The Lemon Tree (Bloomsbury, 2006). The Israeli protest of Israeli action needs to be hard to categorize should one start to criticize Israel as a whole for human rights abuses. Palestinian-Israeli peace initiatives must be acknowledged before the battle lines are drawn yet again. There are incredible thinkers like David Shulman and Sari Nusseibeh who write amazing book reviews about amazing books and devastating books. At the same time, subtlety and complexity, despite being sustained by many organizations, seem to be ill-equipped to take on the 709+km concrete stretch of wall that has become the simultaneous allegory and reality of the Palestinians' oppression. Another naqba. Another asbolute.
Wow. That's a lot of links. What is it I want to do here? Keep learning, clearly. As my research starts to take final shape within the rubric of "Orientalism and Moral Education in Late Medieval French Visual Culture," there's a pressing necessity to keep thinking through modern articulations of the moral quandries of the Middle East. The necessity would be there without the research - we should all know these things - the research needs to be accountable to the present, too. But I also want to show you, briefly now as the hour gets later and later and I'm thinking more than writing, three walls that delimit boundaries made permeable by history. The first is the image above taken from the bus as we were leaving Bethlehem (the PDF map of the Separation Barrier - available for download in the right-hand column- can situate you). We had all brought our passports to come to Bethlehem for the afternoon and were ready to show them as we approached the checkpoint to leave. The bus was unusually quiet, for me from the choking sadness of the city: closed in, economically doomed, hunted. I'll be writing about the Church of the Nativity and its insane Crusader columns another day, but that site, too, was sad, tired - that's a strange term, but it was there: this fatigue, this exhaustion. The wall is quickly visible as you leave the city, and stretches bleakly, seemingly in both directions, in its relentless concrete gray. And then as the bus slowed down in the traffic accumulating near the checkpoint, the graffiti appeared and the students stirred and got up and walked over to see, and started talking and you could feel this tremulous ripple of excitement and curiosity go through us. I took my first picture ever of seasonal graffiti - we were there in the afterglow of Armenian Christmas which had just begun on the 6th of January. Its palimpsest quality, and wondering if there would be an Easter message coming in a few weeks, made the wall's surface (not existence, no) more negotiable. The Berlin Wall resonated within students' comments "And that one came down, remember?" said one student. There is protest graffiti on both sides of the wall. This one marked its protest in cyclical time and made me see the wall as impossible for too many Christmases.
all the controversies therein) has uncovered the full reach of Herod's wall. This wall was devastated by history, and permeated by a moment of Islamic good will to Jewish worship. It is a witness if there ever was one. When we walked by on our way into the Western Wall tunnel, it framed the initiation ceremony of a latest group of IDF soldiers.
Ultra-Orthodox, and some Orthodox, Jews don't serve in the military in Israel, and I fervently wanted to know this man's mind as he looked on at the ceremony below. We could speak until the early morning and beyond about what exactly it is that the Israeli Defense Forces are defending.