You may have noticed that I have a bad habit of photographing cameras. Specifically surveillance cameras. Watching the watchers, you know. There is a fantasy attached: that sufficient surveillance of surveillance will one day create enough feedback to blow out the whole system, at which point we will have no choice but to watch one another the old fashioned way, using eyes. Or, at the height of sneakiness, using mirrors, reflections in still water, in shop windows, or in each other’s eyes.
I took this photo in the old city of Hebron a few weeks ago, in the Ibrahimi Mosque. A couple of yards away, on the other side of those yellow panels, the same structure goes by a different name. The Tomb of the Patriarchs, it’s called over there. In a tomb visible from both sides, Abraham (or Ibrahim, if you prefer) supposedly lies buried, as do Jacob and Isaac, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, all of whom are said to have died about 4,000 years ago, which may, for the skeptics among you, raise certain questions about the veracity of certain claims about the remains of certain perhaps-wholly-mythical individuals lasting all those years, let alone anyone knowing where they are. But all of that is beside the point. What is the point? The point is that on this day in 1994, an Israeli settler named Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque and opened fire on Palestinian worshipers as they kneeled in prayer. He killed 29 people. The mosque was divided, the yellow panels and surveillance cameras installed. Problem solved. Most of Shuhada Street, one of the old city’s main commercial thoroughfares, was closed to the city's 250,000 Palestinians and reserved for the use of a few hundred settlers and the 2000 soldiers assigned to their protection. The city is also divided, torn and sutured with razor wire, checkpoints, concrete barriers, more cameras, nests on the rooftops where IDF snipers can make themselves at home. The best guide to Hebron I can think of is in fact a work of science fiction. There was a protest there today, as there has been for each of the last four years at roughly this time. Twelve marchers were injured with rubber-coated bullets, and one young man was shot in the leg with live fire. Oh: the uncanny thing that I almost forgot to mention—from the other side of that yellow wall I could hear the settlers praying.