In-Between (2005), 2005
A photographic series from the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip, August-September 2005
My first visit to the Gaza Strip took place in October 2004 together with Rina Castelnuevo, photographer for the New York Times. Driving through the Kissufim Crossing, I sensed I had entered a different geographical and mental space. It was a space that despite my political consciousness, no TV documentaries and no columnist analysis had prepared me for. Documenting the mass prayers in Jerusalem and Newe Dekalim and the many violent anti-pullout demonstrations in the capital’s main axis, I watched till the very last day, how the settlers truly believed in the miracle that would prevent their evacuation from their communities. With the deadline imminent I kept wondering how the Disengagement Plan described by IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Miri Regev as “perhaps the largest such operation ever carried out by the IDF” would actually be implemented.
On August 15th at 12 p.m. the Gaza Strip was declared a closed military area. A couple of hours later, together with thousands of other media people from all over the world, I boarded IDF shuttles that brought us to the various settlements to witness the first stage of the implementation as residents were given 48 hours to evacuates their houses. The second stage started at sunrise on August 17. During the next 5 days, 8000 thousands civilians were forcefully evacuated from their homes by the army. During the third stage that lasted 5 weeks, 21 settlements were reduced to rubbles, military infrastructure was dismantled and responsibility for the Gaza Strip was handed over to the Palestinian Authority, following 38 years of occupation. Until the redeployment of IDF forces behind the Kissufim Crossing on September 12th, I regularly boarded the shuttles in order to witness the destruction of the settlements. The cemetery was also dismantled after bodies were exhumed and reburied on September 1st on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
I can truly say that it is only now, 9 years later that I realized what happened back then. Even if I agreed then as well as today with the political necessity of the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip, I could not process what I saw while I was there photographing nor could I understand what that meant for the settlers to abandon their communities or for the young soldiers to forcefully evacuate entire families who resisted evacuation. My decision to return over and over again during these 5 weeks of dismantling was not an a priori decision. It was born out of an ongoing inquisitiveness whose motivations I can’t rationally explain. Once the settlers were evacuated, it was no news anymore except at the beginning of the destructions or on a few rare occasions such as the last prayer at Newe Dekalim synagogue on September 8 or the dismantling of the Gaza military division three days later.
Returning to the Gaza Strip several times a week after the evacuation led to a series of photographs showing objects of all kind lost among the rubbles. Abandoned behind by their owners, they were now dysfunctional and displaced, ‘suspended’ in an in-between, a space between their previous life and a new unknown one. More than dramatic pictures of forced evacuation and of the no less spectacular destruction of houses and infrastructure, these modest displaced remnants were a silent yet powerful testimony of a necropolis in the making which was carried on in a meticulous way by the huge caterpillars at work day and night.