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Summer 2004  
Vol. 32, No. 4

BACK IN THE GHETTO

by Sarah Ozacky-Lazar

'll spill it out right away: I oppose the erection of a wall in the heart of my country and so close to my home. I reject its high cost, and I detest the look of it. I hate the language used by leaders justifying it and brainwashing the frightened Israeli public by arguing that this is the one and only ultimate solution to terror (where have they been in the last thirty years?). I suffer physically when I see it.

For me, this is not a "security or anti-terror fence" as the media refers to it; it is a wall of separation, and a brutal expression of the current Israeli state of mind. It symbolizes the Israeli wish to cut itself from the Arab world; and it declares helplessness, fear, and disbelief in a political solution which, in my opinion, is far from hopeless. Based on years-long experience of dialogue with Palestinians on the grassroots and civil society levels, I am confident that we do have partners for peace among them, partners whom different Israeli governments have tried to weaken and ignore. And yet they exist. Instead of building walls, we should be building bridges to reach them.

When I drive along the new cross Israel route no. 6, I cannot miss this gray concrete wall blocking from us drivers the "other side," as if we can pretend it does not exist. I must admit that the beautiful vegetation planted on the slopes of the road (including hundreds of olive trees, part of them uprooted from Palestinian land) and the lack of traffic jams make the trip nice and smooth. And yet...I feel as if I am back in a ghetto, unlike the ghetto my parents escaped sixty years ago--this one is self-imposed. My parents raised me to believe that we belong to "the first generation of redemption and the last of oppression"--and here I find myself oppressing and oppressed, closing and being closed, denying others their basic rights and at the same time denying myself and my children moral values and justice.

History teaches us that no physical barrier can stop a people fighting for independence and liberty. Just a few days ago, Israeli Chief of Staff Bugi Yeelon said to an astonished journalist that the Palestinians are already developing new methods to overcome the fence, by digging underneath it or by manufacturing rockets to be shot above it. So, what is the use of this fence?

I see the wall as a symbol of Israeli-Jewish ethnocentrism, as a psychological barrier and a terrible waste of resources. I hope to see the day it is torn down and destroyed by young people of both sides. They deserve a better future than this wall offers. They need open horizons, not hemming in; hope, not hopelessness.

Dr. Sarah Ozacky-Lazar serves as academic director of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva, Israel, where she is active in dialogue and education for peace, and is author of books on Jewish-Arab relations. She lives on Kibbutz Ramot Menashe. This article reflects her own views.


First Place Award Winner for Excellence in Jewish Journalism
and a Benefit of Membership in a Union Congregation

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