Walls That Divide

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Yehudah and Shomron
28 Feb 2008

Throughout history many walls and fences have been built: The Great Wall of China, the electrified fences of the concentration camps and ghettos, the electrified wall between East and West Berlin, prison walls, to name a few. Walls serve to enclose, divide or protect an area or population.

Over the past few years, the Partition Fence/Wall has been sprouting up in various parts of Israel. The Israeli government has been touting it as the solution to prevent Arab terrorist infiltration and attacks. What about the photo I saw of Arabs placing tall ladders against the Partition Wall and climbing to the other side? That photo speaks a thousand words.

Parts of the wall are monstrous ugly and gray, such as the section built between Gilo and Bet Lechem, not far from Kever Rachel and sections of the wall on the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion Highway. Some of the wall, close to the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion highway, with Jerusalem stone facing is more eye-pleasing, but the wall blocks the beautiful view of olive groves, terraces and fields. It also brings our enemy closer. There are many Arabs who oppose the Partition Wall as well. The wall cuts off part of the fields that they work on. Moreover, many of them work for Jews and need to get to the other side.

When the wall started going up (mostly by Arab workers) I hoped that it would fall just as in the times of Joshua and the walls of Jericho. That miracle has not yet occurred, but I pray that our government wakes up before it is too late and more millions of dollars are poured like concrete into this insane plan. Each time I pass the wall on my way into Jerusalem, I think of all the people who could be saved if the budget for the wall were diverted to them: people who need medicines not covered by the Ministry of Health, people whose refrigerators are almost bare, people who need life-saving surgery abroad, and so on.

I attended two protests against the Partition Wall. Nadia Matar, founder, along with her mother in-law Ruth Matar who is a Holocaust survivor, of Women in Green, was one of the main organizers of the protests. Nadia is a champion and tireless fighter for Eretz Yisrael. She and her mother in-law are on my list of heroines.

One of the protests against the Partition Wall was held this past winter and I brought along Eliyahu Yeshaya, our then ten year-old. He may be young, but he seems to know more about Israeli politics than I do. At his age I knew who the US president was and that the two main political parties were the Democrats and Republicans. Eliyahu Yeshaya has an opinion on just about everything, and very often I think that he should be a government advisor.

A small crowd walked from the northern turn-off to Efrat, along the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion Highway to where heavy equipment and Arab workers were laying foundation posts for the Partition Wall. While various speakers addressed the crowd, the Arab workers retreated. But the retreat was short-lived. Construction has continued and in some places the Partition Wall is just meters away from the highway.

The second protest was held in Efrat on the tenth of the Hebrew month of Av. Hundreds of people gathered in the Zayit neighborhood where a rally was held before the ascent to the Eitam Hill. The Eitam Hill is part of Efrat upon which there are plans for the next generation to live in 2,500 housing units. As it now stands, the Partition Wall will cut off this strategic hill with a 360 degree view of Jerusalem and Bet Lechem in the north, the Herodian (where King Herod is buried) and Tekoa to the East, and the rest of Efrat and Gush Etzion. It is the connecting point of eastern and western Gush Etzion. The government plans to hand over Eitam Hill, as well as other parts of our land, on a silver platter to the Arabs.

I brought Eliyahu Yeshaya and his younger brother Yisrael Meir, 8, to this protest. I gave a ride to two boys from our community (ages 12 and 13) who came equipped to camp out on the Eitam Hill. On the way I picked up an American yeshiva student attending an ultra-orthodox yeshiva, who decided that, despite the advice of his rebbe, he had to come and show his support. At the rally preceding the ascent the the Eitam Hill I spotted this young man sitting on a rock and learning Torah. Torah is our strength.

Among the speakers at the rally were Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the rav of Efrat; Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who, along with his wife are driving forces in the rebuilding of a Jewish presence in Chevron; Rabbi Dovid Marcus, who lives in Efrat; and Nadia Matar. Despite the presence of many army personnel and riot police, the marchers, ranging from babies in front packs, back packs and strollers to the elderly, were determined to reach the Eitam Hill. The protestors marched more than three hours over rocky, difficult terrain in order to reach the Eitam Hill. The protesters zigzagged in their attempt to escape the clutches of soldiers and police who had set up numerous roadblocks and human chains.

An announcement was made that it was time for mincha, the afternoon prayers. People were a bit taken aback, because all around them were rocks, some trees and thorny vegetation. Hoes were handed out and the building began! With hoes and bare hands rocks were dug out and placed lovingly for the walls of a synagogue. The children were especially eager and hard-working in this holy venture.

As night approached many of the protestors were forced, some violently, to board buses which whisked them away. The two boys from our community were violently thrust into a bus. Yaakov was injured and transferred to an ambulance. Later the two boys were dropped off at the southern gate of Efrat. One of Yaakov’s older brothers came and brought the two boys home at about 11:00 P.M. The families and singles who planned to live in small mobile homes on the Eitam did not reach their goal. Some protesters were taken to jail in Kiryat Arba. Still, Nadia Matar claimed a victory and stated that another attempt will be organized. She explained that it takes time and perseverance to establish communities in Judah and Samaria. With G-d’s help we will succeed!

In the case of the Partition Fence/Wall, I do not agree with the adage of Robert Frost that “good fences make good neighbors.”

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.