Fifty student activists went to see the security fence Tuesday, accompanied by Minister-without-Portfolio Natan Sharansky.
The students were part of a group of 1,000 in Jerusalem for the first three-day Global Student Leadership Summit.
The group gathered at a vantage point between Jerusalem's southern Gilo neighborhood and Beit Jala, the latter being a major entry point for terrorists from the Bethlehem area, and an easy position from which to perpetrate shooting attacks on Jerusalem across the wadi. The unfinished security fence could be viewed some 100 meters below.
"As a representative of the Israeli government, I have been accused of doing something criminal by supporting the construction this fence," said Sharanksy. "I have been told that we are building another Berlin Wall; another attempt to build a wall in order to stop free dialect between the people, to divide into two worlds, to separate the people and to destroy the harmony in the Middle East.
"But here, the idea is to prevent terrorists from reaching the free people, to prevent terrorists from killing us in the buses, clubs, and cafes. It is the border between the free world and the terrorist world. It is the only way for us to defend our democracy, our free world, from the terrorists."
Border Police Cmdr. Zaki Amar also spoke to the activists. "The objective is to ensure that Jerusalem is entirely surrounded, in order to give security personnel early warning," he said, explaining that with the exception of about seven kilometers of actual wall in extremely high risk areas, the fence consists of an electronically sensitive wire barrier, preceded by a sandy path of about two to three meters which cannot be crossed without leaving footprints, and followed by a simple wire fence which is meant to retard the entry of a terrorist who successfully crosses the electronic barrier.
"One of the points of bringing you here is to show that the vast majority of this anti-terrorist barrier is in fact a fence and there are only certain places where it has been necessary to build an actual physical wall," he said. Amar also explained that the fence includes several points of entry for cars - every five to seven kilometers - and many more for agricultural workers and Palestinians with work permits.
"One of the examples of the democracy of our country is that people who aren't even citizens of the country have the ability, through the institutions of our government, to appeal certain decisions about the fence as it is being built," added Sharansky, in reference to places where the fence has caused an interruption to the lives of Palestinians on the other side.
"That's one of the reasons why the building of the fence has been delayed even though the delay means we are taking a much bigger risk of more terror attacks."
"I have to say that I didn't know the extent to which it was a fence and the extent to which it was a wall,"said Dean Rabinowitz, a medical student from the University of Western Australia and the president of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).
"It's like any fence that would separate a farm from another farm. It's not the intimidating and life-threatening images that the world media presents. We have now seen the proof that the world media presents the situation in Israel in a way which is provocative and inflammatory against Israel.
"It is very difficult to fight against the power of the world media and the power of the images that they show. Many people, despite how much evidence you show them, refuse to believe something unless they see it on the news." But, Rabinowitz added, "the group here will take what we've seen and bring that to our student unions around the world."