One of the most striking symbols of the daily violence faced by Jerusalem
residents during the terror-filled years of the second intifada began coming
down on Sunday morning, as the IDF started to disassemble the long link of
concrete barriers surrounding the southern perimeter of the capital’s Gilo
The barrier was erected in 2002 to protect residents
against what had been incessant shooting attacks from the adjacent Palestinian
town of Beit Jala. The attacks subsided soon after, although security sources
have long pointed to the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield – which was launched
in the West Bank at the end of March 2002 – and not the barrier, as the primary
reason for the decrease in attacks, which after 2003 halted
Nevertheless, the long period of calm that has marked the
time since the barrier went up was cited by the IDF last week in its formal
announcement regarding the decision to begin dismantling it.
that the decision to remove the protective structure was made “as a result of
situational assessments in the Central Command, [and with] staff work and
agreement among all of the relevant officials,” the IDF announced last Thursday
that it would work in tandem with the Jerusalem Municipality and police to begin
taking the barrier down.
Still, residents of Gilo, and particularly those
who live on Rehov Ha’anafa, which suffered the brunt of the gunfire directed at
the neighborhood, were more than a little bit hesitant Sunday to accept such
“All this will do is start the shooting all over
again,” said one resident, who gave her name as Rachel.
“I don’t know
what they’re thinking by taking the barrier down,” she continued.
security situation is getting worse, not better. And either way, these concrete
blocs have become part of our daily life. They don’t bother us, so why take them
down?” Rachel added that her 9 year-old daughter had spent nearly her entire
life with the reality of the concrete barrier around the
“It’s given her and other residents here a feeling of
security,” she said. “And now that’s going to be gone.”
like 88 year-old Nissim Ginossar, were more or less on the fence.
“I don’t know and I can’t
decide if this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing,” Ginossar said as he
strolled down Rehov Ha’anafa on Sunday morning. “Personally, I was never very
affected by the shooting when it was going on, even though a bullet hit a car in
the parking lot of my building.”
Ginossar added that it could never be
100 percent safe.
“It could be that they’ll start shooting again, or
maybe not,” he explained. “But they could also just come into the neighborhood
with a knife and stab somebody.” He was alluding to an attack in Gilo nearly two
years ago, when a Palestinian youth stabbed a policeman and wounded him,
together with an 86 year-old man, who died from his wounds.
Reached for a
response to those sentiments on Sunday, an official from the IDF’s Central
Command told The Jerusalem Post that the army had received a request from the
Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Police to remove the
“After assessing the situation and looking into the security
needs and requirements, we came to the conclusion that it’s not necessary to
leave the barrier there,” the official said.
“If the municipality and the
police are asking to have it removed on behalf of the residents of Gilo, then we
did not see any reason not to remove it.”
“The security situation is such
that there is ongoing coordination [between the IDF] and the Palestinian
security forces,” the official continued.
“And we can, indeed, take this
step and make things look a bit more normal there than they do at this
In response, city officials said that they had decided to pursue
the removal of the barrier after members of Gilo’s neighborhood association
contacted the municipality and asked that the barrier be taken down.
municipality has been working with Gilo’s neighborhood association – which is
the representative body of the neighborhood’s residents – in coordination with
the army and other relevant security agencies, since before [Jerusalem Mayor
Nir] Barkat took office, regarding the issue of bringing down this specific
security barrier,” Barkat spokesman Stephan Miller told the Post on
“This is something that has been done with the support of the
residents and the relevant security agencies, and it was decided to
“A month ago, members of the neighborhood association
went to every house in the area to hand out information [regarding this
development], and the residents have been involved in the process.”
Ben-Arush, who heads Gilo’s neighborhood association, confirmed Miller’s
comments on Sunday, telling the Post that, “this entire process started
requests from residents here, who said, ‘it’s quiet, let’s take down the
barrier.’” “We went to the municipality, who in turn, spoke to IDF,
the end this is a security decision,” she said.
“But I’m surprised to
hear that there were people who weren’t happy about this
“Everyone we’ve heard from, except for one person, said
they wanted this to happen.
The army is also doing it in an orderly way,
numbering the blocks, so that if, God forbid, something happens, they
can put it
back up immediately.
“But we’re happy that it’s happening, because we’re
hopeful that it will be the beginning of something more positive, and
maybe, peace,” Ben-Arush said. “We want to believe that the quiet has
and this time, for good.”