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

Looking West to the Judean Desert, Masada

The natural approaches to the fort, including the Snake Path, are very difficult.

Inside the Fortress Looking West to the Judean Desert, Masada 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Located between the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, Masada sits on a plateau whose western side drops 300 feet to the desert floor. The natural approaches to the fort are very difficult, including the Snake Path still used today, but only by the fittest; most ride the cable car. After the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s capture of the West Bank, a road was built from Jerusalem via Jericho, along the shore of the Dead Sea to Masada and beyond.

In this photograph, the Judean Desert can be seen beyond the remnants of the ancient fortress walls. Originally, a wall 12 feet high and 4,300 feet long ran around the perimeter of the plateau. Today, the wall is much lower, but still solidly in place. In addition to the wall, visitors can see clear evidence of the commandant’s residence, Northern Palace, bathhouse, cisterns, public pools, guardroom, officers’ quarters, synagogue, storerooms, and also the rebel dwellings used as living quarters at the time of the Great Revolt.

The Judean Desert is a relatively small desert, covering 580 square miles of Israel’s total area of 7,992 square miles. Israel stretches 263 miles north to south, and its width ranges from 71 miles to just over nine miles. Located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel lies at the junction of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank to the east, and Egypt to the southwest.

Looking East to the Dead Sea, Masada

“Masada shall not fall again.”

Inside the Fortress Looking East to the Dead Sea, Masada 2011

© Leslie Hossack

Masada, a hilltop fortress built by King Herod, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Masada sits on a plateau that rises approximately 1,475 feet above the Dead Sea. In this photograph, the Dead Sea can be seen beyond the ancient walls of the fortress; on a clear day, the hills of Jordan are visible in the distance. The Dead Sea, located in the Jordan Rift Valley, is the lowest point on the earth’s surface at approximately 1,400 feet below sea level.

The story of Masada is legendary. After Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE, a number of Jewish freedom fighters fled to the fortress at Masada. In 73 CE, the Roman Tenth Legion laid siege to the fort. When it became apparent that the Romans were going to breach the walls, the 960 Jewish inhabitants burned all the buildings and committed mass suicide rather than be taken prisoners. Josephus writes that ten men were chosen by lot to kill all the inhabitants, and then one of these ten men was chosen by lot to slay the other nine, and lastly himself.

This saga gave rise to the phrase: “Masada shall not fall again.” Israeli army cadets who take their oath of allegiance at the fortress make this pledge. It is interesting to note that when new members of the Israeli Defense Forces are sworn in, the ceremonies are often held at sites of national historic interest, such as the Western Wall and Masada.


My new exhibition CITIES OF STONE – PEOPLE OF DUST opens tomorrow, August 5th, at the Red Wall Gallery in Ottawa.

Jewish Cemetery, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossaack

CITIES OF STONE – PEOPLE OF DUST is an exhibition of my photographs opening tomorrow at the Red Wall Gallery in the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa, 168 Dalhousie Street. The vernissage takes place on August 5th from 18:00-21:00, and the show runs through to September 2nd, 2011.

After completing a series of photographic studies of Nazi architecture and the Berlin Wall, I felt compelled to travel to Israel – another charged landscape. Put simply, Berlin was my springboard to Israel, both literally and figuratively.

Loss, longing and lamentation: loss of land, loss of innocence, loss of humanity, loss of freedom, loss of life; these notions haunted me in Berlin and Israel. And underscoring all my work is the issue of inclusion and exclusion. This question is posed by every image, but it is perhaps most obvious in my photographs of walls: the Berlin Wall, the Western or Wailing Wall, the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the walls of the ancient fortress at Masada, and the Israeli Separation Wall. All my life I have been disturbed by the duality of inclusion and exclusion.

After returning home from Israel this May, I was both intrigued and perplexed by what I had witnessed. I do not pretend to understand the horrors of the Holocaust, the long and complex histories of the Holy City, or the current politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not my intention to suggest solutions or to find fault. However, I do hope that CITIES OF STONE – PEOPLE OF DUST will raise awareness and pose questions. The question that kept running through my mind as I explored historic Berlin and modern Israel was: at what cost?