‘The Wall’ was the third book I’d read about life in and around Palestine, and it really made a difference, reading from the point of view of someone on the other side of the wall. The blurb was extraordinarily similar to that of ‘Maggot Moon’ which won the Carnegie Medal last year (2013), but the books couldn’t be more different. ‘The Wall’ is about a private rebellion by a boy who barely knows he’s doing it, and the childish innocence of Joshua really touched me. He knew that going to the other side of the wall was forbidden, but he doesn’t really know why. Seeds are an important theme in ‘The Wall’, especially the idea of a single seed trying to grow in an impossible environment-just as Joshua’s friendship with Leila (and consequently her father) struggles to take root, mirroring the progress of the olive sapling that he planted with the intention of replanting the entire top terrace of Leila’s father’s grove. In Arabic, sapling is ‘ghirass’, a theme used in many places such as the Ghirass Centre in Bethlehem, where Palestinian teens and young adults can learn more about their culture. ‘The Wall carried a powerful message for me-that something worthwhile can come out of the most unlikely of places, and it can become something great. While we don’t find out exactly what becomes of Joshua and Leila’s friendship, an undeniable bond formed when she saved his life, and hopefully it prospered.
Also—and you know exactly who you are—the wall is real. Feel free to look up the Israeli Separation Barrier and come back then. It is real. I also bring to your attention the ‘intricately patterned black and white scarf’ of page 32 and ask you to compare it to the traditional Arab keffiyeh (above). You will spot several similarities. If that isn’t good enough, please come and see me so that I can show you mine.