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.