The Neighbour Before the House: In Memory of the Moroccan Quarter
Duration: 00:38:59; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 53.013; Saturation: 0.021; Lightness: 0.655; Volume: 0.100; Cuts per Minute: 2.231; Words per Minute: 69.804
Summary: “The Neighbour Before the House” is a series of video probes into the landscape of East Jerusalem. This footage, shot with a security camera, takes us beyond the instrumental aspects of surveillance imaging, introducing us to the architecture of a deliberate and accelerated occupation of a city. Inquisitiveness, jest, memory, fear, desire and doubt, pervade this project of watching. Stories float up as Palestinians from different neighbourhoods talk about what can be seen—messianic archeological digs; Israeli settlement activities; takeovers of Palestinian properties; the Old City, the Wall and the West Bank, among other mundane and precious details.
For this session in the Old City, the surveillance camera was set up on an edge of a roof that looks directly over what is now known as the Wailing Wall Plaza. This vast open-air expanse, which attracts religious pilgrims and tourists, was, up until the Six Day War, the Maghrebi or the Moroccan Quarter--a densely populated area adjacent to Al Aqsa Mosque, where several thousand people lived in around 125 homes. In his book 'Hollow Land', Eyal Weizman writes about the significance of this act of demolition, when Palestinians were ordered to evacuate, as their homes were flattened to the ground: “On the evening of 10 June, 1967, before the ceasefire was reached and while still under the fog of war, the Israeli military performed the first significant urban transformation in the Occupied Territories, flattening the entire Maghariba (north African) Quarter, which was located immediately in front of the Wailing Wall on the southeastern edge of the Old City. This destruction was undertaken in order to make way for an enormous plaza extending between the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall. This urban transformation, undertaken by the military without explicit government order, demonstrated more than anything else that the military had no intention of retreating from this occupied area.” (Eyal Weizman, 'Hollow Land', Verso, 2007, pp. 37)
The narrator for this session, having lived and relived this historical moment and its memory, lives it out again, aloud, into the present-day politics of the place, over the moving image, across what can be seen beyond the Old City wall, and into contentiousness of what is planned for under the ground. At the end of the footage, what chances onto the screen and gets caught on record might be no more than an everyday spectacle of state-sponsored exhibitionism, which serves to point not only to the mundanity of military presence on this religious land, but also, to remind us of our own inhibitions with regards to the profanity of certain technical possibilities.
Old City, Al Quds, East Jerusalem
The roof we were shooting from was not any old roof. And how we came to it was through a series of small serendipities. We had first read an account of Haifa Khalidi, who was part of one of the five famous Jerusalem families and caretaker and heir of the somewhat inconspicuous Khalidi Library, in a book given to us by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, which was written by Amy Dockser Marcus and titled 'Jerusalem 1913'. In the epilogue, was a rather curious account of a court case, the author's reading of which we found a bit suspect.
When we decided to look for Haifa Khalidi, we hadn't known that the stretch of her bathroom window, as well as the tiny little roof attached to the bedroom in the attic, both overlooked the Wailing Wall Plaza. It just so turned out that Shereen Barakat, who was working with us on the project, knew Haifa, a middle-aged, unmarried woman living with I don't know, twenty-something cats.
ok now ...
I will pan and while I am panning you can tell us what we are seeing, some history, etc what language , english is fine, whatever you are comfortable, but if you feel you need to switch, casually to go back to arabic.
-No its ok I used to be an english teacher
Shaina: (Explaining what we want to do)
What we see now is the Jewish quarter, it used be called the Jewish quarter even before '67, now over here we see this is the plaza it used to be the Moroccan quarter which was demolished in '67 in approximately 2 days. Later on, they started of course renovating the place and fixing it and so on. This is the wall for the mosque area what we are seeing now, and over here you can see the Jews praying, it is shabat for them today.
The women are on one side and the men are on the other side.
In this loaded landscape that is constantly being reconfigured by a myriad state and non-state actors, I find what Eyal Weizman says to be quite useful, as a framework with which to think about the context in which our project operates.
