Eye of Witness, Hand of Faith: The Art of Asylum and New Retablos at the Border

Story cloth embroidered by Wendy, Asylum-seeker from El Salvador, 2020

We enter into the art of immigration through the wide-open eye, a symbol of watchful witness found in the artwork of migrating youth. Like children’s drawings smuggled out of Nazi concentration camps that incriminated Auschwitz personnel, or the detailed drawings by refugee children from Darfur that bore witness to their country’s 2003 genocide, recent drawings by migrant children locked in detention facilities on the U.S. southern border show that the wide-open eyes of children never forget. Through their enduring witness, neither shall we.

Eye of Witness: The Art of Asylum

Drawn by youth at Casa Alitas Migrant Shelter, Tucson, AZ 2019

Casa Alitas is Tucson’s main short-term migrant shelter for people coming from Mexico, Central and South America. From 2018-2019, guests at Casa Alitas would often draw the unvarnished truth of migration at night after shelter volunteers had left for the day. With chunks of crayon and chalk, both children and adults drew with abandon on scraps of paper, ripped cardboard, or whatever was at hand. They used bits of harvested tape and even gum to attach their drawings to the wall, ensuring that their drawings would be seen by volunteers in the morning so they would know the truth of what they had been through.

Within the refugee community, where most every guest has been traumatized and verbal communication can be challenging, the need for the universal language of art is profound.

As the volunteer Arts Coordinator at the shelter, I remember a young boy who, while standing up at a table, rapidly drew house after house, filling up the entire piece of paper as soon as I laid it before him. It was all I could do to keep up with him as I brought in bin after bin of crayons, colored pencils, markers. After his third house, his breathing slowed, his drawing was more fluid, and he finally sat down.

It is in the safe retelling of our stories through expressive arts – visual arts, storytelling, movement, and music – that we begin to loosen the grip of trauma upon our bodies and brains, our hearts, and our souls. Healing happens in the creation of narrative and meaning. Trauma-informed arts and activities provide calm in the storm, allow for safe self-expression, and promote resilience.

Most guests, then and now, stay at the shelter for just a few days, until they are able to arrange transportation to families and sponsors across the United States. In a short-term facility like Casa Alitas, arts facilitators gently host groups, provide a choice of art materials, encourage and facilitate. Careful not to re-traumatize, they do not prompt or elicit intimate personal stories from guests.

From 2018-2019, during an expanded influx of asylum-seekers from Mexico, Central and South America, so much art was produced at the shelter that it soon became an exhibition. Many of the drawings and paintings chosen for the exhibit were pulled from stacks of paper discovered after guests had left.  These visual testimonies, often anonymous, are unsparingly honest and authentic.

In the exhibition “Hope and Healing: The Art of Asylum,” one small, easily overlooked drawing is stark testimony of a five-year old’s direct experience of trauma. In the foreground, two stick figures locked in a gun fight stand next to a house riddled with what appears to be gunshot holes. The weapon looms large in the foreground. Both figures’ heads are smudged with blood red marker.

Drawn by a child at Casa Alitas Shelter, Tucson, Arizona, 2019

To the right, a door-shaped grid of criss-crossed bars drawn with black marker is strikingly similar to other drawings by children in detention. Next to the grid, two large green trucks head straight for a larger fortified wall, another oft-seen symbol in drawings by children crossing the border. In the background we see a barrier of spiky shapes–- mountains, or perhaps a wall, we do not know. We will never really know, nor can we presume to analyze what has happened to this child. We can only acknowledge and honor what we see.

Art by Selvin, Casa Alitas, Tucson, Arizona 2018

Signs of displacement and dislocation rip through young refugees’ unbridled artwork: volcanos erupting, people and animals fleeing, roads and rivers, walls and vehicle barriers, cars, trains and airplanes, all manner of birds, evidence of human-and climate-caused violence, trauma, and loss.

Anonymous, Casa Alitas, Tucson, Arizona 2019

In the piece above, a large group of people flees through the desert from what appears to be rolls of concertina wire. Arrows point to the safety of a highway in the distance. The message: Recuerdo de una historia, “Memory of a story,” beseeches the viewer to remember this story.

For other guests safely on their way to family or sponsors in the U.S., optimism and hope – bright flowers, sunshine, and smiling faces – characterizes their artwork.

