This was the day in November 1989 that my friends from the YMCA in Berlin cut a good chunk of the Berlin WALL and gave to me. I am holding it now as I am writing this blog post to you. It has its own place on my desk. The fall of the Berlin WALL changed the lives of millions of people. It also changed my life. The fall of the WALL opened post communist Europe and we were called to rebuild the YMCA in those parts of the world and I was asked to help doing that work. That is why I am holding my piece of the WALL in my hands quite regularly. It reminds me physically of hope, of light at the end of the tunnel, it reminds me of the bravery of those people who fought for the destruction of the wall and who eventually won a great victory over the ugliest wall in the history of mankind.
On my first visit to Romania I met 11 old men in black suits and ties. They had dressed up to meet with the representative of the international YMCA coming to Bucharest. I saw stars shining in old eyes, I heard heartwarming memories from their young days in the YMCA in the 1940s before dictatorship crushed the YMCA and imprisoned them behind ugly WALLS of concrete and barbed wire. I still get tears in my eyes when I remember those guys – they were young YMCA leaders in 1945 and now ready to start over again after the fall of the WALL.
In October 1986 I came to the Berlin WALL for the first time. The ugly WALL was cutting through a small village on the country side. Grandmother lived on the other side of the WALL, the well of the village was on this side. I was there with Ten Sing Norway, 50 young YMCA leaders touring West Germany for one year. With fascination and fear we saw the terrible divide between East and West. Some of the young people walked close to the wall, not understanding that they then crossed the real boarder in front of the WALL. While we were watching in shock and horror, helicopters took off from the other side of the WALL, soldiers with guns became visible on top of the WALL and the helicopters were flying very low over us. It was the ugly scream of terror from the DDR scaring us to move away from their WALL.
I remember saying to my friends when we were running away from the WALL that this WALL would not be taken down in our lifetime. We all believed that in 1986. Exactly three years later the wall came down. I can still see the pictures of hose power abusing cowards who had built the WALL and killed children and young people as they tried to escape. Now they were led to prison and well deserved punishment.
In 2013 the Executive Committee of the World YMCA held its meeting in Jericho, Palestine. 24 years after the fall of the Berlin WALL a new WALL is dividing ordinary people. It was interesting to see how the WALL builders had reached new heights of engineering the same divides as the soldiers of DDR had built back in the 1960s. This WALL is very solid, modern, and on the Israeli side beautifully decorated not to offend the aesthetically minded citizens.
On the Palestinian side of the WALL it is ugly, hated and working in the same way as it used to work in Germany – keeping people from people, family members away from family members and destroying livelihood and possibilities to work the fields in sensible ways.
In addition to all this, a “Landscape with WALL” always makes bad motives for paintings, even if I find the title fascinating. Traveling along this Israeli WALL in a bus makes you silent. There is not much said inside the bus. There is not much you need to say when you are a few metres away from an ugly WALL. The WALL condemns itself. They always do. They always did.
These constructions are not only ugly. They are abnormal and serving all the wrong purposes.
The Executive Committee met in Jericho, Palestine, probably the oldest city in the history, more than 10000 years old. It was here the first WALL builders lost when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the WALLS came tumbling down.
Today I believe all YMCA leaders and YMCA members all over the world will walk together with Joshua and sing the mighty old song of Joshua as he fought the battle of Jericho and made the WALLS come tumbling down.
Tumbling down is the only thing WALLS should do.