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Glued

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 08.12.2013:

Toine van Teeffelen

7 December 2013

Bethlehem

Celine Dion’s So This Is Christmas, an anti-war song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, fills the rooms at home. Mary suddenly says: “War is wrong.”

Today is the time to put up the Christmas tree. Yet first some new story posters have to be glued on the Wall in Bethlehem. While I am walking along the vegetable market, the traffic is stuck because of visiting Dutch and Palestinian VIPs. There is a large Dutch-Palestinian economic conference at the nearby Intercontinental Hotel. The car of Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, flashes by on its way to the Church.

Together with colleague Fadi and some workers, we are going to attach two posters on the Wall. The posters show the lyrics of a Christmas song composed by the Danish singer, Lars Lilholt, well-known in his country. We make photos of the song that asks Jesus to “love down the Wall.” Lars wants to show photos of the posters while he sings his song next week live on Danish TV.

I talk with the head of the adjacent souvenir shop so as for him to know what this is all about. We always try to involve shopkeepers around the wall so that they can explain to the visitors the idea behind the posters: The many small stories of Palestinian women and youth express the larger story of humanity in opposition to a Wall which kills, disowns and divides.

Afterwards we glue other posters (two by one meter, of thin metal) on a section next to a military watchtower. It is Saturday, shabbath, so hopefully less chance that soldiers see us. The mayor of a middle-sized Dutch city, Deventer, escapes from the economic conference and passes by to have a look.

Quite a number of visitors pass by in the area. The Christmas season has begun. Hundreds of Mexican visitors, all dressed in a red Santa hat and some singing, pass by, accompanied by Palestinian police. Do they know that Israeli soldiers shoot at demonstrators in nearby Aida camp on almost daily base? Do the conference participants know?

This Saturday afternoon we also film a Wall act of the Palestinian clown Francis, accompanied by a violin. The wordless performance shows him being overwhelmed, confused and saddened by the Wall. He receives a ladder, two wings and a shovel, as he tries to beat the Wall by climbing, flying and digging. In anger he kicks but then dances around in pain. Suddenly he experiences a flash of insight when a group of Palestinians approaches. His face lights up and he starts putting their hands together. When he sees hands falling apart, he comes back, no, no, those hands should stay together as glued. Only human connection can beat the wall.

The violinist is Sliman, in his daily job lecturer food production at a university. He usually plays the ‘Oud – predecessor of the western lute – but agrees that the violin is better able to express the deep sadness of the clown. However, he emphasizes that he plays the violin in the Oriental way. At the end Marianne sings Silent Night in English and Arabic. Her voice slowly fades away while darkness approaches.

Lars Lilholt’s Christmas song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXHLPHenuVE&feature=share

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