Part 4: Israeli Separation Wall, Jerusalem

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

The Separation Wall, Seen from Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Three iconic cities, Berlin, Jerusalem and Masada, have recently been featured on Haute Vitrine. These “cities of stone” are also cities of walls: the Berlin Wall, the fortress walls at Masada, and the Jerusalem Envelope seen here.

City of Stone, The Hidden History of Jerusalem reveals more than just a holy city built of stone. Meron Benvenisti describes Jerusalem as the domain of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, locked in a perpetual contest where shrines, housing projects, and bulldozers compete in a scramble for possession.

All cities tell a story; cities of stone tell an eternal story. “Architecture matters because it lasts,” writes Deyan Sudjic. “It is a means of setting the historical record straight… To imagine Hitler completing the construction of the triumphalist city of stone that he planned with Albert Speer is to imagine his total victory.” (Engineering Conflict, New York Times, 21 May 2006)

Structures of stone have endured for millennia, but the people who build them are gone in the blink of an eye. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, called Holocaust survivors human dust. “Turning these people of dust into a cultured, independent nation with a vision will be no easy task.” (The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan)

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

excerpt from Ozymandias by Percy Shelly

Part 3: Israeli Separation Wall, Jerusalem

“Just like they brought the Berlin Wall down, so too will this wall come down.”

Detail #3, The Separation Wall, Seen from Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The question of inclusion and exclusion permeates my photographs of modern Israel and historic Berlin. This theme underscores every image, but it is most obvious in photographs of walls: the walls of the Old City, the walls of Masada, the Western Wall, the Separation Wall, and of course the Berlin Wall.

Some observers have compared the Israeli barrier to the Berlin Wall, but the provocation, purpose and impact need to be examined separately. To borrow from Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall, one was built for “walling out” and one for “walling in.” The Israeli barrier is still standing, but the Berlin Wall fell November 9th, 1989. René Backmann, author of A Wall In Palestine, writes: “I still can’t believe that what the entire world saw fall down yesterday in Berlin could be a solution tomorrow for Jerusalem.”

In 2007, a group of German bishops toured Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. They were upset by the Jerusalem Wall, the concrete barrier seen in this photograph. While crossing into East Jerusalem, Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, said: “This is something that is done to animals, not people.” He was referring to the wall and the fortified checkpoints where Palestinians are subjected to questioning and demands for Israel-approved documentation. The Archbishop, who grew up in Communist East Germany, added: “For me it is a nightmare. I didn’t think I would see such a wall again in my life… Just like they brought the Berlin Wall down, so too will this wall come down.”

Part 2: Israeli Separation Wall, Jerusalem

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”

Detail #2, The Separation Wall, Seen from Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The Israeli Separation Wall, barely visible in this photograph, runs along the top of the distant ridge. For the entire length of the barrier, there are observation posts, sensing devices, and gateways controlled by Israeli soldiers.

Passage through these gateways is particularly difficult for Palestinians living in the West Bank, even if they have the required permits. The barrier restricts access to their own fields and orchards and wells, to health care and education, to jobs, and to holy sites in Jerusalem. Since construction of the barrier started in 2002, Palestinians have taken their concerns to the Israeli courts numerous times, but with mixed results.

The Israeli separation fence, or the apartheid wall as Palestinians prefer to call it, brings to mind a passage from Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s security barrier was a violation of international humanitarian law. The Court called for the barrier to be removed, for Arab residents to be compensated, and for other nations to take action to obtain Israel’s compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention. Immediately, the United Nations General Assembly voted 150-6 to condemn Israel and demand removal of the barrier. Israel has not taken down the Separation Wall, but has continued to add to it.

Part 1: Israeli Separation Wall, Jerusalem

Is it a wall, a barrier or a fence?

Detail #1, The Separation Wall, Seen from Bloomfield Gardens, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

In this photograph, a concrete structure runs along the top of the distant ridge. Is it a wall, a barrier, or a fence? According to the British Broadcasting Corporation: “The BBC uses the terms barrier, separation barrier or West Bank barrier… to avoid the political connotations of “security fence” (preferred by the Israeli government) or “apartheid wall” (preferred by Palestinians).” Israelis also refer to it as a “separation or anti-terrorist fence,” while Palestinians refer to it as a “racial segregation wall.”