A popular prompt to “Draw what you love” (or, “draw what’s in your heart”) elicits calm and generates a sense of safety for traumatized children and adults. This simple, affirming prompt with a choice of art materials (including embroidery and other culturally aligned textile arts), allows guests to create whatever they need to feel more grounded while in the throes of migration. Drawing what you love became a cornerstone practice of all trauma-informed arts and activities programs at the shelter.

On rare occasions, the prompt might lead a guest to draw subject matter that represents what they’ve loved and lost, especially youth who, in the chaos, are sometimes forced to leave beloved pets behind. Not wanting to burden their parents, they often keep their feelings of loss to themselves. The act of drawing the pets they love became an exercise in remembering and honoring. When finished, they were quick to proudly share stories of their beloved pets with the other kids and volunteers.

Artwork by adults and children brimming with faith and gratitude, churches, crosses, and devotional figures, were often the first (sometimes only) images and symbols completed by guests. Border Patrol and I.C.E. regularly take away all personal items from people when they’re apprehended, but they cannot take away one’s faith.

Cristian y Jadiel, Casa Alitas, Tucson, Arizona, 2019

Other images grounded in faith, drawn instinctively by guests, are bucolic landscapes coupled with messages of thanks and gratitude to God and the volunteers.

In addition to the violence that stalks our nearest neighbors and forces them to leave their homelands, many are climate refugees. Illustrating healthy harvests and remembering el mundo natural and healthy flora and fauna is a devotional act that keeps hope alive.

Drawn by Jairo, Casa Alitas, Tucson, Arizona, 2019
Anonymous, Casa Alitas, Tucson, Arizona 2019

In the image above, rendered in a faint hand, a family is stuck on one side of a looming wall while on the other side, we see a church with the word “Welcome” in English and the words “Logrado – Accomplished” and “Sueno Complido – the Dream Complete.” This narrative drawing is similar to storied images seen in retablos, religious paintings (specifically ex-votos)small, personal, stylistically primitive votive paintings that were historically given to churches to fulfill a vow. Ex-votos are visual prayers of gratitude and devotion to God for having overcome a terrible ordeal: an accident, illness, or a grave loss, or, as in this case, for having made it through the gauntlet of migration to the “promised land.”

In the book Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States,[1] authors Jorge Durand and Douglas S. Massey tell us that retablos address “The human need to communicate with the divine (that) transcends temporal and cultural boundaries. And that… the practice of leaving of objects to supplicate or thank a deity has very ancient roots.”

Hand of Faith: Embroidered Retablos at the Border

Complete story cloth embroidered by Wendy, asylum-seeker from El Salvador, 2020

In the Fall of 2020, Wendy, a devout Salvadorian mother seeking asylum, embroidered the story cloth above that is the centerpiece of “Bordando Esperanza, or Embroidering Hope: Devotional Retablos of Asylum” (2020-2021). It is a group exhibition of embroideries created by asylum-seekers stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After almost a year on the streets and in shelters in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, “searching for the American Dream,” Wendy had no choice but to return to El Salvador. On a layover at the Guatemalan border, she stitched this ex-voto-like embroidery-bordado.

Wendy is the former on-site coordinator of Artisans Beyond Borders, our bi-national Border Arts ministry for Asylum-seekers in Nogales, Sonora. She adds this visual memoir, her recuerdo, to the exhibit because she wants the world to understand her experience and the faith she’s leaned on against insurmountable odds. Similar to story cloths from other conflict areas around the world, Wendy’s personal narrative in needle and thread documents, and also begins to heal, the trauma of migration. Like a traditional ex-voto, she leaves it now, in supplication and thanks, at the capilla, the chapel of the exhibit, to join other devotional retablos embroidered by her compañeras.

Wendy’s story cloth blends her lived experience, pictured on one side of the embroidered border wall, with the imagined, pictured on the other side. In the upper left, we first see her hopes: the shining city on the hill, the sign that reads EEUU (Estados Unidos – United States), and the migrant with his back towards us, cell phone in his pocket.

In the upper middle, a man with a gun assaults a woman and child. The figures represent Wendy’s greatest fear: being assaulted on the road with her two-year-old son. She shared the crushing nightmares she had after her shelter-mate in Nogales, another young mother of two, whispered about passing dead bodies in the Sonoran Desert as she crossed the border on foot with her two children to join her husband and the rest of her family in the U.S.

In these two elements alone – the migrant gazing off into the shining city on the hill and the woman and her child being assaulted, we see the inexorable relationship between hope and fear.

