Eight metres high. That is twice the height of the Berlin Wall. With watchtowers and a buffer zone for electric fences and military patrols, the Wall surrounds Bethlehem.
It is part of a 708-kilometre-long separation barrier of which 15% runs along the agreed Green Line, while 85% of it encroaches into Palestine, splitting communities, villages and cities alike.
On one side of the wall, a ‘western’ world thrives. On the other, an ‘eastern’ world is shackled, its every move monitored with cameras, sensors, and hundreds of checkpoints. Somewhere in between, in the ‘seam zone’ flanked by the Green Line and the separation barrier are 25,000 Palestinians living on 9% of Palestine, neither here nor there, and requiring a permit to exist.
Travel is not always about pretty candy floss sights. At times it is also about harsh realities, often painful and ugly.
I had heard a lot about the Wall. Yet, the actual sight of it was overwhelming. Hard to digest. Sending shivers down my spine.
The Israeli government built the Wall as a response to the Second Intifada that began in September 2000. They call it a ‘security fence’ against terrorists. Palestinians term it the ‘apartheid wall’. Initially meant to be a temporary measure, it has become a permanent part of the divide, a quasi-border which even as the international community frowns upon it, just keeps getting sturdier and more divisive.
Graffiti artists from all over the world have expressed their thoughts and feelings on this highly volatile topic on the Wall’s surfaces. The most famous being the anonymous London-based artist Banksy. Punctuating these provocative artworks, are stories of youth and children from Bethlehem and surrounds, as part of the ‘Wall Museum’ advocacy project carried out by AEI Center. A fitting combination.
I have on purpose not captioned the images in this post. I leave you to infer your own meanings from them.
– – –
Have you been to the ‘Wall’? What was your experience like? Do share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to read them.
Once, at the end of the 1980s, I was watching the news. Suddenly, my husband, holding our baby boy of 10 months in his arms, rushed in through the front door and slammed it. A rifle crashed through the front door window and shattered the glass. I jumped over the glass and opened the door. A furious settler stood before me and shouted that my son had thrown a stone at his car window. I told him that my son could not have done it. He threatened to come back and kill whoever had done it and as he left, he shot at our water tank on the roof. The next day he came back. With my heart pounding, I brought my elder son to the door. I knew he was innocent. After looking at him, the settler left.
~ Jala, from Beit Sahour
Carrying his father on his back
There was a small family: a mother, father, and their two sons. They lived in Gaza with their grandfather. They lived happily until one day, someone told them that the Zionist armies would come and burn the homes with the people inside. The whole family was afraid for their lives and that of their young sons. They left their house, but the grandfather refused. He liked his house and wanted to stay there until the end. When the son saw his father’s resistance, he took him out and carried him on his back. They never returned to their house. Now they are refugees in Beit Sahour.
I just finished my university and I have my degree to become a doctor. But that was not what I wanted to become in life. I wanted to become an artist and inspire people and tell the story of Palestine. But my parents didn’t see any future in that and I was forced to study medicine. Now I have my degree but there’s no work. I have lots of time now because I can’t find work. I decided to pick up my faded dream and work on my art. Finally, I’m an artist.
~ Hanna, Bethlehem
I walked alone on an empty road. I was holding a seed of plant and it gave me courage and a strong will to reach a safe place. I still had a long way to go and nothing gave me security or inner peace except my companion. It lightened my way and it motivated me to reach my goal. At the end of the long way, I found what I was looking for. God gave me a beautiful garden in which to plant this seed that struggled and waited to be safe – like I did.
I gave my life to let it be safe. I didn’t give up before I found a place. I believed in God’s mercy. I sowed the seed in the soil and watered it. I kept waiting and my faith was getting stronger while the seed was struggling to find its way out through the soil towards the light. The seed became a beautiful red rose. It was a special symbol of hope, love and faith. The wind attacked it but failed to break it. Many people tried to uproot it but they failed. Hope is in everything God created. We have to search deep inside out hearts to find it because it is the source of life.
~ Written by a young Palestinian girl.
I want to be … a soldier
I am a sixteen-year old girl and I want to be a soldier. There are women soldiers in other countries so why not in Palestine? But I can’t become a soldier, they won’t accept me as a woman, I’m afraid they will harass me and bother me.
But still I want to serve Palestine and make it a better place. I want to fight for our freedom and show everyone that women are strong and can fight for what they believe in. I would love to see other girls with the same dream join the military, make the military a place where women are welcome to join. We are all part of Palestine, men and women. So why can’t I fight for my country and for my people?
~ Christina, Bethlehem
A holy city, a place where all kinds of people are welcome.
It’s my hometown, a place where I can relax.
A safe place, a place of religion.
A wonderful place.
A place I want to build my future, my better life.
Finalize my high school education and hopefully become a veterinarian.
Bethlehem is an open prison.
In my future it is a place of freedom.
A place known for its hospitality for everyone, especially tourists.
A place where people bond and talk and be free.
~ Majd, Bethlehem
- Do walk the entire length of the graffiti-covered section of the Wall.
- To know more about the Wall, click here.
- You can visit the Wall independently or through a tour of the West Bank.
- Across the street is Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel, offering an in-depth social commentary on the conflict. Their afternoon tea [2:30 – 6:00 pm] is highly recommended.
[Note: This blog post is part of a series from my solo and independent travel to Israel and the Occupied Territories for 15 days in November 2019. To read more posts in this series, click here.]