Elephants: gray and towering over humans. The Segregation Wall: gray and towering over humans.
And they both get old fast.
At least that’s the connection I was making in my head as I rode from Bethlehem to Ramallah, only a few days into my trip to the West Bank.
During one of the days my group was in Africa, we were able to take a day-long excursion to a park and go “on safari.” The morning was spent on a little “water viewer,” and we got to see lots of nice animals, but the elephants were the most exciting — at least when we first saw them. We had gone past a spot and then turned around to follow two elephants that had entered the water and began to play and head to a small island in the river. We were all enthralled, watching them for 20 or more minutes, but we had to move on and check things out further down the river — which meant more and more elephants. In the afternoon we traveled on land, seeking on new creatures, and when we saw elephants, the sentiment was mostly, “been there, done that.”
That “been there, done that” mentality was kind of how I felt about the Segregation Wall (picture) only a few days into my travels. I had my first morning went through the large “Gilo 300” checkpoint on my way to Bethlehem, which was my first “up close and personal” encounter with the wall. After we went through, we drove for a bit and I was able to view the Wall’s construction in the distance, and it looked much the same as we drove past it most of the way to Ramallah.
I’m not sure the exact route we took, but as this map suggests, virtually the entire trip included a view of the Wall, which was nice for the video camera but not so nice for the driving time. But soon it will be much worse! Since the car drivers must stay east of the Wall — remaining on the “Palestinian side” — if the Segregation Wall is completed, the route of which is indicated at the top of this map, it will require an extra 25 km (15 m) or more to drive around the snakelike wall as it stretches halfway to Jericho! You may have heard that this Wall is for protection, but in the way it snakes around it acts to separate the Palestinians from their land and from one another more than anything else and pulls West Bank land into “Israel proper.” For this reason — as well as the fact that it certainly does not follow the Green Line, the border that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War — it is many times also called “The Annexation Wall.”
It was sad for me as I realized how easily The Segregation Wall had become an accepted reality of this place for me after only a few days. The fact that it is not my land that is being stolen and it is not my olive trees that are being cut down makes it too easy for me to accept this Wall. But accepting its presence as present reality doesn’t change in my mind the illegality and ugliness of its presence or my commitment to the work of ending its construction and the establishment of a situation where the current structure will be dismantled.
The falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is one of my first vivid memories. I pray that the falling of the Segregation Wall will not be one of my last — or worse still, a memory I don’t get to have at all.