435 Israelis are nestled within the city limits of Hebron in co-habitation with approximately 180,000 Palestinians. The settlers are “guarded” by approximately 1,500 to 2,000 Israeli soldiers costing Israel millions of dollars in operations cost; the ratio is 1 settler to 4 soldiers guarding the post. A World War II style banner ads flash the internet notifying citizens that they can make home-baked goods and baskets to be delivered to the solders on duty in the “front line” anywhere in the West Bank in support of the “war”. Tanks surround the city of Hebron, which is divided into areas called H-1 and H-2. Israel has control over security and public order in area H-2 where 20,000 Palestinians and 200 settlers reside.
Since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2001, all entrances have been closed by concrete blocks and checkpoints completely isolating H-1 from the surrounding villages and H-2. The Palestinians who live in H-1 have been living under the worse conditions with curfews imposed on a regular basis and the highest amounts of soldiers roaming the streets since the beginning of the Intifada. As of late, Israel has expanded the curfew onto the entire city of Hebron under curfew. During curfew, settlers and soldiers are allowed to roam the streets, shop and enjoy the sunshine flaunting their presence to the “unseen” local community. Palestinian children have a system to play in the streets; they rotate watch and play from view of the aggressors. Children have learned to ignore the sound of gunshots that perpetrate the city and continue to “role” play, Palestinian and settler games.
Curfew was imposed during a funeral for Leibowitz that marched down the Hebron streets yesterday. Narreal Jum Jum, 14, was looking out of the 2nd story window inside her isolated, end of the culd-a-sac style road, when settlers approached the area. Settlers rampaged the city randomly shooting at the homes in the area killing Narreal and wounding 2 of her brothers. The settlers were angry yesterday because of the deaths of three family members killed by a Palestinian ambush and Leibowitz was one of them. Not one Palestinian from Hebron was accused of being involved with the ambush, but the settlers dazzled their settlement aggression on the local community. It is not unusual for aggressions being distributed towards the Hebron Palestinians when something happens anywhere in the West Bank from the settlers in Hebron. These settlers have the worse reputation within both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. Hebron settlers are a focal point for many conversations in both communities with the consensus of shaking ones head from left to right and making a mouthed clicking sound with the tongue clicking against the roof of the mouth. This is a cultural way of saying, “It is really bad” or “I don’t agree”, basically the clicking sound occurs when words cannot describe ones feeling on the subject.
Reports are all too common of Hebron settlers entering into a Palestinians home to smash the furniture and knock things over or start raging fires inside of the homes. When this happens, it is typical that the soldiers will impose a curfew on the Palestinians, “For their (the Palestinians) security” as one soldier explained. Journalist risk the destruction of their expensive equipment, stone throwing and guns being pointed at them if they dare to enter into the area to cover a story. Not only is the aggression perpetrated by the local settler adult community, but also by the younger generation of children and women. “The kids were throwing stones at me while calling me a dog and a cow, while the mothers stood by and watched. Then, the men and teenagers started coming over waving their guns at me. I just started to run away from them and get out of there.”, said a reporter from Italy.
The Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) resides in the mist of all the trouble hoping to act as a mediator between the settlers, Palestinians and soldiers by their presence. One incident was reported by a volunteer, (who is not brainwashed with Right-winged Palestinian propaganda) that the soldiers were detaining 5 extended families (Palestinians) from a neighborhood keeping the women in one home and the men in the other home overnight. One of the CPT members went over to see if she could help and the soldiers let the families go. “There was no reason for them to do that, the family was minding their own business and not doing a thing. These things are normal for the Palestinians here they have to live through this stuff all of the time.” She feels that their presence helps but it isn’t enough to stop the violence that occurs in Hebron, it only “lightens the load if one is lucky enough.”
Water has not been running at full force for the last 30 days with a random 15-day water turn-on in different neighborhoods. “The water pressure is low and the homes in the 2nd and 3rd floors cannot receive the water without asking the people on the 1st floor to let them pump it up.” Curfews do not help the situation because if the curfew is on when it is your turn to get water you cannot go out and arrange receiving it. There is not a food shortage however, “The poorest of the poor cannot get to the Abraham mosque where they serve food everyday at noon during a curfew” They cannot afford to purchase their own food and this is the only meal they receive, sometimes they go for days without eating. These are the residents who cannot work and receive no income to provide for their families. “The shops are closed, no one can buy anything and no one can leave to find work.” mumbles a disgruntled Palestinian. “Abraham mosque is out of food at the moment because they cannot have food delivered to them during the closures.”, CPT‘er volunteer reports.
Meanwhile, Hebron settlers continue with life “as normal” developing web sites that encourage others to take part in their community with beautiful photos of their new apartment complex built in the city center. The site Shares stories, legends, history and lists local events. Smiling settler faces and waving Israeli flags encompass the streets of their local counterparts who watch outside of their windows who remember the days when they themselves had freedom.