For four nights at the end of summer 2009, a residential building on the corner of Shmuel Hanagid Street and Bezalel Street, across from the historical building of the Bezalel Academy of Art, is transformed into a huge television set and a window into the heart of occupied Hebron. It is a joint project of Mamuta at the Daniel Passal Art & Media Center in Ein Kerem, and HEB2—an experimental documentary video project operating in Hebron.
HEB2 engages with the everyday life of the Palestinian residents of the Israeli-controlled area of the city known as H2. Today, Hebron is the only Palestinian city with Jewish settlements in the heart of its neighborhoods. In order to protect the 600 or so Israeli settlers who live there, the IDF imposes severe restrictions on the Palestinian residents of the area: restricting their movement on the main streets; closing the outdoor market and hundreds of other stores; and subjecting the residents to internal checkpoints, frequent house searches, and regular curfews. What was once a lively commercial center has become a “ghost town.” The Palestinian families that remain in H2 live a life under siege, confined to their houses, under constant military surveillance, and exposed to daily violence by settlers.
This daily reality of those who decided to stay is at the heart of the documentary project. The television station, which broadcasts over the internet from a house on the edge of the Jewish settlement of Tel Rumeida, involves its neighbors not only as documentary subjects but as documenters in their own right, giving them the tools to shoot and edit films about their own lives, from their point of view.
For four nights, four Hebron families host HEB2 to film in their homes following the Ramadan meal. In turn, the footage from Hebron is broadcast live via the internet to the heart of Jerusalem, inviting the West Jerusalem public to witness the lives of the residents of Hebron, to partake of family conversations and of the Ramadan meal, in which families customarily host other families in their private homes. But it is not only this live broadcast that is viewed by the guests. During the family meal, the families and their guests view archival footage on their television sets, material shot by them as participants in the HEB2 project. Thus the public screening on the building captures the private screening in the homes, creating a brief shared viewing experience for those in the houses and those on the street.
“Hospitality” is a central theme in the project. It began with “Manofim”—the opening of the Jerusalem art season—inviting Mamuta at the Daniela Passal Art and Media Center to contribute. We in turn extended the invitation to HEB2, and HEB2 invited the families, and so forth, until this ultimate invitation to the public, calling upon the residents of West Jerusalem to view life in Hebron from the perspective of the Palestinian residents.
The Polish-American artist Krzysztof Wodiczko employed large-scale outdoor projections on historical buildings in order give voice to the individual, to the voiceless. Here, it is a residential building located in West Jerusalem, at the heart of Israeli political discourse, that gives voice to the Palestinian residents of Hebron who are searching for an alternative way to convey their experience. The creators are also the object of filming as their immediate surroundings and daily lives are broadcast live. This tension between “live“ and “not-live”, another central theme of the project, is an attempt to give a platform to a more sensitive kind of documentation and observation, an alternative to that which is presented in the mainstream media and which is familiar to Israeli audiences.
The screening transforms television- and internet-viewing, normally an intimate and private experience, into a public viewing experience, an opportunity to get to know the lives of the residents of Hebron from the inside. The event does not aim to be an idyllic or utopian encounter, but rather to give public exposure to images from the lives of the neighbors as they are created by themselves.
As an intervention in the urban space, the projections transplant a slice of landscape and life from another place into the path of Jerusalemites wandering in the center of their city. These can catch a glimpse and become acquainted not only with the Palestinian families in Hebron, but with the unique and fascinating artistic and social endeavors taking place in H2 under the direction of Michael Zupraner and Issa Amaro. Urban zapping, as defined by Prof. Wakolinchuk.
As in the first screenings of the Lumière Brothers, we are looking forward to the screenings, not so much because of their technological innovation as because of the opportunity for a meeting in real time in an era when lies still rule.
Lea and Diego – Sala-Manca Group
Mamuta at the Daniela Passal Art and Media Center
Statement by the directors of HEB2.TV
This project is defined as “community television,” but in a way that is a misleading term. Local TV stations are meant for local consumption, while HEB2—despite the way in which it presents itself—is aimed at an external audience. The residents of H2 in Hebron are well aware of daily life in their area. But only rarely does this reality make its way into Israeli or international living rooms. The mainstream media, in general, does not succeed in describing what goes on in the Territories. The coverage is simplistic, superficial, and sporadic. Whether due to intentional policy or simply the limitations of the medium, the Occupation is not televised.
HEB2’s response is to try and realize television’s potential as a tool for public enlightenment. I define it an experimental project because I see in it a search for alternative ways of documenting realities like that of Hebron. How would television look if it dealt exclusively with the Occupation? And how would this reality be broadcast, if it were up to the occupied (and the occupier)? The difference, as I said, has to do with point of view and degree of proximity. The choice is to place the point of view of the viewer as close as possible to that of the citizen, of the local inhabitant, who is generally only the object of documentation—to bring the viewer into daily life in the thick of the conflict, instead of presenting him with broad political events.
The project is also, despite it all, a social experiment within the community that it documents. More than just a tool for raising consciousness, HEB2 grants its videographers a tangible tool for self-expression, both political and artistic. In many cases, the very presence of the camera deters soldiers and settlers from aggression towards the Palestinian residents. They also encourage cooperation within the community and strengthen solidarity between neighbors. Thus, HEB2 exposes television’s potential, not only for documentation but for protection, cooperation, and empowerment.
Michael Zupraner, HEB2