Israeli separation wall turns into huge TV screen
Its purpose may be to divide, but for the past few nights, the
wall that separates this biblical town in the West Bank from nearby
Jerusalem has been bringing an international crowd together to
watch the World Cup games.
In a first for Bethlehem, local restaurant owner and avid
football fan Joseph Hasboun has been projecting every night game of
the World Cup onto the wall facing his eatery, the Bahamas Sea Food
Restaurant, located just a few hundred yards away from the city’s
Israel built the barrier along the West Bank to keep out
Palestinian attackers, including suicide bombers. Several bombers
from Bethlehem blew themselves up in Jerusalem, just three miles
(five kilometers) away. Palestinians complain that the barrier juts
into the West Bank, and here in Bethlehem, the 30-foot concrete
wall is an imposing presence that bears down on the town.
But for a month, during the football tournament, Palestinians
are putting it to good use.
On a chilly Sunday night, Germans, Austrians, Americans and
local Palestinians gathered at outdoor tables to watch Germany beat
“It lets you forget for a short time about the harsh reality,”
said Michael Exeler, 61 a German development worker living in
Jerusalem. “It’s the best you can make of it.”
It isn’t the first time that Hasboun has made use of the wall,
directly across the street from his restaurant, monopolizing the
view from its windows. When he decided to reopen the family
restaurant two years ago, he used the cement canvas to paint
larger-than-life menus in English and Arabic.
“The wall is a very negative thing, so if we can do something
positive with it, we will,” Hasboun said. “My goal is to bring
everybody together. It’s good for business, and it’s good for
Bethlehem’s economy centers on tourism, and years of Mideast
violence has depressed its economy. Even in the best of times, the
town is not known for its night life.
The World Cup has changed that, at least for now. Hasboun says
his restaurant is staying open late to accommodate the night
Locals are hopeful that even once the World Cup ends, the
late-night projections will stick around.
“It’s a new idea in Bethlehem,” said Raneem Hosh, 25, a
Bethlehem native who has come to watch the games every night, even
though she says she doesn’t even like soccer. “I come here for the
ambiance. Maybe we can use it as a cinema after, since we don’t
have one here.”