This Side of the Wall

Checkpoints, borders, normalcy, and hope: a sketch of daily life in the West Bank.


The Israeli – Palestinian Conflict (Part 1)

Areej Masoud lives in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. In terms of physical distance, it’s very close to Jerusalem. In terms of social reality, it’s a world away. 

“If I want to go to Jerusalem, I need to get a permit. It’s not like I want to go, and I just start my car and leave. I would have to go through the pedestrian walk, and to do that I need to get a permit. The permit is not like a visa with clear criteria why you get it, why you don’t get it. I would need to go to a military base to request that, and you most probably won’t get it. But if you do, you need to go and wait at the checkpoint … it’s very humiliating.” 

Areej is a Palestinian Christian, which means she belongs to a people who once made up 30 per cent of the population. These days, they make up less than 1 per cent of those living on the West Bank. 

“I always felt jealous of other Christians, where their worst enemy could be their neighbour, or their ex-best friend. I do have an enemy, and that enemy is causing the persecution of myself and my people. Loving my enemy does have a different meaning, and that’s only when I was able to live both of my identities together. When you are not able to live that, like loving your enemy, you can’t consider yourself a Christian.” 

The Arab-Israeli situation is among the world’s most intractable conflicts. It’s enormously complicated, and a minefield of a political issue. 

In this episode of Life & Faith, Simon talks to someone who lives those tensions every day, and tries to navigate them using Jesus’ words about peacemaking and love of enemies as a compass. Areej shares stories of what life is like for her people: Can you be sure water is going to come out of the tap? How do you hold down a job? How do you travel when you’re not allowed near your country’s airport? And why would someone actively choose to live under these kinds of pressures? 

“Hope is something not to be taken for granted: we have to have it each morning. Hope is when you know what your mission is and where you’re heading to and who you are, and what is your community and what they mean to you, and what you mean to them.

It’s like waking up in the morning knowing you are going to have a bad day, but then deciding you are going to have hope, create hope. And if you don’t have it that day, you know someone else found it for you and with you, and they will share that with you.”