Le Journal de la Photographie on Rula Halawani’s Testimonies

05 September 2012

I am not feeling well so I was sent to an Israeli hospital to see a skin doctor. While walking towards the outside clinic I was very nervous, as I did not want to be checked by an Israeli doctor. It is true that it wasn’t the first time for me to be checked by an Israeli doctor, but this particular visit was different as it coincided with a photography project I had been working on for the last sixteen months . I was collecting and researching passport portrait pictures of Palestinians who had been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces since 1948 till today. Faces timeless and remote, yet strangely familiar and personal. Faces that look at us with a penetrating gaze, raising questions about our relationship with them. Questions about their histories. Questions about their identities. About their silence. A deafening silence.

So walking towards the clinic I felt an awkward sensation of the martyr’s faces chasing me. As a Palestinian I couldn’t reconcile between a personal medical issue and those faces that keep on haunting me. Feelings of guilt overcame me. The doctor calls my name, looks at the report then looks at me and asks:

‘Are you able to come to the hospital three times a week for a period of two months for therapy session.’

I stood speechless, could not say a word

He then explained, ‘it is not a harmful therapy. We use UV1 light to cure you, this kind of therapy is called ‘Phototherapy.’
I made my first appointment for a Phototherapy session, trying to convince myself that this treatment had some relation with photography and my career as a photographer.

Lying still on the special phototherapy bed, I felt cold and lonely . Each session lasted an hour and a half , the ultraviolet rays penetrating my body . The faces of the martyrs floating insistently around me in the room. I felt confused. What did they go through at the moment of their deaths? ? Was there suffering ? I wondered!

Rula Halawani was born in 1964. She lives and works in Jerusalem.

Le Journal de la Photographie September 2012

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