Monday, January 4, 2010

Hebron Round Two: The Old City

We decided to re-visit Hebron, having not had the opportunity to see much during our last visit. Our Japanese co-volunteer introduced us to a Palestinian woman who showed us around the religiously significant and old city Hebron. We're told that the Old City of Hebron was once a flourishing city full of markets and shops. But most of those shops are now empty with doors barred shut. The once flourishing market has now been confiscated by the settlers and the entrance blocked to Palestinians.

Jewish settlers began immigrating to the city in the early 1980s. At first, they were but a small band of Jews coming to worship in this Holy City. But overtime, as Hebron became a more desireable location for Jewish immigration, and as the Israeli Government made way for settlement expansion, the Jewish presence in Hebron became synonymous with Palestinian restrictions.

Israeli soldiers not much older than ourselves watch the every move of Palestinian residents. Watchtowers peer over the city, checkpoints lie at every corner, and bands of soldiers roam the streets. Living literally in the upper-level of Palestinian homes, settlers have turned the streets into trashdumps, as they toss their garbage on Palestinian residents living and walking below. Netting has been hung above Palestinian walkways to prevent concrete blocks dropped by settlers from hitting Palestinians below. Entire rows of shops have been shut down to accomodate the Yeshiva, military bases and settler compounds.

We were taken to the roof of a Palestinian home right next to the Yeshiva. A soldier peering from a parallel rooftop less than thirty feet away watched our every move. A room on the top floor remains charred and blackened; the result of a molotov cocktail thrown in by a Yeshiva student. On the roof, there are multiple water-storage devices filled with settler-fired bullet holes and emptied of their water. It's hard to believe that those filled with such zest of their religion could commit such heinous crimes against their neighbors.

We commonly hear that Palestinian hatred is a result of propaganda present in nearly every segment of their society. But in Hebron, it's clear that the real reason for this hatred is the actions perpetrated by settlers. The settlers have drawn a correlation between their actions and Judaism by spraypainting Jewish stars on Palestinian homes and businesses along with violent and racist Hebrew slogans: as if to 'mark their territory.'

It's often said in the West that Muslims must stand up against the extremism existant in certain sectors of their communities. Maybe it's time that the worldwide Jewry takes action against those who distort the name of their religion as well.

Note: The Jewish settlement movement within the West Bank started in 1968, when Moshe Levinger brought a group of Jews to a hotel in Hebron during Passover. They refused to leave, and they were moved to an army base. They began to build up the base, and it eventually became what is now Kiryat Arbah. (Thanks to Howard for the info!)


  1. Didn't the Jews have a presence there way before 1967? Forget the Biblical times, as that is irrelevant to the current political situation, but how about the dozens of Jews that were murdered in riots in the 1920's? Didn't the Jews in Hebron get kicked out as a precautionary measure by the British Mandate because of fears that they were in danger?

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  4. Great blog post and responses! In the interest of balance, I would point out that religiously-based distortion, violence, and extremism is (and has long been) far more apparent, intractable, widespread and tolerated in Islamic societies than in Jewish ones. The Jewish extremists of Hebron are marginal factors in Israeli and Jewish society; can the same be said for the extremist Hamas leaders of Gaza?

  5. There is only one "Jewish State" and a very small global population so one cannot make a numerical comparison.
    Percentage wise I think the Jewish world has much more to worry about, but this is not a competition.

    There are many issues in the Muslim world and extremism is not the biggest issue. Extremism is a natural response fruit from the trees of oppression, poverty and war.

    I hope one day the West realizes they are only helping extremism grow by continuing to support the dictators in the Muslim world.

  6. Extempers.... You are correct- oppression always creates extremism, much of which can sometimes be justified or at least explained. But I think some extremism in the Islamic world goes far beyond that.

    What oppression were the widespread Muslim riots in Denmark because of a controversial cartoon fighting against? This extremism killed people and caused much damage, but I don't think it would be fair or correct to say they were battling against oppression in Palestine.

  7. How much damage was there in those riots? Those riots were wrong, but the lopsided and excessive coverage, in my views, was disgusting.

    Hundreds of Muslims were killed in those riots and yet all we hear about is the Coptic Christian killed in the church.

    Compare that to the Gujrat riots where there was significant death and damage and you were lucky if Fox news gave a few minutes to it.

    People do stupid things all over the world. Heck, go see the damage figures for soccer game riots!