In the upper right corner: the great wide-open eye sheds its tear into a satchel of sorrow tied to a migrant’s staff. Behind the traveler are crosses and headstones and water bottles littered across the desert. Ahead we see a bare, black tree and omnipresent black birds. Death stalks the man as he walks off the edge of the cloth and into the unknown.

As our eyes travel down to the lower right, we see the ubiquitous Golden Arches. Wendy and her friends at the shelter could see McDonald’s el otra lado, on the other side through the fence every day. They swore to meet there when they made it across.

The gaping maw of the border wall topped with rolled razor wire snakes through Wendy’s world. With needle and thread, she artfully stitched in the man she watched one day trying to scale the wall and pantalones left behind, caught on the wire. We wonder, did he make it across?

On the Mexican side of the wall, the train – la Bestia, replete with tiny figures riding on top, slams into the wall, going nowhere fast. Next to the train, we see a small medicinal portion of hope: helpful frontline workers represented by the ambulance that she says helped save her son’s life when he suddenly fell ill. Next to the ambulance is a table topped with balls of color. A facilitator from Artisans Beyond Borders passes out embroidery supplies, art therapy that would prove to be indispensable during the long wait at the hospital by her son’s side.

The three figures above are the family Wendy had with her in Nogales; her mother and her younger sister, and the others are friends watching and waiting for the border to open.

In the bottom left corner of the cloth Wendy holds onto her son Johnny’s hand, as she walks the streets of Nogales in winter with no place to rest, bent over with the weight of her suitcase, and her two-year-old. She tells me that this is what she remembers the most, the weight bearing down on her, so heavy that sometimes she felt she couldn’t breathe.

Early on into the pandemic, an increasing number of embroidered devotional retablos came in from the shelters and off of the streets. Much of this work is deeply personal but when offered back to them with love, the artisans refuse. They would rather their work be homed with supporters in the U.S.

“If it infects me lord, let it be with your faith and love,” Original retablo embroidered by Irma from Guatemala, U.S. – Mexico border, 2020

Whether they’ve embroidered conventional Christian iconography or elements of the natural world infused with Dios, the artisan’s devotional retablos rendered in cloth are intimate personal prayers, embodied testimonies of faith.

For most of the asylum-seekers, the act of devotion lies in material practice, the mindful stitching itself, the slow contemplative act of moving a needle and thread through cloth. The act of embroidering their original designs inspired by the natural world and memories of home permeates the soul and body with peace. The clean cloth canvas secured within the embroidery hoop allows the maker to begin the process of mending a life that has been ripped and torn asunder. The artisan has the agency to design a world, even a heaven, of his or her own.

“I leave my destiny in your hands my God,” Original retablo embroidered by Dalianas from Cuba, U.S.- Mexico border, 2020.

Unlike the mothers (and some fathers) at Casa Alitas who worked with embroidery materials during their brief stay and left for their new homes carrying works in progress, most of the bordadoras in the Artisans Beyond Borders collective have been stranded at the U.S.-Mexico port of entry for over a year now. Time weighs heavy on their hands and their craft deepens as they surrender to each passing day. In addition to the small but essential wage they receive for their handwork – a huge blessing for families with so little – the venerable art of embroidery, uniquely suited to trauma care, reminds us that the power of God’s grace is at our fingertips.

When Wendy completed her story cloth, she was exhausted but relieved. “The weight has been lifted off my shoulders at last,” she said. “I have told my story.”

“The name of the Lord is strength,” Original retablo embroidered by Felicitas, U.S.- Mexico border 2020

Asylum-seeker and artisanal embroiderer Patricia Martinez with Valarie James

Valarie Lee James is a longtime resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and founder of Artisans Beyond Borders. A former Clinical Art Therapist, she was coordinator of the all-volunteer Trauma-informed Arts & Activities Program at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Migrant shelter, and co-curator of “Hope & Healing: The Art of Asylum” exhibition of artwork by Casa Alitas refugee youth. Her writings on arts and immigration can be found at America Magazine, Open Democracy, and EpiscopalMigrationMinistries.org, and as a Benedictine Oblate, she writes at The Global Sisters Report. Artisans’ “Profiles in Courage and Creativity” can be read at Art and Faith in the Desert.


[1]Jorge Durand and Douglas S. Massey, Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995), 9.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Recommended Citation: James, Valarie Lee (2021): “Eye of Witness, Hand of Faith: The Art of Asylum and New Retablos at the Border,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 6: No. 1, Article 9. Available at http://ismreview.yale.edu.