So, to quote from the introduction of his book 'Hollow Land':
"The spatial organization of the Occupied Territories is a reflection not only of an ordered process of planning and implementation, but, and increasingly so, of 'structured chaos', in which the – often deliberate – selective absence of government intervention promotes an unregulated process of violent dispossession. The actors operating within this frontier – young settlers, the Israeli military, the cellular network provider and the other capitalist corporations, human rights and political activists, armed resistance, humanitarian and legal experts, government ministries, foreign governments, 'supportive' communities overseas, state planners, the media, the Israeli High Court of Justice – with the differences and contradictions of their aims, all play their part in the diffused and anarchic, albeit collective authorship of its spaces. Because elastic geographies respond to a multiple and diffused rather than a single source of power, their architecture cannot be understood as the material embodiment of a unified political will or as the product of a single ideology. Rather, the organization of the Occupied Territories should be seen as a kind of 'political plastic', or as a map of the relationship between all the forces that shaped it.
"The architecture of the frontier could not be said to be simply 'political' but rather politics in matter'"
This wall is part of the wall of the mosque but in Arab it is called Al Buraq. And Al Buraq means according to history that the prophet Mohammed he was one night he has this thing, it is like a horse with wings and he took it and came to Jerusalem, and from there he ascended to heaven and met with different prophets.
...And this Al Aqsa, not the rock...
...with different prophets and on that day the 5 times of prayer was issued.
Now the thing is, now they say the Israelis...
the Jews say that this wall is part of the wailing wall or what we call king Solomon's temple. They even call the mosque area the temple mount. And I do not know how true this is. You can never tell, but this is what they believe. And what we believe, is that the mosque area was during the time of the Ummayyad's. Tt was a place of ruins and the Ummayyads built the place.
So there is a big conflict between Muslims and Jews on this area, and the Israelis nowadays, or the Jews, or whatever, they are trying to have some kind of control over the area.
Now if you see the trees over here there used to be a house belonging to Abu Saoud family, who is connected to the late Yasser Arafat. It was believed that he was born in this area and Yasser Arafat is a well known leader of the Fatah organization, which of course they fought a lot to do something to the Palestinians.
Behind the tree you can see a minaret ...or ya there used to be a mosque, even up until now it is still a mosque. It was not demolished, but the house itself has been demolished and the people from the family of Abu Al Saoud family, they were kicked out.
-When was this?
I can't remember, but I think it was in the very early '70s or very early '80s... am not very exact about the date, but for the Moroccan quarter, it was in '67 it was demolished in '67 for sure, I saw it.
-Can you tell us about those days and if you like...?
(Shaina is asking Haifa to talk in Arabic)
ok I will tell her in Arabic...
ok this used to be the Moroccan quarter in '67, the Israelis the war started on the 5th of June. They entered the old city on Wednesday. After 2 days, on Wednesday, even they started to evacuated the ones who used to live really close to the wall, what is called the Buraq or the wailing wall. They gave the people around 2 hours and they evacuated them in two hours and they started with the bulldozers to remove the houses.
-Here the houses near the wall?
The area of the wall used to be few meters only. There was not this area we see distance it was a very small distance.
Like I said, in '67 the bulldozers started, within 2 days on wednesday thursday, by friday it was all destroyed, all the area was demolished and of course gradually they started organizing it until it looks as it does now.
Currently they are making this stairway that goes up to an area we call the court and the court is an old name to the place. I do not know why it seems that it used to be a court during the times of the Turks.
This is the way of the court which is adjacent to the Silsileh gate and we cannot see it from here. It over looks the grounds of the Aqsa so the place is currently to the police guards as you can see this house here there is always guards in it and .. yani all the time there are camera and so on and these are the lights for the ground of the wailing wall or the Buraq wall.
-And these speakers?
The speakers are used for when they would need to call for someone.
-What is this here?
These trees belong to the Aqsa area.
The trees are for the Aqsa.
So this is the court, right here, where they are not the soldiers and police have a central station. Here, of course, in the past, this was in the hands of the public waqf.
Power acts on constantly reconfiguring this landscape, and is thus diffused, or as Eyal Weizman puts it, "the organization of the Occupied Territories should be seen as a kind of 'political plastic.'" It is, in a sense, this "politics of matter" that is probed by not only the visual language this project has employed, but also the narrative device it has enabled. Stories mark their territories, as they "settle" on the image, as people speak about what can be seen. But these narratives also are metaphorical devices with which one can reclaim the past, unearth what goes on under the ground.
-And this door here?
This is part of the court.
This is the roof of my house.
ok now here we will turn and see there are excavations.
Now these ruins, here used to be the house of the Mukhtar of the Moroccan quarter. And at the beginning they refused evacuate the place. However they were forced to evacuate and at the beginning they made it into a police station, this is new what we see here is since around one year.
