Monday, October 20, 2008

The Thief

We follow the main road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Well it was. Our progress comes to abrupt halt, interrupted by an 11m metre high concrete monstrosity. Nearest vehicle checkpoint many miles away.

Here the divisive nature of the wall is incredible evident - a neighbourhood suddenly carved in two.

As my eyes continue to take in its reality, I understand what has moved visitors to spray their words of opposition on its imposing face. Stuart and I pose against one such inscription that reads "Mancs against the tanks".

At the same time however, words of English feel like an imposition, this is not our story. It's important that we hear and see and stand alongside, but should the words of protest be in our tongue? Maybe any tongue that can be added should be added, but I wonder what the locals make of it all. As Jarvis so wryly observed - everybody hates a tourist.

A corner shop sits dwarfed by the wall, its customer base excluded by unscaleable barrier. The owner, who also lives on the other side of the wall, tells us the wall is a thief. A thief that has stolen his life and that of his family.

There are so many words for this wall. A security barrier, a separation fence, an anti-terrorism measure, a wall of division, an instrument of land grabbing, a phyisical construction of apartheid...a thief of lives.

I stare at the wall and try to imagine what this area was like before it arrived and how it must feel to live with it in your midst overshadowing your life. I stare at the trademark shape, the wide concrete footing at the base of each panel providing the buried stabilisation, the hole 11m above enabling construction as each pre-formed panel is lifted into place. I look through the eyes of an engineer, I see the design, the thought processes. But I'll not claim this for civil engineering if you'll allow. the civil signifier originates from the concept of non-military and never has the blurring of that boundary been more troublesome. You can call this wall many things, but you can not call it civil.

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