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WALLS

This past summer, COLORS talked to people living along the scar of the Berlin wall and along the path of a new barrier—still being built—between Israel and Palestine. We asked: How has the wall changed your life?

Summer 1961, the East German government constructed a barrier to seal itself off from its closest enemies. The Berlin wall was mostly wall—66 miles of concrete almost 12 feet tall—but it was also 27 miles of fence, and guarded by 302 military watchtowers. The East German government claimed the barrier was intended strictly for its own security—an “anti-fascist protection wall”— but the true purpose was to keep East Germans from fleeing to democratic West Berlin. During the next 29 years, 5,000 people managed to get across (and under), and more than 100 were shot dead trying. In 1990, the wall was torn down.

Summer 2002, the Israeli government started constructing a barrier to seal
itself off from its nearest enemies. The wall's highly controversial measurements are in constant flux. Current plans have the barrier, mostly fence, running about 406 miles long, but some of it, about 20 miles, will be made of concrete slab looming up to 28 feet tall, and guarded by military watchtowers.

The Israeli government claims the barrier is intended strictly for its own security—to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers and guerrilla fighters from entering Israel—but in places the fence's path runs to the east of the Green Line, Israel's frontier before it took control of the West Bank in the 1967 war, thus creating a new, de facto Israeli border. By the summer of 2004, 33 percent
of the barrier, or about 137 miles, had been finished.

The walls are different in important ways—when all is said and done, one was about keeping ordinary people in, the other mainly about keeping armed people out—yet whatever the original purpose, walls of this enormous and tragic scale redraw neighborhoods, split cities, divide peoples, shape consciousness, and change histories.
BERLIN


“How has the wall changed your life?”


Photographer
Michael Danner in Berlin

Interviews by Aleksandr Rossman



Right: Berlin, 2004.
Two views of the once heavily guarded no-man's-land that ran between East Berlin (pictured on left) and West Berlin (behind trees).
Sebastian Ketel


I already knew that everything there was not golden and great.

In some sense, the border is still with us. It's nice now that you don't need to worry that your neighbor is passing on information about you to the secret police. The telephone in our house always made these strange clicking sounds, and it was obvious that there was someone listening at all times. I don't understand how people can miss the so-called protection of the state. Protection meant that someone was always spying on you. I don't miss that at all.
Angelika Hertzer


At least people at work don't call me a “shit Easterner.”

The biggest change for me was money—I used to have it. I can't afford anything anymore. We all thought it would get better, but the opposite happened. Many have fled abroad because they don't have a future here, and live much better now. There are so many foreigners here now—Döner shops everywhere, one after the other. Even the grocer is foreign. You never see Germans anymore. Everyone is a foreigner. Where did the Germans all go? They emigrated!
Selda Kurt


Easterners and Westerners say they wish the wall was still there.

When the wall was coming down, my parents bought chocolate and handed it out. But things went downhill from there. The middle class is practically extinct; there are only haves and have-nots. But there is so much more to choose from, even if living conditions are worse. Crime is up and neo-fascism is more pronounced... Honestly, I don't know if that's because the wall came down or whether people are just so broke now that they have to steal to get by.
Kalender Kurt


They expected something that never happened and feel cheated.

After the wall fell, people in the East faced a greatly expanded horizon. Many were so overwhelmed with the change they couldn't adapt. Everything changed, including my neighborhood. Criminals are much more bold now. Gangsters used to keep their business in their yards, now they're out on the street. Maybe every generation has its own rules. I imagine many people in the former East are really disappointed about where they find themselves now.
Marlies Schönfeldt


Sometimes mines would explode when a rabbit was hopping around the wall.

I've lived 38 years right next to where the wall stood. Westerners used to climb the viewing towers and shout through a megaphone, “Stay strong, you Easterners, we will free you!” Words like that sound awful through a megaphone. I used to be a financial consultant, but was too old to be eligible for retraining. I worked in a chocolate factory until it went bust, then I worked at a newsstand in the subway in not the best neighborhood—but, watching, you learn a lot about how low a young person can sink without work or an apartment, or money.
Andrea Sperber


I would never move now.

I was young and enlightened enough not to suffer too much of a culture shock when the wall came down. But I'm an East German, so for me a lot did change. Everything here was gray before, and now the neighborhood is much nicer—all kinds of different people mix together. I don't like it in the West; everything is just different there. I wish that no one had ever had to experience the wall. It represents an essential mistrust of the people.
Atakan Küreci


As a child I always wanted to know what was on the other side of the wall.

My street led right up to it—and then ended and picked up again on the other side. I used to cross two borders to get to work in West Germany. Now everything is definitely a lot easier. The wall was an embarrassment for Germany, for Europe... I think they should have left more pieces of the wall standing, though, so that you could tell where it had been. In some places you can't tell that it was there at all.
Renate Striedinger


I want to get out of here; I am fed up, totally fed up.

You know what I just found out today? The No. 143 bus is being canceled. They are totally nuts; how am I going to get around—me, with my cane? I can't believe it. Things just aren't the same as before. It's gotten so loud on this street because of construction, and now the damn bus is canceled. When the wall was here the street was quiet, but now they are putting in a tram and taking away the buses. Old people will have to walk to the subway now. Next thing you know, they'll want to build a highway here. Nope, not with me. I am really pissed!


















