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Cracks in the wall: A glimmer of hope for Israel-Palestine

From up close, a wall can seem smooth, unbreakable and infinite – it is the only thing in sight. The wall, a wall of despair or a wall of separation, is real. But by taking a few steps back, either physically or spiritually, cracks in the wall can come into sight.

By Moriel Rothman

Graffiti art on separation wall (James Chen)

I’ve been in the U.S. for almost two weeks now, and I’ve begun to see cracks in the “Despair-Wall” that I wasn’t seeing – or wasn’t able to see – 14 days ago.

When I boarded the plane departing from Ben Gurion International Airport, it was with feelings of darkness, of exhaustion, a feeling that bordered on despair. Get me out of here, I thought. Get me out of here. Granted, I’ve also had a rough few months since being released from a short stint in IDF Military Jail this past November (just as Israel began its latest series of attacks on Gaza and Hamas launched its most recent round of rockets into Israel), but the situation itself has also seemed pretty grim.

Over the past few months, the West Bank has been in a state of turmoil. IDF troops shot and killed a young man named Mahmoud al-Titi during a protest in the al-Fawar refugee camp, bringing to eight the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military throughout the West Bank since the beginning of 2013. And as Gideon Levy devastatingly pointed out in an op-ed right before the recent Israeli elections, no one seems to care.

And while we’re on the subject of elections: the sweeping success of Yair Lapid’s tautologically named “Yesh Atid” (“There is a Future”) Party has proven to be entirely as negative as many on the Left initially worried. Lapid formed a firm alliance with Naftali Bennet and his far-right “Jewish Home” party (and affirming the alliance’s robustness by forbidding his colleagues to go on a tour with the left-lite NGO, the Geneva Initiative). Aside from that, Bibi’s government that is in the process of being formed right now will be thoroughly and completely right wing, nationalistic, xenophobic, and as Larry Derfner put it, conveniently equipped with a Tzipi Livni-shaped fig leaf Bibi can wave toward Obama to prove his “seriousness about peace.”

And while we’re on the subject of Obama: Obama coming to Israel and saying nothing would strengthen and boost the current of ever-growing terrible things.

And while we’re still on the subject of terrible things: What about the segregated buses? And the upcoming eviction in Sheikh Jarrah. And a right-wing NGO is suing the maker of Five Broken Cameras. And more random violence against Palestinians around Jerusalem. And Syria?

Like I said, things look grim and dark from my home in Jerusalem. And this darkness is real. Coming to the States did not allow me to see these horrible things in any positive light. They cannot.

But often, when one is standing next to a wall – a Wall of Despair or a Wall of Separation – all that one can see is the wall. From that angle, the wall can seem smooth, unbreakable, infinite. And the wall is real. But sometimes when one takes a few steps back, either physically or spiritually (or both), cracks in the wall come into sight.

And over these past few weeks, I’ve regained some of my ability to see the cracks.

Cracks like the fact pointed out a media analyst friend, that Mahmoud al-Titi was mentioned by name in many of the major Israeli news sources, which is not a given when Palestinians are killed in the West Bank.

Cracks like mainstream Israeli voices speaking out against violence towards Palestinians, often in ways that do not recognize the systematic nature of the violence, but nevertheless condemn them strongly.

Cracks like terrible settler violence against Palestinians in Qusra making it on to Channel 2 news, in a way that reflected a high degree of condemnation (while also lacking in systems-analysis).

Cracks like Shas and the ultra-Orthodox breaking away from the pro-settlement right — not from a place of sympathy for Palestinians, but from one of politics. According to one report, Shas leader Shlomo Benizri said he “is willing to sit in a coalition government with MK Hanin Zoabi “if that is the price for saving the Torah world.”

Cracks like the media-spurred delay of the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah.

Cracks like MK Merav Michaeli, from the less-and-less-left Labor Party, giving a speech in the Knesset calling on Israelis to stop self-perceiving as victims. Or like Yesh Atid’s MK Ruth Calderon, who before giving her own interesting but problematic speech in the Knesset, made headlines for questioning whether there might be a way to change Israel’s anthem to make it more inclusive for non-Jewish citizens.

Cracks like the brilliant Palestinian led and organized non-violent initiatives like Bab al-Shams, the staging of a wedding in protest of apartheid at the wall by the village of Hizmeh, general nonviolent action and energy and movement around the issue of hunger strikers.

Newness. Cracks. Little pieces of light. Not a flowing river of optimism, but little streams pushing through the mounds of dirt and dark.

I fly back tomorrow. As I board the plane to Ben Gurion, I will do so filled with renewed commitment to struggle against injustice, with love and with compassion, to remind my friends and community members that there is always something to do to change the face of the next hour. I hope they will remind me of the same when I am down again. And if I am stopped at the airport, I will be stopped with a smile: because there are cracks in the wall.

Moriel Rothman is an American-Israeli writer and activist. He is based in Jerusalem and blogs independently at www.TheLefternWall.com.

