Roots is a grassroots movement at the heart of the conflict in the West Bank fostering understanding, nonviolence, and transformation. Accompagnateur Workshops aid Israeli settlers and Palestinian women erase decades of fear and bias. Bringing out the humanity of others is the essence of the workshops. We support the engagement of each in the process of recognizing parallel lives and narratives.
“Palestinian people are strangers, distant, unfamiliar to me. Even if I don't regard them as enemies anymore, they are still very far. Now I look at this foreign woman on the picture and feel physically and emotionally close to her because of her big scarf and strong makeup. I subconsciously recognize these as familiar to me. It makes me happy and raises my belief that step by step, change can happen.”
—Shuli, workshop participant
Shuli, a student of Saskia's workshop with Roots in the West Bank
I wanted to share with you a meaningful moment I experienced last week, I hope I can express it in English.
We were driving around Tekoa and were stuck behind a slow truck. A Palestinian truck that had a print of a bride: A Palestinian young woman with a big head scarf, of the same sort our friends in the workshop were wearing. I found myself staring at it (while diving slowly...) with a warm heart and a sense of intimacy.
In that moment I realized how deep and basic it is what you gave us in your workshop: intimacy.
We didn't talk about deep or highly important subjects, but we looked closely at each other's faces, clothes, and bodies, we became aware of details. This is something I never had the chance to do, nor ever had a thought of the importance of doing it.
Palestinian people are strangers, distant, unfamiliar to me. Even if I don't regard them as enemies anymore, they are still very far. Now I looked at this foreign woman on the picture and felt physically and emotionally close to her because of her big scarf and strong makeup. I subconsciously recognized these as familiar to me. It made me happy and raised my belief that step by step change can happen.
Sarah Mandel, a student of Saskia's workshop with Roots in the West Bank
Saskia’s natural warmth and charm made everyone feel comfortable. She brought the group together, taught us how to use the cameras and then encouraged everyone to experiment and explore at their own pace. The sessions were a fantastic opportunity to learn more about photography and to get to know the other women.
Saskia’s flexibility and enthusiasm kept us all involved, even in the face of some logistical challenges. In a calm, nurturing and safe environment the photography was a basis for an encounter with the Other in the conflict, who we would never otherwise be able to meet. I found it particularly powerful to take photos of the other women, as when you set up a photograph in your camera lens, you examine and consider the subject in a totally different way than when you are just looking at them.
I would highly recommend Saskia’s workshop to anyone and look forward to her return so that more women can benefit from them.
Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Roots Co-Founder & Director of International Relations
The first set of photo workshops took place during the summer of 2016 and since then Saskia has returned to Roots every single summer.
It would be an understatement to say that we are thrilled with Saskia. She's created a whole new methodology of bringing people - enemies - together by looking at each other through the lens of the camera. The micro-transformations that many of the women undergo, in which the hard outer shell of exclusivist identity begins to crack, are breathtaking. The women begin to open up to each other and to imagine what it is like to live the other's life. Empathy begins to appear on the horizon.
The power of the camera is even greater than I'd thought. Saskia's methodology combines group dynamics with storytelling, and a certain type of interpersonal therapy. Every year she comes back with the same integrity, focus and dedication, but also with new insights and techniques. More and more women join and are affected, and the influence of the workshops spreads.
I cannot wait to see what the future holds, as Saskia's camera and her facilitation reach more and more people. An investment in Saskia's work is an investment in a more humane, a more empathic and a more caring society.