DISTANT NATURE
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JERICHO
Jericho—an oasis, a space of refuge, the city of the moon, the city of tropical fruits and secret wadis. A city built between the deep, moist walls of a valley—on salt-encrusted shores, within the aquifers that feed its numerous cisterns and roots; borne from narratives of the escape from and re-discovery of temptation and pleasure. To hide for forty days within a cave, resisting wordly offerings; to enjoy oneself within winter homes and swimming pools on the weekend; to walk on fields and ridges with the hope of finding peace in the solitude of nature. 

In this oasis, there are possibilities for roots to be sunk into fertile soil, for fruit to be harvested and bitten into with abandon. Sugars and bitter acids flow through sweet clouds of fresh evening air—perfumed with the smells of shisha tobacco burning on hot coals—as people crowd around the fountain in the center of the city at sunset, enjoying cups of tea, fresh juices and coffee.

As the cable-car slowly hums towards the Mount of Temptation, people check-in to the Oasis Hotel—at the entrance of  Jericho—for the weekend, driving from the south and north of Occupied Palestine with weekend bags, new swimsuits and freshly-waxed legs to use the swimming pool, sip on cocktails and sunbathe besides the palm trees.

Whether by the fountain, the spring or the swimming pool, people gather around water—we consciously—intuitively?—choose to form communities by springs and aquifers, lakes and rivers whenever possible. Jericho is one such fluid, wet point within this land that finds itself giving selflessly to all those that settle it, regardless of the political intentions that inform their actions.

But, I’ll start with the soil—to say sand would be dishonest. In fact, this is the first of many illusions that slowly dissolves with each day, bringing out of the mirage a tangible form, a tactile, physical, interactive landscape. To understand the soil in Jericho is to understand the oasis that defines it; an abundant ecology formed by the movement of the Jordan River through the Jordan Rift Valley, from the Sea of Galilee in the North to the Dead Sea in the South. The water brings fertility to the earth—allowing a complex botany to form out of the landscape 258 meters below sea level, a natural depression, lined on two sides by towering walls of rock and dry earth.

The soiI in Jericho is primarily a fine brown alluvial powder. Silken and fertile—minerals, silt and clay blended into sand and gravel. It is almost too fine to form solid shapes but turns immediately dense when mixed with water. Higher in the valley, the soil turns harder—weathered, coarse, dried by the sun and the desert winds—into hard fragments of clay. Mediterranean Saltwort grows on the sides of the dunes amongst golden, crumbling gravel.

My note says: try to capture the texture/materiality of the landscape, the plants’ bodies & our bodies, to also talk about how this duality does not exist here between what is/isn’t nature.

I wrote this note towards the end of my first week in Jericho, one evening after a walk when I realized how my entire foundation of what is Nature seemed to be shifting. The duality I write about in my note is one based on a classical ecological understanding of what does and does not comprise nature. As easily as we consider a green space a natural1  space, we are conditioned to disregard dry landscapes as infertile, barren and empty. However, within Jericho, the more I studied the ecology around me, the more it became clear that the landscape is fluid—transitioning between distant and present; synthetic and organic.  Geographically and temporally it moves beyond a dualistic definition. Through this lens, it becomes apparent that a politically-charged landscape2—one that is often redefined topographically by conflict3—cannot successfully accommodate a linear study of environmental systems; in fact, it asks for a perspective that acknowledges its states of impermanence, confusion and flux. 

1 Something existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind.

2 Through claims to land, military architecture and urban design based on separation.

3 Through new borders, demolitions, settlements and outposts, segregated roads, fences. Eyal Weizman provides a concise documentation in the myriad ways the Civil Administration and IDF adopt urban planning to enforce systematic control and violence over select groups of people














         



























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