My time in Palestine….
I had before never seen a wall dividing a land. Dividing people. This was my first time to see a beautiful land with 25 foot walls erupting from the ground, cement slabs reaching to the sky, one slab connected to another and going on for miles. Wrapping around communities of people. Enclosing them. Separating them from everyone else. Keeping them restrained. Keeping them locked in. It was unreal to see these walls and to take a few days to embrace the reality of the Palestinians and the impact of these walls on their lives.
The conflict between Israel & Palestine is long and complicated. I know I am only at the beginning of understanding the hardship both sides have experienced and why the solution is not simple. What I do know is that there are walls that now separate Palestinians from Israelis.
What would it be like to live surrounded by walls? Until I visited the West Bank this question would have never crossed my mind. But it is more than a hypothetical question for Palestinians in the West Bank. It is their reality. A wall surrounds them, which upon completion will stretch about 400 miles. It is constructed of cement slabs that are as high as 25 feet. Called a separation barrier by the Israeli government, the wall encloses thousands of Palestinians. What does it mean for these people? It means reduced access to quality health care, education, and employment opportunities. It means reduced freedom and reduced land. What would it be like to be a child and walk past a wall on your way to school everyday? How would it impact your life to know that you don’t hold citizenship in the land that you and generations before you have lived. Would it feel like you are in a cage? How would this affect your view towards the Israelis? How would this affect your view of the world? A wall this large cannot be ignored. It makes a statement. It screams a message. For the Palestinians in the West Bank, this is their reality.
Some of these walls are stricter than others. Those living in the West Bank can request a permit to go to the other side for work. Those that get approved must leave their homes in the early hours of the morning to stand in line at a check point. It can take hours to get through the check point where Palestinians are questioned and inspected by Israeli military. This can feel dehumanizing.
Walls make it clear that there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ The separation barriers appear to make a bigger distance between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is hard to learn to understand those who are different from you when you have a wall that separates the two. It is hard to hear their side, hear their story, and speak your own when there is a wall. It is hard to see that ‘we are in this together’ when it appears that we are at this alone.
When I look at the walls and see the separation that it creates, I think of a certain quote by Mother Theresa:
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”