In April 2008 we were invited to Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, by Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal in order to collaborate on their current project Decolonizing Architecture .
Besides doing research work and designing/administrating the website of the project, we also made an intervention in Oush Grab . This is a former Israeli military base – it was evacuated in May 2006 – in the West Bank near Beit Sahour and one of the case studies of Decolonizing Architecture.
From the 16th to the 17th of May 2008, one day after the celebrations for the 60th anniversary since the birth of the state of Israel (and since the Naqba Day), the site was re-occupied by a group of Israeli settlers who aimed at founding a new illegal outpost in the Palestinian territory, a settlement called ‘Shdema’. Somehow 40 of them managed to drive with a bus until Oush Grab, where they started cleaning one of the sheds, made a fire, celebrated, and visually re-occupied the whole place through flags and Zionist writings like “The land of Israel belongs to the Jews”.
The next day, together with DA artists in residence Anne Gough and Jesse Long we went to Oush Grab with paint buckets and brushes. We first covered the graffiti with a thick layer of white paint in abstract, neutral shapes.
After that Hotel Oush Grab was set up in one of the buildings. 3 comfortable suites in a peaceful location and with a great view of the surrounding Palestinian landscape.
By doing so, de facto we initiated the so-called “Revolving door occupancy”, in which international peace activists together with Palestinians try to resist the settlers’ absurd occupations using creativity. In fact, the settlers came back several times with their spray cans, machine guns and babies, but the signs they left behind were always deleted or neutralised by pacifists.
For us, this represents a form of non-violent resistance by visual means. It is a response that acts on a different level than that of idiot racist slogans. Its aim is to create a non-obvious, ironic and ‘positivising’ situation.
Since it’s evacuation by the occupation forces in 2006 the hilltop of Oush Grab was at the centre of a battlefield of many actors. Located at the edge of Beit Sahour (Bethlehem) and the desert it had been a fortress used by all colonial regimes that governed Palestine in the past century. In the recent intifada tanks within this fortress have destroyed most Palestinian homes around it. […] Before evacuating it, Israeli soldiers have transformed the hill into a volcano like topography, where now the remnants of the military buildings stand like in a ghost town. Israeli settler groups now seek to establish a new settlement within these building. Palestinian and international activists confront them in what has become one of the most intense flash points with the Palestine frontier. Could architecture and spatial practices be used in the battle for this hilltop?
Read the rest of the story on Decolonizing Architecture .