Ahlam Shibli


Nine episodes from al-Khalil/Hebron (Palestine) and Kassel (Germany)

A site of military-related industry and heavy destruction in the Second World War, the city of Kassel—home of documenta, the world’s largest and most ambitious exhibition of contemporary art—became the vanishing point of several migratory movements after the war. In 1945-46 tens of thousands of Heimatvertriebene (expellees) and refugees of German descent from eastern Europe were forced to seek a new home in the rural area around Kassel; and Gastarbeiter (guest workers) recruited from Mediterranean countries, starting in 1955, arrived to enable the German Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle).

In the wake of the Arab–Israeli June War of 1967, Israeli settlers took hold of parts of the centre of al-Khalil/Hebron, one of the oldest cities in the world, thereby devastating the urban fabric and spoiling the livelihood of hundreds of Palestinian families. On July 7, 2017, UNESCO declared al-Khalil/Hebron as Palestinian World Heritage site; it also added the town to its list of sites “in danger”. UNESCO’s decision implicitly acknowledges the devastating effects of the Israeli occupation; this status will support Palestinian efforts to preserve, restore, and re-enliven the Old City and thereby contribute to the struggle for liberation.

The photographs were made in 2016 and 2017, with the support of documenta 14 and the A. M. Qattan Foundation.


In 1974, Spanish Gastarbeiter founded the Club Juvenil (Youth Club) to counter cultural deprivation of young migrants.


The Spanish specialities store of Maria Dolores Sabates Juliana who came from Barcelona to Kassel in 1973.

Andreas Skorka and Annette Kästner looking at photographs her mother brought with her as a refugee from Memelland (north of East Prussia, today Lithuania). The photographs are all that is left from Ms. Kästner’s parents’ previous life.

Mashhad al-Arb’aeen, a former mosque at al-Khalil, that has been transformed into a synagogue and is considered by Israeli settlers as the burial place of Yishai and Ruth.


Since settler harassment forced the Safyan al-Ja’abri family to abandon their ancestral home, Mr. al-Ja’abri breeds pigeons and goats in the old house.


Puppets made by French prisoners of war at the Stalag IX A Ziegenhain prison camp. The site has been used since 1948 to accommodate Heimatvertriebene (expellees) and refugees of German descent, becoming the municipality of Trutzhain in 1951.

Turkish men at the Emekder retiree association under a photo of Vedat Bilecen who founded the association in 1993.

Israeli military watchtower at the alternate entrance to al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, north of al-Khalil.


The Sephardic section of the Old Jewish Cemetery, al-Khalil, for prominent rabbinical and community figures.

The road leading to the Israeli Ja’abrah prison and police station that are both used against Palestinians as well as Israeli activists who oppose the occupation.

View from the al-Juneidi neighborhood to the Israeli Ja’abrah prison and police station adjoining Palestinian houses.


All streets leading to settler roads have been blocked by the Israeli army thereby isolating entire Palestinian neighborhoods.

Bicycles at the Hay al-Yahud/Avraham Avinu Israeli settlement.

Locker room of FC Bosporus, a soccer club founded in 1980 by Turkish Gastarbeiter with internationalist intentions.


Feria de Abril organised by the Club Juvenil.

Retired Gastarbeiter at the FC Bosporus clubhouse.

Men at the restaurant of the FC Bosporus clubhouse.


Ibrahim Saltik presenting Günter Wallraff’s report from 1985, Ganz unten (Lowest of the Low), that revealed severe conditions of discrimination and hostility against the author who had disguised himself as a Turkish worker.

Rehearsal of the Turkish Folk Song Choir at the clubhouse of FS Bosporus.

At an afternoon coffee reunion of the Association of Transylvanian Saxons a resettler, Regina Popesteano, reads in a Transylvanian Saxons folk songs book called Im Kreise der Lieben (In the Circle of the Loved Ones).


Office of the director of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee.

Entrance of the al-Ayobiyya School.

Featured in the film, Blumen made in Trutzhain by Julia Charlotte Richter, the son of the man who founded the artificial flower factory at the expellee settlement Trutzhain in 1948.

Pictures I took in al-Khalil/Hebron formed the extensive photo series Occupation; in Kassel and its surroundings I photographed the series Heimat. In these places which are informed by very diverse conditions, I searched—as with previous works of mine—for evidence of the notion of home. What I found were manifestations of an evasive place that was imagined and disappropriated, constructed and denied, remembered, sought, rejected, reclaimed. Home appeared inseparable from contestation and ideological, political, and economic violence. The present sequence of 27 photographs, Staring, is comprised of images that were not included in the aforementioned photo series. I recombined these images to examine what is similar and what is different in situations apparently so far apart.

Staring, nine episodes from al-Khalil/Hebron, Palestine, and Kassel, Germany, 2016-17, © Ahlam Shibli, 2017


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