Visu­al Arts

Win­dows in the Wall

Rebec­ca Heyl
  • Review
By – January 11, 2012
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?

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