Israeli Army increases its chokehold on Hebron’s Old City

Part of Hebron’s Old City. (Ronald de Hommel)

July 8, 2003 — Since 1999, a spokesperson for the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee told CPT, the number of Palestinian residents in the Old City has shrunk from about 2,500 to 1,000. He added that, as a result of last week’s Israeli military order to cease all restoration work, some 400 workers have been laid off with no likelihood of their getting back to work soon or for long.. The process of seeking legal relief has begun, but the history of such actions is that in the long run the Palestinians lose.

Meanwhile, on July 7th, construction of a new permanent fence began in the Ibrahimi Mosque special security zone. The fence, across the street from the mosque, will stretch about two hundred yards from the Israeli installed gated entrance to the Old City down to where it dead ends at Shuhada Street. After gates are installed, a click of a soldier’s key will trap Palestinian residents behind it in a kind of mini-ghetto.

Also, on July 6th the army permanently connected two long- established outposts situated on the roofs of Palestinian apartments bordering the Avrahim Avinu settlement. The installation of metal steps on the roof of one home, which completed the connection, was the catalyst for a day and night of terror for the mother and her nine young children. At about 10am an Israeli soldier, stationed on the roof struck up a conversation with the nine year old daughter playing in the stairwell below.

After learning her last name, he realized it was the same as a Hebron-based suicide bomber. When questioned further, the girl guilelessly acknowledged he had indeed been a relative, but very distant.A few minutes later the oldest daughter, age fifteen, using a small bent kitchen knife to open the metal gate to the family’s home, because the latch has been broken for a long time, unwittingly provided a provocation for the soldier to tell his commander that she had threatened him with the knife.

Suddenly the home was invaded by several soldiers, one of whom, a female, shoved the fifteen-year-old against a wall to search for the knife, bruising her left arm in the process. At about noon, the soldiers said they were going to take her away. The mother fearing for her daughter’s safety insisted on being taken too. So both were blindfolded very tightly and transported in a tiring hour’s long ride to a local detention center. The daughter’s blindfold was tied so tight that she cried for most of the night because of the unrelieved pain.

When they were released, without charges, at about 8 AM, on July 7th the mother was told that the frightening night was “punishment for your daughter.” She also was told not to allow her children to play on the roof any more and to stop hanging family laundry there too.

So, it is that final message which may have been what the mother’s and daugher’s day and night of terror had really been all about.

Jerry Levin is in Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world.