Why am I returning to Ein el Helweh? Some years ago – I was in Jerusalem. In the place where Jesus was crucified. I do not consider myself to be religious person. But this place stunned me. Just shocked me into silence. And that takes a lot. A young Irish Priest came to ask me if I was OK. I told him I was fine. He said; “Just take it in”. Which I did.
I was there to travel to The West Bank to document a medical centre, where some money had been donated by my family following my eldest brother’s death in 2002. And since then – I have been travelling the world taking photographs of the most exceptional people. Undertaking work in the most difficult of circumstances.
Soon I will be returning to Lebanon. To spend a short time in Beirut. Then head south to Ein el Helweh. To meet a very dear friend of mine – Oyoun Shabayta.
Ein el Helweh is considered the most dangerous camp in Lebanon. And even in recent weeks there have been clashes. Really serious clashes.
Oyoun is the Field Education Coordinator for the American NGO, ANERA. I first met Oyuon at the end of 2015, and was so moved by this brilliant young woman I returned to the camp in April 2016.
That gave me the chance to meet her family, who had been refugees in the camp – her Grandmother since 1948. And heard how the family were driven out of their homes by the Israelis – but promised by a British Officer that they would be back in a week.
This is part of a photography project. This will not only document the life of Oyoun and her family but, later in the year, I will travel to their family village of Hittin to photograph one of the many Palestinian villages that were destroyed by Israel in 1948. A place they cannot return to.
But Oyoun and her family still keep working hard. Still holding the community together.
Palestinians, to use a card phrase, have been given a very ‘short hand’ over the last 100 years. And Britain has to take some responsibility in that. I’m British. But I just have a camera.
And despite all the dreadful things that Oyoun and her family have seen – even in recent weeks – they keep the world spinning around.