Photo Essay: Graffiti on Bethlehem’s “Security Wall”

Bethlehem and Jerusalem are practically neighbors. The trip from Jerusalem’s Old City takes no more than 10-15 minutes. At least it would if you didn’t have to cross “The Wall…”

Israel‘s 8-meter (26 foot) high “Security wall” separates Israeli-controlled Jerusalem from the fully Palestinian-controlled areas of the “West Bank” (or, as one Palestinian said to me, “Occupied Palestine”). Similar to a modern day version of the Berlin Wall, this “security wall” effectively serves to imprison the Palestinians, as, short of a special permit, Palestinians are not allowed to enter Israel-proper (West Bank-based Palestinians are not Israeli citizens) and vice-versa for Israelis (with exception to those settlements you’ve heard so much about…).

For foreigners, though, the journey between the two cities is a relatively painless one. And after clearing the prison-like checkpoint to enter the Palestinian Territory, you’re free to go (nobody ever looked at my passport, despite my having gone back and forth twice).

What I found particularly fascinating about this wall, and in fact Bethlehem itself (which I was otherwise no fan of) is the graffiti that lines the Bethlehem side. These are scenes of protest, images of political prisoners, statements of support and just plain artwork. It’s a flash point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right in front of you…

I was really taken by this and would love to share some of those images with you now:

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

Bethlehem Security Wall

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on this wall?

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35 Responses to Photo Essay: Graffiti on Bethlehem’s “Security Wall”

  1. Leigh May 24, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    There are some talented artists out there. I particularly like the photo with the man – something about his eyes.

    • Aaron May 25, 2012 at 5:33 am #

      Isn’t that one great? I was really transfixed by the wall. Despite your beliefs on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s hard to ignore the sheet beauty of some of this work!

      • Jennifer Murphy March 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

        Beauty lies in the spirit – endowed to all by God. It is one God …. It’s so unfortunate that so many deny that spirit!! … And yes, I see the spirit here working though the Palestinians – not through the Zionists.

        • Aaron March 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

          Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Sophie HeadingThere May 25, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    The only coverage I have seen was during Banksy’s visit in 2005. That was all over the news, but there wasn’t much mention of local artists. Banksy called it the ultimate holiday destination for graffiti writers! Thanks for sharing these pictures, they’re incredible.

    • Aaron May 25, 2012 at 5:45 am #

      Before visiting, I hadn’t heard about Banksy’s time at the wall. Fascinating stuff!

  3. efrutik May 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    The wall and what it represents are both atrocious! The art abd the willingness of the people to percevere is humbling!

    • Aaron May 29, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      So very true! That feelings comes across so strongly once you get to chatting with some Palestinians as well. Such resilient people!

  4. Ali May 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    This is really interesting. I don’t know nearly enough about the Israel-Palestine conflict, something I should really read more about one of these days.

    • Aaron May 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      I knew a bit about it before going to Israel, but actually being there and seeing first hand what the situation is like gives you a much greater interest in it…

  5. Andrea May 31, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Fascinating! After visiting sections where the Berlin wall used to be last year and visiting those museums I find it so sad that these conflicts still go on today. I know that the politics and function of the wall are very different than Berlin, however, a wall is a wall just the same.

    • Aaron May 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      Exactly. A wall is a wall is a wall. The sole purpose is to keep someone out. You can attach whatever political phrases to that you want, but at the end of the day…

  6. Lillie June 1, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Powerful and fascinating article. And totally connected to my most recent AroundTheWorldL.com post! We must be joined at the mind.

    • Aaron June 7, 2012 at 4:26 am #

      Hahaha maybe… And I’m currently in Iraq and you just posted about that too! Totally joined. You’re coming to TBEX, right?

  7. Lillie June 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Yes and yes! Yay!

  8. Kristen July 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I am currently living here… no matter how many times I go through the checkpoints and see the wall… it is daunting and humiliating. There is so much wrong here…

    This wall is 3 times taller than the Berlin wall was… I have walked in Berlin by the remnants of the wall… it was bad enough…

    As the graffiti changes, there is always something new and old to see on the wall. However, it is always emotional and overwhelming.

    Thanks for your story.

    • Aaron July 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that it’s an emotional and overwhelming experience and that the mere existance of the wall is wrong. It’s almost like the equivalent of a modern day prison.

      • Mark October 21, 2012 at 5:14 am #

        I am a Russian who lives in Israel for 20 years now.

        I’m not a Jew nor Zionist and have little interest in all this Israel-Palestine land conflict.

        BUT, during those 20 years I’v witnessed myself not few horrible terror acts.

        There were years when each day at least 3 civil buses , full of people had been exploded, and at least once a day I heard about a restaurant or wedding party into which terrorists broke and killed most of the people sitting there.

        It is always easy for people to criticize, especially when they are far from particular events, but the truth is that innocent people are being killed here, thus the security wall is essential.

