Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Walls Torn Down by the People

On yesterday’s news shows we saw images of a wall that, by the sheer strength of the will of the people, came down—a wall that seemed permanent, a wall that looked solid and impenetrable. Like the wall I’ve seen between Bethlehem and Jerusalem (actually built on Bethlehem’s own land, separating the city from the olive groves of Bethlehem’s citizens, making their work of tending their trees almost impossible).

As we went through the checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem two weeks ago, we saw a wall 8 meters high (that’s 24+ feet! Towering over the arid landscape). The wall at the entrance to Bethlehem has tall guard towers, like the ones we see at the prisons here in Colorado. The guard towers may (or may not) be staffed by Israeli snipers, watching everyone who comes or goes from Bethlehem. One never knows whether anyone is watching—part of the strategy of keeping Palestinians nervous and worrying about whether a gun has them in its sight.

The wall, Israelis say, protects them from gun-wielding, suicide-bomb-wearing Palestinians. But the wall I have seen in Bethlehem is not finished. I have walked around the wall where it ends in Beit Jala, in Sami’s orchard, where the wall ate up about 30 feet of his fruit trees, burying them under the rubble built up to support the wall. Sami’s orchard destroyed, his land taken for a wall that has never been finished. An unfinished wall that pretends to protect the Israeli settlement also built on his village’s lands. The photos show me standing beside the wall on the pile of rubble that buried Sami's fruit trees and the wall where it ends in Sami's orchard.

Israel's wall is approximately three times longer than the Berlin Wall, with concrete, razor wire, and a no-man's-land stretching over 400 miles.

Today I pray that people will come together in unity against Israel’s wall too. A groundswell of people protesting the injustice of a wall that gobbles up land that does not belong to it. A groundswell of people shaking the very earth where the wall stands, breaking down the barrier that isolates and imprisons.

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