Faces of a Disaster

1. Murals by Mohammad Ma’ali portray two martyrs from Dheisheh: in the foreground, Mahmoud Zaghari, killed  in 2004 at the age of 22 during a clash with Israeli troops in Bethlehem, and in the background Nasser Alqasass, 15, killed in 1989 after stepping outside his home during a curfew. Photograph © 2016 Margaret Olin.

In 1948 and again in 1967, the parents and grandparents of the young people in these photographs fled villages throughout the area that is now Israel and the West Bank. They found shelter in the Dheisheh refugee camp, established in 1949 on the edge of Bethlehem by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), under whose supervision it remains.

Dheisheh was originally established as a tent city on 1/3 square kilometers,  meant only as a temporary solution while refugees waited to return to their homes. Over 70 years later, the “camp” is now a crowded urban area that houses about 15,000 registered inhabitants, nearly half of them children. Most of them continue to wait.

I have written elsewhere of the depiction  of waiting that continues, in words and images, on the crowded walls of the camp.[1] But beyond images of waiting, those walls, almost alive with oversize faces of the dead, turn a refugee camp visually into a memorial city through which the inhabitants wend their way, live their lives, and argue.

2. Kifah Obeid, a 12-year old killed in 2001 while throwing stones. Photograph © 2016 Margaret Olin.

The event that gave rise to Dheisheh, and other refugee camps like it, is known to Palestinians as “the disaster,” or in Arabic, Nakba. In this brief essay I would like to raise the possibility of taking seriously the meaning of the word Nakba, and of considering these painting practices in the light of the ongoing disaster of the Israeli occupation.

By bringing to life these haunting faces that loom above the inhabitants, and above the children who argue, play, and live their lives there, I hope also to illuminate the interplay between disaster ritual, private mourning practices, and politics.  The story I tell focuses on only one camp, but it is representative of many cities and camps in Palestine and beyond, in Jordan or Lebanon.

3. The murals, by Mohammad Maily, show three important figures from the PFLP, the writer Ghassan Kanafani, the leader Wadie Haddad, and the (still living) Layla Khalid, known for attempting to hijack two airplanes. On the right is depicted Naji al-Ali, political cartoonist assassinated in 1987. Photograph © 2015 Margaret Olin.

The dead in these murals include martyrs of Dheisheh and martyrs of Palestine, assassinated cultural and political leaders, and revolutionary figures from abroad. Assassinated political leaders, like the noted author of “Return to Haifa” and other works, Gassan Kanafani, rub shoulders with Che Guevara, and with teenage boys who were in the act (or under suspicion) of throwing stones or crude Molotov cocktails at demonstrations. Some were killed while helping wounded demonstrators, some while attempting to evade arrest for other punishable offenses. Belonging to a “cell” that could hatch a plan to throw rocks at soldiers was one such offense.

Many of the murals display the insignias of political parties. Often these parties, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), or Fatah, the party in power in the Palestinian National Authority, have paid for the materials to create the murals. The political and military context of the practice of painting murals for martyrs on the walls here, which seems to date from the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, supports their interpretation as propaganda, much like the posters of martyrs that have played an important role in the visual culture of Palestine since at least the 1970s. In addition, the visual culture of murals and posters are sometimes regarded as contributing to the normalization of violence.[2]

4. A mural for Qusay Al-Afandi, who was killed by Israeli troops at the age of 17 in 2008. Photograph © 2015 Margaret Olin.

Certainly, political aims play a role in the creation of the murals, which explains the eagerness of political parties to subsidize them. Yet it is unjust to dismiss them as political propaganda alone. They have other purposes. Many of the murals portray young people from Dheisheh, some not much older than the children who play under their images. They are well known to the children as relatives: parents, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, and cousins. While the nearby separation wall is a “global message board,” the murals in Dheisheh are generally made by residents of the camp.[3] They are personal and communal. Indeed, the personal is political in the murals of Dheisheh. And sometimes, as we shall see, in the tension between these two realms, the ritual evolves.

5. The mural, by Yazan Ghareeb, in memory of Ahmed Mesleh, contains names of young people of the camp killed by Israeli soldiers. Photograph © 2014 Margaret Olin.

