The Wall - Solidarity with those in Bethlehem
Ana and Tod Gobledale give their thoughts on The Wall, an art installation, eight metres high, which appeared in the courtyard of St James', Piccadilly, over Christmas and the New Year.
Boxing Day in London…Christmas lights garland through the Piccadilly Arcade. Our happy conversation and light footsteps are arrested by an unusual sight in the courtyard of St James’ Church. An 8 metre high replica of the Bethlehem wall completely blocks the the view of St James’, a Grade 1 listed building. We learn that it is part of St James’ Bethlehem Unwrapped festival and it is designed to reflect what has happened to the holy sites in Bethlehem.
This “ installation” by Justin Butler, Geof Thomspon, Dean Willars and Deborah Burton casts a long shadow over the St James’ Church courtyard, usually a bustling marketplace. Stark, towering, imposing, boldly and brazenly interjecting Israel’s Separation Wall into the London landscape. Mandela’s words remind those who pause, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
We pause. We look. We read.
We have not seen the Separation Wall in Bethlehem except in photos. I have seen the Berlin Wall—I remember visiting Checkpoint Charlie in my youth, wondering what life on the other side would be like, the side where people were not so free as me. We have seen the wall down the middle of the doctor’s office in Melmoth, South Africa, in the time of apartheid, separating the waiting room for Black Zulus with its rough wooden benches and posters of snake bites from the waiting room for Whites with its soft couches and piles of magazines. We have seen images of the wall being erected by our own people in the USA to keep out those who “threaten us” from the south.
Why are we so afraid of one another? There is graffiti on the wall reflecting sympathies for Israelis and Palestians. Someone has written “Wailing Wall”. We hear God wailing with sadness behind it. The spire of St James rises above the planks. Can we look high enough above our walls of separation? Dare we hope that the one God of all creation can be loved in peace? Dare we allow others to use the names they prefer, the images of their own creation, the stories of their own histories?
Let us boldly proclaim one God – Elohim, Allah, Jehovah, Emmanuel. God by any other name is still God, the mystery we can never fully know or understand, the power that has transformed our lives, the One that can turn hate into love and can teach us to channel power for good. Is this so difficult?
May we remember, in the words of Abraham Lincoln (as written on the wall), “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
The graffiti people have written on the Wall are often polarised in their view, referring to the illegality of the wall in international law, or talking about the lives which have been saved by it.
Sami Awad, Director of the Holy Land Trust: “The most unhelpful thing you can do is be pro one side; it just adds to the conflict. We have to not only understand those people who are oppressing us, but try to walk in their shoes, and ultimately to really engage with what it means to love our enemies.”
God, empower us to remember the futility of dividing walls and strengthen us to pull them down, using the timber and stones to build bridges.
Ana and Tod are members of PCN Britain. They write a blog called Spiritual Stepping Stones. You can see more pictures of The Wall there.
Our thanks to Living Spirituality for the title of this blog which comes from their January newsletter