And real ones. In June I had a post on “cognitive maps” in Israel-Palestine, which received the most hits of any post since I launched the blog five months ago. Today’s New York Times has an article on the same theme, on the “elusive line [that] defines lives in Israel and the West Bank.” It begins
For decades Israel has tried to erase from public consciousness the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary with the West Bank at the heart of stalled negotiations for a Palestinian state.
Israel has built on either side of the Green Line and deleted it from textbooks and weather maps. Israeli drivers plying the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway crisscross the unmarked line at the Latrun Interchange every second of the day, slicing through half a mile of West Bank territory and several more miles of no man’s land, oblivious to the area’s fraught history.
In Jerusalem, where Israel annexed the eastern part of the city and its holy sites after the 1967 war, a new light rail system traverses a patchwork of Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods, gliding blithely across the invisible boundaries.
Yet a recent journey along the line, from the northernmost Jalama checkpoint to the tiny villages of Al Ghuwein and Sansana in the arid hills of the south, shows that despite attempts to blur it physically, Israel has carefully preserved the line in legal and administrative terms, and it defines lives on both sides.
In the June post I wrote that I was convinced that a significant number of Israelis in West Bank settlements were not entirely aware that they were living in occupied territory, at least when they first moved there. The NYT article gives one such example
For many Israelis, being near or just over the Green Line is a matter of little consequence — so much so that some Israelis are not always sure which side they are on. By contrast, Palestinians living near the line are mindful of every inch of soil.
In the late 1990s, four idealists from the Tel Aviv area approached Ariel Sharon, then a government minister, with the idea of establishing a new community on the sandy dunes of Halutza in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel. Mr. Sharon sent them to a former army base called Sansana in the Negev. Like the forests that Israel planted there, the abandoned barracks hugged the Israeli side of the Green Line. But according to Eliram Azulai, 34, the secretary of Sansana, it soon transpired that the plan was to expand the village into the West Bank.
Mr. Azulai and his neighbors, many of whom are doctors or work in high-technology industries, unwittingly became settlers as Sansana grew to incorporate an adjacent West Bank hilltop. Mr. Azulai said that at the time “nobody asked questions.” Being sent to live on the Green Line, or across it, he said, “was not an issue.”
It’s an issue now, that’s for sure.