The story is told of Netanyahu visiting China, eager to learn wisdom from a country of master wall builders. When he spoke with China’s Prime Minister, inquiring about what his country has learned from their experiences with the Great Wall, the Prime Minister responded, “if you really want to learn from us, don’t build a wall, but build good relationships with the people around you. This is what we’ve learned.”
But wisdom is often not really what people want to hear.
Israel has spent the past 15 years constructing a wall that is currently over 450 miles long (over 500 when complete) and as high as 26.25 feet (twice the height of the Berlin Wall). The wall, in violation of United Nations international law and the Oslo peace accords, snakes through the West Bank devastating communities and capitalizing on the area’s best land. It separates and isolates the Palestinian people not just from Israelis but from one another, creating ghetto communities, suppressing movement, annexing land, and robing Palestinians of precious resources that they have been connected to for millennia (water, fertile soil, and minerals, to name a few).
In addition to this wall, there are over 600 checkpoints and barriers that limit access to cities, districts, villages and communities (including 34 fortified checkpoints; 22 terminals for cars and workers). Built purportedly for security, the wall and checkpoints serve as a visible manifestation of the many ways Palestinians are living under occupation, in apartheid conditions that are grounded in racism, discrimination and ethnic cleansing strategies. For more info on Israel’s wall, check out https://stopthewall.org/the-wall.
And yet, to point a finger at Israel in scathing contempt wouldn’t do justice to my own government’s actions in wall promotion and construction. Did you know that the United States gives more money in foreign aid to Israel than any other country? Or that we’ve turned to Israel for their expertise not only in wall building, but in Homeland Security protocols and policing methods? The artistic renderings at the Bethlehem wall, below, point to the depth of pathological love between our lands:
Visible walls are concrete manifestations of the multitude of invisible walls society creates and perpetuates to divide and conquer peoples, lands, cultures and communities. Even as the United States seeks to fortify it’s border wall with Mexico, U.S. society has long capitalized on the creation of social and economic divisions, often in the name of security, that prevent people from truly knowing one another and working together. Invisible walls that divide us by race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, education, geography, sexual orientation and political party, to name a few, wreck havoc on our ability to create communities that span difference and promote equality, justice and freedom for all.
November 9 is a global day of action to demand a world without walls. I invite you to find a way to participate – in prayer, in action, in resistance, in community – to join your voice with people from over 25 countries saying, ENOUGH. We can, and we must, do better. Together, let us break down the dividing walls of hostility that poison our humanity. Let us heed the wisdom of building good relationships with those around us – especially those from whom our governments would seek to divide us.