I thought it had to be a dream, but really, it was more like a nightmare. It was only a few weeks ago that I visited the small villages residing in the hills of southern Hebron when I thought I had really “seen” the occupation – but it wasn’t until my more recent trip to the city of Hebron that the term ‘occupation’ suddenly gained a whole new meaning. The most startling aspect of Hebron is that the occupation is in absolutely clear view, there is no denying it and no attempt to even hide it. I could try to describe the situation to you but really, in this case, the facts speak for themselves: In the heart of downtown Hebron lies an illegal Israeli settlement where about 500 settlers reside. Over 1,000 Palestinian shops have been closed due to “security” reasons and have since not been allowed to re-open.
The city has been divided into 2 sections: H1 and H2 with Israel controlling one side and the Palestinian Authority controlling the other. Adjacent to the street that divides the city is another street that, although it falls within Palestinian jurisdiction, was shut down by the Israeli army trapping 40 Palestinian families inside of a man-made barricade. The families must pass through a check-point like crossing in order to leave their street, and when the crossing is closed due to “security” reasons, the families are unable to leave – even to get food. Our tour guide, a local Palestinian, Ahmad, told us of times when friends would literally carry food to the families and hand it to them because the crossing would be closed sometimes for weeks at a time.
The Ibrahimi mosque, one of the holiest mosques in the region, was more or less confiscated by the Israeli army in the mid 90’s after an Israeli settler opened fire on a group of Muslims praying inside killing close to 30 people. After that incident, Israeli security cameras were installed inside and now there are checkpoints for all Muslims to pass in order to get into the mosque. Close to 65% of the mosque has been turned into a synagogue and in the very room where Ibrahim’s tomb lies, you can actually see through iron bars into the synagogue. There are two entrances into the divided building: one to enter the mosque and one to enter the synagogue; the synagogue entrance has no checkpoints.
The juxtaposition of an occupation against an otherwise vibrant city leaves me struggling to find words to describe it. The trip to Hebron has by far been the most eye opening, heartbreaking and saddening experience I have had yet here in the West Bank. Perhaps one of the most horrendous sites we witnessed was walking down the streets where settlers live above Palestinian markets….the Israeli army eventually was forced to place a wire fence above the market to catch the bricks, bottles and garbage that the settlers were (and continue) to throw down on the Palestinians walking by.
Three days after the trip I am still haunted by images of the Palestinian home that settlers attempted to burn down only two months ago….the Muslim graveyard that has been closed to cars forcing Palestinians to carry in their dead in order to bury them…..and the countless homes that have been abandoned after Palestinians were forced to leave so that the space could be used for military purposes by the Israeli army.
As human beings we are all entitled to basic rights…. but in Hebron, even the most basic rights do not appear to exist for the Palestinians.
Posted By Rangineh Azimzadeh
Posted Jul 21st, 2009