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.