It is appropriate that the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem be a grandiose establishment. As I approach Bethlehem, my first sight of the wall bearing down on either side stirs within me a mild sense of hopelessness. Its enormity is breathtaking, but at the same time it is nothing new. We have seen similar walls, similar mistakes.
The Berlin Wall, which stood for 28 years and stretched 103 miles around the perimeter of West Berlin, cost some 1000 lives.* Belfast’s 40 “peace walls” have grown to nearly 40 feet high in some areas of the city, reflecting the growing strength of the throwing arms of both Catholic and Protestant teenagers.** The plans for the absurd, 700-mile U.S.-Mexico border fence, which separates the impoverished border regions on either side, promises to piss away at least $2.2 billion in the name of American xenophobia.
These walls have much in common: they involve a great deal of planning, funding, and cement. In other words, once in place, these walls are hard to tear down.
There is much to be said about the Israeli Separation Wall, but I have much more of it to see. Suffice to say that you can expect several more installments on my observations of the wall—mapping, checkpoints, settlement corridors, refugee camps, and more. For now, I leave you with my first impression of this giant fiscal black hole.
For a people so obsessed with never forgetting the past, you would think we Jews would be wary of repeating the mistakes of history. Nevertheless, the wall looms overhead, promising a future era in which the conflict of the region becomes that much harder to tear down.
* While some 200 lives were lost actually at the Wall, as a direct result of actions taken by border guards against wall jumpers, approximately 800 more lives were lost in the various ingenious attempts to bypass the wall and its guards. For more information, see Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
** During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the “peace walls” were erected between the various Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast. As the locals became more adept at throwing things like Molotov cocktails over the fences, more layers were added in an effort to deter the violence. Eventually the walls towered to almost 40 feet. Lesson learned?
Posted By Sarah Sachs (Palestine)
Posted Jun 12th, 2006