Monday, November 9, 2009

Apropos: Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

In August of  2001, while attending a convention in Montreal—I spent as much time as I could get away with, away from the meetings and seminars—wandering the streets and neighborhoods of the enthralling city.

On the outskirts of Vieux Montreal, I passed by an entrance to what initially appeared to be a large office building—but on closer look—I saw daylight pouring into the space from above.  Intrigued, I entered the space—originally a narrow street or alleyway between two older buildings, which had been roofed over with glass.  This atrium ran the length of the block, with shops and cafes along the sides.  Above were balconies and office windows.  As I walked through the space, I noticed, way at the far end, an upright slab of concrete.  It was crudely wrought, and marked with furtive graffiti. 

I approached—and as is my habit—I overlooked an explanatory plaque—and walked around the slab in wonderment.  On its far side, the graffiti was vivid and colorful.  It was only on completing a circumnavigation of the monolith that it dawned on me—this was a remnant of the Berlin Wall.  The plaque confirmed the assumption—the slab was a gift, from city to city.

The magnitude of my simple and innocent act—walking around, freely, casually, unconsciously, what had been an insurmountable barrier, for the better part of my life—began to sink in.  Tears welled up in my eyes.

Janet took me back to Montreal last August, to celebrate my Six-Oh.  I made sure to show her what I had discovered, eight years before.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn from this experience?

If nothing else, it points to the futility of using the same concrete barriers, cast in the identical profiles, to separate Israelis from Palestinians.  Or for that matter, of any wall, based on ideology.

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