Wall is an old English word. Some link it to the Latin word vallum, which translated as rampart.
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal’s museum of archeology and history, takes you down below the current street level to explore the site of the original settlement of this city.
Metres below ground you can literally walk on the walls that once fortified the nascent metropolis against the Iroquois, English or other threats.
You can stand exactly where a lonely guard must have paced back and forth to keep warm on a cold night in the late 1600s or drowsed on one of those hot, humid August evenings that Montreal is still famous for.
To see the wall you have to go to the museum where the detritus of a growing city long ago buried its south side near the harbour. The north side lasted a little longer until the demands of a growing city in the 1800s forced its demolition.
Walls eventually all fall down or become tourist attractions it seems. Three Yukoners just returned to Canada earlier this week from where new walls are being built.
At a time when most people we desperately trying to get out of the region, Mark Connell, Joan Darragh and Maura Sullivan joined a pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine at the beginning of this month.
In an journey organized by Father Bob Holmes, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the 22 participants saw sites revered by the three major, global monotheistic religions.
They also met with groups and communities of people trying to truly live out the precepts of their faiths.
At the end of their very full first week, they joined a protest against the war and the on-going occupation of Palestinian lands organized by a peace group called Women in Black.
Every Friday they demonstrate their concern at Kikar Tzarsat, a small square in West Jerusalem, often facing abuse and ridicule.
The Canadians met Gila Svirsky who co-founded Women in Black almost two decades ago.
Svirsky told them how the Israelis have slowly become desensitized to the militarization of their society.
“When you live here you don’t notice the slow change,” Svirsky said in one of the pilgrimage reports e-mailed back here.
It’s as if a society initially modeled on Athenian democracy has evolved into Sparta.
“We need to socialize ourselves to grow up to be nurses, doctors, teachers, not soldiers,” she said.
“We need to make peace for both sides;
the children on both sides are getting hurt.”
She spoke as the war raged and the wall dividing Palestinian from Israeli continued to be built. Three times higher that the Berlin Wall and costing well over a million dollars a kilometre it will eventually stretch for 1,000 kilometres.
We have known for millennia what the right path is. All the great religions and philosophical traditions tell us.
“We make friends by doing good to others, not by receiving good from them …” so said Pericles the fifth-century B.C. Athenian statesman as recorded by the historian Thucydides.
“When we do kindnesses to others, we do not do them out of any calculations of profit or loss; we do them without afterthought, relying on our free liberality.”
Pericles, supported by the citizenry of Athens, recognized that a democratic city had a larger role: to serve as an “education to Hellas.”
When will we learn to be peacemakers? How long do we have to go on building literal and figurative walls before we realize the truth Gila Svirsky shared with the peace pilgrims earlier this month?
Hopefully the Yukoners who participated in the pilgrimage will hold a gathering early this fall to more fully share their experiences with us.