Rana Abu Farha
Mornings are hectic, Rana tells us. “I am a mother of two children I wake up at 6:00 am every day to prepare my children to go to school. Then, I prepare myself .”
Rana is a journalist, TV presenter and producer, and also a mother of two young children. She tries hard to balance her home and work lives, waling up early every day to prepare her children for school, cook and prepare for her program. But she believes her work is important and that it is worth the struggle. “I’m so glad that I’m a journalist,” she says. “I’m so relieved that my life took me in this direction. Because the best thing about it is that I can communicate what is happening to people in Palestine.”
Mohammad Alazzaeh’s first photo was of a boy standing on the roof of his house, pointing a plastic gun at the Israeli soldiers attacking the refugee camp. Mohammad grew up in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, where poverty is hard to escape and opportunities for young people are scarce. This environment shaped Mohammad’s priorities as a journalist. He directed his first film in 2011 about water sanitation in the refugee camp and his photos show the realities of his community. But Mohammad has never forgotten the boy with the plastic gun. He dedicates his time to teaching children in the camp photography skills so that they can learn a new form of resistance.
The importance of recognizing the truth, is the reason behind her commitment to journalism, says Doa Ali, managing editor of the online magazine, 7iber, in Amman, Jordan.
Covering issues of Palestinians living in Jordan has taught her to look at the Palestinian narrative in new ways. While interviewing the famous boxer Ihab Darwish from Baqaa refugee camp, she discovered that he was among the minority of Palestinian refugees in Jordan who didn’t have citizenship. Darwich was playing big matches for the Jordan boxing team, but when it came to participating in international championships, he was denied access as either a Jordanian or a Palestinian. Doa realized that the narrative is a bit different, but that Palestinians living abroad also face many challenges and have important perspectives. This experience has made her realize that she had many new things to learn and report about the Palestinian story.
With all of the problems in Palestine, entertainment is often the last thing on people’s minds, says Osama Awwad, a journalist working in Bethlehem. With continuous Israeli army raids, checkpoints, funerals on a daily basis and clashes erupting almost everywhere, the Palestinian territories are not a walk in the park. In fact, a 2013 study by the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative estimated that 40% of the Palestinian population are clinically depressed.
But Osama feels it is important to focus on the bright side and tries to change the perception of entertainment journalists through his radio show, theatre workshops, and work as an actor and singer. He admits that sometimes other journalists criticize him and accuse him of trying to divert attention from reality, but he believes what he is doing is a different form of resistance. Osama adds that hope is what people need now in Palestine, and that entertainment gives ordinary people room to breath and the chance to forget their tough reality, even if only for a little while.
Before deciding to study journalism, Shaden Gannam wanted to become a lawyer. But after witnessing the second Intifada she decided to study media and journalism instead. She recognized the importance of documenting daily life in Palestine. Shaden lives in Nablus in the West Bank and has been working as a news reporter with Palestine Broadcasting Corporation in Ramallah for the past year.
At first, Shaden faced opposition from her family, who thought being a journalist was inappropriate and even dangerous. Despite her family’s concerns and the inherent dangers of being a reporter in Palestine, Shaden was determined to achieve her goals. Her work as a journalist integrates the political and economic realities of living under occupation.
When the second Intifada started, Tala Halawa was sure that she would be a journalist. But her passion for telling stories started when she was still a child. In the 7th grade she was assigned to write a report for the local library magazine. “I wrote a story about a waste disposal problem we were having in our neighborhood,” said Tala, “and it was published!” Thirteen years later, she still loves covering stories and is now a broadcaster at 24FM, a radio station in the West Bank.
“You meet a lot of people, you talk to different people. It’s vibrant. I can’t see myself working something else…I will do this for life.”
Justice and objectivity do not always work together, not in Jerusalem, where Fadi Hijaz, lives and works as a journalist. As an Arab Israeli, Fadi struggles to
remain objective at work, while facing discrimination daily in his personal life. He holds an Israeli passport, but still faces long waits at checkpoints and doesn’t enjoy the same rights and status as other Israelis. Fadi is now engaged to be married and feels hopeful, but wonders how to reconcile the different parts of his life. Can a journalist live and work in a conflict region and still have a peaceful family life?
Riham Kousa, a Palestinian Syrian journalist based in Germany, has been questioning her identity for years. Although she has never been to Palestine, she was treated as a Palestinian in Syria. Now in Berlin, her German friends and colleagues think of her as a Syrian refugee.
Riham remembers that as a little girl her parents encouraged her to sing Al-Intifada songs about the Palestinian uprising. She grew up hearing about her Palestinian heritage. But today, she identifies more with the Syrian life she lived than with the culture she has only heard about from her family. Riham herself doesn’t feel as fully Palestinian as those who live in their homeland. “I feel sad,” she says, “I am a Palestinian and I have stereotypes about Palestine! I have never been there.” Riham believes that her identity crisis subconsciously lead her to choose journalism as a career.
Shatha Yaish feels like any other Palestinian journalist, but as one of few women in her field, she says that she is not always treated the same. Shatha has been a news reporter for AFP for five years, but she often feels that everyone around her, especially the male reporters, try to protect her, sometimes keeping her from doing her job.
She describes a time she was covering an army raid near Hebron and she was asked to stand separately from the men, in a safer location. She made a decision not to step away from the action just because she is a woman. She is always challenging herself to resist the stereotypes that people have of women journalists and do whatever necessary to report the story.