Hebron is a special place. The situation is so incredibly heart breaking, the people so incredibly beautiful, the poverty so incredibly devastating, and the hope so incredibly alive!
People had been telling me that Hebron was going to really open my eyes to what was going on here in the Middle East; Hebron was going to be where I saw the violence of this place first hand. Can’t say I saw a great deal of violence, but I did explore a situation that amazed me. We first met with the Hebron Rehabilitation Center, who is this amazing grassroots group that is rebuilding Palestinian homes in Hebron. Hebron used to be a vibrant area of commerce and tourism but because of many issues, including the establishment of several small Israeli settlements throughout the city, large portions of Hebron (including its main street) have been shut down to Palestinians. Many shops were forced by the Israeli military to close and many other shops closed down because of the first set of closures. HRC is working to keep hope alive by training and employing people to build up the city and make it into a place where people want to come to visit and to live (in spite of the military presence!)!Today about 76% of the shops that were once open in Hebron have folded.
And we talk about an economic crisis!
In addition to all this, in the middle of Hebron is the Abraham Mosque/Synagogue. This is where the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca are situatated. On one side, Jews can enter and on the other side Muslims can enter. The two sides do not connect and there is bullet proff glass protecting any shared window space. Because of this religious site and the Jewish settlements, there are many checkpoints throughout Hebron. One in particular is where the Christian Peacemaker Team members hang out every school day morning and help children move through the process. Often the Israeli soldiers harass or detain children and the CPT members call in the police when necessary and overall lend their international presence to keep the process peaceful.
We had the pleasure of meeting with the CPT members who are present in Hebron, seeing their space and hearing a bit about their experiences. Being in Hebron was a powerful experience for me. I was able to see the plague in the CPT office that honor’s Tom. I hope someday I can return and spend time with the children of Hebron… just like he did, many years ago.
To end on a humorous note, while we were walking around the old city of Hebron, we found ourselves in what is left of the city souk (or market). We were bombarded with children trying to sell us small gadgets while listening to our guide explain the netting over our heads that caught the trash that settlers threw down on the Palestinians… ok that’s not very funny… but what is… is that we saw a grew of Hebronites (or southerners) trying to put a live camel into the back of a small mini-van. An entire camel into a car! The camel was screaming and halting… what a sight!! There was no possible way this camel was going to fit inside this car! Our guide, who had been telling jokes about Hebronites all day, just pointed and explained… see what I mean? What did I tell you about people from Hebron?