000 - Masafer Yatta

Landscape of Masafer Yatta.
Landscape of Masafer Yatta. Photo by: Eduardo Soteras Jalil

In the desert
dawn arrives.
Somebody knows it.

Jorge Luis Borges, Haiku 8
, from
Seventeen Haikus

An interstice is a space between two things. It can also can be a part of a same thing to which it belongs and at the same time is a stranger. This is the story of Masafer Yatta, a space inside another space, a world that is strange to everyone. There is a story, one with numbers: this place during the Ottoman era was supposed to pay taxes for the land and for the animals, and each time that the collector appeared everyone disappeared, having the collector to write in his report “sifr, sifr, sifr”. Sifr, zero: null, emptiness, nothingness. From the sifr to the Masafer didn’t take long, almost as little as from the distance of this place to the city of Yatta. Here, like with the zero, there is nothing, only emptiness. At the same time, the whole can be contained. Here, in the whole, life is simple; it’s the life of people that live very close to the ground, so close that many of them sleep in its womb, in caves that they, their grandparents, and their great grandparents carved into the stone. So simple that everyone is doing the same thing for survival, raising goats and sheep and practicing a shy and scarce agriculture. Here, in the nothingness, survives a Palestinian population that is unknown both inside and outside Palestine, in an area with no access to water, electricity nor roads, isolated from the rest of the West Bank by a belt of illegal Israeli settlements, making a living in the place that becomes more and more difficult every day. In the middle, in the Interstice, the people of Masafer Yatta live, love, transform and adapt; keeping a lifestyle that in many cases is not a choice: here, everything is decided by others, strangers.

There is also a new story with numbers. The 000 was transformed into a 918, which is the number assignated by the Israeli army to this area: the Firing Zone 918. For that, they have declared the expulsion of its communities as soon as possible, and the request is still pending: here, everything is decided by others, strangers. Some say that the days of this lifestyle are counted. Others say that everything will remain as it is. Here, when the dawn breaks, somebody says nothing.

From the photo essay Masafer by Eduardo Soteras Jalil