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The 25 years that have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians have left their mark on the State of Israel and on the areas of the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The people who were part of the process have not escaped the effects of time, but even more than time, it is the provisions of the accords that have changed and also scarred Israel's landscapes and the territories beyond the 1967 borders.
While their social and moral impact on Israeli and Palestinian society are hard to assess or document, the concrete impact of the accords is very much in evidence on the ground — even if we have already become accustomed to it and if the average Israel views it as natural and as having always existed. That is what I was sent by Haaretz to photograph on the 25th anniversary of the start of the Oslo process.
From the start, it was clear that I was not sufficiently familiar with the subject. I therefore beg the forgiveness of former Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who due to a mistake on my part, was a candidate as a subject of my photo essay until the phone call in which he explained to me that he was not connected to Oslo in any way. I started reading and asking everyone whom I came across — neighbors, acquaintances, random Palestinians whom I met and historians of the conflict, what Oslo meant to them. This research generated an endless list of images that due to lack of time was mercifully shortened. Once the concept took shape, I set out to begin taking the photos.
On Manara Square in Ramallah, I pretended to be a tourist (from Azerbaijan, Russia and the United States) wishing to take a selfie with a pair of Palestinian policemen. Only one of them, the younger of the two, seemed enthusiastic about the idea. At Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, a woman who was demonstrating alone about some unknown issue started following me and taking my picture, because she was convinced that I had been sent by her opponents in the media or by the local authorities.
On the highway that runs through the Jordan Valley, after about an hour taking pictures in almost total darkness in a field near the road, a policeman suddenly showed up. My explanation regarding what I was doing didn’t satisfy him even on my third attempt. In Bethlehem, the Christian waiters at the restaurant from which I photographed Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood wished me a Happy New Year and a happy holiday in Arabic, despite the fact that, when they asked about my background, I had simply said Al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
Palestinian politician and diplomat Ahmed Qurei (who is also known as Abu Ala) insisted on giving me pralines “for the wife and children.” His assistant then called three times to make sure that I had found my way back to Israel from his office in Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
After many hours in the car, waiting for the right light — or lack of light — I learned to look at the landscape through Oslo glasses, which were hard to take off at the end of the shoot. Suddenly Oslo was peering out from every corner of my mind and behind every bend in the highway. These days, when the memory of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is fading and Israeli students learn about him and his life and death as if it were historical trivia — along with the discovery of America or the Warsaw Ghetto uprising — I hope the project helps shine the spotlight on Oslo to some extent and to explain that, although the Oslo process may be dead, its results are clearly in evidence on the ground and still affect millions of Palestinians and Israelis day in and day out.
The separation barrier around Rachel’s Tomb. In the framework of the Oslo Accords, security control at Rachel’s Tomb was supposed to have been transferred to the Palestinians, but due to public protest in Israel it was decided to leave it under Israeli control and to create an enclave of sorts there surrounded by walls.
Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood as seen from a hotel in Bethlehem. The neighborhood, construction of which began in 1997, creates a wedge between Bethlehem in the south and Tzur Baher in the north, preventing Palestinian territorial contiguity in East Jerusalem.
The Oasis casino in Jericho. The casino was built by the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords in an effort to develop tourism in the city. The casino operated for about two years and was a magnet for many Israelis.
A sign on the outskirts of Hebron warning Israelis of the danger of entering Area A. The term Area A is a product of the Oslo Accords and refers to about 18 percent of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Area A is the only part of the West Bank that was transferred to both the civilian and security control of the Palestinian Authority.
A section of Route 60, dubbed the Tunnel Highway, between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. The road was built after the Oslo Accords as part of a system of roads that bypass Area A. Until the Oslo Accords, traffic to the Gush Etzion bloc of Jewish settlements passed through Bethlehem.
A Palestinian national soccer league match at Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in A-Ram, east of Ramallah. The Palestinian Football Association was accepted as a member of FIFA, the international soccer federation, in 1998 after the Oslo Accords, and is divided into two sections — one in the West Bank and the other in Gaza.
The site of the 2001 terrorist attack at the Sbarro restaurant in the center of Jerusalem, as seen through the windows of a Jerusalem light rail car. The attack, one of the worst perpetrated in Israel, killed 15 people and wounded 140.
The separation barrier outside of Bethlehem. The barrier was built after the division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, with their varying degrees of Israeli and Palestinian control, as part of an Israeli attempt to protect its population from suicide bombers.
Graffiti on Highway 90 in the Jordan Valley calling for “Oslo criminals" to be brought to justice — a common slogan used in the widespread public protest in Israel against the Oslo process and those who led it.
A Palestinian policeman outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Palestinian police force was established after the Oslo Accords and is responsible for civilian and security policing in Area A.
The locked gate of Orient House in Jerusalem. The building, which belongs to the Husseini family, was used by the Palestinian negotiating team during the Oslo process, and later served Faisal Husseini when he was Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs after the signing of the accords. In 2001 security forces raided the site and it has been closed ever since.
A sticker with the words “Shalom, haver” ("Goodbye, friend") at the site of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv. The slogan is a reference to words spoken by President Bill Clinton in eulogizing the Israeli prime minister.