The project began with the occupation of Masudiya station by Gush Emunim, an Israeli settler organization, which led to the Sebastia agreement. The Sebastia agreement is a document signed between Gush Emunim and the Israeli government that legitimates the settlement movement by the Israeli government even though it is illegal under international law. It was a turning point that opened up the northern part of the West Bank for Jewish settlement. The station was on the Hejaz railroad, which originally connected the Middle East, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. The Gush Emunim occupation of the station is not only an entry point to further land grabs in the northern West Bank but also a foreshadowing of further control of Palestinian access to their own lands in the area as is the case in Sebastia, an archaeological site and living village northwest of Nablus in the West Bank.
The project focuses on the occupation of the site and was developed in three stages: the collection of testimonies about the Masudiya Station occupation, the testimony translation in material and spiritual terms, and finally, the production of a short film and an archival website as intervention claims.
The short film presents key testimonies and reflections on the occupation: the performance of hands reveals the materiality of the occupation, while the constant interplay of reality and fiction in the simulated re-entry to the station reiterates the severance of the memory of the station from the current present. Memory acts as an extension of the physical environment, connecting the past and offering the possibility of reimagining the future.
The archival website exposes the collection of testimonies and forms a forum that fosters public awareness and discussion and aims to rebuild mobility through solidarity. Some of the testimonies during the project's research phase were taken from The National Library of Israel and the State Archives (see footnote for details). Only 1.29% of materials from the state archive are open to the public and are usually presented in a standard archival format with names, descriptions, times, and places. This narrative serves state propaganda, provides legitimacy to the invasion of the land, and obscures the brutality of the occupation. The archival website as a design proposition complements the limitations of the linear narrative of this project’s short film and gives the public a platform to freely explore the testimonies and the relationships between individual testimonies, presenting the origins of the design proposition and the transcription of the testimonies, thus challenging the materiality and one-way narrative erased from the authoritative record represented by the state archives. Meanwhile, the free access to my research data supports future potential research, which functions as solidarity building too.
Keywords: occupation, materiality, memory, archive, narrative identity