Walls / by Sophie Schor

image.jpg

Back to Jerusalem and back to school. I have one class that looks really exciting, it's all about Jerusalem as a multi-layered city and the inter-group relations that play out within it. The professor had us read Georges Perec and we sat around discussing what it is that we see when we look at something. 

Stumbled upon this chapter in the book about walls: 

"Walls:

I put a picture up on a wall. Then I forget there is a wall. I no longer know what is there behind this wall, I no longer know there is a wall. I no longer know that in my apartment there are walls, and that if there weren't any walls, there would be no apartment. The wall is no longer what de limits and defines the place where I live, that which separates it from the other places where other people live, it is nothing more than a support for the picture. But I also forget the picture, I no longer look at it. I have put the picture on the wall so as to forget there was a wall, but in forgetting the wall, I forget the picture, too. There are pictures because there are walls. We have to be able to forget that there are walls, and have found no better way to do so than pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures. So we need continually to be changing, either the wall or the picture, to be forever putting other pictures up on the walls, or else constantly moving the picture from one wall to another."

-Georges Perec, Species of Spaces

This felt apropos as I looked out the classroom window at the separation wall right next to the university which divides "us" from "them" and "there" from "here."

In the last 10 days while I was lucky enough to be on holiday, a 17 year old Palestinian from the Qalandia Refugee camp was shot three times and killed. A friend of mine recounted how he doesn't believe the "official" story that is being circulated around. Supposedly Muhammad al-Kasbeh threw a rock at an officer's car and destroyed the windshield. B'tselem just posted video footage of the event. 

 

A few days previously, a 20 year old Palestinian woman attempted to stab a female soldier near Rachel's tomb; a molotov cocktail was thrown at a bus that was driving through the West Bank and an ambulance driving through the West Bank's main highway Route 60 was shot at; then there is the shooting and death of an Israeli in the West Bank who was driving to a spring, and 4 more Israelis were shot at a junction in the West Bank. 6 attacks in 10 days (Ynet News)

To put this into perspective: 

"An average of two Israeli civilians per week have sustained injuries by Palestinians so far in 2015, with one Israeli killed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In the same time period...an average of 39 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces per week and 13 killed, including two since the beginning of this month." (Maan News)

This all coincides with Ramadan and the one year anniversary of last summer's war. June 30th was the day when the 3 kidnapped Israeli boys were found dead. July 2nd marks the kidnapping and murder of 16 year old Jerusalemite Muhammad Abu Kheider, July 8th was the first official day of the operation in Gaza. July 18th will be the beginning of the ground invasion. 52 days when you weren't sure if the nightmare would ever end. I remember the feeling of isolation I felt last summer. Of hearing bombs dropping on Gaza from the swimming pool of the kibbutz. Of the surrealism around the dinner table feeling alone in also counting the deaths of Gazans. Of how shallow my breathing got every time the news came on the radio in case there was news of my cousin. Of the back and forth between guilt and fear. 

Women Wage Peace, an organization I've been following this year for my research that was founded last summer after the war, has been sitting outside the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem where they have begun a 50 day fast. They call for an end to the cycle of violence, negotiations with Palestinians, and the signing of a political agreement. They're calling it Tzom Eitan meaning Eitan's fast, a play on words for the Israeli name for Operation Protective Edge, Tzok Eitan. I'll be there later this week for interviews and will be sure to report back. 

Welcome back to Israel and Palestine, where the coffee is strong and the conflict is never ending.