Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Walls that Bind Us

On Sunday, I was overloaded with tunnels. After about an hour of walking under Jerusalem in the Old City of David in a tunnel full of water, we made the trek back up from the center of the earth through yet another tunnel. Later in the day, we went on a tour of the tunnels underneath the Kotel. We saw the foundation of the Temple Mount and what is now the Western Wall. When we visited the Kotel outside afterwards, I cried for the first time there. Seeing the foundations of the old temple made me realize how much history my people have in this land, and the fact that we are still here today, able to pray at that very wall, shook me to the core.

After coming back to Jerusalem on Tuesday to see the Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Separation Barrier, I was struck by a different kind of shock. The discomfort I felt when I was being stared down by the Waq'f at the Temple Mount (Muslim religious police) and seeing the contrast between dirty Palestinian houses and crisp white Israeli structures didn't bother me at first but irked me more and more as the day went on.  Why did Israel, a country of people who fought and died for a piece of a two thousand year old wall, build one to create a "solution" for it's problems?

A wall is a boundary. It can either be threatening or comforting: the walls of a prison and the walls of a house evoke very different feelings. Millions of Jews have struggled and died across the Diaspora and in Israel in order for us to reclaim the Western Wall, something that Jews held on to as a physical manifestation of our history in Jerusalem.

However, modern Jerusalem is a city of dichotomies. The three major monotheistic faiths hold onto it, and it is full of ancient structures and holy energy. Yet there is a paradox between the purity of the holy and the dirtiness of the separation and tension between Muslims and Jews. The Dome of the Rock stands on an island of Muslim control in a city that is controlled by the Jews for the first time in thousands of years. The contrast between Israeli and Palestinian lifestyle is no more evident than when seeing the Separation Barrier, the wall and fence that divides Palestinians in the West Bank from Israeli citizens. This barrier was put in place to prevent suicide bombings and deaths of innocent Israelis, but the barrier and the checkpoints surrounding it haven't been received well by the Palestinians or the international community. I support Israel in it's decisions, and cannot know all that went into the thought process about the creation of the barrier, but as an outsider, it seems like a careless decision. To build a wall reminiscent of the Berlin Wall and the actual apartheid walls in South Africa does nothing to calm the raging stereotype of Israelis as apartheid inflictors.

On one hand, I think a wall is very necessary and even that settlements along the wall are risky for Israelis, as shown by the recent deaths of the three boys. We as Israelis and Jews still have so much to do to protect ourselves from terrorist threats. We cannot keep letting our sons and daughters get killed in senseless murders. But as an American looking in from the outside, I think in some ways, Israel shot themselves in the foot. The Barrier may provide security, but it can only do so much.

- Lily Greenberg Call, 16, San Diego

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