See what the UN is writing about — Visit Hebron
Tareq Jalal Altamimi
The United Nations Human Rights Council decided to finally investigate the legality of Israeli settlements in Palestine. While a UN report can shine a light on what is happening in this infamous conflict area, the best way would to get an understanding of the situation is to see with your own eyes. For instance, by visiting the Palestinian city Hebron. There is even much more to this city than the disputes the evening news might portray. Nevertheless, truth be told, the conflict does have a vast influence on the city and the daily life of the inhabitants. A visit to Palstine’s Hebron might even shed more light on how the Palestinian/Israeli conflict impacts daily lives than a visit to any other city in Israel could ever do.
The heart of the old city of Hebron has five Israeli settlements built right on top of the oldest houses of the city. Although it sounds strange, in Hebron Israeli’s and Palestinians are literally living on top of each other even though their principles, ideals and standards are miles apart. Of course this proximity doesn’t go without its implications. Many Palestinian shop owners who had their shops right under the Israeli settlements had to shut down because keeping up a business right there was becoming impossible. Since Israeli settlers are living right above they are known to throw, household trash, feces and even rocks down on the Palestinians below. To protect themselves the shop owners hung up nets and the large amount of dangling trash that is caught in these nets are living proof of what the conflict means for their daily lives.
In total 400 settlers live above the houses of Hebron and 2000 soldiers are assigned to protect these settlers. Due to the large amount of Israeli soldiers and checkpoints around the city of Hebron the mobility of the Hebron inhabitants is also quite limited. To move from one location to the other you pass checkpoints staffed by the Israeli army. Many streets are blocked as they are streets for settlers only. Especially students encounter aggression when passing the checkpoints. It is commonly known that during the students’ exam period Israeli soldiers will make the holdup at the checkpoints unnecessarily time-consuming, causing students to miss their exams. With many soldiers and police watching, much unjustified and random aggression takes place towards the Palestinians who are merely trying to get from A to B and trying to live their daily life.
I was directly affected by this ugly situation. I was raised during the second Intifada and lived under this occupation from the day I was born. It made my mobility and accessibility severely limited. Not only was I prohibited to leave my country, even within my country and city I couldn’t move freely. I didn’t have a youth like any other young person. I lived under curfews, strikes, the sound of bombs, gun shots and explosions. Growing up in Hebron I was saddened by the low number of visitors to our city. Hebron has so many historically significant sites that it is a shame so few people can enjoy them. The people who do visit Hebron don’t get to know the real story about Hebron, much of the Israeli tourist information concerning Hebron is downright false. Therefore, I decided, with other youth in the city, to start the Visit Hebron – Palestine initiative.
We organize city tours to Hebron in which our own trained guides show the many historical and political significant sights the city has to offer. Hebron is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and there is much to see. For instance, the grave of Abraham and Sarah are in the old city of Hebron, the oldest tree in the world (The Abraham Oak), a Russian orthodox church and many bustling markets where bargain hunters can eat their heart out. Through this initiative, I am also trying to boost the local economy in Hebron by giving a chance for visitors to buy inexpensive traditionally made, pottery, leather and glass products in the local market. This way I hope to encourage shop owners in the old city to reopen their shops, so the city can live up to its potential, despite the conflict that marks its daily life. But most importantly, I want to give visitors the chance to understand the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and to feel what it is like for the local people to live under this difficult situation.
Visit the Website of the Initiative at http://www.visithebron.ps
or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org