Some Palestinians refer to the security barrier between Israel and the West Bank as the Apartheid Wall. As for Danny Tirza, a former colonel in the Israel Defense Force's Central Command, he would call it a necessary eyesore.
He should know – he built it.
In the early 2000s, Palestinian terrorists murdered more than 1,000 innocent Israelis. There’s only so much the Israeli military could do with their guns without threatening innocent lives. They had rules of engagement - stop and surround the terrorist, shoot at their feet to stop them and remove the explosives they were carrying. Yet, they couldn't stop every terrorist and were at a loss as to how to stop the slaughter.
Col. Tirza had an idea – and the result is a 451 mile-long, 45 meter-wide barrier separating Israel and the West Bank.
On the Israel Collective trip last month, Tirza took 30 young adults and me on a personal tour of the security wall. He offered a few reasons why he needed to construct it, including to prevent snipers from targeting Israelis. Watch below as he explains a few other important reasons for the concrete portion of the barrier.
As Tirza explains in the video, this part of the barrier used to be only 6 meters, but was built higher because “no one can jump 9 meters.”
The majority of the wall (95 percent) is barbed wire. The concrete portion the media chooses to report on accounts for the remaining five. Construction cost 11 billion shekels ($2 billion), but has helped slow down the amount of terror attacks.
“They tested us,” Tirza said. “Today not as much.”
Yet, even with the wall, terror activity is still rampant. In 2014, the military caught 80 suicide bombers on their way to the fence, with bombs on them. Last year, 150 Palestinian terrorists from Hamas wanted to take power in West Bank from Palestinian authorities. Hamas accounts for the largest number of terror combatants in the region, along with El Fatah.
Combatants try to cross the wall 20 to 30 times a week, Tirza explained.
"Every night we catch five to 20 terrorists inside the West Bank.”
The colonel made sure to note that once they catch a terrorist, they bring him or her to court in Israel. It’s a Democratic country, he often repeated.
All along the Palestinian side of the fence are graffiti markings such as "All Israeli forces are Nazis" – all in English, by the way.
While Tirza initially wanted the ugly markings removed, he now considers the graffiti to be beautiful. After all, it is another indication of the region’s emphasis on free speech.
“I'm proud to see it,” he said. It indicates they live in a “free country.”
Can’t a terrorist simply dig under the wall to get into Israel? Don’t worry, they’ve planned for that too. Any time someone tries to dig, a seismic sensor alerts the Israeli authorities.
Walls are anathema to peace – and Tirza would be the first to admit it. That’s why the architect of the security wall would love nothing more than to see his government sign an effective peace agreement with their Palestinian neighbors and tear down the divisive wall.
“One day will come, I pray for it three times a day,” he said. “I want to be the one that will take down the first stone.”