Established practices of communal mourning enable families and friends of the deceased, and their traumatized community, to deal repeatedly with immense and ongoing loss. The martyrs of Dheisheh have, in essence, two public homes. First, the Cemetery of Martyrs established at the base of the camp in 2000, to hold the martyrs of the then just beginning Second Intifada, when nearby cemeteries, one at the Aisha camp and another southeast of Bethlehem, were inaccessible.

Not all martyrs from Dheisheh since then have been buried in the “Cemetery of Martyrs,” but fifty-three of them have been, and on the first day of Eid, as many as two hundred people may visit the tiny cemetery.[4] Every morning, the father of one martyr reads the Koran on his balcony overlooking the cemetery where his 17-year-old son Sajed, a medic killed while attempting to administer to an injured protestor, and his 14-year-old nephew Arkan, shot after throwing a stone at a departing military vehicle, were buried within a year of one another.[5]

6. Cemetery of the Martyrs, Dheisheh. Photograph © Omar Hmidat.

Soon after their burial, martyrs find a second home closer to the living, in murals that are usually placed on the street where they resided. The family, or an organization, may contact an artist, negotiate over the content, and subsidize the materials. The artist often paints late at night to avoid attracting a crowd. Children are often eager to show you the portraits of their martyrs.[6]

7. The younger sister of Arkan Mizhar sits under his memorial mural by Omar Salim. Photograph © 2019 Margaret Olin.

Some disasters, like earthquakes and terrorist attacks, are sudden and over in minutes. Others, like a pandemic, may last a year or more. The disaster, the Nakba, that initiated the situation in which the refugees find themselves, was singular and sudden, and the 1967 defeat, also a disaster for Palestine, was over even more quickly.

Yet the occupation that followed both of these disasters has itself the characteristic of an ongoing disaster, with the need constantly to brace oneself for immediate losses: of youth who fall to the bullets of soldiers, of permits to work in Israel, of one’s home, when it is destroyed because someone who lives in it has become a suspect.

For refugees in camps, the ongoing disaster emerges from the provisional character of a life in suspension, the making of a lifelong home in what was meant to be temporary quarters, while one nominally waits to return to a normal that is all but forgotten.[7]

8. Ayed Arafah, mural for Qusai Al Afandi, killed in 2008 while throwing stones during a raid. Photograph © 2017 Margaret Olin.

The burial of a martyr and his reappearance on the street help to restore order, to build the new normal that is a major function of a disaster ritual. Yet the ongoing deaths of young people in Dheisheh, a few each year, continue to punctuate periods of relative order as the disaster continues.

The expectation and fulfilment of these rituals help people manage the multiple losses, but the very phenomenon shows that a disaster ritual can be a double-edged sword.

Ronald Grimes speculated, in reference to the commemoration of the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, that ritual disaster practices can play into nationalist propaganda.[8] Similarly, some within the Dheisheh community, including some muralists, also speculate that large murals of martyrs characterized as warriors could encourage the worship of militarism, at the expense of overlooking much of value in Palestinian culture. These attitudes often leave their mark on the walls themselves.

Yet now that the idea of the martyr mural has been embedded in the culture, it has become  impossible for artists, who are all themselves camp residents, to refuse the request for a mural from the family of a martyr. The likelihood that organizations such as the PFLP will take advantage of a family’s grief for the purpose of propaganda does not make it easier to refuse.

9. Left: Ahmed Hmeedat, Mural for Jihad al-Jaafary, 20, who was killed in 2015 while standing on his rooftop during a raid. Right: anonymous mural for Jihad al-Jaafary. Photograph © 2015 Margaret Olin.

The friction between the personal and the political is sometimes felt in negotiations over the murals. A fraught negotiation can take place, for example, over an attempt to portray the deceased as anything other than a warrior, even when the martyr himself had little interest in being a “warrior.”

In one case, competing representations resulted in the transformation of a narrow street into a painted dispute. Jihad al Jaafary, a twenty-year old who was shot by Israeli troops on the roof of his house in early 2015, was portrayed throwing stones in a mural on one side of the street where he lived, while on the opposite side the artist Ahmed Hmeedat portrayed him in his dancing costume. The political sponsor insisted on the inclusion of a weapon, so Hmeedat provided one of the doves surrounding Jaafary with an M16 rifle. A poster appeared on the street as well. In accord with the consistently more propagandistic tendency of posters, it portrayed the young man with an arsenal of weapons that, I was told, he never owned.[9]

10. Ahmed Hmeedat, mural of poet Mahmoud Darwish, with a quotation from his work. Photograph © 2014 Margaret Olin.

Some artists tried, with varying degrees of subtlety, to amend the ritual to express less militant values. The artist Ayed Arafah thought that the harsh, black and white style of the murals emphasized the grim celebration of violent death, and that painting murals in color would insert more life into the walls. Hmeedat went further by adding new subjects to the murals. If warriors – and innocent young people disguised as them – were the only heroes, he reasoned, then the Palestine that children are brought up to treasure is not worth fighting for. He began painting, in color, the likenesses of deceased cultural figures on the walls.

