Today I touched the wall. Hesitantly at first, just a brush with the back of my hand as I walked alongside it, but then with more resolution, a bump with the side of my fist that smarted. My walk today took me to the outskirts of Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood north of Jerusalem proper. I first walked north, on the road to Ramallah, through a narrow, strange stretch of land between the imposing 30-foot form of the wall, scattered industrial parks, and once, a neighborhood with signs in Hebrew. The road was busy with busses, trucks and cars, but I turned around after about a mile, not wanting to face the Ramallah checkpoint on foot.

As I walked back into town, I crossed paths with a group of noisy kids just back from their school day, and was particularly struck by the amount of junk, and weird human stuff that had ended up tangled in the barbed wire that topped the wall. Most frequently I saw soccer balls. Somebody’s game, source of entertainment and recreation snatched up by the greedy fencing. But there were also shirts, shoes, beer bottles, stuff that looked much more intentional and much less understandable.

I continue to follow the path of the wall east, where it cuts Beit Hanina off from al-Ram. The houses are so close. Neighbors could still wave to each other across the barrier, provided they lived above the third floor. More kids meander home through the streets, stopping every once in a while to scuffle. I am also struck by how easily pigeons and crows flap ungracefully, unharmed, over the wall.

The road is windy, the wall follows faithfully. Then suddenly, I can go no further. The wall continues east, but another fence sprouts perpendicular from its side. Shorter and see-through, but every bit as serious, this barrier separates Beit Hanina from the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Ya’kov. And I am flabbergasted. I know for a fact that this fence can be circumvented maybe 2 miles south of its origin. Beit Hanina is inside the Jerusalem Municipal boundaries. So is Neve Ya’kov. The only purpose this fence can serve is to prevent local traffic between the neighborhoods. To keep Jews in Neve Ya’kov and Palestinians in Beit Hanina. And to keep me from continuing my path that would cross both.


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