Issue No.
158, June 2011 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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A Banksy stencil on Qalandia Wall.
A young artist decorating the Apartheid Wall. Photo by Khaled Jarrar.
Photo by Ammar Qadous.

The Art of Conflict
By Rana Salman
Welcome to Palestine; the home of the world’s largest art gallery! The gallery includes a collection of Palestinian art and international masterpieces. It is located mainly in the West Bank and extends over 750 km with a height of 25 feet. The gallery was originally founded on 16 June 2002 by Israel and was renamed “The Separation Wall” by Palestinians. Its collection includes more than a million works, in which all draw attention to its nature as an apartheid system by including images of human rights violations - children being arrested, restrictions of movement, and other pieces that show possibility and hope beyond the Separation Wall. Expansion throughout the last nine years has added various galleries, culminating in 2011, which left the Wall with few empty spaces. Ordinary people as well as major artists have been attracted to this gallery; one of the most famous is the English graffiti artist Banksy. The gallery has gained success, as its main focus is to make political comments against war and conflict. It wasn’t about beautifying the Wall - as many people think - as much as it was about sending a message to the world and encouraging people to think about why this ugliness exists in the first place!

These artists have made the effort to travel to this region and make a statement on this Wall about the awfulness of occupation. They were brave enough to use art as a means for change and a way to raise awareness about the horrible reality that both sides have to live with on a daily basis. Even the work that Palestinian artists created on the Wall has expressed people’s connection to Palestinian identity and land. One of the emerging Palestinian artists explained, “Graffiti is the easiest artistic means to quickly express and publicise a particular idea.” He continued, “It was a great experience to have been able to assist in Banksy’s annual graffiti project, ‘Santa’s Ghetto,’ which was held in 2007 in Bethlehem. More than 20 artists were inspired to add their marks to the Wall around Bethlehem in an attempt to draw attention to the impact of the Separation Wall on life in the Holy Land. Everything in the gallery was up for sale or auction, and the money was destined for youth and children’s programmes in the West Bank. While the show was a great part of the project, it was the art on walls that became the most visible statement and got the media attention.”

It’s interesting to observe this Wall! You never know when an artist will begin painting, but you are always tempted to take pictures of this creativity as you walk by! For Palestinian youth who grew up in Palestine during the first and second Intifadas, graffiti on the walls is not something new. There were always slogans against the Occupation, whether on the door of your store or in front of your house. Today, the works created tend to focus on resistance, too, but in a more artistic way. It feels good that Palestinians are using this method as a nonviolent means to resist the Occupation. No matter how hard the oppressors try, people will always find a way to resist. Palestinians were able to turn this awful prison Wall into signs of hope. You can see how each image has a story to tell. You can also view lots of messages of solidarity, slogans, prayers, drawings, and other graffiti. Turning the Separation Wall into a gallery is an inspiration! It turned out to be the only way to draw international attention to what’s really going on in the Holy Land. Today, as a tourist, you cannot visit this land and leave untouched by the sense of fear, racism, inequality, injustice, and violence. It will break your heart to see how people are against people, religion against religion, and culture against culture. No matter what the reason that brought you here, whether you’re on a pilgrimage or just on vacation, you’ll feel that it’s hard to ignore. Some people choose to engage, and one of the things that they can do while visiting this land is to add to this gallery their message to the world, hoping that one day, when they visit again, the Wall will no longer be there.

As the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Enjoy our gallery where you’ll admire Palestinian creativity! Don’t forget to wear your sneakers; it’s going to be a long walk!

Rana Salman is a Travel and Encounter program coordinator for Holy Land Trust and can be reached at
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