Ahlam Shibli احلام شبلي

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© Ahlam Shibli

The Valley

Arab al-Shibli, Palestine, 2007–08
series of 28 photographs, 38 x 57.7 cm; 57.7 x 38 cm, gelatine silver prints; chromogenic prints

The images of The Valley were taken in 2007 in the village Arab al-Shibli and its lands in the Lower Galilee of Palestine/Israel.

On 28 October 1957 twenty-eight honorables of the village Arab al-Shibli wrote a letter to Mr. Elisha Soltz, the Israeli military governor in Nazareth. In this letter three requests were addressed to him.

He was asked:

1. to return their lands, build an asphalt road to the village, and supply it with water and electricity;

2. to issue an order for the money that had been collected from the village people to be transferred back to them so they could build a school;

3. to allow the building of houses in the village and to add the name of the village to the map of the country—the "holy homeland map," in their words.

In that letter, the village representatives explained their situation: They had good relations with their Jewish neighbours, the people of Kfar Tavor, and the Jewish district commander before the 1948 war. At that time, the two sides agreed that the people of the Arab village and their Jewish neighbours would keep relations between them brotherly and refrain from ethnic segregation. Both sides would protect the other after the war, whether within an Arab or a Jewish state. The agreement was signed by the representative of the village that at that time was called Arab al-Sbaih, the representative of Kfar Tavor, and the Jewish district commander.

In 1950, two years after the war and the establishment of the State of Israel, however, the men of Arab al-Shibli were requested to meet at the Kadoorie School with the Israeli military governor, the official in charge of so-called absentee property, and the headmaster of the school. They were asked to exchange lands for one year: the good lands on the east side of Wadi al-Midy that were officially owned by the people who had stayed in the village, for the fallow lands of the people who had fled the village on the west side of Wadi al-Midy, which had been appropriated by the State of Israel. The village people accepted and an agreement was signed in three copies. Each party received their own copy, but the Israeli district commander asked to have the village's copy in order to keep it safe. Time passed and the other side refused to give back the lands. The Israeli district commander denied the agreement. The village people were asked to keep quiet, and they did.

In 1952 things became worse. People from the village were arrested and others not allowed to leave the village.

In 1954 the state official in charge of absentee property came to the village and claimed the lands that had belonged to the refugees and were given to the village people in the agreement of 1950.

In 1957, when the village people asked for permission to build houses in their village, their request was rejected with the argument that their village didn't exist on the state map.

Also, the transfer of 3,000 Lira that had been collected through the office of the Israeli Ministry of Finance in Nazareth from the village people, in order to build a school instead of renting spaces in the village, was denied and the project was not implemented.

The letter ended by reminding the Israeli military governor that the village had been renamed after one of the seven families that had been living there already during the time of the British Mandate, the Shibli family. The relations between the different families had always been problematic. The Shibli family, they wrote, was the family that had remained in Israel after the war, and they didn't want to keep the original name of the village, Arab al-Sbaih.