a fence worth looking at


As I have mentioned previously, Hebrew is a conceptual language. It is built on a great many roots which are found in all verbs. When the same root is found in different words they reflect a conceptual relationship. For instance, the words: writing, dictation, correspondence, letter, and reporter all have a common root. The very nature of the language hints at certain values which are part of our culture. And so, it’s interesting to find that the root of the word ‘definition’ is the same as that for ‘fence’.


A fence, we learn, gives definition to an area. Which goes together well with a saying I’ve heard in English, ‘a fence makes good neighbors’. This fence was found in one of the two industrial neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Talpiot and Givat Shaul. Both of them accommodate factories and workshops. And since there are workers there, they also have restaurants and simple eateries, shopping centers and stores. And because no one sleeps there at night, you’ll find night clubs there too, so people can enjoy themselves as noisily as they care to, at all hours. And where there are fences, they are meant to hide an unsightly industrial property or designed to keep people from wandering into a construction sight.


I was visiting some clients in Talpiot when I first noticed this fence. It was made of sheet metal that had been put up between posts in the ground, and was painted in three colors with black lines. Turned out that a few businessmen had put together the money to buy paint, and some students from the Bezalel Art Institute in our fair city had volunteered to decorate the fence. The unpretentious stick figures fit in nicely with the many examples of graffiti found in the area. The paintings have a somewhat humorous, minimalist approach. And in my eyes, it’s art.


As for fences, their very existence is something of a provocation. One wants to trespass or transcend. But if they’re designed well, they might seem like the skin that surrounds and protects our bodies. Though Jerusalem was a walled city in ancient times, there are relatively few fences within the city. The housing is fairly dense, yet here and there are open spaces, which provide that very important taste of nature in the city. I hope to do a post very soon on some of those public spaces here.


You can see the set of the fence pictures here:


54 responses to “a fence worth looking at

  1. As you say, fences can be provocative things, but here we have a fence that embraces us and smiles. I love all these images, but especially the final one. It says to me that it is safe to sit here and drowse and dream under the apple tree.

  2. Another fascinating post, and one where I really learned something. I love the idea of the word ‘fence’ goes with the word ‘definition’. Growing up in this, now very overcrowded Island of ours…..fences and ‘private hedges’ have been used to define the lives of most English people. It seems that we have always found solace in the protective nature of a fence. At Hampton Court Palace, just down the road from where I live, we find many wonderful walled areas…and of course the famous HCP maze….which was a place for people to conceal themselves….and for lovers to play games.

    I love the fence you have used as your illustration, and like you I also very much appreciate the way it has been painted…..

    Have a wonderful weekend, Shimon….xxx

    • On the whole, I think I most appreciate the open spaces and public places… but as you say, we do have to have privacy at times… if just for lovers to play games. Sadly, my visits to England were short and not so memorable. I didn’t have an enthusiastic guide who could share with me their love for the places. Thanks for your good wishes, Janet. The last couple of weeks have been very intensive, but now we are getting back to normal… I hope. xxx

  3. I loved too dear Shimon, “fence” how nice to learn in your culture. I checked for my language, and culture I couldn’t find anything for this. I am so glad you captured all these art and I really wonder the others… Especially the last one hits. Thank you dear Shimon, it was so enjoyable and interesting to be in here. But as always 🙂 Have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • I’m so glad you found this little bit about our language, interesting, Nia. Language is so much a part of out consciousness… yet many of us have to compromise by using another language (English) to transcend borders. Thanks very much for your good wishes. We have been having a long holiday for the last few weeks. But now we’re getting back to routine. And it’s getting a little cooler too. My very best to you too.

  4. Every fence has two sides, I suppose, like every story. 🙂 I always envied a neighbor who had a long and lovely wooden fence that provided a perfect backbone and backdrop to her garden.

    Another very good reflection, Shimon, and the photos are so cheerful and charming. Thank you, and blessings on your Sabbath.

