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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Photos bridge Arab-Israeli divide
By Saeed Taji Farouky

Recent events in Gaza and the West Bank have once again focused the attention of the world's media on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But one group of Palestinian and Israeli students are determined to represent their own lives to the world with a project called Side By Side.
See the teenagers' work

The ambitious project began in January 2006 when seven Palestinian and seven Israeli children - all of whom lost someone close in the conflict - met in a monastery in the hills above Jerusalem to begin a six-month photographic dialogue.

Side By Side is run jointly by PhotoVoice - a UK charity that aims to give a voice to marginalised communities around the world through participatory photography - and the Palestinian-Israeli Families Forum/Parents Circle, a forum of bereaved families dedicated to non-violence and dialogue.

With support from The Economist Group, Christian Aid, Salesforce Foundation and the Arthur B Schultz Foundation, the project aims to give children caught in the middle of the conflict a chance to tell their side of the story.

The children themselves are painfully aware of the violent realities that surround them.

Shadi Khaled Abu Awwad, 14, from Beit Ummar, says: "If there's another war, maybe things will be worse. There'll be more death and more pain. We'll kill, and they'll kill for the same reasons. Maybe there's another way."

Noam Oran, 14, writes: "By taking pictures we can learn a lot about the differences and similarities between Palestinian and Israeli culture. I believe and hope that photography can minimise the gap."

The groups have been meeting regularly since January to learn about the techniques of digital photography and to develop their personal portfolios.

Each student will present their selection of images at two exhibitions - one in the Palestinian territories and one in Israel - to mark the end of the project.

A selection of images from Side By Side will also form part of a panel discussion on photography of Middle Eastern conflicts taking place at the Royal Geographic Society on 11 July, as part of PhotoVoice's Magnum Photographers Lecture Series.

Hosted by author Charles Glass, the discussion will feature Micha Bar-Am, a celebrated photographer known primarily for his coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and two members of the Families Forum.


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