The Two Walls of Israel

words + photos by Laurie Gilberg Vander Velde

This is a story about two walls.  They are both in Israel.  One is holy; the other I found to be horrible.  In the short span of 24 hours I had an intimate experience with each of these walls. 

The horrible wall is grey, massive and foreboding.  It snakes over the hills and valleys, reminiscent of many photos I’ve seen of the Great Wall of China.  But this is not a “great” wall.  Its purpose is the same, however:  to keep others out, to make a separation barrier between us and them.  To enter Bethlehem we had to pass through the wall by first entering a large concrete building.  A colorful sign outside said “Peace Be With You” in English, Hebrew and Arabic and was signed by the Israel Ministry of Tourism.  I didn’t really feel like a welcomed tourist as we wound our way through chutes, past large turnstiles with lights that said “green” for “go” and “red” for “stop.”  A flash of our American passports and we were waved on.   We exited through a simple doorway to the other side of the wall, to a different world.

The wall towered above us, probably 20 feet.  No longer just grey, the wall was covered with graffiti.  The graffiti wasn’t just words, but artful angry pictures, one of a lion devouring what appeared to be a white dove with the English words “Stop the Wall” and “hypocrisy.”   Instead of the field of ancient olive trees we’d seen on the other side of the wall, we were right in the midst of a neighborhood.  A woman, her head covered, called to her daughter below from the balcony of her house just 40 feet or so from the wall.  Children played in the street. We spent time with friends of our son Josh, Palestinians who work for peace but who are trapped on the island that is Bethlehem.  We had coffee in Josh’s friend’s home where his mother served us cookies and proudly picked mint and lemon balm from her rooftop garden so we could savor the scent.  

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A Sixty-Year Love Story from Morocco, Israel and France

by Bethany Ball

Marco and Aliza descended on our house in Nyack New York with their irrepressible energy.  Aliza, who is visiting from Israel, is the mother of our dear friend Sagi. And Marco is her boyfriend visiting from his home in Bordeaux, France.  They were staying with Sagi in his tiny apartment in Williamsburg and had come over to cook a meal for Sagi and his friends. Marco immediately settled in, a spry, fit man in his early seventies, making the most of our ill-equipped kitchen (I asked myself: Where are my kitchen scissors? Why do I not have large cutting boards? Or serving dishes?). Marco speaks French, Portuguese and Hebrew. Everyone who came for dinner spoke a smattering of one or several of those languages. If we got stuck, Marco spoke to Aliza in French and she translated in Hebrew or English. There was moule (en francais), moulim (b’ivrit) or mussels with a butter sauce that we were instructed to drink. Our friend Anthony (a native New Yorker married to an Israeli) brought lamb kabob and sharpened knives. Kristen, a native Alabaman chopped parsley. Sagi worked the grill, along with my husband. Anthony’s Israeli wife Abi and I chased after our not-quite-two-year olds and filled in the gaps--like searching for kitchen appliances and washing dishes. Abi set the table and tore and folded paper towel for napkins (why do I never have napkins?). Kristen’s boyfriend Etay played DJ, chopped vegetables and teased Marco. “Marco! I put on French music! Just for you.”

“Bah!” he said, making a face, “It is Carla Bruni. She does not sing. She talks!”

“Give us some Yves Montand,” Aliza called out.

Marco served my grilled fish, branzini or Mediterranean Sea bass. He called it by its French name, Loup de Mer.

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