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Letters & Diaries: Unexpected museum visitors

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submitted by Toine Van Teeffelen on 03.12.2016

Toine van Teeffelen
3-12-2016
Bethlehem


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 death and divisiveness 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 of 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 away, in several stages, the street sign ‘Apartheid Rd’ attached to the Wall on the side of Aida camp.

Viewed in a certain way, the 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 teenage 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.

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