Hebron was possibly the most depressing town we visited during our tour. No where else was the discrimination so blatantly obvious. The city is divided into two sections. H1 is governed by the Palestinian authority, and about 120,000 people live in the section. H2 has around 600 Jewish residents, and is under Israeli military control.
From the moment we got off the bus we were met by children, desperately hoping for money or water. Some had small souvenirs to sell, others asked for money for photographs we took of them. They followed us almost everywhere we went. The city itself seemed abandoned, most of the shops had shuttered doors. We saw buses for settlers that are bullet proof driving through the streets.
Hebron is the home of Ibrahimi Mosque and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. It is believed that the tomb is were biblical patriarchs are buried. We were not able to visit these places, however we did learn that in 1994 a US-born Israeli military physician opened fire on the people praying inside. Many died or were injured during the massacre. The Israeli army killed more civilians during protests taking place in the city. The Israeli government ordered over 500 Palestinian shops to be closed, most of which remain closed today.
Houses, hotels, stores close to Israeli settlements are not allowed to be occupied. Many of the streets we walked down had checkpoints, staffed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Cameras can be seen everywhere. Palestinian residents do not open their windows because settlers will throw garbage inside.
On one empty street soldiers told our tour guide, Muhanned Qufesha who was born in Hebron, that he could not continue on, but the rest of us from the U.S. could. Palestinians going through a checkpoint are often made to wait for hours at a time for no particular reason.
This video was filmed by our group leader Jacob Pace of Interfaith Peace Builders. (IFPB)
We walked through a market street that now houses Israeli settlers and a watch tower in the floors above. People living in the floors above often throw trash, excrement, and cleaning water down onto the street below. The people owning the shops below installed netting to catch the garbage. We met one shop keeper who told us his shop was passed down by his grandfather. Many leave the city, but he is one of the few who are determined to stay and maintain his family business.
We walked down a called Shuhada Street sometimes called Chicago St. A large abandoned hotel stands at one end, and a Kibbutz can be seen on the other. All the store fronts are closed. Many of the storefront doors have a Star of David or racial slurs toward Palestinians painted on them. The street is completely closed to the residents. Those living in the area are forced to exit there homes over roofs or through back doors.
To learn more about what is going on in Hebron today visit http://www.youthagainstsettlements.org/ This is a group of young activists working to end occupation through non-violent civil disobedience.
The video below is of Youth Against Settlements member Issa Amro discussing life in Hebron for Palestinians.
The video below was created by our IFPB group leader Jacob Pace.