27 December 2009
I’m banned from Sheikh Jarrah and occupied East Jerusalem so I spent the last two days in Hebron and recently arrived in Nablus.
Hebron is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the place where Isaac and Ishmael buried their father, Abraham, signaling a reconciliating between the two feuding brothers. Unfortunately there is no such reconciliation in Hebron today.
Hebron is unlike any place I’ve ever seen before. The old city reminds me of the old city in Jerusalem, except not as crowded. But there are military check-points and Israeli Occupation Forces everywhere, including in watch-towers all across the city. When we were walking through the city, settlers openly carried automatic weapons and assault rifles.
I asked one of them if I could take their picture.
“No,” he said. “It’s forbidden on the Sabbath.”
“It’s forbidden to get your picture taken on the Sabbath, but it’s okay to walk around with an automatic weapon?” I asked him. He snorted and turned around, ignoring me.
Hebron is also the only city I’ve visited so far where beggars are openly walking the streets, asking for money. Street hustlers are also much more aggressive here than in Jerusalem. A few hundred Israeli Jewish settlers live amongst thousands of Palestinians in Hebron, and the tension is palpable. A thick layer of netting seperates the Israeli apartments from the Arab markets below them because the settlers throw stones and trash at the Palestinians from their windows.
Later on, we met up with our contact, a woman named Leila who runs a Women’s Collective that sells homemade tapestries, kufiyyas, purses, coin wallets, and other items. She invited us into her our home and told us a little bit about the situation in Hebron over a delicious Arab dinner.
“The situation in Hebron is very bad, very dangerous,” she said. “There is no work, and the settlers and the Army threaten us and attack us everyday.”
On Saturdays, a settler “tour” goes into the old city through a military checkpoint to visit the holy sites important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. They are guarded by a phalanx of soldiers and private security, but sometimes the overzealous ones use the day as an opportunity to take potshots at the Palestinian merchants, overturning their stands, stealing from their stores, insulting them, spitting on them, and sometimes worse.
We spent most of the day and night patrolling the streets of the old city, but it was quiet. We talked with the young men on the streets, drank tea inside their houses with their families, and generally just had a relaxing time.
I left Hebron this morning and am now in Nablus.