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    1. toto hanthala (@totohanthala)

      Cracks expanding like threads of a spider’s web
      reaching spreading to touch more & more to roll linking spokes everywhere
      cracks on the face of the apartheid wall deepening connecting bonding dazzling

      Each crack a breath of freedom every crack a warm touch of hope healing despair
      a frozen lake of apathy,indifference & silent conformity incessantly split by insatiable struggle
      fractures popping & cascading from ripples of unfaltering struggle for social justice

      Lines of freedom forming creating a canvas of of abuses & usurpations for all to see
      listen to them crackle and pop as they sing their hope for freedom & emancipation
      i heard them sing of a power within the prison of Bethlehem that could never be stifled

      Each burst of light illuminating ethnic cleansing,occupation & military repression
      the great grey prison 30 foot tall walls are crumbling from the weight of their own oppression
      on the other side i see free people strongly stepping out of the darkness with integrity

      Splinters like Courage to Refuse and B’tselem reaching into every dark corner
      Bab al-Shams,EI &True Torah Jews Against Zionism spreading their truth
      The Black Hands,Gaza Youth & CPT together with the same message; Let my people go

      So one day i see the light even overwhelming the Knesset
      for one day egalitarianism will fill this the darkest hole of the abyss
      from water to water no fence,no check point no more ethnic cleansing no more apartheid

      When all the cracks unite the wall of hate falls then crumbles by dust into the grave
      on a warm summer day when all the soot settles from this great collapse
      all the people jew, muslin, christian & secular diverse yet united as it was meant to be

      Reply to Comment
    2. toto hanthala (@totohanthala)


      It sure takes alot of guts & sheer bravery
      to arrest children for throwing rocks at occupying soldiers
      then to haul them away to a jail to be traumatized by sheer ‘legal’ terrorism
      until shaking in fear.bleeding, white with pain they sign confessions in a language they do not understand

      My my what tremendous courage it must take to point a tank’s barrel at a kid
      who is on the way to school who dared to stop to throw a stone at the big ugly beast
      What backbone & pluck one must possess to be armed to the teeth harassing women, children & unarmed men in their own country at a checkpoint deciding who can pass who cannot…& when

      What kind of gallantry does one need to bomb schools & hospitals
      using state of the art weaponry to destroy homes, farms & orchards
      as brave cowards slaughter civilians en-caged in an open air prison for voting the wrong way in a free election but voting for a democracy your captors disapprove of
      what absurd chutzpah this is to call this crime against humanity; self-defense or justified

      A dozen jeeps screech to a stop outside a home in the occupied ‘terror’tories
      fully armed soldiers race out shouting then break down the door of a families home at 3 am
      to photograph 13 year olds for future reference while mom & dad are forced to freeze by a gun shoved in the face outside in the chill of the night
      after the raid to salute such daring gallantry with smiles and salutes which took such pluck & grit

      But the truly brave the honestly courageous are those who don’t blink when faced with such overwhelming force
      real heroes are those who endure with unconquerable sumud day after day, year after year
      they stay with unpassable defiance and refuse to cede or yield
      as the Palestinian gets jeered harassed & marginalized by the court fed by zionist policies he smiles with a grace incomprehensible

      West Bank Palestinians resist under the yolk of foreign military occupation as they survive by endurance
      under the wire mesh overhang of the markets from the trash tossed from above
      to the Palestinian who stands up to the racism,abuse & mistreatment with a smile of fortitude & the calmness of valor

      i walked with your children on public dirt roads while red-eyed demonic pious immigrants waved guns screaming rabid hatred
      i was atop a teachers house in Hebron who showed us where the occupation soldier pissed in her watertank during the 2nd intifada
      i broke bread with a family whose lineage goes backs thousands of years and have a stone at the entrance to their farm with the word’s; ‘we refuse to be your enemy’

      i was born in a land called canada
      my ancestor blood flows Lakota blackfoot
      i eschew nationalism, patriotism and others vices of bigotry, elitism, xenophobia & exclusiveness
      but i shout with idealism & with solidarity i am Palestinian
      i accept that all bloods flow red and one…

      Reply to Comment
    3. totohanthala

      Jaffa; a clockwork orange

      by michael hall

      I have a key to a home that has no door nor walls
      but i can still smell jaffa oranges sweet in the breeze down the hill
      over there stands a park where a village once stood
      so my grandmother told me one day, almost everyday

      Have you ever been to the sea
      i’ve never been there but my grandfather has
      it was warm and salty he says with moist eyes
      but for me the wet of the sea is not allowed

      Not too long ago we walked this land from water to water
      over the hills and down into the farms tending rows and rows of orchards
      some of the olive trees were thousands of years old
      before armored bulldozers came broke and razed them into piles of kindling

      Al Quds is a dream for all of us to see
      without roadblocks checkpoints and permits
      without smug smartass soldiers barking and pushing
      that day seems so far away

      What is ours we cannot build upon
      for illegal immigrants with an army tear it down
      yet they build what they want where they want
      with all the water filling their pools as our crops wither and die

      I walked with children in the southern Hebron hills
      on public dirt roads not bothering no one
      but then it rides roaring down from inside a fortress colony
      guns waving, curses launched from inside of beeping revving cars

      In the courts to be tried by foreigners in your land is surreal
      in a military court judged by bigotry what chance do you have
      someone somewhere somehow saw you throw a rock at a tank
      you must pay for scratching the paint

      Inside the stinking squalid cell in between your beatings
      the words of your grandparents echo in your heart
      you can almost smell the oranges on the limbs of Jaffa
      you can almost taste the salt of the sea….you endure as a freedom rider

      Reply to Comment
    4. “… if I am stopped at the airport, I will be stopped with a smile: because there are cracks in the wall.”

      A remarkable last sentence.

      Reply to Comment