Hebron is a strange city. Situated in the South of the West Bank, parts of it are bustling with market activity, while other parts of it resemble a ghost-town. It is a city scarred by a policy of segregation.
You first notice it when you walk through the market. If you go down one of the side-roads, you will come across old shops – owned by Palestinians – which have had their doors welded shut. Indeed, they were welded shut by the Israeli army, who deemed it necessary to close them as they were too close to Israeli settlements. This side street is also covered by the unavoidable sight of barbed-wire, which keep Palestinians and Israelis separated.
This feeling of segregation is reinforced by Shuhada Street, a main road in Hebron which Palestinians are not even allowed to use. Palestinians who live in the buildings that line the street are forced climb ladders to the neighbour’s house so that they may leave just to go to work, school, or even to do their weekly shopping. Walking down Shuhada Street, I couldn’t help but think that it resembled a ghost-town; there was no-one walking up or down it, other than the occasional Israeli soldier.
Segregation was even present in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, much to the disgust of our tour guide. Indeed, the Synagogue and the Mosque which links to the tomb of Abraham, is separated by bullet-proof glass. Such measures may be warranted, when considering that 29 were killed in the Hebron massacre of 1994, when Baruch Goldstein opened fire on the Mosque. However, the security searches that are made outside should have meant that no bullet-proof glass was needed today. Therefore, why is it there?
We heard more shocking stories from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Palestine, an organisation that continues to do great work. Indeed, they told us how the army would fire tear gas upon a group of kindergarteners, and how they detained a Palestinian teenager on suspicion of throwing stones simply because his hands were dusty. They also told how one Palestinian teenager had his arm twisted behind his back so violently by an Israeli soldier, he felt his arm break. Indeed, the stories do not stop there.
Having said that, the CPT does some excellent work there as well. It assists Palestinian children through military checkpoints as they go to school every morning, they rush to help Palestinian families in an emergency, and are generally the most trusted international organisation in Hebron. I was certainly inspired by the work that they do there, and I hope that they will continue to do so for as long as they can (http://www.cpt.org/work/palestine).
Nevertheless, as you can tell even just by this brief description, Hebron is a city dividied.