They are digging and they discovered some roman ruins and they are trying to discover ruins that belong to the Israelis and until now there is none.
-Even the tunnel that goes from the ground of the waling wall...?
No it is
No this is at the place of the Moroccan gate, this is new.
They made it on the basis that the tourists and foreigners come through it. We cannot come from this gate
That tunnel is not from here it is from this side here under but it does not show from here.
In the beginning of the tunnel, I entered the tunnel a couple or 3 times with archaeologist dan bahat I do not know him personally, but we helped him a lot with the story of the library.
So I went a couple of times and I saw, all the ruins there, they say that most of them are Roman ruins. They say there is a stone that is so big, I do not know how to describe it... they say it is from the times of Herodus in the tunnel down there.
How correct this is I do not know.
haifa zooms into other people's property.
ok now we see close to the house, something like a school. This is a religious school, it used to be property of the Khaldi family. It was confiscated in '68 for security reasons. And in '78 it was given to rabbi Shlomo Goren and we could not do anything, so they turned it into a religious school..
-Yes a religious school, are they there all the time?
Most of the time, yes.
And all this is the Jewish quarter, it used to be called the Jewish quarter, the old city is divided into the Jewish quarter, the Islamic quarter, and the Christian quarter, the Moroccon quarter , etc.
Now of course this does not mean that the Jewish quarter, that all the owners are Jews, no. A lot of the Muslims and Christians and the Armenians a lot of them gave properties and they were also tenants. For example, we had one house that was rented by the mukhtar of the Jewish quarter Van Garten, now in '48 they were forced to leave, this is close to the Armenian quarter. In '67 his daughter, her name is Rifqa Van Garten she came and said this used to be my father's house and she evacuated the residents who were in it.
My father was responsible after '67 of the Awqaf which are the families' properties so he had to go to court, and at the court the lawyer was Jewish and the judge was also Jewish. At the court, my father came and told the lawyer, sit down I want to talk so he came to the judge she is saying that this is her father's house and they were renting it and she wants to go back to the house, there is no problem with that, but what is important is that the stones are the property of the Khaldi family and you are supposed to pay us rent. And if you confiscate our properties in this way, the law that you are using one day we can use this law against you and use the same law and confiscate your properties in the same way.
He told him Mr Khaldi another word and he will be deported to Jordan and the case has been postponed to an unidentified period and they offered him a compensation of 50 Dinars.
-In '68 , what are you saying??!!
Yes I am serious. The lawyer is called Gidon Yafit, he was an Israeli lawyer coz there were no Arab lawyers.
At that time in the beginning, or right after the '67 war...
Yes of course ...he told him 'another word and you will be deported to Jordan instantly'.
Now currently I can take you to the place, and she has turned it into a museum, I know now where it is in the Jewish quarter, close to Ararat.
The building is composed of two stories/floors and this and that. Most of our properties, we are like the rest of the Palestinians, which means between shops and houses, all of it has gone that are in the Jewish quarter. And of course to other families, to the Nammaaries, Husseinis, Nusseibeh, any family that had properties in the Jewish quarter have all been confiscated.
Do I say or not? Most unfortunately, the tenants took the initiative and handed in the houses to a company called the company for the construction of the Jewish quarter. The one who used to be responsible of it is someone called Azra.
We have helped as Palestinians (you can cut this here later) but we helped the Israelis in settling them inside the old city, which is what happened with the house now known as the house of Sharon, and so on.
Can I ask a few questions?
(not yet talked about the khaldi , Shaina suggests moving the camera for better seeing the property )
You won't be able to see it from here unless you go to the library.
How could you..?
What with the Moroccan quarter was destroyed, was it just Moroccan or mixed?
At that time before '67 not only Moroccans were there also Palestinians were living there also I mean the Moroccans they consider themselves now as Palestinians even Armenians, they have been living here, born here and their fathers and grandfathers and they say 'we Palestinians' they do not say 'we Armenians', even the Africans, everybody who has been living here for such a long time.. they say 'we Palestinians' because they are part of the community we do not have.
Shereen: You start using their stuff in the house, it is really humiliation.
ok here we say the Mukabber mountain and this is where the British high commissioner was before '48.
All these are arab houses.
What are these buildings here? They look strange ....all alike.
-It looks like a housing compound.
(zooming into the landscape)
They will edit right?
This is Jewish or not?
