In a series of guest posts, writer and Walker tour guide Christine McVay shares her experiences traveling to Tel Aviv for the SupraSpace conference on June 3 and 4, 2012.
Israel’s Separation Barrier reminded me of the Berlin Wall–pumped up and on a bender. I could see the barrier that divides Israel from the West Bank all over the place. It meanders like a river, forming oxbows around Palestinian villages; sometimes it even goes in circles. On my maps, it actually showed up, but not always following the Green Line. Instead, in some places the wall wandered inside the West Bank, appearing to cartographically incorporate blobs of it into Israel proper.
The Separation Barrier is not just an artifact of visual culture, of course. It effectively divides people from people and from places. Yamin, a Palestinian guide, took a group of us to visit a farmer, Abd al Rabbeh, who said the wall is cutting off his farm land from the Al Walaja village where he lives.
If he stays in town, he said, he can’t tend his olive trees. But if he neglects them, he loses them. In his village, Palestinians can’t get building permits from the Israeli authorities for their homes but unpermitted homes are demolished. It sounded to me like Catch-22 all over again.
Abd seems to receive visitors from everywhere. We signed an already internationally-autographed guest book. We admired his hand-watered garden. We shared hummus. We looked up the hill where bulldozers were kicking up dust, inching across a ridge line, moving closer, I suppose, to surrounding the village. Meanwhile, Abd said that the pigeons can go everywhere. And back in Bethlehem you can buy a newfangled souvenir olive wood nativity scene with a miniature Separation Barrier built right in.