Walls be gone…

Richard Armitage’s recent #nowalls tweet made me very happy as I have very strong anti-wall sentiments myself! It also made me think of my own wall experiences. (Posting a screencap here, in case the tweet gets deleted sometime in the future).

RA No walls tweet

I lived in Germany for the first half of my teens when the wall was still very much there and very much a part of German life. When I was 14 or 15 we went on a class trip to Eschwege (in the north-east of the province of Hessen)  and close to Eschwege was a portion of the border between the two Germanies. We visited the border there which was also a wall. It was my first confrontation with such a physical border, it was made of concrete slabs and it impressed me, not in a good way. It felt weird that behind that wall was a very different way of life and that people were forcefully separated from each other.

My next experience with the actual physical wall was when I was 19 and I went to Berlin. It was the summer of 1989, the summer before the wall fell. On that trip we visited East Berlin for a few hours on a special visa, we had our own guide and were not permitted to talk to anyone in the East. It was very surreal. No one that August would have believed that only a few months later the wall would actually fall! It was a huge event!

I also visited Berlin for a weekend just a week or two after the wall fell. What I most recall is walking through a huge department store in West Berlin. The store was jam-packed, if you wanted to walk you had to literally squeeze past people, and despite it being packed it was dead quiet in the store. These were all people from the East, coming to take a look in the West, gawking at everything that was available (but not yet affordable) in West German stores. I think it was one of the most eery experiences in my life. And it was the most miraculous feeling that this wall had finally finally come down, reuniting families and friends and allowing people to meet each other in freedom!

4 years ago I visited Berlin again, this time with my husband and kids. The wall is history now and is gone but you can visit parts that have been kept as memorial.

It’s a chilling reminder… the wall has caused so much sorrow and at the spot where these pictures were taken you can read all about it and see videos. It really helped explain the wall to the kids. It also makes you wish that never again will people think to build walls like that again…

But alas, these walls do exist and have been built in recent times too! The most prevalent one for me is on the Israeli-Palestinian border and that wall just breaks my heart. I hate it! Nowadays when you travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (on the West Bank) you have to go through checkpoints and you have to pass a wall that is very reminiscent of the Berlin Wall! I have this childhood memory, from way before the wall existed, of going to church on Sunday in Jerusalem. Afterwards we’d drive to Bethlehem and in Manger Square (where the Church of the Nativity is situated) we’d go for a falafel lunch before heading home again. I used to love that little family tradition but nowadays it is far less easy to do that, with the whole wall errected separating the two cities.

Luckily in the West Bank you can talk to anyone you like (unlike when I visited East Berlin in 1989) but the wall gives a real sense of being in a huge prison. I can travel freely enough between Israel and the West Bank with my Dutch passport but many Palestinians can’t. Heck, my cats have travelled more than many Palestinians! I can tell you here and now, walls such as these are not a solution, they never will be… They divide and alienate and breed distrust and inequality and they imprison. They do not ensure freedom, they restrict freedom…So yes, with all my heart I can agree with the #nowalls sentiment and hope that in the future walls will be torn down rather than be built.

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22 thoughts on “Walls be gone…

  1. This is so beautiful expressed and really interesting to read. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A thousand times, yes! Lately I’ve begun to fear that many of my fellow Americans are buying the Kool-Aid that Donald Trump has been selling. I read a very good article on the matter – by a German journalist – and posted the link to my FB wall and Twitter accounts.

    I was serving a full-time mission when the Berlin came down and clearly remember how grateful and happy we all felt that day, for Germans and every person who loves freedom. I wish there weren’t any walls between any countries because I firmly believe most people around the world want peace, not war or terrorism. They want to live with their families and friends, enjoying life and creating positive things. I know there are bad people in every country, but that shouldn’t be a reason to lump an entire group into a category due to the actions of a few.