        • Aaron October 22, 2012 at 1:17 am #

          I think more than anything, the wall serves as a symbol of Palestinian oppression and crossing the checkpoint literally does feel like entering a prison, particularly with the guard towers that line the perimeter. It may well be seen as essential by Israel, but that doesn’t diminish the symbolism embodied in the graffiti shown here.

          Interesting to hear your thoughts though as someone whose lived with this for so many years. If not Jewish or Zionist, what brought you to Israel?

  9. Audrey @BackpackingTB July 24, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    It’s so reminiscent of sections of the Berlin Wall. I like seeing the messages of hope – they’ve turned the wall into something special.

    • Aaron July 24, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

      I’ve only ever seen photos of the Berlin Wall, but it really is a modern day equivalent. The symbolism that both stand for is just awful! But yes the graffiti was just fascinating!

  10. jade July 24, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Wow- I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know much about this wall, but from some of the comments and the art itself, it seems pretty powerful. Would love to know more. Thanks for sharing, Aaron!

    • Aaron July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      Sure! As terrible as it is that this wall exists in the first place, what’s become of it with this graffiti is beautiful and powerful. The wall is both a symbol and a form of protest against its own existance!

  11. Lucio October 2, 2012 at 4:35 am #

    Hello Aaron,
    thank you for sharing the excellent pictures and the article. I’m going to visit Bethlehem soon and I’m interesting in taking pictures of the graffiti wall as well. So, let me ask a question. Are all the graffitis on this page easily accessible and visible when in Bethlehem or do I have to search for some local person that can guide me in discovering where they are ? Any suggestion is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Lucio

    • Aaron October 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Lucio,

      All the graffiti is on the Bethlehem side of the wall and it’s pretty easy to spot. Just walk along the wall and it’s all there to see! No need to search out a local person to show you. Bethlehem is pretty small, but it you really want to get easy access to the graffiti, you may want to cross the checkpoint by foot. There’s are two buses to Bethlehem from the Arab bus station in Jerusalem, just outside Damascus Gate. One goes to the checkpoint, the other actually goes into Bethlehem. The one to the checkpoint might be your best bet.

  12. John Williams December 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    One thought, one word:

    Berlin

    One hope:

    That the result will be the same.

    • Aaron December 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      🙂

  13. Cheryl Howard December 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Wow! I love street art in general but given where these are, they’re especially beautiful and powerful.

    • Aaron December 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      It was definitely a really powerful statement that I was really taken by.

  14. Vadim June 15, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Once again I find myself commenting on your site, which I find quit addictive, but this time you’ve left me with a sour feeling.

    The cynical use of double quotes is both disrespectful and misleading, border-line propaganda. Why? Because first of all, the part of it which is an 8 meter wall is merely 10%, the other 90% is a regular fence that serves as no more than a landmark to show where the “green line” is.

    That piece of vital information alone completely and utterly invalidates the argument that it is a prison, by that logic every single wall or fence in this world is a symbol for imprisonment, including the one in the US, or Kuwait.

    The next fallacious statement is that Palestinians are not allowed to enter Israel proper, I do concede that you said they need a permit, but it’s by no means special, they need a permit from the Civil Administration, just like you need a Visa to visit Israel, proper or not. I can invalidate this argument with one photograph of me on a bus with 20 Palestinian workers heading home after a hard day of work.
    It’s a bit like saying that Israel is a prison to Israelis, because they need this special permit called a passport, or, Israel is in a prison because they are not allowed to enter Lebanon and Syria.

    In short, you are making a mockery of something that saved more lives than all activists combined ever did. I completely agree that the graffitis are moving and inspirational, and something that I would totally recommend to someone visiting the Palestinian territories, but the way you went about the security wall is completely out of line.

    Another point I’d like to make, since they are so keen on being an independent state, how is it a crime preventing entrance to Palestinians? If it is such a horrible crime, I expect you to release a statement whereby you condemn simialr policies in the Muslim world, where Israelis are banned from visiting.

    • Aaron June 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      I find it interesting that you found my use of quotes to be cynical, considering that I also used quotes when I mentioned “West Bank,” for, like the “security wall,” is a name given to something. In one of your previous comments, you used quotes to describe “birthright,” which is officially the English name of Taglit, though it is not a literal translation, so I fail to see how this is different.

      I also realize that the wall is not uniform in size and shape, but at the particular checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it a tall and imposing wall, one which serves as symbol, no different, as some see it, than the Berlin Wall.

      The difference between, say, this wall and one separating the U.S. and Mexico, is that, for the time being, Israel and the Palestinian Territories are not separate countries. If they’re not technically separate countries, why should you need a permit to travel between two parts of the same country? Sure, the Palestinians want their own country, but as it stands right now, they’re in a sort of gray area.

      I know this is an INCREDIBLY complicated issue, but the fact of the matter is that the graffiti on this wall highlights what many view as a symbol of oppression.

  15. crazy sexy fun traveler September 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    I just visited the wall yesterday and all those graffitis there gave me chills. Tbh I left with tears in my eyes as some messages were really powerful 🙁

    • Aaron September 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

      Yes it’s very powerful, isn’t it?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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