    • That is quite true, Kitty… that every fence has two sides, and very often we learn a lot from seeing both sides of the fence. It is also interesting to note from which side people try to transcend the fence, and from which side people try to peek through it. I could have written a nice long blog just on that aspect of some of the fences I’ve seen… maybe another time. Thanks so much for the comment, and for your blessing.

  5. Of course, I love the photographs!

    • I read the write up on the book you recommended, and the only wall mentioned there, that I know well is the wall between Jerusalem and Bethleham… and in that case, I found the author’s description quite untrue. He couldn’t cite any instance in which the walls were in the best interests of the people they were meant to serve. However, in the case of Jerusalem, we had years in which Arab terrorists would walk over from this neighboring city with bombs, knives and guns, attacking innocent people in our city. The wall provided a great relief. The Moslems, unfortunately, have reduced the Christian population of Bethlehem (originally a Christian city) to a small minority. But they have had less luck with the Jews.

      • I knew I would appreciate your thoughts on the book…truly, I suppose, the accuracy of a book like this one can only rely on the thorough investigation on both sides of a wall and I don’t think that the author had a lot of access to interviews, but a small sampling. The reality can only be lived by the citizens who are confronted by this daily. I went to the author presentation and in my mind…concerning all of the walls featured in the book…some horrific goings-on have occurred. Walls do not seem to be solutions.

  6. Lovely post. I think the fence is art, too. A fence can give definition to an area, as you point out. Unfortunately, fences sometimes also entice people to go after the “forbidden fruit” so to speak, and get beyond that fence. Fences do make good neighbors, if people respect them.

    Great set of pictures!

    • Yes Corina, ‘forbidden fruit’ is a great topic. It has almost universal appeal… and it tells an endless story about us, human beings. And fences too, especially because they are a human construction, artificial to nature, give us a taste of rogue desire. Very glad to hear that you too enjoyed this special fence. Thanks for the comment.

  7. How fascinating! I love that fence. Definitely art. Now I shall think about whether fences divide or defend – or maybe both.

    • So glad you liked the fence, Gill. As for the function, I think both of us know how to treasure privacy at times… as much as we enjoy the pleasure of open spaces… especially beautiful places. I would definitely vote for ‘both’.

  8. What a charming fence. The art is perfect for the style, simple, humble, and yet able to draw one’s eye away from the construction material. What would have been considered as an eyesore is now a delightful draw. What a good idea to have the noisy area separate from residential areas. The fence really does give it definition, allowing those within to individualize the space. The house I live in is one of the few on the block with a fence around the front. It is only about 4′ tall. It keeps partiers from wandering in our yard, but that isn’t why it was built. I wanted to be able to let my dog out without worrying about her scaring someone who thought it was okay to walk on our lawn. I wanted it for my dog’s sense of piece of mind and freedom. Sorry, rambling. A stir of good memories. Thank you.

    • A great comment, Judy. I so loved the idea of a low fence for the dog’s ‘peace of mind’. That’s the sort of dog I would surely feel comfortable with. Never fear to go rambling at my blog… it’s much appreciated. Especially today, as i TRY to answer some of the comments, with the radio on, and a constant flow of bad news… many thanks, Judy.

  9. Lovely indeed!
    But fences are submitted to “separate and keep out”… the deep meaning of them are to prevent exit or enter… make things private and secret… avoid melding and exchange…
    unless these are full of encouraging artistic expression!
    It’s still a matter of interpretation. Personally, I don’t like fences, but in our rotten modern world fences became a way of defence… unfortunately.
    Thak you for sharing, Shimon.
    Serenity :-)c

    • Just as we have private places of our bodies, Claudine, there are certain spots, rooms, gardens in our world that we would rather define, defend, and isolate… sometimes to let the buds grow in peace… other times to allow personal privacy… maybe even to keep the mischievous fox from the chickens… I’d like to believe that fences need not be consigned to the ‘rotten modern world’.

