The question of how to write about my experience in Hebron is an incredibly difficult one to answer. For this is the city that has led to the most psychological upset throughout my time in Israel and the Occupied Territories. It is deeply hard to express how much I want people to fully understand what is happening there, whilst at the same time I cannot pin down precisely why Hebron has been as traumatic a place to me as it has over the last few weeks. Needless to say it was not only me, Arthur felt similarly confused and upset and it is for this reason that we are writing this jointly. We are both Jewish and we both felt a profound alienation from the country that is supposed to represent that part of our identity.
I went to Hebron twice, the first time with a tour, the second time with Arthur (on our own from Ramallah). In order to understand the situation there it is really necessary to give a brief history Settlers came here after Israel occupied the West Bank and were drawn to the second holiest site in the Jewish religion: the tomb of the patriarchs and matriarchs, supposedly the place within which Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Sarah and other founders of Judaism (as well as Islam and Christianity) are buried. It is also supposedly the point where Adam and Eve lived when they left the Garden of Eden (according to the qu'ran). The settlers there refuse to leave, and despite the vast majority of the countries outrage (including modern orthodox outrage) at their presence, the government refuses to evict them, probably fearing the inevitable 'price tag' (as extremist settlers call revenge attacks on Palestinians).
Ignore whatever religious attachment you may have to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and read the strange situation that the settlers refusal to leave has led to. Due to the fact that the area is under Israeli occupation, the Palestinian population are under martial law (effectively the law of the gun) and Israeli citizens are under the law of the land. Due to this, the Israeli state requires itself to protect the lives of its own citizens rather than of those who it is occupying. Approximately 4000 soldiers actively protect approximately 500 settlers (or 86 families) in the city. Everything about the way the city is occupied is designed to protect those settlers. After Baruch Goldstein (an extremist religious settler) massacred 29 Muslims in the mosque there, the city was partitioned in two. Israelis are allowed only on side and Palestinians on the other. Despite this there is one road where the two meet and this is a segregated road. Palestinians walk on one, tiny, section of the road and Israelis walk on the other large section of the road. The entire city has now been designed so that Israelis and Palestinians only meet at that one point, and when they do they are guarded by soldiers.
The first time I went to Hebron I went with Yachad, a "pro-israel, pro-peace" British Jewish organisation that takes you to the city and to East Jerusalem. When there we learn of the strange legal systems that allow soldiers to protect settlers when they committed atrocities, but not to protect Palestinians from the soldiers themselves. The Jewish side is a ghost town. Palestinians have mainly been forced out and the only people who really remain are the settlers, apart from a few Palestinians who decided to stay. These palestinians are terrorised on a daily basis by the settler population, and graffiti such as "gas the arabs" can be seen all over town, in English and in Hebrew. As we make our way through the Jewish quarter we learn of the suicide bombings and murders committed by Palestinians against the settler population and the atrocities committed against Palestinians by the settlers. As we walk further into town, we see settlers building illegally (under international law) new houses in the area:
Walking post them, the leader of our group, a religious man, takes pictures in order to take back to his office. The settlers on the other side of the road shout "traitor" in Hebrew and throw stones which are more like small boulders as well as eggs at us. At first we think it is a joke, but eventually we run in realization and one of our group was hit by an egg.
One week later, Artur