The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a familiar hot topic since it began several years ago. Though some periods have been bloodier and more turbulent than others, the conflict has yet to cease. In 2003, construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier began in an attempt to lower the number of attacks between Palestine and Israel. Despite urges from the United Nations to stop further construction, the wall continues to grow.
The wall (with sections reaching as high as about 26 feet) has caused many people to lose their land among other consequences.
The college’s PAX club has decided to take action to promote dialogue about the wall between Israel and Palestine, as well as the various walls we build in our own personal lives, by building a replica of the Israel/Palestine barrier through the middle of campus.
Heading up this endeavor are Emily Graber, a senior English and PJCS major and Elizabeth Berg, a junior nursing major who spent this past summer in Palestine and has seen the conflict firsthand.
Graber said that the wall is “an environmental issue, a women’s issue, an economic issue, and most importantly a human issue. We’re not trying to make a statement for political purposes either way. We simply want to teach students. It’s a way for students and everyone on campus to really actively engage and consider things in a very tangible way.”
Obviously the wall on campus won’t be to the scale of the wall that is being constructed in Israel and Palestine, but it will serve as an important reminder for people on campus on an entirely different continent, who might otherwise be ignorant of the plight of other members of humankind.
The wall on campus will extend from the science building to Schrock Plaza in front of the library. It will be staffed by four guards, and will have two checkpoints. Students will need their IDs to get through the checkpoints, and there will be some arbitrary turnarounds, which will be based on a person’s wardrobe selection that day.
The point of the construction is not to make students angry, late to class, or take sides in the conflict; but simply to provide an experience and a way to engage with this topic, said Graber.
PAX, EcoPax, GSWA, the Middle East Club, Art Club and a range of individuals from other clubs are helping with construction and serving as guards. The Art Club will provide some grafitti for the wall.
Students will build the wall on Wednesday, March 9, and take it down on Saturday, March 12. There will be checkpoint guards at both checkpoints on Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 9:45pm, and on Friday, from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Students wishing not to participate in the wall can simply walk around, as it will not span the entire campus. This is an option that those in Israel and Palestine will not have.
There will be talk-back sessions following the demolition of the wall on March 15 and 16 (the Tuesday and Wednesday after mid-term break) at 7 p.m. in Wyse 319. The hope is that some collaboration and creativity will provide ways to respond to this experience, that people will be led to think critically and that we will investigate the wall between Israel and Palestine and our own walls.
Graber said, “Even if you aren’t interested in the wall between Israel and Palestine, we all have walls in our own personal lives, and this is symbolic. Some of the walls are tangible, some are not. This is one way of thinking of the walls we put up in our lives. With the Middle East club, Egypt SST, and Arabic classes, it’s clear that there’s a rising interest in the Middle East, which is why this issue was chosen, but there are other walls, like the one between the U.S. and Mexico, between friend groups, athletics or whatever they may be.”