War and Irony in Hebron Hilltops

The small Palestinian Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron is home to some of the most violent ideological settlers in the West Bank, who have moved into local homes by force and parade the streets with guns, terrorizing local residents including children on their way to and from school. Unlike most settlers in the West Bank who move to the Occupied Territories because the Israeli government encourages them to do so with financial subsidies and other programs, the settlers in Hebron are here because they believe the city of 150,000 plus Palestinians belongs exclusively to the Jewish people. 

Streets of Hate

His panic-stricken little face lights up when he receives the information that we’ll escort him home, sending him skipping merrily down the road on an errand to buy potatoes. This is the Palestinian Authority controlled area of Hebron, and as we cross through Tel Rumeida checkpoint to the other side in order to wait for the Palestinian boy’s return, we soon discover the source of his fear. We are confronted by around 100 ultra-orthodox Jews, who are gathered in Hebron to mark ‘Hebron day’, one of whom shouts “You know that Jesus is gay?”. None of us really react to this arbitrary taunt, however it does serve to focus the crowd’s attentions squarely on our small group of human rights workers. 

Whats mine is mind

“But I don’t know what my parent’s village looks like,” said Hammad, a young, energetic Palestinian boy who lives in Al Fawwar Refugee camp located near Hebron. I came to the camp at the invitation of a friend from The British Council to do a workshop on playwriting. Hammad along with 17 other young boys gathered at the cultural center to participate. I told the children about my own exposure to theatre and the power of it. Especially, protest theatre. Growing up in Apartheid South Africa, I could never go to the White areas to see productions. However, a man who performed all over the Cape Province, in various townships and squatter camps happened to be in our township. 

Reaching the un-reached

On a sunny Thursday morning, we headed towards Mneizel to immunize children against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) as part of the national immunization campaign. The drive from Jerusalem to Mneizel, a Bedouin area south of Hebron took more than expected. The drive that should normally take two hours, took almost four hours. It was not for the drive, but for the delayed access as a result of the Israeli manned checkpoint few kilometers before reaching Mneizel. As we drove in two cars, heading towards Menizel, we reached an Israeli manned checkpoint. As part of the security procedures, both cars were stopped. Unfortunately for the news crew, Dr. Iyad and Hanan were driving with them. 

Checkpoint of No Return

In a time of empty talk of peace and celebrating Ariel Sharon as a man of moderate politics, because of extremists’ protest against evacuation from Gaza, the situation on the ground in Palestine sees remarkably little change. Everyday life in the occupied territories is as always a continuous chaos of military interference. One of the most obvious and constantly present exponents is the Israeli grip on Palestinian freedom of movement, suffocating the fragile infrastructure. “I’m here to protect my country against terrorists,” the young man tells me shrugging as if he is not completely confident with his answer. 

Hebron: Terror in the Shadow of Peace

Mufida, not yet 16 years old, was studying for an exam one Saturday afternoon in April when her window was smashed by stones. Scared, she moved to the sitting room in order to try to continue studying, but Israeli settlers would smash eight windows in her house on this afternoon. It is all part of living with the Occupation in Hebron. Mufida’s mother was hit in the head by a stone during the attack and started bleeding. Her father and mother had to go to the hospital to have the wound stitched. Mufida was forced to take care of her five younger brothers and sisters, further interrupting her studies. 

Doom in Hebron

Free postcards at a pub in West Jerusalem. One of the postcards shows a labyrinth. My Danish colleague Maria laughs and claims that the postcard is a map of the West Bank. To make her statement evident she takes out a pen and writes the words “checkpoint”, “road block” and “occupation” all over the postcard. The crowd laughs at this cynical interpretation of the free postcard. The laughter however dies when I find myself in the Old City of Hebron. Suddenly, I find myself in Maria’s enlarged version of the free postcard depicting the labyrinth. 

From Hebron to Tel Aviv

CPTers have grown accustomed to just breezing through the Beit Romano Checkpoint in the Old City where we live. We pass through it regularly and usually without question. Some Palestinians who live in the area also have this privilege once the soldiers recognize them, however they are sometimes subject to detention and harassment. When the solider took my passport and ordered me to sit on the curb, I thought of the dozens of Palestinians I see detained here daily, and I sat down without argument. 

Hills of God

Many of the Muslims in Ramallah are secular; combine this with a load of young western liberals, and you get the Las Vegas of Palestine. Birzeit University is located just north of the city, and it is quite the college atmosphere. Bir Zeit in Arabic means “Wells of Olive Oil”, but in German it means “Beer Time”, and this is a more fitting description. Restaurants and bars line the streets, and young internationals and Palestinians wander around raising hell. It is here where the idea of throwing paint bombs at Israeli soldiers arose. Now one can frequently see Israeli jeeps driving by covered in bright pink paint, and no guard tower has escaped colorization by mischievous shebab (youth). 

Hebron - Another dull day in fear

I am shocked by what I am witnessing in Palestine. No, there wasn’t anyone shot, beaten or arrested in the region I visitied during the few days I have been here. I have not heard or seen a tank, helicopter, F-16, nor a raid. Most of the Israeli checkpoints were open. There have been no suicide bombers. It is actually so “uneventful” that journalists in my hotel are retuning home because “nothing interesting is happening”, only ordinary daily life. Scott Weinstein, a member of the Montreal based Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation, writes from Hebron.