In 2002, the Israeli government decided to build the separation barrier to prevent terrorists from entering Israeli cities. This decision came two years after the start of the Al-Aqsa or Second Intifada. In those two years, hundreds were killed and thousands injured, many in suicide attacks by Palestinian extremists. Israel estimates that the barrier has thwarted 90% of attempted terror attacks.

The Israeli barrier consists of a fencing system for 95% of its length, now estimated at over 300 miles. Generally, there are three parallel fences, with patrol roads on both sides of the middle fence, an anti-vehicle ditch on the West Bank side, and a smooth dirt strip on the Israeli side for “intrusion tracking.” About 5% of the barrier is built as a wall made of concrete slabs up to 25 feet high and 10 feet wide. This type of construction was used for the Jerusalem Envelope seen in this photograph; it is common in urban areas because it requires less land, and provides more protection against snipers.

Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, Jerusalem

“Write down! I am an Arab…”

Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

In the Islamic and Jewish religions, Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is believed to be the area on Mount Moriah where Abraham went to sacrifice his son. Muslims identify this site as the furthermost sanctuary; from here Mohammed, accompanied by the angel Gabriel, made his night journey to the throne of God. The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is the third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.

The men in this photograph are walking along the western side of Haram al-Sharif, above the Western Wall. Each man is wearing a keffiyeh, the traditional Arab headdress made from a square of white cotton and held in place by a rope. The keffiyeh became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism during the Arab Revolt in the 1930s. In the 1960s, it became associated with the Palestinian resistance movement; Yasser Arafat was rarely seen without his black-and-white keffiyeh.

Celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish was a member of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. Darwish became famous with his poem Identity Card. Occupied Palestine is divided into three sections, and residents need identity cards: blue cards for Palestinians living in Jerusalem, and green cards for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Write down!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks …

Write down!
I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks …

excerpt from Identity Card by Mahmoud Darwish

Dome of the Rock, Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

Access has been controlled and contested for thousands of years in the Old City.

Dome of the Rock, Seen from the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The world’s three great monotheistic religions have sacred sites in the Old City, and access has been controlled and contested for thousands of years. The Dome of the Rock, a Muslim Mosque built in 691 CE, sits atop the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount. Seen here, the golden dome glows in the sunshine. In 1993, King Hussein of Jordan donated $8.2 million to fund 80 kilograms of gold to cover the dome.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State. The State of Israel was declared on 14 May 1948, the day the British Mandate in Palestine ended. From 1948 to 1967, Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, and Israelis could not go to the Western Wall. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied the Old City, but allowed the Muslim Religious Trust to manage “Haram al-Sharif” (the Temple Mount).

Since 1967, Jews have been able to visit the Western Wall. Today, anyone wishing to enter the Western Wall plaza must pass through strict airport style security. Visitors to Haram al-Sharif must pass through similar, but separate, security checks; however, men and women in immodest dress are not granted entrance. Non-Muslim visitors are not permitted to pray there or to enter the Dome of the Rock.

Life in Israel seems to revolve around issues of access and security in public spaces, both sacred and secular – from the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, to shopping malls and parking garages.

Gazing at the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

“Who is the owner of the language of this land? Who loves it more?

Woman Gazing at the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Located inside the Old City, the golden Dome of the Rock is situated within the walls of the Temple Mount, a holy place for Muslims and Jews. Covering an area of 35 acres, the Temple Mount remains under the control of Muslim religious authorities; however, responsibility for security was taken over by Israelis after their occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

In this photograph, the woman gazing at the Dome of the Rock is standing near the top of the Mount of Olives, looking out over the Jewish cemetery immediately beneath her. Across the valley, the Yusefiya Muslim Cemetery lies outside the walls of the Old City.

Muslims make up approximately 16% of the Israeli population while Jews make up 75% of the total population currently estimated at 7,746,000. Over 700,000 Palestinians are citizens of Israel, living inside the country’s 1949 armistice borders. About 1.2 million live in the West Bank (including 200,000 in East Jerusalem) and about one million in the Gaza Strip. (Middle East Research and Information Project) Israel is a place of complexities and inequities.

