Borders have become one of the most controversial topics of our times. Identifiable borders, be they physical barriers, markings or the physical delimiters of socially constructed entities, are essential to how we designate living spaces, land allocations, territorial ownership and jurisdiction and, in a more abstract sense, how we analyze and study natural and social realities as such.
Throughout the war in Syria during the past few years we have seen a mass migration within and out of Syria in search of safety. Some of the internally displaced persons (IDP) sought refuge along the border with Israel, Syria’s seven-decade-long mortal enemy. This choice might seem odd in light of the fact that these refugees show no intention of crossing the border into Israeli controlled areas.
The article focuses on the “border area” as a space in itself, an unplanned, independent locus that because of unanticipated, anomalous circumstances became a haven from danger for Syrian refugees. These “internal refugees” effectively exploited the proximity of Israeli military forces to shield and protect themselves from their current feared assailants. Syrian IDP flee to areas where personal safety and protection were considered inconceivable in the past.
The border areas adapted by Syrian displaced persons to their need for safe refuge are products of the interaction between desperate but resourceful people and the reality of displacement, insecurity and lack of shelter. The habitable spaces they created derive their distinctive character not from recognized theories of planning or regulatory oversight, but from the logic, ingenuity and inspiration of the mother of invention: necessity or, in more prosaic terms, from the exigencies of “informal planning.”