Reporters on the Job

• Who's Who? The Monitor's Ilene Prusher interviewed several women during the course of her visit to Logar province in Afghanistan, where women were gathering to elect female delegates to a national assembly that will shape a constitution (this page).

All went well, and Ilene thanked the women, walked out the door, and talked to the police chief briefly about leaflets dropped in the area calling for Afghans to wage jihad against Americans.

Then she turned around to wave goodbye - and couldn't get her bearings. "All the women had their burqas down, and I found myself squinting at groups of them wondering, were those the women I just interviewed? Or those? The faces I had seen for four hours were gone, and the beautiful range of women became an anonymous blur. It was strange to suddenly lose contact. I tried to judge by height which of the blue clusters were the women I had just spoken to - and waved. They waved, too. But that is not as satisfying as seeing a face. You can't tell if the person behind the burqa is smiling or not."

Barrier Images: Monitor writer Nicole Gaouette, who concludes her five-part series today on the barrier Israel is building (page 8), says it's hard to get one's mind around the idea of the barrier. "It's so big, so much money, time, and planning have gone into it, and there are so many conflicting claims about it," she says.

To report the last sections of the project, Nicole revisited a few of the towns she went to for the first story and spent many hours around East Jerusalem.

"Qalqilya is a barrier-bound city save for one entrance, and many Palestinians are leaving. On one visit, I noticed a pet-store owner, idle on his front stoop beside a stack of empty, dust-covered birdcages. It was a perfect image that, sadly, didn't make it into my copy. Not long after, I had to cut short a tour of the barrier south of Jerusalem because of warnings of Palestinian sniper activity. Even with the barrier cutting across the eddying hills and the threat of bullets, the views are stunning."

That was not the case in East Jerusalem, where the barrier's concrete blocks squat in the middle of a major street. "But residents have transformed them into a rainbow-hued statement of defiance, some painted with English countryside scenes, others with vibrant murals. And on one block, the simplest, someone had used red paint to scrawl the Arabic word for death."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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