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Karim is studying for an exam, near his home at Wadi Fuqin. The youth of the village are very educated and most of them continue to study university in Palestinian territories. (Leeor Kaufman)

The Palestine That Isn't In The Headlines

by Claire O'Neill
Feb 26, 2013

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Claire O'Neill

The word "Palestine" often conjures up mental images informed by the news: bombings, riots, protests, etc. Israeli photographer Leeor Kaufman, though, "would be glad if people would get a deeper and different perspective these days," he says.

Now based in Brooklyn, Kaufman grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel, and often ventured into Arab villages in the West Bank. As a student in film school, he began documenting those villages, and one in particular, Wadi Fuqin.

In 2010, UNESCO recognized Wadi Fuqin as a potential World Heritage Site, describing it as "the best preserved and continuously managed cultural landscape of its type in all the West Bank."

Kaufman describes it as "a well-preserved model of a traditional agricultural way of life developed thousands of years ago."

But the Palestinian Authority, because it is not a sovereign state, cannot register a site under the World Heritage Convention. A state, such as Israel, would have to do it.

Wadi Fuqin lies in a valley and relies on mountain spring water for irrigation. On a hillside east of the village is one of the fastest-growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Beitar Illit, which threatens Wadi Fuqin's water supply with its sewage, according to Palestinians.

And to the west of the village, Israel's West Bank separation barrier has also created difficulties and complicated the water supply system.

Kaufman's poetic photos of life in Wadi Fuqin are not about conflict, though. They are informed by his personal desire for harmony, and his quest to simply document a place as it evolves.

"So many Arab villages are gone and can only be visualized through the refugees' memories," he explains. "I wanted to make pictures of the villagers in their fields with their produce — trying to make ... the image they would have in their memory."

In this video, a teenager in Wadi Fuqin explains life in his village.

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