The WALL installation in the courtyard of St James’s Piccadilly was a life-size replica section of the 8 metre high apartheid wall that surrounds Bethlehem. Free to visit and open whenever the church was open throughout the festival, members of the public were invited to write a prayer from any faith tradition, a poem, a reflection, an image or signature on the Wall itself. The WALL projection programme included specially commissioned animated images, paintings by children from the Dar Al-Kalima School in Bethlehem, One World’s song ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and video art pieces from internationally recognised Palestinian artist, Larissa Sansour, ‘Happy Days’ and ‘A Space Exodus’.
Bethlehem Unwrapped was a response to the 2009 Kairos Palestine call from the united churches of the Holy Land. It asked churches and communities around the world, “Are you able to help us get our freedom back?” The festival was inspired by the cultural movement in Bethlehem known as ‘Beautiful Resistance’ in which Palestinians express their determination peacefully and creatively to resist injustice. In this spirit, the festival celebrated the culture and stories of those living behind the Wall, and the installation was commissioned and created in that spirit.
The real WALL
In 2002, the government began building what was described as a ‘security fence’ in occupied Palestinian Territory. The stated purpose was the security of Israeli citizens. In 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague issued an Advisory opinion declaring Israel’s separation wall to be illegal and ordering it to be dismantled, confiscated land returned and reparations made for damages. That never happened. Instead construction continued.
The Wall stretches 708 km, the distance between London and Zurich. It is twice the length of the ‘Green Line’ set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements, which separates Israel from the occupied West Bank. When completed, 85% percent of the wall will run inside the West Bank rather than along the Green Line. Along its length the barrier consists of fences, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, an electronic monitoring system, patrol roads and a buffer zone. Approximately 61 km of the constructed barrier consists of 8-9 metre high concrete slab segments which are connected to form a wall, particularly in urban areas such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qalqiliya and Tulkarm.
Around 11,000 Palestinians living in 32 communities located between the wall and the Green Line depend on the granting of permits or special arrangements to live in their own homes. As many as 150 Palestinian communities have land located behind the wall, forcing residents to seek special permits or ‘prior coordination’ to access it.
Land obtained for construction of the wall is requisitioned from Palestinian landowners by the Israeli Ministry of Defence through military orders. Most orders are valid for three years and are renewable. (Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs July 2013).