In The West Bank, Barriers Don't Necessarily Make Good Neighbors : Parallels A fence is often thought of as something that provides protection. But even amid recent attacks on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, not all Israelis support more fencing.
NPR logo

In The West Bank, Barriers Don't Necessarily Make Good Neighbors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In The West Bank, Barriers Don't Necessarily Make Good Neighbors

In The West Bank, Barriers Don't Necessarily Make Good Neighbors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A fence is often seen as something that provides protection. For Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered occupied territory by the U.S. and other governments, there are different opinions about what a fence means. Several times recently, Palestinian attackers have climbed or cut through fences to conduct attacks, twice killing Israeli civilians. It's part of a wave of attacks that's been happening since last October. But NPR's Emily Harris reports some Israelis oppose more fencing.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Two thin strips of white plastic twisted in wire mark the spot. This is where a Palestinian teenager cut through a chain-link fence and concertina wire along one edge of an Israeli settlement. He walked in and stabbed and wounded an Israeli woman in a shop nearby.


HARRIS: Steps from where the Palestinian attacker entered, Israeli Joseph Gabso makes repairs around his horse stables. His wife, Miriam Gabso, looks past the concertina wire at Palestinian homes just across an olive grove. She says she wants a better fence.

MIRIAM GABSO: (Through interpreter) Because there are kids here, I think we need to know we are doing the most possible to keep them safe.

HARRIS: But other residents in this settlement called Tekoa say barriers are not the answer. David Harel was one of the first settlement volunteer security guards to respond to the attack after the fence break.

DAVID HAREL: Anyone can cross any fence he wants. If somebody wants to attack, he can attack anywhere.

HARRIS: But mainly, Harel doesn't want to feel fenced in on land he claims as home.

HAREL: I don't think that this is the way. I'm living here because this is our country, my country. This is my home.

HARRIS: There are no fences to speak of around Efrat, a bigger settlement down the road. It's not even related to the security debate. Efrat mayor Oded Ravivi says founders thought a fence might make it harder for the settlement to expand.

ODED REVIVI: There is a tendency, once you draw a line or once you build a fence, that the other side understands that's the border. And they didn't want to set the boundaries and say these are the boundaries of the city.

HARRIS: Efrat's perimeter is watched by armed guards and a network of camera, some even with night vision.

REVIVI: So this is how it looks underground.

HARRIS: Revivi shows off the settlement's security bunker, paid for by a wealthy American. Two employees watch screens around the clock.

REVIVI: And they're connected here to all the radio systems, all the emergency services.

HARRIS: But Revivi says most important for Efrat's security is not fences or cameras. It's getting along with Palestinian neighbors. In the closest village, Wadi Nis, 63-year-old Saleh Hamad thinks he knows why there are no fences around the settlement.

SALEH HAMAD: (Through interpreter) Efrat doesn't want borders. It wants to go all the way to the sea.

HARRIS: But he doesn't mind Efrat and its current borders. He says settlers help with villagers with emergency healthcare. By a hot iron stove in his family's living room, his wife roast potatoes and calf hearts. Their pet birds sing, and Hamad remembers when Wadi Nis people used to go in and out of Efrat freely.

HAMAD: (Through interpreter) I used to go myself in my car and distribute merchandise from house to house or from supermarket to houses. That was my work. And I would stay there 'til midnight, and no one would stop me.

HARRIS: The Israeli military stopped that free access years ago during an earlier flare-up in violence. Now permits are required.

TAYSER ABO MEFREH: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: Tayser Abo Mefreh, deputy mayor of another nearby Palestinian town, Tequa, shows the point at the edge of his village Palestinians can't pass without Israeli permission.

ABO MEFREH: (Through interpreter) This road has been closed for 30 years. The olives at the entrance to the settlement are ours, but we need permission to harvest them.

HARRIS: On the other side of that olive grove is a settlement and a settlement fence, but that's off in the distance. Abo Mefreh says with or without fences, Israeli settlements hem Palestinians in. Emily Harris, NPR News, the West Bank.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.