Thursday, July 28, 2005

 

On the architecture and logic of Separation

Esther Zangberg writes in Ha'aretz on an architectural exhibition that is focusing on the phenomenon of "separation" -- the most notable symbol of which is the Israeli separation wall through the West Bank, but whose logic has taken root within Israel as well. The answer to problems becomes not to solve them but to "separate" from them -- that is, to erect a structure that makes it easier to ignore them.
There are the apartheid walls between Caesarea and Jisr al-Zarka and between Nir Zvi and the Arab neighborhood of Pardes Snir in Lod; the architectural monstrosity of the Carmel Beach Towers in Haifa, which stick up like a raised fist opposite the distressed neighborhood of Neveh David; the threatening wall surrounding the luxury residential Holyland neighborhood in Jerusalem; and several other sites.

Separation seems to have spread everywhere. It is as if it builds itself and has become part of Israel's urban and rural landscape, and is even decorated with aesthetic camouflage - whether in Haifa, Arsuf, Jaffa, Modi'in, Lod, Ramle, Be'er Sheva, in the closed and secured residential neighborhoods of the wealthy, in mixed cities, in distressed neighborhoods that are sometimes turned into closed ghettos, or education buildings and other public buildings protecting themselves from strangers.

The separation plague has even attacked the already separate Tel Aviv bubble. Although Tel Aviv is not participating in the exhibition, it is impossible not to wonder at the fences being built around the green stretches along the city's boulevards and the expropriation of another chunk of public space and the semblance of urban normalcy.
Certainly one could not venture to say that this is a phenomenon unique to Israel. But one can hardly dismiss the fact that the top political levels of Israel have decided that the most complex and important conflict facing the state (that would be the occupation of the Palestinian territories) should be solved by building walls and fences, behind which those "problems" can "solve themselves."

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