    Thank you for writing this post. I’ve been out all day and had not seen Richard’s tweet. I’m pleased to see him voice his feelings about this abomination of an idea from that megalomaniac who wants to become our next President. Hopefully more and more people will use social media to speak up against racism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your memories. Even though the physical wall is mostly gone, Germany will pay the price for a long time for its existence, and East Germany is not the sole responsible party for creating and maintaining it for so long. It’s something that’s on all of our consciences (as is the wall in Palestine). We need to figure out better solutions to our problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Esther, especially for putting the “peace wall” in Palestine beside the Berlin wall – a reminder that there still are walls in this world, even though everyone unanimously thought it was a good thing when the (most famous?) wall in the world came down in 1989. And to think that demagogues such as Trump want to erect new walls… how can that ever be a good idea??? I have a tiny piece of the Berlin wall (complete with residue of spray paint) in my kitchen – it’s colourfully orange and kind of cheerful, but gives me a bit of a chill, too. But it serves as a great reminder that freedom is a precious thing, and should be defended at all cost.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Die Mauer in Israel hat bisher auch nicht zur Lösung dieses Konflikts beigetragen. Sie macht sichtbar, wie unversöhnlich die verschiedenen Positionen sind und zeigt die ganze Hilflosigkeit. Kompromisse und viel guter Wille wären notwendig und niemand will damit anfangen. Die Gewalt schaukelt sich seit Jahren hoch …
    Der Sehnsuchtsort von drei großen Religionen sollte eigentlich der friedlichste Platz auf Erden sein – das wäre ein Traum. Man trifft sich, tauscht sich aus und inspiriert sich gegenseitig. Zu schön, um wahr zu sein

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A very moving post on the impact of these walls, and your own experience of them. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Although I spent my entire life in Germany my experience of the wall is very similar to yours. I grew up in Western Germany (close to the Dutch border) and only crossed the border three times when travelling to Berlin. The last time I went from West to East Berlin was in August 1989. I had just moved to Berlin to start my first job. That day in East Berlin was a bit scary – I was singled out by the East German border control and later my friend and I were followed by a small man with a hat and a beige coat while strolling through East Berlin … Surreal… I decided never to go back but 3 months later the wall was history. Everybody was so glad but Serv is right. Even more than 25 years later Germany still experiences the effects of decades of separation.
    I think you’re right to remind us of the wall in the West Bank. I have never visited Israel but I think that wall is disgraceful too…
    Walls can never be a solution. Right now I am so scared that new walls will be built both in the U.S. and in Europe to keep out everybody who is considered a threat to our prosperity. Many people will be killed while these walls (or fences) are protected. It’s all so sad…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, very interesting to read! You went to East Berlin the same month I went there!
      Yes, walls leave scars. Just think of all the scars WWII left that for some are still not healed, even in to next generations!
      The Israeli-Palestinian conflict runs so deep – even if there should be a resolution tomorrow, the effects will still be felt for generations to come. Building walls just does not make it in any way better or easier, it just adds to the misery already there… Yes, it really, truly is so sad…
      There will always be differences and conflicts but don’t add to that by building walls! Walls do nothing to solve problems, walls just tackle a sympton, not the cause. There must be other solutions possible…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. that’s a very touching account of your visits and how times change on one side but not so much overall… walls never help… they just continue fears instead of providing solutions..
    very moving, on account of both walls…
    Thanks very much for sharing with us

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] Silverbluelining blog about a Banksy film called Exit through the gift shop (post is in German) and my recent thoughts about Richard Armitage’s #nowalls tweet had me researching Banksy wall art on the West Bank in Palestinian Territory. My google search […]

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  10. […] is where it could end when we fail to help people in need… this is where it could end when we build walls and shut people out… this where it could end when fear and hatred trump […]

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  11. Such an interesting blog post! I was born after the wall was knocked down but I was so taken aback by it when I visited Berlin last year that I’m now fascinated by peoples personal stories and memories. Thank you for sharing. Annalise x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] there, there was no checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem like there is nowadays (including a horrendous wall!). On Sundays, after we had gone to church in Jerusalem, we’d often drive to Bethlehem and […]

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