-I do not know.
ok now we are looking outside the walls of the old city. Here we see a flag, it looks like the french flag so it seems this is french, perhaps a convent in the mount of olives.
ok we come back inside the old city, you see here this is the passage of the Moroccan gate. And of course we cannot enter from here.
-What's the story of the lie they said some Israeli tourists...
Ah yes... when they came into the Aqsa they said these were Israeli tourists and they wanted to enter the ground of the Aqsa and of course this is not true they were from the Israeli settlers fundamentalists who are trying to pray within the grounds of the Aqsa. And when they entered you could hear all the chaos and shootings, yes of course I could... I could not see but I could see the fumes and the smoke rising up. And it was early in the morning in the beginning I thought it was just that sometimes they doubt some bag that is just put them in the ground of the wailing wall so they bring experts and they explode it.
So I thought that the first explosion was in the wailing wall ground but when the explosion was more I realized that there has been an attack and confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And there were wounded and they even shot at them and also shot tear gas bombs and they refused to transfer the wounded directly they kept them a long while before allowing the ambulance to come into the grounds and provide aid.
But there was one Israeli, they brought him out form this passage and took him by the ambulance. Here exactly the ambulance came and they let him out with the ambulance. An Israeli fine, but a Palestinian no? let them die.
And as we said that the Armenians and the Christians and the Moroccans the Africans or any other nationality are treated as Palestinians they do not have any special rights that is why they say we are Palestinians to the point that there is one American who was married to a Palestinian his wife dies but he is still here in Ramallah and he a teacher at the friend's school which follows the quakers. Until now he is treated as a Palestinian and not as an American. He is forbidden to enter Jerusalem he has a west bank id.
It is ridiculous, everything in this country related to the Jews is ridiculous. Totally ridiculous, in what country in the world, now for example during the Jewish feasts, the west bankers are not allowed in Jerusalem. Which country would do that? None!
Who would forbid the young men less than 50 to enter the Aqsa to pray?
-50 or 60?
They were generous!
You want to flip the camera?
We will change the angle so you can see more inside the Ye Sheva.
(Shaina explaining about tilting the box)
I hope they cannot see the cameras. It is catastrophic if they find out.
You cannot see the building right?
-Not much difference... same.
If we can turn it upside down it will work, be extra careful.
They do not see it is a camera that's the good part of the box.
-Are they doing a kind of training? celebrating?
Soldiers ...for guarding.
(Shaina asks haifa if she is accustomed to this kind of sight)
Well .... this is really strange it seems there is something wrong, when they do ths and wear this it means there is something wrong.
-Or are they just doing extra security for their feast?
This means they are expecting something.
Anyway you think we should stop it?
In this scene at the end of the episode, soldiers line up, take positions, point in the direction of Al Aqsa Mosque, and fire their empty rifles repeatedly into the sky.
The act of witnessing this military drill, something that we could have witnessed anyway, if we were but standing on the roof, where, also our act of witnessing would have in turn been witnessed by at least nine other security cameras (some state, some private), that are visible to us when we looked around the roof, turned into a moment that was something else. It has to do with the fact that we witnessed what we witnessed not directly but via this surveillance set-up we had created, and so on a computer screen, with the knowledge that it was being recorded, and that we are the ones recording it. Haifa Khalidi had made a resolution to live out the rest of her life in her family home, and was worried about potential attempts at the forceful take over of her property. She had had trouble via surveillance cameras before, when her carpenter was on the roof and the police landed up to inquire who he was and what he was doing. The sensitivity of this location is undeniable, and related to her fear. But it gets amplified, when witnessing this particular performativity of military prowess. There was something in that moment, that was unnerving, and you heard narrators gasp, their voices fell into a hush, and then, they turned to whispers. We immediately ended the session.
Though in and of itself this moment as I have laid it out on many levels is not so difficult to parse, every time I think back on it, try to break it down, I fumble over it, and somehow falter. We were watching something we could have been watching anyway. So what was it about it? About this feedback loop, that maybe made us stop.
They do not even look serious they look like they're...
I haven't heard the news today.
If only they knew, that we are here watching them and we are seeing them this way, oh God...it would be really bad for me ...I will be interrogated. They are preparing.
(Haifa and Shereen talking)
How can it be such a normal sight for them?
After so many years you get used to it...
Let's see where are they going....
I once met an Israeli girl not here outside and she was telling them how when they teach them when they give them the military training they teach them about the holiness of the weapon, the weapon is very holy and you should know when to use it and how to use it.