I have always loved the work of Banksy and have often agreed with his political statements and societal observations. I recently made my way back to the Occupied West Bank to visit family in our hometown of Bethlehem. I had not visited for eight years and was shocked to see what the now infamous Wall had done to the landscape. Commonly referred to by Israel as the “Security Fence” and by Palestinians as the “Apartheid Wall,” this border separates the Palestinian neighborhoods from the Israeli ones. The wall made Bethlehem unrecognizable to me. I had chest pains when I first heard of the wall and saw photos of it, but nothing prepared me for what I saw with my own eyes.
This is the entrance to Bethlehem from the Jerusalem area. Palestinians cannot leave and Israelis choose not to go in.
Once it crosses into the Palestinian areas, the wall sits in the center of town and has crippled the economy. The wall twists without regard to Palestinian communities—it divides children from their schools, people from hospitals, and farmers from their lands. In this particular instance, the IDF surrounded his home and business, completely cutting him off from his community. Once a group of nuns came to his store to support him; the IDF shot at them and threw tear gas to deter more people from coming. He would still open every day, despite the limited access. One day he came to the store and the Israeli army had sealed it off completely. He and his wife lost their home and only source of income.
Here are more of Banksy’s photographs; as you can see, the graffiti is not limited to him.
This dove in a bulletproof vest was drawn on the wall of my aunt’s Heritage Museum, which faces the wall. Banksy spent three nights creating this piece; my aunt had no idea of his previous work or anonymous fame. She and my uncle stayed up through the night with him while he worked, bringing him food. They said that he was very kind, unassuming, and grateful to be doing work in Palestine.
The following two photos were taken by the Kalandia checkpoint near Ramallah.
Obviously, Banksy has a profound way of speaking, but I hope that one day, he won’t have this canvas to work on.
For more details about this wall visit http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/apartheidwall.shtml
Photos by the author Suha Araj