Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is still up, but it’s no longer blocking the flow of ideas, people, or commerce

Everywhere we look, it seems, walls are going up. But, at the same time, the very same walls are being subverted. Part of our future — how connected we will be to the part of humanity beyond the walls — depends on if we can find ways of circumventing the walls faster than they can be built.

Walls Going Up
In the wake of the refugee crisis, Germany reimposed controls along the border with Austria. Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands followed suit. Hungary sealed its border with Serbia and Romania.

Trump blusters about building a massive wall on the border with Mexico, but both he and Clinton threaten to block competition with new trade barriers.

In Israel the government allocates more resources to finish the “separation wall”. And, of course, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to put up the ultimate barricade, putting us and our supporters behind the worst sort of fences and barricades.

Walls Falling into Irrelevance
At the same time that walls are going up, technology and people are circumventing physical barricades every day. At Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, I had the privilege to meet a Palestinian doctor who finished medical training in Syria after growing up in Jordan. She arranged her residency at Beilinson online, digitally hopping over the physical fences and minefields separating Syria from Israel.

Palestinian programmers in Ramallah work on text processing algorithms for MethodM, a Jerusalem software company. Face-to-face meetings are difficult, but online meetings and communications fly freely. And, when they do,  human connections are built.

In the United Arab Republic, Therapy Everywhere connected an expatriate geologist from Lebanon with a US trained psychologist based in a Tel Aviv suburb. After a year of regular sessions, the physical barriers may be higher than ever, but the human connections thrive.

Walls May Have Their Place, But So Does Subversion
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good wall as much as the next fellow. I want the government to regulate pharmaceuticals (a wall). But I also want ecommerce running shady websites to subvert the regulations, forcing prices down whenever competition is too limited.

If a separation wall will keep my family safe, I’m all for it. But, if we can circumvent that wall to work together and build real commercial and emotional connections with the Palestinians on the other side of the wall, go for it.

If you want to strike fear into the heart of those who really want permanent walls between people, just go around the barriers. It’s never been easier.