My trip to the Middle East in mid-2008 was memorable. I found Jerusalem in particular fascinating. It’s one of the oldest cities on earth & a city sacred to all three of the major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Needless to say the place is absorbing, with Jerusalem’s tiny walled Old City in particular chock full of sites of seminal religious importance. Of course the status of modern-day Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict – both the Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital. I took a day trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank, the supposed, according to the New The Testament, birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. Geographically speaking the distance between Jerusalem & Bethlehem isn’t far – only some 10 kilometres – but having to pass through the Israeli-built barrier separating the Palestinian West Bank from the western Israel side means the trip takes longer than it should.

A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

A section of the heavily fortified, heavily guarded barrier separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. Started in 1994 & still under construction today, the total length of the Israeli-built barrier when completed will be some 700 kilometres. A multi-layered fence system heavy on concrete & barbed wire, the wall ranges in height & depth but at no point is it pretty. Barrier supporters argue that it protects civilians from Palestinian terrorism – its construction did lead to a significant & undeniable drop in suicide bombing attacks on Israel – whereas barrier opponents claim it seeks to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security, undermines peace negotiations by unilaterally establishing new borders, & severely restricts the travel of nearby Palestinians to and from work both in the West Bank and in Israel. Few neutrals condone the wall with the International Court of Justice, in a 2004 advisory opinion, stating that the barrier was “contrary to international law.”

One isn’t supposed to linger at the barrier (or wall) but I couldn’t help but, struck as I was by some of the murals/art/graffiti adorning sections of the structure, mostly, it must be said, on the Palestinian side. I spent a while photographing the various works as presented here.

Five Fingers of The Same Hand. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Five Fingers of The Same Hand. A man sitting by a large mural on the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

A nation is within its rights to put up a fence if it sees the need for one. However, in the case of the Israeli fence, we are concerned when the fence crosses over onto the land of others.

– Then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell commenting in 2003

Jesus wept for Jerusalem. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Jesus wept for Jerusalem. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

I am not a terrorist. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

I am not a terrorist. Israeli officials predict that completion of the barrier will continue to prevent terrorist attacks since “an absolute halt in terrorist activities has been noticed in the West Bank areas where the fence has been constructed.” A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

It is difficult to overstate the humanitarian impact of the Barrier. The route inside the West Bank severs communities, people’s access to services, livelihoods and religious and cultural amenities. In addition, plans for the Barrier’s exact route and crossing points through it are often not fully revealed until days before construction commences. This has led to considerable anxiety amongst Palestinians about how their future lives will be impacted. … The land between the Barrier and the Green Line constitutes some of the most fertile in the West Bank. It is currently the home for 49,400 West Bank Palestinians living in 38 villages and towns.

– Excerpt of a 2005 United Nations report

Palestinian Holocaust. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Palestinian Holocaust. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Free Palestine. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Free Palestine. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

No Freedom. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

No Freedom. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

I think the wall is a problem. And I discussed this with Ariel Sharon. It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank.

– Then U.S. President George W. Bush commenting in 2005

At the wall separating Israel from the Palestinian West Bank, Palestinian Territories. May 2, 2008.

At the wall separating Israel from the Palestinian West Bank, Palestinian Territories. May 2, 2008.

This is not against the Palestinian people, this is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism.

– Then U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton commenting in 2005

Fear. Hope. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Back from Israel. May 2, 2008.

Fear. Hope. A section of the heavily guarded wall separating the Palestinian West Bank from Israel. May 2, 2008.

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