Before the Wall is an ongoing photo project that aims to portray a representative segment of the last generation of Palestinian youth born before the Israeli apartheid wall is completed. The silence of the images serves as a sombre reminder of the brutal reality in which people live, imprisoned by a wall with a total length of about 708 kilometres and a towering height of up to 8 metres.
It evokes claustrophobia…
Today, approximately 62.1 percent of the wall is completed. A further 8 percent is under construction and 29.9 percent is planned but not yet constructed. Before the Wall portrays children, young people and mothers-to-be in areas where the wall is being built. It is at the same time a spatial and temporal photographic analysis of the impact that the wall has on people’s lives. Not only are they potentially a part of the last generation born before the wall is finished, but they are also confronted with its oppressive presence every day.
Palestinian children are severely affected by the ongoing occupation. Travel restrictions and lack of access to medical supplies impact their physical and mental well-being, and they live under the constant threat of Israeli attacks. Even their most basic rights, including the rights to education, health and leisure, are violated on a daily basis. The majority of Palestinian kids have been exposed to direct and indirect violence in different ways/forms: bombings, firearm shots, tear gas attacks and strictly imposed curfews. At the same time, they are constantly exposed to an aggressive visual environment where checkpoints, heavily armed soldiers and the apartheid wall have become normalised.
A study by the Adler Research Center in Israel on the influence of violence on Palestinian children stated that 70 percent of kids in the West Bank have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another study from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program found that 94.6 percent of Palestinian children have witnessed shocking incidents like bombings or murder. Unfortunately, the majority of these children do not have access to professional mental health support – instead they remain trapped with their suffering in what is essentially an open air prison.
This barrier is the natural backdrop to life under occupation, and perceptions of the wall reinforce the sense of oppression felt by Palestinians. Before the Wall brings into perspective the rupture in time and geography that people experience as a consequence of this structure.
A wall, and what will be left behind and in front of it.
All pictures by Samar Hazboun, text edited by Aidan McMahon.