There can be no doubt, there is a wall.
A wall tagged by Banksy.
A 708 kilometer, or 441 mile, barrier between.
A wall which runs through Palestinian communities and that many argue (Chomsky, United Nations) is a scheme designed to intentionally bisect and disrupt the lives of all Palestinians living in the Israeli occupied West Bank territory.
Some friends and I passed through this wall through a checkpoint made up of long sloping concrete pathways. Periodic single pass turnstiles broke up our group, isolating individuals between sections, traffic can only go one way. We were going into the Bethlehem Palestinian refugee camp and around noon we encountered hardly a soul, rush hours are morning and evening. We even x-rayed our own bags after nosing through empty networks of dingy tunnels like well behaved ferrets. The only guard, whom we found, at the end of the line, did not make eye contact. A flick of the wrist was barely a wave through, and the video on his phone went on uninterrupted, the sounds of english as our native tongue a qualifier signifying too high a rung in the caste system to call for any fuss.
Inside we caught a cab, then many young cousins ushered us into their neighborhood. We were served Bhakti Chai and shown street art alternating between peace slogans and the names of plane hijackers and other freedom fighters. Bullet holes market every vertical surface. Stuffed zucchini, rolled grape leaves cooked with lamb and served with yogurt, and more Bhakti Chai followed. The family looked exhausted and told us that they were awake most of the night watching gunfire and small explosions as Israeli forces raided the camp, which is a city, from their balcony. We are told some Palestinians throw rocks, fire shots, throw pipe bombs (made from corner bend pieces) in return to gunfire, sometimes the Israelis get pinned down for a while, sometimes it takes all night. When we asked for a rational for the raid shrugs returned. T”hey must have been looking for somebody”was the only response.
We learned that one family member has been banned from Israel/Palestine for life after overstaying their Visa but managed to get back in after a legal name change.
The youngest cousin was wearing a shirt printed with his grandfather’s face. The Grandfather we are told was gunned down while walking home with groceries during the second Intifada. Twenty five plus bullets were fired into his stomach, ripping him in two. I am told anybody who throws rocks, as young as 1, can be arrested and that past 8 years old they often are.
There are only two roads that bisect the walls and checkpoints are frequently locked down. Israeli settlements can be seen all along the mountain tops in the distance. These settlers are followed always by personal security forces, two guards a piece, often with automatic weapons. The father of the family works two full time jobs, grinding away every hour to produce for his family. The oldest daughter has this year started to wear a hijab. When asked why she replied, quite uncomfortably, that the reason is between her and god.
Some call the realities of this region the worlds most intractable conflict.
Perhaps it is rash to blame the angst of the young on hormones. Perhaps they are experiencing the ferocity of the world for the first time and the undeniable and unrepentant torrent of new pain is too much to bear. One Israeli I met suggested that the Middle East has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I submit that the citizens of earth have PTSD, earned when inevitably the realities of our world tip the scale and youthful ignorance is forced to confront the unwashed brutality and lack of compassion we can have for our fellow humans. … what do these new trauma victims do after looking into the void?
Some hide from brutal responsibility of that knowledge, running from the beast and trying to stay un-maimed hiding in the shadows. Living as cowards forever working to un-pop the popcorn, stiff with fear and unable to unsee the truth. Some boast carelessly that they could look the beast in the eye at any time! But know quietly that the only result would be the slow turning of a terrible attention to their foolish gaze. Attention that would make them bleed and to know in their guts the depth of their own uselessness.
Others refuse to be victims and with great personal industry saddle horror itself, elevating themselves above the bloodbath standing on the shoulders of the used, self made and never to relinquish control, no matter the cost or the violence, and so the cycle of trauma continues.
Most bleed and search for kind little distractions in order to see, if only temporarily, past the hemorrhaging. Some of these manage to forget they are bleeding and again ignorance is kind. Some find comfort in faith. Faith that the universe has some higher plan, that we aren’t alone, that pain has a personal purpose and that somebody loves you very much to trust you with such a powerful experience as is this much pain. The bleeding faithful deflect the atrocities of realty by burying their compassion on one side of a border, in a culture or a nation, in the center of a family, or as a repentant lover and firm believer that all that exists does so somehow on purpose. And so they become blind to any suffering beyond their own chosen people.
It is easy to bare this trauma with some sort of responsibility, and indeed some will nurture their pain into old age as conquerors of adversity and sowers of healing seeds. Some say it is greed that must crumple for compassion to triumph but in reality it is fear that must fall. “Never again will I be vulnerable” is the motto of fear and the fuel of the greedy. Belief that you have more right to life than others is defense of self against… insert any ‘threat’. Saying that “We can’t all win” is the voicing of the fear of risking one’s own security and the forsaking of creativity and compassionate solutions.
My younger self lives on in unending disbelief that a great deal of the adult world is comprised of suffering masses unable to look themselves or each other in the eye. I can’t accept it and neither can they. At the Anne Frank House where are the diaries and stories of North Korea or Cambodia children? Dare I ask where about the stories of young Palestinians? Anne’s story is so perfectly exemplary of the horror our own ignorance allows to run un-checked…. No doubt there are parallels worldwide in need of telling?