      • I do agree about “private places” to be kept “private”… even if foxes need to eat as well 😉 (forgive my, I’m an animalist)…
        my consideration of “fences” was more about the habit to “make sure” that no thieves enter your properties… and this is because of modern world and the terrible fact that there is no more respect for the private properties. The huge difference between the social classes, impose that as the unique way to preserve our personal belonging. But only 30 yrs. ago, I let my car open parked in front of our house of which we didn’t need to close the entry door at night. Time changed too many things, in worst. Our border has to be watched… fortunately it is not like in your country where it seams things are getting worst and worst. Borders make and preserve differences, social, cultural, religious a.s.o. But unless will some day happen something “so great and powerful” nothing is goin to change in better since Human behaviour is rotten by misunderstanding all faith in theology (religions). As I keep repeating, only the buddhist philosophy teaches us the right path to follow. Think about. Love and peace :-)c

  10. What a perfect fence! Stick people really were the best choice to let the fence tell a story.

  11. The artwork is charming. I can’t imagine anyone not responding to it with a smile: perhaps remembering their own early renderings of the world around them. There’s one I thing I noticed right away: the sort of hats the men are wearing. I did an image search for “men wearing hats in Jerusalem,” and sure enough — the drawings reflect reality. Here, I suppose we might see more drawings of cowboy hats, or baseball caps.

    I suspect our ambivalence toward fences is rooted in our ambivalence toward limits generally. If a door closes in our face, we want in. If the neighbor closes the curtains, we wonder what’s going on. If our favorite hiking path suddenly sports a “no trespassing” sign, we begin to gripe. Sometimes the fences are literal, and sometimes they’re not. Even poor Adam and Eve had some limits set: “Enjoy yourselves, but don’t eat that apple.”

    In the American West, there were wars fought between cattlemen and farmers over the fencing of the open range, and one of my favorite songs recalls those days. It also reminds me of my own childhood passion for fence-climbing. I was able to get up-and-over long before I went to school, much to my parents’ chagrin.

    • How wonderful, Linda, that you thought to check the hats appearing in the stick pictures. Yes, they are very characteristic of men’s wear, in our city, and if truth be told, they are also found on the heads of most of the women here as well. But when it comes to men’s head wear. the cap or the hat usually tells of the man’s philosophical or religious leanings. We know with whom we’re talking, just by taking a glance at his head cover. For most of my life, I wore the exact same type of hat. But then, because I started taking long walks every day as I grew old, I started wanting a hat that didn’t respond to the wind by sailing off to discover the world. And since then, I’ve been wearing that hat more than the other. Thanks very much for your comment, and I loved the song you sent. It could easily become a favorite of mine too.

  12. Sometimes the simplest of drawings tells the perfect story and makes for friendly fences.

    • I so agree with you, Bev… and not just when it comes to drawings. That’s the way I feel about stories too. There is such beauty in simplicity. Thanks very much for your comment.

  13. I love these stick figures Shimon. This has been very nicely done. It’s strange, when I was a teenager, graffiti was vandalism, now it’s art and celebrated and nobody seems to mind it…

    • So true, what you say, Chillbrook. I found myself attracted to graffiti from when I first saw it. But there was a lot of resistance from the common citizen. As you say, over the years, more and more people have grown to appreciate that particular form of art. It seems to me that the city is missing the personality of many of its inhabitants, and graffiti seems to offer something personal where walls are so often generic. Thanks very much for your comment.

  14. I realise this fence was painted intentionally but it made me think of the many fences daubed with graffiti that I see around..

    • In a way, I suppose that this fence offers ‘alternative’ graffiti. The business men in the area knew that the fence would be an open invitation to graffiti, and offered the challenge to the students of a local art school. I like what was done. But I also like true graffiti.

  15. Fences never looked less imposing…and these invite me (in a way) to consider my own protections and boundaries in a kinder way…

    • I admit to a desire to overcome fences… I dislike being fenced in. I remember visiting some nature places in the US where I had hiked 50 years earlier. I was dismayed to see hundreds of new fences… and signs ‘no trespassing around land that had been completely open before. But of course that’s because the areas have become more dense with human population. Still in any case, there are advantages as well as disadvantages to fences… Thanks for your comment, Mimi

  16. I love these, Shimon. Language is so interesting. It tells a lot about a culture and its history. It makes a lot of sense that the word fence would share its roots with the word definition. Sometimes we have to have boundaries to know what is us and what is not us – as you so adeptly mentioned – our skin! I love the colors and simple figures in these shots.