Mahmoud Darwish was widely regarded as the Palestinian national poet. He admired Hebrew poet Yehuda Amichai, but described his poetry as a “challenge to me, because we write about the same place. He wants to use the landscape and history for his own benefit, based on my destroyed identity. So we have a competition: who is the owner of the language of this land? Who loves it more? Who writes it better?”

Calatrava’s Bridge of Strings, Jerusalem

Bridges are instruments of peace and make a lot of sense in a city like Jerusalem.

Bridge of Strings, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The Bridge of Strings was designed Santiago Calatrava, world-renowned Spanish architect, engineer and artist. Calatrava is celebrated for his many striking structures scattered around the globe, including the Galleria in Toronto’s Brookfield Place, and the 2004 Olympic Stadium in Athens. Interestingly, the roof that Calatrava designed for the Athens Olympic Stadium is reminiscent of the roof added to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium during renovations completed in 2004.

The Bridge of Strings, now the tallest structure in Jerusalem, is a new landmark at the eastern entrance to the city. When driving in from Ben Gurion, Israel’s international airport in Tel Aviv, this daringly modern bridge is a stunning surprise. The bridge is supported by a 118-metre high tower that supports 66 steel cables. The exterior of the bridge is clad in Jerusalem stone, and accented with steel, glass and concrete.

Calatrava said he wanted to design one of the most beautiful bridges for one of the oldest cities. He added: “Bridges are instruments of peace … They are built for the sake of progress and for the average citizen … A bridge makes a lot of sense in a city like Jerusalem.”

This S-shaped bridge serves both light rail trains and pedestrians. In Jerusalem, the public transportation system does not run on Shabbat. The family in this photograph was out for a walk, dressed in their Shabbat finery. The little girls clearly delighted in crossing the bridge from one side to other, and back again.

Architect:  Santiago Calatrava     Date:  2008

Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

effervescent lives about to come to an abrupt, catastrophic, unforeseeable end

Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The first building designed by Moshe Safdie at Yad Vashem was the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. It is a cave-like structure filled with tiny dots of candlelight and the sound of a voice reading the names of the murdered children, their ages, and their countries of origin. To name the names of Holocaust victims is one of the missions of Yad Vashem, and it was recently announced that they have collected the names of four million Jewish victims.

Of the six million who died in the Holocaust, it is estimated that: “the Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children, and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union.” (United States Memorial Holocaust Museum) The overall numbers are staggering, but impossible to comprehend. It is the power of the specific that is more easily understood: Uziel Spiegel, age two and a half, murdered at Auschwitz.

Uziel’s parents Abe and Edita Spiegel were Auschwitz survivors who donated funds for the construction of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. This photograph shows a cluster of 20 stone pillars outside the entrance. Each pillar is broken off at the top, bringing to mind the million and a half children whose “ordinary but effervescent lives were about to come to an abrupt, catastrophic, and unforeseeable end.” (Avner Shalev, Building a Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem)

Architect:   Moshe Safdie     Date:   1987

Praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem

“Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history…”

Woman Praying, Western Wall, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history,
Jews second-hand, slightly damaged, at bargain prices.

And the eye yearns toward Zion all the time. And all the eyes
of the living and the dead are cracked like eggs
on the rim of the bowl, to make the city
puff up rich and fat.

Jerusalem is full of tired Jews,
always goaded on again for holidays, for memorial days,
like circus bears dancing on aching legs.

excerpt from Jerusalem Is Full of Used Jews, in Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems, by Yehuda Amichai

The lines above are taken from the same poem that I quoted yesterday, written by the celebrated Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. He was born in 1924 in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family that immigrated to British Palestine in 1935 and settled in Jerusalem. When he was 22, Amichai started writing poetry, and he later became poet in residence at several universities, including Berkeley, New York University, and Yale.

Amichai was a soldier, a teacher, a scholar, and an internationally acclaimed poet. He wrote in Hebrew, and his works have been translated into more than 35 languages. Yehuda Amichai is also known as a peace advocate who worked with many Arab writers and Palestinian poets. He is quoted as saying: “I have no illusions. It’s quite difficult for poets to communicate with one another in a society that is politically torn apart the way ours is.” Amichai continued to live in Jerusalem until his death in 2000.