Many environmentally aware people from the global middle and upper class choose off-grid living, though that lifestyle is usually supplemented with solar panels and other accoutrements. But for the 1,300 Palestinians who call Masafer Yatta home, living with almost nothing is no longer a choice.
Argentinian photographer Eduardo Soteras compiled Interstice, a beautiful series of black and white photographs that chronicles the lives of the Palestinian cave-dwellers caught in “the space between” – an unforgiving land in the south hills of Hebron cut off from the rest of the West Bank by a string of illegal Israeli settlements.
The people eek out a meager living raising goats and sheep, and coaxing vegetables and fruit from the ground. But they have no running water, no electricity, and no roads, which makes day-to-day life exceedingly difficult – a lifestyle they would happily leave behind, according to Soteras.
Granted, Masafer, which means either “traveling” or “nothing” dates back to the Ottoman era, when debt collectors would find a vast strand of emptiness as the locals fled to the caves that they had carved into area rocks, caves which still shelter the people who live in a string of villages just outside of the city Yatta, to avoid paying taxes.
But today the people of Masafer Yatta have little control over their own fate.
Albeit officially administered by a committee appointed by the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Local Affairs, the cluster of villages part of “Area C” is under Israeli civil and military control. What’s more, in the 1980s, the region was designated a military training zone called Firing Zone 918.
Forced deportation to clear the area for Israeli soldiers is on the cards, though it is uncertain if or when it will actually take place.
And while this may sound like a blessing, people who have nothing will struggle to build new lives elsewhere. Yet the people of Masafer Yatta remain mostly forgotten – not only by the greater community, but even by their own people.
“Some say that the days of this lifestyle are counted,” writes Soteras in his poetic introduction to his photographic series. “Others say that everything will remain as it is.”