Divided no more

It's been 50 years since the Berlin Wall was erected, and since then, barriers have come down all over the world. But one wall continues to divide. When will Israel's separation barrier follow Berlin's?

Families torn apart. Checkpoint Charlie. And the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old bricklayer Peter Fechter, one of the first to try to flee to freedom. Images of the Berlin Wall, whose construction began 50 years ago yesterday, remain as vivid as ever.

But the division of Berlin had its origins in the end of the Second World War. In 1948, Joseph Stalin implemented a blockade on West Berlin, preventing food and supplies from reaching its population, prompting the famous Berlin Airlift by the US, Britain, France, Australia and others. In 1949, the blockade was lifted.

But it was not until 1961 that the city became well and truly divided with the building of the Berlin Wall, a physical embodiment of the Cold War.

A culture of fear and paranoia developed on both sides of the wall. The East German secret police, the Stasi, became one of the most repressive agencies in the world. For decades, cutthroat spycraft on both sides verged on the lunatic until, eventually, sanity - and humanity - was restored.

In 1989 the wall was torn down, unable to resist the winds of change that swept through Eastern Europe. Since then, barriers have come down all over the world. Sadly, others have been put up.

Israel's separation barrier along its border with the West Bank stands as a monument to its 63-year occupation of Palestine. How long before, like the Berlin Wall, it comes tumbling down?

Published: August 14, 2011 04:00 AM