Extreme Rambling: Walking Israels Separation Barrier - For Fun.
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'Good fences make good neighbours, but what about bad ones?'. The Israeli barrier is probably the most iconic divider of land since the Berlin Wall. It has been declared illegal under international law and its impact on life in the West Bank has been enormous. Mark Thomas - as only he could - decided the only way to really get to grips with this huge divide was to use the barrier as a route map, to 'walk the wall', covering the entire distance with little more in his armoury than Kendal Mint Cake and a box of blister plasters. In the course of his ramble he was tear-gassed, stoned, sunburned, rained on and hailed on and even lost the wall a couple of times. But thankfully he was also welcomed and looked after by Israelis and Palestinians - from farmers and soldiers to smugglers and zookeepers - and finally earned a unique insight of the real Middle East in all its entrenched and yet life-affirming glory. And all without hardly ever getting arrested.
obeisance and the impulse to stop Phil and me pointing cameras everywhere, while we trail in his wake, attempting to wear the looks of, ‘We’re on the guest list: Commander plus two.’ Leading us through the turnstiles, the commander turns to us and booms, ‘Film whatever you like!’ Having been detained numerous times for doing exactly this, we need no further invitation and film everything that doesn’t move and a little of what does. We even go into the inner sanctum: a bomb-proof room full of
suicide bombings that characterised the Second Intifada galvanised the public mood for some kind of barrier, but the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, was ideologically opposed to anything that might resemble a border for a future Palestine state, so he prevaricated. It was at this point that Danny Atar entered the fray. ‘How do we create the reality that forces a government to act? We asked ourselves, “Why don’t we start fundraising for it?” So we went abroad with this idea to
government to actually build a [national] fence but, of course, the fence I built did provide security, too.’ Danny’s local fence was to be twenty-five kilometres long, but it was only eight kilometres into its construction when Danny was invited by the Prime Minister’s Office to meet him. ‘I entered Sharon’s office and all the government was there, all the heads of the security forces were there, and Sharon comes and shakes my hand and says, “We have decided to build a fence; will you now
appearance you might indeed guess he is more interested in the spiritual aspects of life than the material. His beard is bushy, his yarmulke green, his shirt is button-down and if it got any plainer it would be a sack. But he has a warm smile that is quick to appear and, in all fairness, I shouldn’t judge too quickly as I currently look like an ageing David Cassidy impersonator who has just woken from a coma. At Ariel’s country club we pass through the double swing doors into a leisure centre.
accused me of being ‘seduced by the comfort of the settlement’. I had been drinking coffee, eating toast and looking at Snow White when he had said it, so he had at least half a point. On the Israeli side, the roads are smooth, the checkpoints wave you through and soldiers are immeasurably more polite. Life is certainly harder here on the Palestinian side. Everything takes longer, things unravel more quickly, and people do not expect the best outcomes. But as I look at the view of Ni’lin through