Since the end of British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, invasions, wars, armistices, treaties, uprisings, barriers, checkpoints and civil wars have shifted the boundaries of who can travel – and live – where across the Middle East. Yet on the ground there remain fragments of who came and went before.
The scars left by wars past haunt the landscape across Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights. In the far north, on the western edge of the Israeli-occupied area, a decades-old rusting Syrian tank can still be seen lying upside down in a whitewater stream.
Across the Golan are other reminders of the wars between Israel and Syria: minefields, foxholes and abandoned armour.
Many relics of the British era survive. In the West Bank, a British jail and military buildings still stand in al-Jiftlik, near Jericho. Long abandoned, sheep now wander through the empty buildings.
Also Gaza, a tiny Palestinian enclave on the Mediterranean coast, is filled with relics of the recent and distant past. In the post-war era, Gaza remained a frequent flashpoint – until the Oslo peace process of the 1990s brought hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Huge amounts of money were spent creating the institutions of the Palestinian Authority under its first president, Yasser Arafat, who used Gaza’s airport to fly abroad on official visits. But the optimism of the Oslo era receded, giving way to mutual recriminations and renewed violence.
The airport was an early casualty: Israel destroyed its runway a few months after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, deeming it a security threat during a Palestinian uprising in Gaza and the West Bank.
Arafat’s helicopter – the presidential transport of a long-dead president – is now a rotorless relic on public display in Gaza City. And the skeletons of the airport buildings lie gutted and abandoned next to Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.