Thursday, August 06, 2009
It happened in Berlin too when the communists tried to wall off East Berlin and East Germany. Undercover artists went to work decorating it with funny, defiant, bold protests.
The enormous prison-like barriers that now surround the Palestinian areas of Israel have become a vast canvas. Of all I saw during my short stay in Palestine, these walls made the biggest impression on me. The Jews say that the walls are needed for security and that they have already reduced suicide attacks. Arabs demonstrate against their enclosure.
The chaos at the crossings into and out of the walls, which are attended by helmeted and armed Israeli teenagers behind shields doing their national service, made me quake at the thought of actually doing any driving in this place. We hired cabbies to brave the crush of cars at these bottlenecks that seem to be deliberately disorganized, with no lanes, no direction and palpable hostility. Drivers have turned the checkpoints into garbage dumps heaped with litter they hurl at the walls and barbed wire. They honk and holler when there are hold-ups, which is most of the time as the guards inspect passports and look into trunks. Beggars with missing limbs or sponges to clean windows work through the traffic snarls trying to earn some cash.
Our first day in town, we set out in Sally's car to see Bethlehem. As we approached the checkpoint she asked Renee and I for our passports. What? We hadn't even thought to bring them and didn't want to turn back and go all the way to Sally's apartment again. So our strategy was to use our assets, meaning my press card, Renee's ID emblazoned with U.S. State Department seal and Sally's skill at flirting. She popped out of the car to open the trunk, chatting away and flashing the impressive stack of identity documents. No problem.