Remembering Resilience: A Visit to Bureij

29 November 2013

At UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza, former Agency photographer and filmmaker George Nehmeh stumbled across a picture he'd taken three decades ago, in the Bureij refugee camp - a portrait of a young brother and sister. It's only if you look closely that you note what's different about them: Both have hands deformed by a congenital handicap. 

UNRWA staff in Gaza tracked down the girl in the photograph, now a 41-year-old named Umm el-Abed Fayad who welcomed the photographer warmly. She told them that when the electricity came on the night before his visit, she'd been able to look at the picture - it was like being stabbed in the chest, bringing back all her memories of growing up with a disability. George commended her for her ability to overcome her obstacles and claim her place in society - a strength of character you can see both in that photograph, and in this video. 

George Nehmeh, born in Beirut, was an UNRWA photographer and filmmaker from 1960 to 1996. During this period, he captured dramatic moments in the history of the Palestine refugees in films and photographs. Recently, he visited camps in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, meeting with people he had photographed during his career.

'The Long Journey', an exhibition unveiling the newly digitized UNRWA film and photo archive, opens on Thursday 28 November at 6 p.m. at the Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in the Old City of Jerusalem.