behind the wall of bethlehem and the israel palestine conflict

We see it before we even “arrive” to Bethlehem, a massive, concrete wall spanning as far as the eye can see, rolling up and down hills and into the horizon. On top of the wall rest lookout towers, barbed wire and remote-controlled machine guns.

As I pull the rental car I am driving up to the turn-off for the checkpoint, I am told I can’t drive into the town, I have to leave my car here. On this side of the barrier between two worlds.

So, I do.

Cody, Giselle and I leave the car, and when we cross through the metal detectors and a maze of walkways leading from freedom to another, reality hits me. Hard.

The fence in Bethlehem

From Bethlehem and looking towards Israel

The fence between Israel and Palestine isn’t just a fence. It is the divide between beliefs. Between politics. For one of the holiest places in the entire world (Rachel’s Tomb is located here and it is also the supposed birthplace of Jesus), Bethlehem seems to shrink behind that wall. The people, although proud, are hidden in a world where only partial truths get out, where the rest of the world hears what the media sees fit — stories of violence, of terrorism.

A machine gun a top the wall in Bethlehem

Today, we see a different story.

“Welcome, welcome,” we are greeted by locals as we walk past local shops and towards our destination: the wall which — in this area — is covered with messages of peace, of hope, of love. And of hatred. A hatred that makes me ache, as it is directed at a country I identify so much with, Israel.

Crafts in Bethlehem

An example of the handmade crafts. This depicts the nativity scene, complete with a wall.

A woman whom Cody and Giselle had met a few weeks earlier when they explored the city, approaches us. She can’t be much older than us, but her face shows a story of hardship. With a smile on her face, she ushers us into her tiny shop selling local artisanal gifts and a guest house which now has a view of the wall.

The wall in Bethlehem across from a shop

The shop, with a constant reminder of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The wall.

The wall in Bethlehem

A view from the road of the massive wall

Authorized in 2002 by Prime Minister Sharon, this wall separates the West Bank from Israel, which Palestinians refer to as the “apartheid wall;” Israelis refer to it as an “anti-terrorist fence.” Its purpose is to separate and keep Israel secure and safe from Palestinian terrorist attacks. This wall, when complete, will span more than 400 miles, intersecting towns, transit routes, and lives.

My opinions regarding this are my own, and have no place here, but today, what I want to show you is the wall.

Bethlehem

On one section of wall, stories from Palestinians can be found which discuss life in Bethlehem.

The wall in Bethlehem has become a living and breathing work of art.

Banksy art in Bethlehem

A few works have been done by Banksy. While some have been painted over, this remains.

Artists like Banksy come here and illustrate their thoughts about the ongoing conflict.

Art on the wall in Bethlehem

People pay to have their messages painted brightly across the cement. Or, visit themselves and leave their opinion, which lasts until someone else comes and adds their touch to the gray.

Graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem

Tags, portraits, stories, all mingle here …

Images from the wall in Bethlehem

A canvas of beliefs that constantly change, grow, subtract.

Art in Bethlehem

Bethlehem wall

The images, the art,  speak for two worlds which cannot come to peace, and those who send messages both encouraging and discouraging this. There is a hatred illustrated on these walls … of hatred which I have images of, but choose not to promote.

Love in Bethlehem

Peace in Bethlehem

Who is right? Who is wrong? I’m not Israeli. I’m not Palestinian. I haven’t lived through the bloodshed. I haven’t lived in fear. Lived in oppression. Lived in the tumultuous Middle East.  It’s not up to me to decide.

Palestine art on the wall

Right to movement, Bethlehem

What I can say is that this world will never be a better place if we cannot facilitate meaningful conversation, a way to agree to disagree, a way to live without violence.

IMG_2510

It spans far beyond this conflict into all facets of our existence.

This post is part of  the D Travels Europe/Israel series. Stay up-to-date on all of my European and Israeli adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,TroverG+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.

24 comments

  1. Such a complicated issue that is so tied to history and culture I’m not sure any outsider can even begin to understand but I agree it’s saddening to see something like this existing today.

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    1. It is SUCH a complicated issue and there is so much hate on both sides, it truly makes me sad. I went on a tour of Hebron where Palestinians and Israeli settlers live the next day, and that was even harder to stomach. I’m putting together a post on that, should be up soon.

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  2. I have to admit I’m embarrassingly ignorant on the issues here but theses are beautiful images that you need not understand the conflict in order to be moved by. It must have been moving!

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    1. It’s OK. And honestly, it is so hard to REALLY know what is going on because I find — at least through Western media — we only hear one side. I’m going to delve a little bit into that in an upcoming post. But, you are right. It is hard to be there and not be moved by it, no matter beliefs. Seeing people cut off by a wall because of association just hurts.

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  3. Diana, it was so great to go with you to Bethlehem on this day. It is hard to see what people go through everyday and how we have it so easy. The best piece of graffiti is the “now that I have seen I am responsible” I think about that everyday……

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  4. The beauty/horror combo continues to fascinate me. I didn’t know about the wall and it makes me so sad… how will they ever resolve with that thing between them? But but but… people have to try to protect themselves. As you say, complicated.
    Thanks Diana and I am grateful you went with love and not diminished it with the hate.

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    1. It is VERY complicated, that’s for sure!! Thanks for the kind words. I could never NOT have that attitude … hate is so much energy and stress.

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    1. My visit there really impacted me and now I am trying to stay up-to-date on the news in Israel and Palestine. There were just three Israeli teenagers kidnapped from a settler area and killed … and apparently they think two known Hamas were the culprits. It’s all just so tragic and angry.

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  5. Definitely a complicated situation. This is what travel is really about. Not just seeing all the beauty of the world, but learning about the struggles and hardships that are endured. After seeing everything that we’ve seen and learning everything we have learned I am very skeptical that there will ever be peace. Maybe calm, but not peace.

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    1. I agree. You have to see all the bits, not just the ones that make you smile. It is so important to understand the world, versus just take in moments that appease us. Sadly, I think you are right …

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