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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Security Wall

This is the third in a series of posts about politics in Israel. To view the earlier posts in the series click these links:
1. Celebrating Israel   2. Middle East, not Middle Earth   3. Sayid

It seems to me Sayid has another option: he could apply for a work permit.  The upfront costs of a work permit would be insurmountable for Sayid himself --  the equivalent of two months labor on a six month work permit.  But employers are willing to pay the costs, and then withhold part of the paycheck until they are paid off.  The take-home pay is very, very low, but at least it is reliable.  

One day, I was walking past a construction site when Sayid called my cell phone asking if I had work for him.  I had nothing to offer, but the construction site gave me an idea.  I screwed up my courage, approached one of the workers, and asked if they needed another set of hands. I was quickly introduced to the foreman, a Christian Arab named Rasmi.  Rasmi told me to send Sayid to him, he'd be happy to put him to work. 

Since then, Rasmi and I have been friendly, greeting each other every morning as I walk past his construction site.  Once one of his workers offered me a cookie from the breakfast they were sharing.

But Sayid could not work anything out with Rasmi.  I am certainly many factors contributed, and I only know a few them.  I will tell you about one of the complications, which has to do with the Security Wall, also known as the Separation Barrier between the Palestinian territories and Israel proper.

To avoid the heat of the day, construction work starts at 7AM.  In order to get across the security border to arrive at work on time, Sayid would need to leave his house at 4AM, to join the crowds of Palestinian workers lining up to get across.  As people pass through one at a time, they are inspected and subjected to verbal humiliation.  And no surprise.  Most of the checkpoints are manned by 20 year old kids wearing guns.

Israel should do better than this.  In addition to training checkpoint guards to identify terrorists, they should also be training them to show respect to the people legitimately passing through.  They should increase the number of people manning the checkpoints, to be able to process workers faster.  And they should lower the cost of work permits, so that people who are already living on the edge are not deprived of a third of their pay check.  A little respect for the dignity of Palestinian people would go a long way towards promoting peace.

On the other side -- and yes, there is always another side in this conflict -- I am grateful for the security wall.

My husband and I lived in Israel for a year in 1995-96, when Yitshak Rabin was assassinated.  That year, approximately 40 people were killed in terror attacks, mostly by suicide bombers.  These attacks were among the most evil expressions of the human soul, to  strap explosives onto the body of a 20 year old child and send him into a crowd.

Though the numbers of people killed in such attacks were small compared to the numbers killed in car accidents, the attacks were very successful in their aim of creating terror.  With constant news stories about bus bombings, I avoided riding buses the entire year, sticking to taxis instead.

Once Israel built the security wall, terror attacks dropped to ten percent of what they had been.  This year, only three people died in Israel proper as a result of the conflict with Palestinians: Daniel Viflic, who I mentioned earlier, Mary Jean Gardener, a British citizen who was killed by a bomb planted at the central bus station of Jerusalem, and Kristene Luken, an American stabbed to death in the woods by thugs from Hamas.  My fear of buses and public spaces has faded into memory.

The next post in this series is called Ethnic Struggle.


  1. I have really appreciated this series of posts on politics in Israel, as I have all your posts in this blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences in such a clear, honest, practical way. - Lisa

  2. You don't mention Kristine Luken - she was killed while hiking in the woods near our house in December. Her companion hiker, Susan Kay Wilson, escaped. This was definitely a terror attack.