INTERACTIONS AND MATERIALS AFFECTING ENVIRONMENT

Emma Johnson (Midland, Michigan)

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Military presence and eclectic reading. In Palestine/Israel, myriad soldiers with machine guns inhabit the public spaces. I wasn't used to the military in the forefront of my environment. With only 1 percent of the U.S. population serving in the military, national service seems abstract, out of sight and out of mind. But in Israel, everyone is required to serve for three years.

Young men and women, who oftentimes stand casually and look bored and ready to be off their shifts, become part of the background. Yet, you always know the military is there. The Israeli government projects a presence, a constant surveillance where you know they're looking and they know you know they're watching.

I saw a variety of magazines at a small shop at the airport in Tel Aviv: Fashion, home decorating, celebrity gossip ... and military equipment as just another magazine among them. Who is this customer? Of course, I want to read about the latest lipstick and then find out about the innovations for the next models of machine guns!

Concrete doesn’t equal permanence. Another visual in the environment is the apartheid wall. The concrete divides Israel from Palestine for miles, and more is planned.

The material of concrete suggests permanence.

At Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank, the Palestinians carry the mentality, and pass this mentality down to their children, that despite their concrete housing, the situation isn’t permanent. (In fact, they lived in tents and held off on living in buildings made of concrete.) In spite of its material, this is temporary housing and they will return home since international law recognizes the Right of Return. An enduring material doesn’t mean the situation will also last forever.

Driving, sometimes the road becomes monotonous. In Palestine/Israel, the tall concrete slabs that comprise the apartheid wall are the same rectangular shape repeated over and over. The wall is an ugly concept, but by repetition I get used to it.

But familiarity shouldn’t equal normalcy.