The Wall Around Bethlehem

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." - Abraham Lincoln

By Zack Bernard Sabella
Jerusalem "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." - Abraham Lincoln

By Zack Bernard Sabella
Jerusalem

It breaks my heart to drive into Bethlehem every morning to witness an additional block being added to the so-called Israeli security wall. Inch by inch, the width of the wall is blocking the main street that leads into the heart of the holy city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. As I extend my sight to the hilltops of Bethlehem and its neighboring cities, there I find it, standing 8 meters tall gazing at me as my memory replays the past years of conflict and my thoughts start pouring on how Bethlehem, the cradle of Christianity, came to become a big, crowded prison.

"A wall?" I ask myself. "Is this the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?" Every morning, tears come to my eyes as I observe the shade that the wall imposes on the green hills of Bethlehem. A feeling of anger erupts in my heart as I feel powerless and helpless. Who can I appeal to? Who can I object to? Is this peace and justice? Questions start challenging my logic as I fail to convince my own curiosity with fake answers. As I lift my face to look at the cloudy skies, I address God with my tears: "How long? Until when? Are you really there?" I recall the word "peace" as I shake my head with distress. A word that echoed in my mind ever since I was a child being crammed with political propaganda from both sides on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nothing seems logical anymore.

As I drive deeper into Bethlehem, I find myself in a society striving to survive in a city sealed off from the rest of the world. This will be one of the main cities of the future Palestinian state, surrounded by a cement wall that will limit its people's movement, its economic trade and its connection with the outside world. As I stroll around the streets of Bethlehem, I observe carefully the faces on the streets and I see features of frustration and sense a will to survive and go on. Slowly, the patriotic hunger to establish a viable Palestinian state and the fight to lift the Palestinian economy is being put to sleep as Palestinians witness the wall encircling Bethlehem. They slowly acknowledge that they are on their own in the fight for survival and that the strong overtakes the weak in a world full of hatred and injustice. The dreams of statehood and freedom are contradicted with individual worries about economic welfare, such as putting bread on the table every night for children to eat. I ask myself again: "Do my people, so eager to live free and independent, deserve this?"

Just by looking at it, for those who have not seen it yet, I assure you this is no wall that will bring security, this is not a solution to an ongoing conflict, this is not a way to give the Palestinian people their rights to live free and establish a state of their own. It is very hard for me to understand how the international community and the countries of the world have no roar to stop this at a time where people should learn from history and not repeat it. The Israeli people, a people subjected to appalling persecution by the Nazi regime should know exactly the pain and suffering inflicted upon their families from years and years of mental and physical oppression in the form of camps, revelation of identity in public, social isolation, mass killings and other methods used to deny them their right to existence. The daily life of the Palestinian, is it not a reflection in the mirror? From all peoples in the world, one expects the Israeli people to understand the type of injustice enforced daily on the Palestinians. Yet, refugee camps, daily killings, constant military occupation, checkpoints, construction of walls and fences all still exist, ironically, in the name of security.

How am I to maintain hope and optimism for peace and coexistence if I live this everyday on my way to work? How am I, as a Palestinian, who lived in the Israeli society, truly be a spokesman to my friends and family about the prospects of peace when everyday on the outskirts of Bethlehem I find a new block of cement welcoming me? What type of state will Palestine be? What type of peace will the Middle East have? Unfortunately, when I think of just answers to these questions, that is where I fail to deliver. Unconsciously, I know I am living a lie and that my dreams are further delayed by new Israeli security enforcements such as the wall.

Someone wise once said: "There is no way to peace, peace is the way." Peace in itself is intangible, yet it starts in the inner self of every one of us. One cannot maintain something intangible by building tangible obstacles like what Israel is doing with the construction of the wall. Peace is not a walk in the park, it is hard to achieve and it requires sacrifices and compromises. It is accomplished neither by checkpoints nor by walls, neither by economic sanctions nor by the control of an entire people. It is achieved by good will and determination to comfort not Israelis nor Palestinians, but the very essence that binds us together, that of which is the human spirit.

I am a Palestinian. Let history recount my people's culture and heritage, we are no terrorists nor are we savages. We are a wonderful people, who seek no more than what others possess, freedom and independence. We do not deserve to live inside a prison for dreaming and, by God, we shall not. A sun of hope dawns on Bethlehem every morning when I see a city flourishing with a people giving out a clear message to the world: "No wall will block our visions and dreams. Nor will it weaken our everlasting will to build our country with our bare hands. Nor will it make us depart our beloved land and abandon our dear home. It will only feed our hunger to exist and strengthen our unity as a people."

I leave you with a quote from the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the issue of the wall constructed by Israel:-

"Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defense or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall." - International Court of Justice