Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Wall, Part 4: Action

Last Saturday a human friend and I went to the wall.  Let me be clear that when I write "the wall," I am talking about my wall friend- did I call it/him/her my friend?- in Bethlehem, not the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  Ever since I was visited a month or so ago and had my convers(at)ion, I knew I had to go back and continue the dialogue.

On Friday I was in Jerusalem and visited the Western Wall.  When I have gone there before, I have approached that wall armed with prayers, my own and those of friends.  When I went Friday, I had many prayers in my heart, but rather than approaching the wall, I stood for awhile at the back of the plaza, just watching and trying to make sense of what I was seeing and what I have seen and heard during my time in Israel and Palestine.  I watched people go by in costumes for Purim.  I watched Israeli soldiers standing around chatting. I watched groups of tourists passing through, taking pictures.  I watched, but I could do no more than watch from afar.  I had no desire to approach the wall that day.  My stomach was churning and my brain was going full-speed as it tried to reason with my churning stomach. My brain tried to explain that I was supposed to love the Israeli soldiers standing there because they are my neighbors as much as the Palestinians I've been spending my time with.  My stomach didn't listen.  It responded to the challenge that I've set for myself with, "Really?  I don't know how to love them and so I churn trying to figure it out."  I wished the wall before me beckoned me the way it has in the past...but that day, it didn't.  I did pray there from afar, but I couldn't bring myself close.  I will go back again before I leave Israel and I will place prayers there, but I think my relationship with that wall has changed.

I was looking forward to another intimate conversation with my wall in Bethlehem on Saturday.  You may have noticed that I use possessive pronouns a lot when referring to whomever or whatever has made its way into my heart. It surprises me that I refer to that wall as "my" wall, since I think the world would be much better if it/he/she didn't exist. But still I call it/him/her "my" wall.  It/he/she does exist and unexpectedly spoke to me in ways that now allow me to call such a horrible thing mine.  The wall is mine as surely as I am its/his/hers.

Saturday my human friend came to Bethlehem.  I didn't have a clear plan as to how exactly our time would go, but I did know where I wanted to go.  I also knew that I wanted to write messages and prayers and put them in cracks in the wall, the very thing I couldn't do at the Western Wall the previous day.  My human friend brought her own idea and a can of green spray paint to make it happen.  On our way to the wall, we picked up some permanent markers- black, green, and red (the colors of the Palestinian flag) and a pad of paper for me.

After talking to the wall last month, I knew I had to visit it/him/her again.  Ideas of what my return would look like came and went. I thought about inviting many people to go and making it a large public action. I thought about asking my friends to send me messages to put in the wall, as I have done at the Western Wall.  I contacted to ask what their position was on wall art and to ask about possible repercussions for doing a public action there. I never heard back from them.  As the time got closer, because of my unanswered questions, lack of time, and lack of desire to be in charge of a large action, I submitted to the idea of simply going quietly with my friend to the wall.  She was the first person I hesitantly showed my convers(at)ion before I posted it.  Her reaction to it showed me that she understood.  I knew that whatever happened at the wall, she was the right person to go with me.  Before we went I wondered if just the two of us going was enough. It wasn't until after we went that I knew our quiet presence there was exactly what the wall needed and (I won't speak for my human friend) exactly what I needed.

When we arrived, we walked along the wall until we reached the area we sought.  My human friend scoped out a spot to spray paint. I scoped out a spot to sit and begin writing my messages for the cracks.  It was a warm day, so a quiet spot in the shade suited us well.  She painted, I wrote and took pictures.  She painted a beautiful tree (over a black dinosaur someone else had drawn) and feather and wrote, "Hope is the thing."  She ran out of spray paint, so she did not get to complete her Emily Dickinson quote (on the wall- she did on paper): "Hope is the thing with feathers."  We agreed, however, that "Hope is the thing" was not a bad message to have on the wall.

When my human friend finished her creation, she took pictures of me writing and also wrote messages for the cracks.  My own messages varied, some as simple as "Tear it down," some longer like the serenity prayer followed by my own hope: I can make a change.   I wrote an apology for U.S. responsibility in the violence Israel carries out.  I wrote a small part of the convers(at)ion. When I wrote that, though I hadn't planned it, I knew I also needed to write on the wall it/him/herself.  So when I finished writing my messages, I made a practice drawing of a caterpillar on paper and then approached my friend, the horrible awful security wall.  I drew a (rather pitiful) caterpillar and (equally pitiful) butterfly and wrote, on behalf of the wall who cannot write, "I want to be transformed into something beautiful."  Then I drew another butterfly and across her wings drew the Palestinian flag. There I wrote, "Make me a butterfly."  Then I drew another Palestinian flag butterfly with the same message.  My human friend also drew a butterfly...

After we finished writing on the wall, we were ready to place our prayers, our petitions, our messages, our words in its/his/her cracks.  We walked along the wall, quietly folded our papers and placed them where we felt moved to.  Honestly, it felt so right to places our messages in the wall that I am surprised that others haven't done it.  Maybe they have, I don't know, but I've never heard of anyone else doing it.  Leaving our messages in and on the wall, we intertwined our lives with this inanimate yet strangely alive thing, the thing that I must call it/he/she.  My human friend and I talked about how we'll come back, how we'll bring more messages, and bring more friends.

That day the quiet time with my human friend and my wall friend who silently screams for attention was right.  I hope I will come back to see my wall friend.  Maybe I will bring groups to have their own conversations with it/him/her.  I don't know.  As with everything in my life, I hope I will recognize the call to do so if I get one.  In the meantime, I will wait, hope, and remembering my pledge, act so that my wall friend will be torn down and transformed into a something beautiful.  


  1. As always...thanks for sharing, your thoughts inspire and educate. Miss you lots.

  2. Thank you. I'm trying to share the wealth of the education I'm getting...