Blue Line

the border between Lebanon and Israel

Aftermath Project 2013 jury statement: An ongoing project about the border between Lebanon and Israel. Working on both sides of the electrified fence that separates the two countries, Lombezzi explores the impact of the fence on people who live in the area – and also how the memory of decades of conflict “contributes to the formation and perpetration of opposed, conflicting identities.” The judges felt that Lombezzi’s medium format images of the landscapes and people along the border showed great skill and subtlety in exploring issues of identity and land.
On July, 12, 2006 the war between Israel and Hezbollah began. The conflict lasted one month and ended with a ceasefire, brokered by United Nations. It was only the last conflict in this strip of land, that has witnessed almost endless warfare since 1978. The “July war” caused more that a thousand casualties, the majority of them being lebanese civilians, and heavy damage to Lebanon infrastructures. Ten years after, Israeli and Lebanese still look at each other trough barbed wire, with no communication being possible. While the geopolitical scenario of the entire Middle East has since then completely changed, on the border between these two countries things remain the same as ten years ago: an armed truce rules, guaranteed only by the presence of more than 10.000 UN peacekeepers.

The Blue Line, running for 120 kilometers through barren hills and narrow valleys, may be one of the most heavily monitored borders in the world. On the Israeli side, a sophisticated system of separation and surveillance has been built, including electrified fences, walls, radio communication antennas, military bases, observation posts and patrol roads. The IDF openly watches the border, and its presence on the ground and in the airspace is clearly seen. On the lebanese side, the situation is more complex, and three actors operate simultaneously in the area. UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In lebanon), a multinational mission created to guarantee the truce and supervise the border, is deployed in several observation posts and bases along the blue line, and is also in charge of visibly marking it on the ground. The lebanese army, whose duty is to protect the state borders, is the second player and also has different outposts along the line. The third actor is Hezbollah. Although its members are never seen in uniform in the area, its control on the ground is extremely effective. Villages and towns along the border, as well as hills and valleys around them, host a number of Hezbollah positions, bunkers, weapons and rockets storage facilities whose exact location is kept secret. Hezbollah’s military apparatus is invisible to the eye, but its symbols, monuments and iconography, some of which are built explicitly to be seen by Israel, are everywhere along the border.

This project is about the two sides of the border in the aftermath of conflict. I document the line’s physical presence on the ground, the way it influences and shapes the lives of people, and how both sides perceive the “other side”. I am interested in how the memory of the conflict is built, contributing to the formation and perpetration of opposed, conflicting identities.