Israel take down Jerusalem wall

Another one bites the dust: army engineers begin dismantling the Gilo concrete wall, a landmark for eight years

Another one bites the dust: army engineers begin dismantling the Gilo concrete wall, a landmark for eight years

Ten years after becoming a local landmark in Jerusalem, the concrete wall shielding the Gilo neighbourhood from Palestinian fire is being removed.

The decision to take down the wall, made from 800 concrete panels, spanning 600 metres of Anafa Street, was agreed upon by the IDF, Jerusalem City Hall and the police. The wall went up at the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, after the eastern part of Gilo came under daily fire from the Palestinian village of Beit Jallah.

The government's decision to set up the wall was controversial at the time since many Israelis called upon then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to send the army in to Beit Jallah and root out the gangs firing on Gilo. It would take two more years for that to happen in Operation Defensive Shield, launched in April 2002 after the suicide bombing campaign within Israel.

The wall became a symbol for Israelis of the attacks on civilians, and attracted delegations of Jewish tourists, musicians who performed beneath the wall and graffiti artists.

On Sunday, Engineering Corps teams began removing the concrete panels, which will be stored at a base near Jerusalem in case they are needed again.

The IDF expect the entire wall to be down in two weeks. The initiative came from Jerusalem City Hall which was interested in removing what is now seen by many as an eyesore.

Senior IDF officers explained that there was no longer any reason to keep the wall since the area has been quiet for over eight years. The calm has two factors: first, the series of operations that have significantly eroded the capabilities of the terror organisations in the West Bank and, importantly, the improved efforts of the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus in keeping them in check.

The decision produced mixed reactions from some local residents.

Racheli Ifergan said that she was sceptical. "Who knows, maybe they haven't fired on the street all this time because the wall was there. I won't let my children play in the street for the next few weeks, until we see things are really quiet."

But Nissim Harush described himself as hopeful. "For years we couldn't sell our flats here because no-one wanted to live in the firing line," he said.

"Even after the firing ended, the fact that this was the scenery you had from your windows brought the value of your flat right down. Now, I hope we will see a better period here."

    Last updated: 3:08pm, October 5 2010