With or without color, the visual culture of the cemetery below and that of the city above have begun to blend, as the likenesses on the walls have begun to appear on tombstones, and residents have begun to identify the two spaces with one another.

“It is a bit disturbing to think about the empty graves in these cemeteries: built and open graves, as if they are awaiting the next martyr,” one resident told me. “Just like an empty wall, awaiting the next face.”[10]

There will probably be more faces soon.

11. Who will be next? Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Photograph © 2016 Margaret Olin.

Margaret Olin has appointments at Yale Divinity School as well as in Yale’s Department of Religious Studies, the Program in Jewish Studies and the Department of the History of Art. She is the author of three books, Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art (Penn State Press, 1992), The Nation Without Art: Examining Modern Discourses in Jewish Art (University of Nebraska, 2001), and Touching Photographs (University of Chicago Press, 2012). With Robert S. Nelson, she edited Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade (University of Chicago Press, 2003), and with Steven Fine and Maya Balakirsky-Katz, she edits the journal Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture. She is also a practicing photographer, whose photographic work plays a fundamental role in her scholarship. Her interests include Jewish spatial practices, theories of perception, and the theory and practice of visual witnessing. Some of these concerns can be followed on the occasional blog touchingphotographs.wordpress.com.

[1] Margaret Olin, “How Long Will Handala Wait? A Ten-Year-Old Barefoot Refugee Child on Palestinian Walls,” in Christoph Singer, Robert Wirth and Olaf Berwald, ed. Timescapes of Waiting: Spaces of Stasis, Delay and Deferral (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 176-197.       

[2] “No longer marked off with the intensity of an “event,” except at particular moments, death and violence form part of the “totalitarian overcoding of social life” (Hardt and Negri 2000:113) that is typical of moments of high nationalism,” Lori Allen, “Getting by the Occupation: How Violence Became Normal during the Second Palestinian Intifada,” Cultural Anthropology 23 (August, 2008): 453-487.

[3] Craig Larkin, “Jerusalem’s Separation Wall and Global Message Board; Graffiti, Murals, and the Art of Sumud,” The Arab Studies Journal 22, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 134-169; Special Issue: Cultures of Resistance.

[4] Rebecca George, “Photo Essay: A Visit to Bethlehem’s Martyr Cemetery,” Mondoweiss (21 July 2015), https://mondoweiss.net/author/rebecca-george/. For a nuanced discussion of martyrs’ funerals, see Lori A. Allen, “The Polyvalent Politics of Martyr Commemorations in the Palestinian Intifada” History and Memory 18, no. 2 (2006): 107-138; special issue: Home and Beyond: Sites of Palestinian Memory.

[5] Interview with Om Tha’er, grandmother of the two young men, in 2019, three months after the second death, of 17-year-old Sajed Mizher.

[6] Philip Hopper notes the children’s identification with the martyrs, without, however, mentioning their personal relationship with them. “Beyond the Wall in Dheisheh Camp: From Local to Transnational Image-Making,” Pedagogy and the Theater of the Oppressed Journal 1 (article 7), https://scholarworks.uni.edu/ptoj/vol1/iss1/7

[7] Ronald Perry, “What is a Disaster?” in Havidán Rodríguez, Enrico L. Quarantelli, and Russel R. Dynes, ed. Handbook of Disaster Research (New York: Springer, 2006), 5-6.

[8] Ronald Grimes, “Ritualizing September 11,” Rite out of Place: Ritual, Media and the Arts (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 85-6.

[9] Ahmed Hmeedat, personal communication.

[10] Omar Hmidat, personal communication.


The written material this article is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Photos © Margaret Olin.

Recommended Citation: Olin, Margaret. (2021): “Faces of a Disaster,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 6: No. 1, Article 8. Available at http://ismreview.yale.edu