Before the Wall is an ongoing project that aims to portray the last generation of Palestinians born before the completion of the Israeli apartheid wall. These images serve as a sombre reminder of the brutal reality in which these subjects live, imprisoned by an oppressive wall that extends over 700 kilometres and towers up to 8 metres in height.
Approximately 62.1% of the wall is complete, a further 8% is under construction and 29.9% is planned but not yet constructed. The children, youths and expecting mothers photographed in the project were placed in those areas where construction is still taking place, but where its imminent completion is clear. Not only do they represent the last generation before the wall is finished, but they physically stand before it, as victims in silent protest.
Palestinian children are severely affected by the ongoing occupation and its policies. Travel restrictions and lack of access to medical supplies impact their physical and mental well-being. They live under constant threat of Israeli attacks and even their most basic rights, including that to education, health and leisure, are violated on a daily basis. The majority of Palestinian children have been exposed to indirect violence in the form of detonations, firearm shots, tear gas, mobilisation with armed vehicles and strictly-imposed curfews. They are constantly exposed to a visually aggressive environment where checkpoints, heavily-armed soldiers and most-recently the apartheid wall, are being normalised as natural elements of the Palestinian landscape.
A study by the Adler Research Center in Israel about the influence of violence on Palestinian children, stated that 70% of Palestinian children in the West Bank have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Another study, done by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, found that 94.6% of Palestinian children have witnessed shocking incidents like bombing and murder. Unfortunately, the majority of Palestinian children do not have access to professional mental health support and remain imprisoned within the open-air prisons that are the West Bank and Gaza.
The barrier, or the ever-shrinking gap, is the natural backdrop to life under occupation. Perspective and perception of the wall play a crucial role in the psychology of its implementation. In Before the Wall, it is a giant chain. It is both a spatial and temporal analysis, through photography, of the impact this wall is having. This relationship between subject and circumstance brings into perspective the rupture in time and geography that will be caused by its completion. A wall and what will be left behind it and before it.
© Samar Hazboun