14 May, 2021
The Israel-Palestine separation wall (photo Cole Keister, Unsplash).

The Israel-Pales­tine sep­a­ra­tion wall (pho­to Cole Keis­ter, Unsplash).


“I would like to break the walls of igno­rance between East and West,” said Al-Mayas­sa bint Hamad bin Khal­i­fa Al-Thani, and on that we agree. Walls and bar­ri­ers are what we erect when we have no words, when we fail to artic­u­late a coher­ent argu­ment or defense of our beliefs — or when we unjust­ly per­se­cute anoth­er peo­ple, peo­ple we demo­nize for lack for a more intel­li­gent approach, when what we need is a rela­tion­ship.  

Walls and bor­ders and bombs are what we use to illus­trate our fear of oth­ers, but they have nev­er worked, because you can’t wall in, or wall out, the truth. And you know what the truth is:  we are all more alike than dif­fer­ent, and we need each oth­er (despite what our elect­ed, or select­ed, polit­i­cal lead­ers tell us) because we’re all in this together. 

Israeli Jews and Pales­tin­ian Arabs, whether they live in Haifa, Lod, Ramal­lah or Gaza, are not ghast­ly aliens from two mutu­al­ly-dis­tant plan­ets: they are flesh-and-blood peo­ple who share the same land, food, air, water and ecos­phere. If Covid strikes in Tel Aviv, it lives in Jenin; if a drought befalls the West Bank, it also threat­ens the Galilee; and if (heav­en help us) a nuke goes off any­where in the region, every­one is finished.

Walls enclose and sep­a­rate us, they pre­vent us from see­ing each oth­er when what we most need is to under­stand the human con­di­tion, and how we can reach peak human intel­li­gence while sav­ing the plan­et. I would argue that we will not be able to save the plan­et unless and until we reach peak human intel­li­gence — which means the clock is tick­ing for us to end racism and col­orism (per­haps the stu­pid­est human fail­ing of many). We’ve got to stop demo­niz­ing each oth­er, regard­less of our dif­fer­ing appear­ances, reli­gions, his­to­ry or polit­i­cal beliefs. 

It sounds obvi­ous and trite, but we must watch out for and take care of each oth­er. Alas, walls are what hap­pens when the pan­dem­ic adverse­ly affects most­ly women and peo­ple of col­or, as the World Eco­nom­ic Forum found in March — and as the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed, the pan­dem­ic could set women back by an entire gen­er­a­tion. The ques­tion is, what are WE going to do about it? And how will we right the imbal­ances faced by peo­ple of col­or — and when can we elim­i­nate once and for all white supremacism?

In the ninth issue of The Markaz Review, we asked artists, writ­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers to con­sid­er the mat­ter of walls and bor­ders, inter­nal and exter­nal, lit­er­al and fig­u­ra­tive. This mon­th’s cen­ter­piece fea­tures the art and words of Tom Young and crit­ic Ziad Suidan, as they describe the revival project of Sai­da, Lebanon’s 300-year-old Ham­mam Al Jadid, “a place where the Mus­lim, Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties would gath­er to cleanse and attend one anoth­er’s rit­u­al wed­ding cer­e­monies before it closed in 1949.” 

We also look at the world­wide mur­al cam­paign Edu­ca­tion is Not a Crime, spear­head­ed by Maziar Bahari and Off-Cen­tre Pro­duc­tions on behalf of the Baha’i com­mu­ni­ty, in an effort to speak out about Iran’s per­se­cu­tion of its largest reli­gious minor­i­ty. In her essay “Panop­ti­con of Kash­mir,” Ifat Gazia remem­bers her youth and exile from her home­town, as Kash­mir remained under siege by Indi­an secu­ri­ty forces. And with “Beautiful/Ugly: Against Aes­theti­ciz­ing Israel’s Sep­a­ra­tion Wall,” Malu Halasa revis­its the ques­tion of whether walls, bor­ders and bar­ri­ers should ever be dressed up to dis­guise their true intent. In “The Murals of Yemen’s Haifa Sub­ay” con­trib­u­tor Farah Abdessamad inter­views one of Yemen’s most fear­less fem­i­nists, who as a street artist attempts to cap­ture the heart and soul of peo­ple who have lived with war and famine for years. In “Between Thorns and This­tles in Bil’in,” mural­ist Fran­cis­co Lete­lier recalls his sojourn in the West Bank, lead­ing the towns­peo­ple in paint­ing their own walls with images and words of hope and resis­tance. And in “The Wall We Can’t Tell You About,” artist Jean Lam­ore briefly describes one of the world’s largest and least-known sep­a­ra­tion walls, between Moroc­co and the West­ern Sahara.

In “Is Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek, Too, Occu­pied Ter­ri­to­ry?” Tay­lor Miller explores the aes­thet­ics of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and the “set­tler colo­nial hydra that con­tin­u­al­ly dis­places, eras­es, and rein­scribes Pales­tin­ian space.” Chef Fadi Kat­tan con­tributes with “Maqloubeh Behind the Wall in Beth­le­hem.” And with “From Dam­as­cus to Birm­ing­ham: a Select­ed Glos­sary,” British writer and activist Frances Zaid describes in epis­to­lary fash­ion the lan­guage bar­ri­ers in her bloom­ing rela­tion­ship (lead­ing to mar­riage and kids) with a three-time refugee from the Yarmouk Camp.

TMR pub­lish­es an exclu­sive excerpt from Todd Miller’s new book Build Bridges, Not Walls with the chap­ter, “We Are All at the Bor­der Now.” We are also pleased to pub­lish poet Sholeh Wolpé’s “The World Grows Black­thorn Walls” and a new short sto­ry from Aida Y. Had­dad, “A Home Across the Azure Sea,” along with an essay enti­tled “The Bathing Par­ti­tion,” in which, in a cre­ative explo­ration of iden­ti­ty and home­less­ness, Sheana Ochoa faces her own inner walls. Final­ly, pho­tog­ra­ph­er Clau­dia Wiens shares with us her kinet­ic mur­al and youth cul­ture pho­tos, shot in Libya and Tunisia from 2012 to 2014. 

Come to our WALLS issue with an open mind and gen­er­ous spir­it, and if so inspired, leave us your com­ments in the Dis­qus sec­tion at the end of each con­tri­bu­tion. Thanks for read­ing and sup­port­ing The Markaz Review.

Jor­dan Elgrably






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