Left: Peeking into former East Berlin, 2004. The West Berlin side of the wall was covered with colorful graffiti, while its eastern counterpart remained unblemished gray concrete.
WEST BANK


“How has the wall changed your life?”


Photojournalist Eyal Ofer in Israel





Right: Nazlat Isa, West Bank, 2004.
Palestinian schoolchildren cross the wall to get to their kindergarten on the Palestinian side of the green line.


Far right: Mas'ha, West Bank, 2003: A boy facing the Palestinian side of the wall that now separates his family's house (on right) from the rest of the village.
Hitam Hamdan


Are you sure you want to ask me? I'm an Arab.

It was terrifying before the wall. The Palestinians, just across the border, shot at Israeli homes. All day: bullets, bullets, and bullets. I was scared to come to work. The wall brought back the peacefulness—but it's ruining my family. My husband is Palestinian, I'm Israeli. I haven't seen him for almost a year. We live just a few kilometers away from each other, but can only talk on the phone. He can't get Israeli citizenship because he was in jail when he was young. I don't want to live on the Palestinian side—it is much better for my kids to grow up in Israel. See? I'm stuck in the middle.
Hagay Huberman


The fence is helpful in preventing theft more than in preventing suicide bombings.

As a journalist I know the facts: I don't see any security benefit in the fence. It is just twisting around and cutting through the land. The only reason there's been a reduction in terror is because the IDF Special Forces are operating inside Palestinian towns. The short-term lull in terror activity has nothing to do with the fence. It breaks my heart to see the hardship the fence has caused our Palestinian neighbors and the damage it's done to Israel in the international arena.
Ahmed Hashika


This is like a prison.

For 30 years I worked in a gas station in Israel, in Kfar Saba, just across the border. I would bicycle or hitchhike to work every day. Since the start of the uprising I haven't been able to get to work. I stayed home for three years and lost all my savings. Now the situation has calmed down, and I can go back to work at the same gas station. But if the gate isn't open I have to go around, which is more than 10 kilometers [6.2 miles]. I hope there will be peace. I lived with Jews as if they are my brothers. Sometimes because of one bad person, a million people suffer.
Phari Osman


Now it's very difficult to even get to the hospital in Qalqiliya.

I used to work in Israel before the uprising. The soldiers aren't nice. They say: ”Stand in line. Stay back. Only one person at a time!“ Some soldiers are afraid; they think we're all terrorists, and point guns at us. But there are also good soldiers who treat us like human beings. They understand we are ordinary people going to work.
Doron Leiber


In terms of safety the fence has brought calm to the members of the kibbutz.

At Kibbutz Metzer we always worked side-by-side with our Arab neighbors. Our banana plantations bordered their olives groves across the Green Line. Two years ago there was a horrible attack: five people were shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist, including my friend Yitzhak Dori and a mother trying to protect her two children—that was while we were negotiating with the government to change the route of the fence. The fence would be a good idea if it followed the Green Line. But the current route is hard to accept. Groves stand neglected because the Palestinians are not allowed to cross.
Nshat Abas


Personally and politically, I think a fence can only be where both sides agree.

Economically my situation has improved. People feel more secure and they aren't afraid to go out, as they were during the early years of the uprising. I have many more customers in my restaurant now. Before, terrorists from Jenin would pass through this town on their way to suicide bombings in Israel. So the town was in the news in a negative way, there were police roadblocks to catch the terrorists and people stayed away. The fence is on the Green Line in this area, which is fine, but in other areas, like Qalqiliya, Jerusalem, the fence goes into the West Bank. That's land theft, and I don't approve of that.
Amar El Akra


I live by the clock. If I work past 7 p.m., they'll take away my permit.

I used to go home any time or stay on my land at night to water the plants—I only live three minutes away. Before the wall there were always soldiers with tanks patrolling—I was afraid and would often sleep here. After they built the wall I couldn't get to our store at all. The economic situation in Qalqiliya is bad. After the Intifada started, many people lost their jobs in Israel, and Israeli shoppers stopped coming. Our nursery was destroyed in September 2001: settlers burned it down the night after a terrorist killed an Israeli woman right here on the road. Now, Israelis feel safer and a few are even coming to shop here.
Hani Amar


This was a major road; Israelis would come every weekend to shop in our village.

The wall makes a big difference. Before I could go either west or east to get to my village, and I could go whenever I wanted. Now I have to wait for the army patrol to open the gate. They are supposed to open at 6 a.m. so I can get to my property, but they're late sometimes—6:30, 7:00, even 8:00. It's hard for my children. They need to open the small gate to go to school. The army gave us a key, and only members of our family are allowed to use it. There are a lot of patrols here, even at night. Sometimes when we have a lot of visitors the army asks who all the people are.
















Right: Qalqiliya, West Bank, 2003.
International protestors raise a banner condemning the barrier separating Qalqiliya from the Israeli town of Kfar Saba.


CROSSING INTO ISRAEL,
SEPTEMBER 2004


Israeli combat engineers examine the remains of a suicide bomber at a gate in the barrier fence between the West Bank town of Qalqiliya and Kfar Saba, Israel.
The 22-year-old man arrived on bicycle from Qalqiliya, blending in with a group of Palestinian workers who were passing through the gate to get to their agricultural plots. Suspicious of his behavior, Israeli soldiers stopped him, and while being interrogated he detonated the bomb, wounding three soldiers and killing himself.



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