    It is always a pleasure to learn more about Jerusalem and the culture of your wonderful city and its people, Shimon. Thank you.

  17. Etymology is an interesting subject, which this post amply demonstrates. I particularly like the skateboarder, it is a stick drawing with a great deal of visible movement and speed. it is probably not as simple as it looks, which, may be the same for the rest of the fence decor.

    We have slab walls, not very high, they delineate ground boundaries. We can chat to the neighbours easily and freely and enjoy the sight of each others flower beds. We always said a good wall made for good neighbours; just a small variation on your quote.

    Very enjoyable post and pictures, Shimon.

  18. Shimon,
    I enjoyed your clear and deliberate photography of this whimsical corrugated fence. In Prince Edward Island, where we recently visited, we saw few fences between homes.

    Perhaps the more threatened we feel–about property and security–the more fences we build. Surely, the fences the Hungarians built to stem the flow of people traveling into their country would indicate the latter.

    Here in Northern California, everyone has a fence. On our Rancho, we are completely fenced–to keep deer out of the olive orchard, to keep mountain lions and wild boar from wandering onto the property at night and, truthfully, to keep people out. More and more people are up to no good here in the Bay Area.

    When I had two large Rottweilers years ago, we had an electric fence and each dog wore an electric collar. They only inched up to the fence once…and forever after respected the boundary they could not see but could feel.

    Now, our sweet little yellow Labrador Dinah, polices herself. Amazing creature.

    • Fences unfortunately seem to be needed so often these days as we are either trying to shut others out or ourselves in. I live in the country where fences are most often used to keep farm animals corralled. It’s sad to see those high stone and brick walls that separate people from each other. It may be necessary for safety, but still saddens my heart.

  19. What a wonderful fence!! So whimsical.I have a good friend who lives in Talpiot!

  20. Fenced in and without. Interesting post Shimon.

  21. That has to be the finest fence I have EVER seen, marvelous it is, simply marvelous.
    I suppose our fences serve many purposes, they keep others out, define our little kingdoms etc….I like small fences, or railings like we have, the beauty of mine is that they keep the dogs in and allow free galloping. I love growing climbing plants up them too! I did like your description of well designed fences being like a skin that protects our bodies. I love the way your mind works!xxx

  22. … as a farmer … among farmers here in Alberta … we rely on good fences … and if there is no fences … we brand our catlle … and let them roam free … and round them up each fall … I hate the custom of branding … but there is no other way of claiming back what I produced … got to live … u know … I miss u, Shimon … Love, cat.

  23. This looks like a really friendly fence. Love the colours. 🙂

  24. Minimalist, yes, but touching on the things of life. A light post today, Shimon….thank you.

  25. That’s so sweet;you must be a very funny man.Mind you,our neighbourz put up a bigger fence without asking and it made our garden too dark.They also cut down one our trees without permissionin order to fit the fence.You know a lot,don’t you.. conceptual language,are there others?You seem to have wide ranging mind

  26. I enjoyed this. I very much like the link between definition and fences – language is incredibly intricate and woven with the basic meanings sometimes all but forgotten or faded.

  27. These painting are very creative, artistic, and pleasant to look at. It’s good to know ‘definition’ is the same as that for ‘fence’. Thank you for showing us the beautiful fence painting, Mr. Shimon. Love it. 🙂

  28. Really interesting post Shimon. In the UK we are a nation of fences and where I live in Shrewsbury there are centuries old walls surrounding the original town designed to keep out the medieval enemy. Today they are admired for their beauty and history – so once a symbol of hostility they now welcome many visitors!

  29. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    simply beautiful 🙂
    it feels like a secret garden behind it, where love grows….
    I am not a fan of fences, though this one I like ….
    earth,light,sky seem to be the colors and the black drawings are outlining the humans as shadows among the colors …not sure why or where I heard that 🙂
    wonderful post as always Shimon…I have missed visiting you
    Hope all is well for you
    Take Care…You Matter…

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