Working as a collective on this project was extremely enjoyable. On our first day, Rich Wiles asked us to draw something that captured the meaning of each chapter of the story. Afterwards, we set up a schedule in which each of us had a day to go out and take the photos. After we'd collected these, we discussed amongst ourselves how to choose the appropriate photos that would accompany the text of Flying Home. The discussions we had were perhaps the most important part of the project; we were all equals with each of us having our say in the photos that would accompany our section of the text.
Team-work taught me a great deal about cooperation, supporting each other, and the pleasure of working with others. If all the refugees came and worked on a book like this, they would take a big step toward achieving their dreams and goals. Among these dreams and goals is freedom for themselves, for the entire Palestinian people, and for all the peoples and refugees of the world living under oppression. If the world is not united, if it is not working as a team, they cannot achieve what they want. They won't be able to get rid of occupation and oppression if we all stay divided.
Working as a team is the best way to work because we cooperate and support each other in all the different aspects of the work. If I were to do this work on my own, I would not know how to get information I don't have. As I worked with my friends on this project, the same thought always came to my mind: that there is no doubt that some day we will all return to our villages, and that will be the day that we are truly free.
From the story, I learned about the occupation and about the need to return to our homelands. I learned about photography too. I learned how to take a photograph and how to look at pictures and understand them. Each story has a meaning and these meanings are important in our lives. It is beautiful to learn photography. We learned about cameras and how to use them and how to frame a photographic scene. I learned to express my ideas by first sketching the image (prior to taking the photograph). I learned that we can create new stories like Flying Home and take pictures ourselves. In one of the pictures I took, I chose the right place to take the pictures, told the boy to stand to the side, and showed the camp in the background. When I took the picture, I put the boy in-focus because he is the hero of the story and kept the background blurred because the boy is more important.
I took a photo of a caged bird and I set it in a way that the cage is in-focus while the Wall is in the background.
I learned to choose the right place to take pictures. I learned about freedom. I learned cooperation with others and team work. It is good because it reflects Palestinians' lives and how we should help each other to get rid of the occupation. I learned to think about the photos I take and how to edit them so that they will be viewed and understood positively.
I started to talk to people especially foreigners who ask about these photos and to explain how Palestinian children are connected to their lands and that these children... that we, will get our freedom someday.
I felt happy when I participated in this project; I felt it changed the way I think. I took photographs and learned a lot. I want all people to see this book. I hope people who read it will think about creating a space for children in the camp like a park or any other open space for us to play. I hope that people will realize how horrible the Wall is. I hope all other refugees, Palestinians, and internationals, will help us to destroy the Wall.
I do not know what people outside of the camp think about refugees, but this book will make them think about us and that we can create things. Such projects help us learn about our lives. I would like to participate in other photography projects too. This book will bring about change in people who do not respect the elderly. If a person does not respect his grandparents for example, this book teaches him the importance of the elderly who tell the history of our homeland. When we tell this story, the old refugees will know that their grandchildren are educated about their rights and that these grandchildren will keep telling their children our history and that we have the right of return and to take the settlements and the Wall away.
When people read about the flying birds and how birds can reach our homeland they will think about freedom, the time when the Wall will fall, and when we will all be free like birds. Our readers will learn about the Palestinian flag. They will also learn good manners, like not stealing, to respect others, to be good, and not to be bad.
When they see photographs of the kite flying above the Wall, readers will feel hopeful about victory and freedom.
Maan Abu Aker (age 13):
The fourth project participant, Maan Abu Aker, was away from Aida during the production of this article so his comments are not included above, but he was as much part of the team as all of the other participants. Immediately after conclusion of the project we talked to Maan about the project and his goals for the future. He told us of his dreams to become a doctor so that he can help children who are injured by the occupation, because he wants “all children to have a future.” Maan told us that it is the first time he has ever produced something like Flying Home, and that he has never before seen his name printed in any publication. This was clearly, and rightly, a great source of pride for him. Maan’s mother told us that every night he sleeps with a copy of the book beside his bed.