The first time I entered Bethlehem after the separation barrier had been built, I felt as though I were imprisoned. Unless one stays inside an air-conditioned bus, the massive guard tower and the eight meter high wall (see the photo on a previous blog post) make it impossible to avoid that experience. Tourists are easily whisked into Manger Square for the requisite visit to the Church of the Nativity. But I like my groups to linger for a while. By staying in Bethlehem for four nights, we’ll be able to have a richer experience.
One of the blessings of a longer stay is the opportunity to see some of the graffiti art on the separation barrier. The most prominent pieces are those painted by Banksy, a “quasi-anonymous British graffiti artist” (Wikipedia). In 2005 Banksy painted nine images on the wall. Some of those, like the one of the little girl frisking a soldier at a security checkpoint, can be seen on the side of a building in Behlehem. I took that picture in 2006.Here are a few more:
Hole in the wall:
Let’s climb over?
Of course others are also adding variety:
We can only imagine what it must be like for ordinary people to face that wall every day. This house in Bethlehem is surrounded on three sides by the separation wall.
Banksy’s graffiti art offers a slightly hopeful imagination, even if terribly ironic, to those who must live with this constant reminder that their only hope for freedom of movement is emigration.