The violent summer of 2014 left Jerusalem even more fragile and disturbed than it had been. High walls – both tangible and invisible – separate the Jewish and Palestinian populations of the city. A year later, recent events suggest there is little chance of any real change in the situation.
The online photo documentary project 37% - Stories from East Jerusalem seeks to present the reality of life for Palestinian residents of this city – a city that is ostensibly and declaratively united, but actually divided. Palestinians account for 37 percent of the total population of the city. Because newspaper headlines, statistics, and slogans are far removed from the actual stories of individual lives, this project offers an opportunity to hear Palestinian residents of Jerusalem describe their childhoods, work, family, and daily lives, in a simple and un-sensationalized way.
That doesn’t mean the project seeks to avoid politics. Politics is an integral part of life in Jerusalem in general, and East Jerusalem in particular – clear in each and every story presented within the project, from problems of civil status and employment to thoughts about feminism and education. Indeed, a central driver of this project is being able to eliminate the artificial boundaries between the political and personal spheres in order to enhance our ability to identify with others’ lives beyond the barriers of alienation, fear and extreme circumstances.
The questions with which we struggled in designing and developing the project, from research through photography, offer a microcosmic representation of the encounter between the two populations and the basic reality of life in Jerusalem: in particular, our fear of perpetuating an Orientalist perspective and grating up against the sensitivities involved with confronting important issues around normalization and anti-normalization. These doubts continue to resonate in the virtual space of 37% and we make no claim to offer a simplified response or solution to these questions.
37% is an unfolding project. Every week we will add more stories to the site, featuring men and women of different ages, from diverse neighborhoods and professional backgrounds. These stories weave together to form an incomplete but essential picture of life in Palestinian Jerusalem.
Ir Amim addresses the complexities of life in Jerusalem in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The organization seeks to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it and aspires to a sustainable political future for Jerusalem, achievable only through a negotiated process between Israel and the Palestinians. Jerusalem has a unique symbolic status as a city shared by two peoples and three religions and will play a crucial role in any diplomatic agreement. Accordingly, Ir Amim aims to ensure that Jerusalem will be a fairly managed city shared by Israelis and Palestinians – a city that nurtures the wellbeing and dignity of all its residents and cherishes their holy places and their historical and cultural assets.
Ir Amim is pleased to share its expertise on political, economic, and social conditions in Jerusalem with individuals and organizations.