It snakes over the rocky hills of the West Bank and slashes through Arab villages and communities. In some places in East Jerusalem, it is higher than an elephant's eye and indeed looks like it's climbing right up to the sky.
The ugly security barrier the Israelis are still building along the north-south spine of Israel and the West Bank not only divides Jews from Arabs. It divides Arabs from Arabs, cutting off farmers from their fields, children from their schools and neighbors from neighbors.
The barrier, conceived under an Israeli Labor government and built under a Likud government, has now become the guideline for the new coalition government's map of a future bi-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is also an admission of failure.
For most Israelis, the barrier is an act of desperation, a feeble bandage on the bleeding wound of a Palestinian insurgency that still sends would-be suicide bombers through cracks in the wall. It implies the removal of thousands of Jewish settlers from the occupied territory that would become the new Palestinian state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not yet announced when he will present his plan for Israel's new borders, but when he does, he will have the fight of his life on his hands.
Jerusalem: United or Divided?
For Palestinians, it is a cause for desperation, viewed as a unilateral Israeli decision to grab more chunks of land from the tattered tapestry of Arab towns and hills that remains from what was once Ottoman Palestine. It's a take it or leave it proposition, all that's left from years of fruitless peace talks and â€œroad mapsâ€ which proved the late Abba Eban's cruel dictum that â€œthe Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.â€
It is all the more painful to see this scar on the face of the Holy Land because for years I saw the pain inflicted by the Iron Curtain that divided East Germans from West Germans. And it is especially ironic for those who knew Israel before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war redrew the map.
When I first visited the divided city of Jerusalem in 1966, the walls of the Old City were topped by barbed wire and defended with guns manned by Jordanian soldiers. You could visit the Old City by flying to Amman and driving through the Dead Sea valley and up the hills to East Jerusalem, which was then part of the West Bank territory occupied by the Jordanian government. The only way for visitors to go directly from one side of the divided city to the other was through the Mandelbaum Gate, controlled by the UN. In principle, Jews and Arabs could not pass over to the â€œother side.â€ After the Six Day War, Israelis swore Jerusalem would never again be divided. Jerusalem: United or Divided?
Now, it is Israel that has built a wall capped with watchtowers through Jerusalem â€“ not through the heart of the city, but through its outskirts that sprawl over the surrounding hills. The new barrier is not only an admission of failure and an act of desperation. It is a tragedy.