There are sometimes unexpected visitors at the Wall Museum. The Museum is made up of 170 thin-metal, large posters on the Wall around Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The posters mostly show human stories of Palestinian youth and women. They are a statement of connection and human fragility and courage in contrast to the desolation, annexation and fragmentation the Wall stands for.
A few weeks ago Israeli soldiers were reading some fifty of those stories, one by one, at 2:00 in the night. One soldier read the story in English, in a loudspeaker. Another translated into Hebrew. Everything was registered on a taperecorder. An army operation.
Claire, who lives in a house there surrounded by Walls and poster stories, could not sleep for a few hours. Again and again she heard ‘Sumud Story House’, mentioned at the end of the stories.
The House is becoming famous.
In itself the scene must have been fascinating. I would have been interested to observe them telling the story of Mary and daughter Jara, who was ordered years ago to put off her clothes at the nearby checkpoint. After Mary stopped Jara doing so, the soldier told them to go back to Bethlehem. Mary replicated: “Go yourself back to Tel Aviv.”
Mary always used to say that the army did not care about the stories. The only time I discovered that they were upset was when soldiers tore
down, in several stages, the street sign ‘Apartheid Rd’ attached to the Wall on the side of Aida camp.
In a certain way, the new interest is a small success.
Apparently the army noticed after a few years that the stories were read by quite a number of foreign visitors who come and walk from the checkpoint or who are taken by Palestinian guides to the area.
The question is: why now this interest, after several years? Curiosity, or to check whether the stories are a subtle form of ‘incitement’?
Meanwhile it is not so pleasant to stay in this area near the Jerusalem checkpoint during the evening or night. A friend drove there recently in the dark with her car in the company of her teenager children. When she did not stop quickly enough after a soldier’s order, guns were directed at her and her kids from both side windows.
make them three dimensional and memorable without the same kind of baggage."
Her short film ‘We Love Moses’ is honest and her understanding and lived experience means it doesn’t feel exploitative. It’s her unique experience and voice which makes her work poignant and interesting. This isn’t to say that people can only create art about themselves and their own experiences, because there are some wonderfully empathetic films out there – but everyone is different and has a different perspective. Film is an exercise in empathy and it shouldn’t exclude narratives or create a dangerous single story narrative about certain groups and identities.
by TOINE VAN TEEFFEELEN, AEIC
"THE QUESTION IS: WHY ALL THIS INTEREST AFTER SEVERAL YEARS?"