Palestine. We want to know where we are and where we’re are headed”

Conversation with Murad
sat with Murad in April 2009 and I asked him to tell me about the history of the Dheisheh refugee camp and about his life and the current situation in the camp. Our conversation was in English. Here are some excerpts from our talk.

“In the beginning the Palestinian refugees left their homes and their lands in 1948 and 1949. They thought they would return when the shelling stopped so they left everything and they closed their houses and took their keys. At first they lived under the trees and on the mountainsides near their villages. As the occupation continued they were pushed further and further away from their villages. The refugees had to stay on any empty land that they could find.

After some time the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees of the Near East (UNRWA) came and gave the refugees tents and food and clothes because they did not have anything. The Dheisheh camp was established in 1949. The people of Dheisheh, with the help of UNRWA, rented this land for the camp as a place for the refugees to live temporarily until the people could go back to their land.  But as you can see, there is still no solution to this problem.

When I was a young child my Grandmother would come to tell us bedtime stories about her village and her life before she became a refugee. These stories are in my memory. I will never forget these stories. My father has not forgotten and I have not forgotten and my children will not forget. We will not lose our right to return.

We must continue to think about the current situation here in the camp and all the refugee camps.  It has been UNRWA’s role to take care of all the refugees and all our needs. They are responsible for food, clothing, buildings, homes, water and electricity. Every year the assistance is being decreased. We have been protesting this situation in Dheisheh and in other camps as well. UNRWA has not done anything.

We have to think about how to deal with our current situation and how to be strong. The situation is very bad and very hard for us. There are many barriers in my future, but I need to overcome these barriers to reach my goals. I am studying psychology and social work at Bethlehem University. It is expensive and it is hard on my family.  I will finish my 4 year Bachelor’s degree next year but there are no jobs.

I want to make Dheisheh a better place and I care about all of Palestine. When I finish my degree I would like to work with all the cities inside Palestine to do good work for all of the people of Palestine.”