The faces are what draw you to Rebecca Heyl’s Windows in the Wall. They are remarkable in their ordinariness, matter-offactly going about their lives, whether bent over a kebab or peering into a purse at a security checkpoint — from behind a 400-mile electronic fence that reaches eight meters high in certain places. The faces are not contorted by grief or tragedy, as we are accustomed to seeing when photographers freeze the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in black and white. And that was Heyl’s point when she began photographing the controversial barrier she says has separated 400,000 Palestinian Israelis from their livelihoods and dashed hopes for reconciliation.
For Heyl, who began traveling between Israel and the West Bank in 2002, the barrier is a metaphor for “the invisible wall of fear, distrust, paranoia, and separation” plaguing Israelis on both sides of the fence. It has estranged farmers from their farmland and families from markets, schools, and hospitals. Photographs of checkpoints and refugee camps, contrasted with lively market and Tel Aviv street scenes, portray the wall as no more than an illusion of security.
Interspersed among these photographs is the hope Heyl offers for the future — portraits of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis speaking about their dreams and fears. One Palestinian, standing straight-faced next to a ladder and a white cat, says, “What has been completely lost here is being treated like a human being.” Long after closing the book, readers will ask, is the human spirit strong enough to penetrate barriers?
Jaclyn Trop is a Los Angeles-based freelance reporter.