To join all of the walls of the past, a yet another, vast and enormously tall wall, has recently been constructed by Israel to protect itself against terrorist attacks and suicidal bombers. It separates the West Bank from Israel. Israelis say that it has achieved its objectives by dramatically decreasing the intensive of terrorist attacks. At the same time though, the wall's path has also divided certain neighborhoods, people and families who had lived together till its erection. While there are military check points through which people can cross from one side to another, officially the Israeli citizens, especially the Jewish ones, are not permitted to the West Bank, this is supposedly to protect them, for their own personal safety.
On the other hand Palestinians are required to have special permits to cross over to Israel. Many do not have such. These rules result in dramatically restricting direct contact between the people of the two sides. I question, how can they learn of each other’s lives without venturing into each others territories, without a direct dialogue enabling a simple human or a deeper intellectual dialogue or even a discourse that may foster a greater mutual understanding and, possibly, a sense of appreciation for each others viewpoints? Without such a dialogue, it seems to me, the prospects seem truly faint.
Thus, at least for now, this vast and ostensibly infinite partition wall is plain and clean on one of its sides.
… and densely covered with graffiti on the other flank. While it separates the people and sides, in the most odd of ways it also acts as a form of a dialogue, a conduit of emotions and wishes expressed by those leaving on one side of the wall, but unfortunately not see by those on the other side. When you think about it, at least to me, this Wall has become an unintended symbol of human lunacy and desires.
To me the clean and blank side visually expresses complacency with the situation the Walls generates. And the other, the all but blank side, projects frustrations with what is and dreams for what could be.
In one swoop, it projects both intense hate and powerful hopes and wishes for a peaceful coexistence. Seems that this vast Wall speaks lauder, more intensely and graphically than the people it separates.
In the plainest and down to earth manner it expresses hope in the most delicious of culinary customs.
In several of my discussions the issue of citizenship came about. There are Jewish citizens accorded full rights, and there are Palestinian Israeli citizens with lesser rights. In addition, there are Palestinians who have permits to reside in Israel, with much lesser rights still and, despite the enormous wall, there are many illegal emigrants whom I saw in and around the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. According to my Israeli, fluently English speaking, taxi driver they pour in from Sudan in search of a better life. Yet, since they have no work permits, as it is the case in all other countries, many resort to illegal forms of survival, including theft, robbery and other crimes. For whatever the reason, he exclaims, the government is not willing to deal with this issue, or lacks the bandwidth, this is according to the version of my taxi driver.
The same taxi driver who was taking me back to the airport, when asked for his sense of the future, told me that he lives in a town where some of his best friends are the Palestinians. Yet he does not see any solution or future to a resolution of the current stalemate. He thinks the current situation will continue as is for many years to come. What a way to live, I thought to myself. It is incredible, yet these people have been born to this conflict, they are growing up within it as a norm that has been there and will continue being there despite the occasional explosions, caused by both sides and for different yet related reasons.
Clearly and obviously, each country of the world has its own problems, conflicting issues and stresses, Israel is not unique. Yet because of its strategic location in the Middle East, the volatile and progressively, from generation to generation, intensifying discourse with the people and the countries which surround it, this region represents an explosive epicenter boiling with undercurrents which will, sooner or later, have their way and outlet. Both sides are aware of it, yet the status quo lingers. And the world looks on.
After so many failings in negotiating for the two sides (actually here there are more sides than two) no country has the energy or patience or bandwidth to vest itself, diplomatic resources or its reputation into the mix. Many have tried and failed. America has championed this process for years, and failed as well.
The clear sense on the ground there is that current US administration has lost its interest and is shying away from any further direct involvement. Palestinians deem that United States has abandoned them all together. Some blame American Zionists for “controlling” the US policies. As for the Israelis, they are confident in that the American support, despite its ups and downs, will persist, and they are probably right, strangely enough, for the same reason. No one seems to ponder the “what if”, even the Israelis who would have everything to loose without American support. Till now the European community has also, though much less actively, been supportive of Israel and its right to existence. But will it last?
Look what happened most recently. All of the European countries have turned away from Israel, instead voting on the Palestinian side. It happened while I was there, actually in a company of a woman artist, a Palestinian with an Israeli citizenship. Watching and hearing her reactions and commentary was truly enlightening, and sobering. On one hand she expressing a total lack of respect for Abbas, the elected leader of the Palestinians living in the West Bank. On the other, she was proud that their cause has been not only recognized but supported by the vast majority of the world's community, except for a few minor countries whose names were completely unfamiliar to her, some to me as well. Rightly or not, I am under the impression that these tiny countries have been economically supported by the American interests...
Even though here was a Palestinian activist and a Jew watching together the UN vote, we both were able to do it respecting our diversity and points of origin. Yet when the US Ambassador to the UN read her speech, this woman was infuriated, and I was embarrassed. We, the US, and as promised, have stood by Israel, even in the face of the rest of the civilized world voting against us. But I can not help but to ask myself, where will this take us? If we, the US, are a true friend of Israel who is so dependent on us, is it not also our duty to act as a bigger brother who insists on instilling vital recognition into the thinking and outlook of a country under our protection? What would a parent do with a child who insists on ignoring the reality and guidance, and instead have a tantrum, seeing only its own point of view?
As though in answer to my question, next came an interview with an Israeli government representative, standing fast by the usual norms, seemingly oblivious to all that is happening throughout the world at large. Have we too grown as shortsighted and unwilling to look the truth in the eye and wake up to our obligation to ourselves, to our friend and, above all else, to the future we all will share, good or not so?
Despite the shock of losing Europe's support and backing, the very next day Israeli government announced construction of numerous new settlements within Jerusalem and the West Bank. To me, it's a slap to the world, to any sense of reason or logic, or hope for any, however vague, prospects for an eventual peaceful resolution. And so the stresses were give yet another twist, increasing the pressure. Under such circumstances, how can a meaningful dialogue ever come about? So the big question in my mind is this, should the US not bring some sense of realism into the mind of the state it so nobly stands by? After all, if a bigger conflicts ignites in the Middle East, we will not all be drawn into it, like it or now?