Monday, September 26, 2005

Messages on the wall

On Sunday, I visited Qalqilya, a Palestinian town of 42,000, which abuts the so-called green line, the historic boundary between the West Bank and Israel. It is a half-hour drive from downtown Tel Aviv. Qalqilya has become one of the rallying points for those who oppose the Israeli-built separation wall. The anti-wall protestors, Palestinians and international activists, have since moved on. The wall is finished there. It encloses the city on three sides, leaving just two ways in and out.

The Israelis built the wall to stop suicide bombers from entering Israel. The wall, however, snakes its way along the West Bank, annexing thousands of acres of Palestinian land. Qaliqilya lost farm land. But most of its economy depended on Palestinian laborers working in Israel, and Israelis visiting to shop and eat. Both have ceased since the wall was constructed two years ago. So accustomed are locals to Israeli visitors that a boy riding a bike called out to us, “Shalom, Shalom,” mistakening us for Israelis. That would never happen in Ramallah. Most children there have never heard shalom uttered before.

Now, the wall in Qalqilya, which rises roughly 20 feet, has become a tableau for pro-Palestinian graffiti artists visiting from Europe and the Americas.

Please note: the web site is not currently allowing me to post photos. I will do so later.


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