Israel's Separation Fence


Israel's Separation Fence


Search our Archives:

Opinion & Society

The Wall in My Heart

By Ariel Natan Pasko

Some call it the separation fence. Some call it the security fence. Some just call it the fence, but the "Palestinians" like calling it a "wall". Truth be told, most of it is metal and wire, like any other fence. But there are parts of it, solid concrete, more than five meters - almost 20 feet - tall. But, more importantly than what it is, is why it is.

Long before Israel - the state, government, and most of the people - wanted to build it, to "separate"; the "Palestinians" had already built a wall between us. Suicide bombings, endless machine-gun attacks on the roads, rocks and Molotov cocktails, car thefts and kidnapping-murders, had long before "separated" us, had shattered the illusion that Israelis and "Palestinians", Jews and Arabs could live together. The fence or wall or however you choose to describe it, is only the outward manifestation of an inner state of mind that had already gripped both peoples.

Arabs had always been a part of Israel. Arabs were part of the newly formed state, after the 1948 War of Independence. Technically part of the enemy population who had just warred against Israel, Arabs that found themselves within the borders of the new State of Israel were related to in contradictory ways. Jews were justifiably suspicious of them, having by-and-large just sided with the invading Arab armies trying to crush the newborn Jewish state.

They were under military rule at the beginning and it took some time until they were afforded full citizen rights including the right to vote in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Yet, the "new Hebrews" or "new Israelis" in the making - Jews distant from their own traditions - had for some time already been romanticizing the Arab, and his connection to the land. The Fellah, the Arab peasant farmer, was an early role model for waves of Labor Zionist youth - during the pre-state period - trying to re-connect their roots into the land, their ancient homeland. But, the Arab was also dangerous. He was wild, untamed and uncultured, very different from these central and eastern European Jewish youths coming to settle the land.

Israeli Arabs were eventually extended the vote, and Israeli Jews thought they, the Arabs, were integrating - i.e. benefiting from Israel's western economy and lifestyles - Israeli Jews also thought they were benefiting from the cultural symbiosis with the Arabs. Jews were seen going to Arab villages to buy traditional crafts, drink some "real" Arabic sweet coffee, and this all could be done on the Sabbath, when stores and restaurants were closed in the Jewish neighborhoods and towns. The Arabs had entered Israel's heart, they had found their "place", or at least, that's what Israeli Jews felt. When the miraculous victory of the 1967 Six-Day War took place, in its aftermath, Israel found itself in charge of more than three-quarters of a million more Arabs. Now Israelis could "educate" and "help" more Arabs and mingle among them, to suck up their primitive "lust" for life. What Joy!

In what probably is history's greatest case of going "native", many Israeli Jews started identifying with the Arabs. Long since educated to reject and revile their own traditions, many secularized Israeli Jews held Arabs, and Arabic culture in high esteem, eventually supporting a growing political independence movement among the "good" Arabs that Israel "oppresses".

Not all Jews, I might add, succumbed to this way of feeling. Those Jews still steeped in their own traditions, filled with love and respect for their own history, when given the opportunity to visit, and then later, to move out to the heartland of Jewish history, where the Bible was born, Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - grabbed the chance. They built cities, towns, and villages. They re-established a connection to all that was holy and pure in their homeland.

The heartland that was ripped away from them by the Roman Legions almost 2,000 years before, and denied to them by successive occupation forces, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Muslim, Ottoman-Turk, British, Jordanian, had finally returned to them. Jews re-settled every nook and cranny of their ancient homeland, as they tried not to bother the Arab invaders in their midst. They built on empty hilltops, they bought land, they farmed empty fields, and they loved their homeland.

Arabs, who had "settled" into the hearts of Israelis, began causing "heartburn". They began demanding equality, or more. They began demanding political independence. Truthfully, they always had, but just as secularized Israeli Jews over-romanticized what the Arabs were, they over-romanticized how much the Arabs loved and appreciated them, and their western economy and lifestyle, selectively ignoring Arab complaints for decades. Terrorism grew; many Israelis now openly spoke of "separation", "divorce", and the need to start building "the fence". So the Israeli government rolled out maps, plans, and devised schemes to carve up its homeland. The "fence" had begun!

