Kiryat Arba, Ghost City. Hebron. That would be Hebron H1 – controlled by Palestinian Autonomy and much bigger Hebron H2 – under control of Israel. Hebron is the second biggest Palestinian city – right after Gaza. It was originally known in Tora as Kiryat Arba – The Village of Four. Now Kiryat Arba is the name of the neighboring settlement.
Interestingly enough when I was looking for the etymology of HEBRON – I found that the current name comes from the word: FRIEND or TEAM UP – in both Hebrew and Arabic. They also point to the direction of RUIN or BARREN…
Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East and one of the oldest inhabited cities in the whole world.
It’s mentioned in the Holy Books – Bible, Torah and Quran. Many believe it’s the patriarchs’ and matriarchs’ burial site. Jews and Christians talk about Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaak and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. Whereas Muslims speak of Abraham – their prophet and patriarch.
Jews consider Hebron to be one of their holy cities in all of Israel – right after Jerusalem. Muslims too, believe this place to be of utter importance – after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
Until the early XX century, it was a city where Jews and Muslims would coexist together – sharing the land and being neighbors. But then the 1929 happened. Amidst the tensions in the area caused by both Jewish Zionists and Arab nationalists, Muslims killed their 67 Jewish neighbors. That was the end of Jewish existence in this city for many years. They only came back after 1967 – with the protection of IDF – Israeli Defense Force.
1994 marks another tragedy in this conflicted city. In February of 1994 Israeli physician opened fire on Muslims praying in the Cave of Patriarchs killing 29 and wounding 200 more. Orthodox Jewish settlers celebrate this day each year and proclaimed the assassin a hero. Palestinians and most Israelis think of him as a murderer.
After the 1994 massacre and the riots that happened as a result Israel closed Al-Shuhada Street. That’s the main street leading to the Tomb of Patriarchs. The street was full of Palestinian shops and busy with everyday life. Since early 2000′ Palestinians are able to pass through with cars, but the shops remain closed.
It’s literally a Ghost Town.
Hebron is also here where Elor Azaria shot a Palestinian assailant – already captured and lying wounded on the ground.
Currently (2017) there’s ca 200 000 Palestinians in Hebron and about 800 orthodox Jews protected by IDF day by day. Since 2015 part of the city is now closed military zone. With checkpoints, controls and constant tension.
Israeli journalist Gideon Levi described the area in the following terms:
“There is no neighbourhood like this one. Not a day passes without the throwing of stones, garbage, and feces at the frightened (Palestinian) neighbours cowering in their barricaded houses, afraid even to peek out the window. Neighbours whose way home is always a path of torment and anxiety. All this is happening right under the noses of the soldiers and police, representatives of the legal authorities, who merely stand by.”
The place most people visit while in Hebron is Ibrahimi Mosque – aka Tomb of Patriarchs. There’s a footprint in the floor – some say it belongs to Mohamet, some consider it to be.. Adam’s. Yes – THIS Adam.
You can reach the temple from two sides – a separate is the entrance to the Synagogue, and on the other side the building the entrance leads to the Mosque. There’s no way to go from one side to another when you’re inside. You have to go through the military checkpoint outside to do that. Also you’ll see the bulletproof glass between two parts. So both Jews and Muslims can look at their patriarch Abraham’s Thumb from separate parts of the building.
Beit Hadassah – late-19th-century clinic built by North African Jews – now inhabited by Jewish families.
It’s really one of the most moving places I’ve ever been to. Just going through those streets once full of people and life now empty and reminding you of aggression – from both sides..
Because of its importance – Hebron still faces extreme tension between the two sides of conflict. Military is still present in the city, life cannot go on. There are clashes from time to time and the atmosphere is far from peaceful.
Lately (September 2017) UNESCO declared Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site in danger. That came shortly after its controversial resolution on the Temple Mount (October 2016) – widely discussed by both sides.
If you’re interested in more places to see in Israel/West Bank – check out THIS ARTICLE