Alexandria Avakian: 'I Was Used To Dangerous Situations'

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© Alexandra Avakian

By Alexandra Avakian

I lived in Gaza between September 1993 and December 1995. I used to go to the Israeli settlement beach in this photo to swim because I could wear a bikini and not the full-length Islamic dress then required in Gaza, which was also mandatory on the beaches and in the water. Hamas was underground but in control of the streets then, and the Israeli army occupied the Strip. 

It was dicey getting to any Israeli settlement whether driving from a Palestinian area in a car with Palestinian license plates, or driving from the Israeli army checkpoint in my car with Israeli plates. The best way to stay safe while doing so was to be very open about it, and drive slowly on approach.

I was used to dangerous situations by then, and they had become a normal part of life since covering my first uprising in Haiti 1986, the civil wars and uprisings at the end of the USSR from 1990-92, and the famines and civil wars of Somalia and Sudan in 1992/1993, etc.

The young men in this photograph are off duty Israeli Navy personnel and they were used to me swimming at their beach. Even though they were not on duty when I took this photo, they are prepared just in case, as attacks on Israeli settlements in Gaza were fairly common. I wasn't working that day, but had my camera with me - as I always do. 

This Israeli settlement and all others in Gaza were evacuated and closed in 2005. Gaza is still the scene of occasionally intense violence.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013. Learn more about Alexandra on her official website.

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