Not all Israeli Jews support the fence. Many on the "wrong side" of the fence feel that their personal safety has been sacrificed. If Hamas or Islamic Jihad can't get to Tel-Aviv or Haifa to bomb, then terrorism in Judea and Samaria will probably go up. Are those Jews there worth any less, than these Jews here? Is their blood any redder in Tel-Aviv?

But more significantly, is the symbolism. A fence, a wall is being created that will separate the "Palestinians" from the Israelis. If a Palestinian state is born, the "wall" will economically choke the newborn, so say the Arabs. It signifies to them the end of "Palestinian" workers coming into Israel to labor. But it will also help to "separate" the Israeli Arabs from their brothers in "Palestine".

Or will it?

Will Israeli Arabs feel disconnected from those in the new state, as they did before 1967? I doubt it, modern telecommunications technology will see to that. Over 25 years of Israeli control of the areas - until it was handed over to the Palestinian Authority, and 10 years of a "Peace Process" has "Palestinianized" Israeli Arabs beyond recognition. Note, their increasing involvement in terror acts alone, or with "Palestinians" against Israeli Jews. This I believe will only grow.

Two other phenomena I believe will also grow. First, if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other terror groups can't access pre-1967 Israel anymore - if the security fence is that good - then their motivation to improve their missile technology will grow exponentially. Remember, that as many times as Israeli politicians point out the "impenetrability" of the Gaza security fence and how it's prevented terror attacks originating from Gaza, they never mention the growth of Kassam missile technology and the increasing vulnerability of Negev towns, on the "right side" of the fence, from Gaza. Imagine more accurate missiles - eventually with chemical or biological warheads - suicide-bombers will be child's play in comparison. Second, there will be increasing irredentism - i.e. calls for independence and affiliation with "Palestine" - on the part of Israeli Arabs.

But as I said earlier, not all Jews want the fence, the wall. Almost 200 years ago, a process of "enlightenment", better called secularization and assimilation began within the Jewish people. It spread from western and central Europe eastward, and even crossed the Mediterranean to North Africa. It promoted a more "universal" cultural approach. Many of the early non-religious Zionist leaders promoted it in the developing Jewish state.

Many Israeli Jews began to feel alienated from their history and traditions, as earlier pointed out. The "wall" being put up in the heartland of the Jewish people will separate most Israeli Jews from their most holy places and history, the burial place of their forefathers in Hebron and Joseph's Tomb in Shechem - Nablus - for example. Truthfully, many don't care. But, a country that doesn't honor, respect, and care about its past, will have a hard time, convincing its sons and daughters to strive for a future.

The Arabs in contrast, have a mythologized false past in this land and - even so - are willing to fight, kill, and sacrifice for it. The Jews need to know why they are in Israel and not in Paris, Morocco, Algiers, New York, or Moscow. The wall in the heart of the Land of Israel will help prevent this from happening.

And what about for those who do care? What about for those Jews who daily sacrifice for their beloved Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel - living in Judea and Samaria? They are being cut-off from the rest of the Israeli nation. Put on the "wrong side" of the fence as if to symbolize, they've done something wrong sticking to their traditions and history, in spite of all attempts to take it away.

But, in spite of it all, they have their forefather's graves before them. What other nation can make such a claim, that they know where their founding fathers and mothers are buried? They can walk the places that biblical figures - kings and prophets -walked. They can climb up the same mountains, and down the same valleys. Most Jews on the "wrong side" of the fence know why they are there. They haven't gone "native", they aren't "loosing" to the Arabs. Their world isn't shattered because the pipe dream of peace is shattered.

But that "wall", that "wall" hurts!

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at:

© 2003/5763 Pasko


from the September 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (

The Jewish Magazine is the place for Israel and Jewish interest articles
The Current Monthly Jewish Magazine
To the Current Index Page
Write to us!
Write Us
The Total & Complete Gigantic Archive Pages for all issues
To the Big Archives Index Page