Hate Street, Hebron – A Photo Tour
Visiting Hebron is currently possible for internationals such as myself, but Israeli citizens are forbidden to do so under Israeli law. I made use of this privilege by taking a tour arranged by ICAHD and hosted by a local Palestinian resident. Visiting Hebron on a tour with Breaking the Silence or ICAHD is a unique, visceral and disturbing experience. After reading this, I encourage you to look through the photos below which I think will help you to understand better. Central Hebron is a tragic, hate-filled, militarized zone, full of poverty, burned-out buildings, rubble and a pervasive misery. The atmosphere is oppressive and there is palpable tension especially around the old city. The cruel face of modern Zionism is here in stark relief.
Hebron and the surrounding hills to the south have been the epicenter of hard-core ideological Zionist settlement activity for some years. Hebron is a Palestinian town of population 166,000, and an area close to the centre of the old town has been taken over by a few hundred Israeli settlers. The settlers’ motivation to overtake central Hebron and to expel the local population is the presence of the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The most famous historic site in Hebron sits on the Cave of the Patriarchs. Although the site is holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam also accept it as a sacred site, due to scriptural references to Abraham. According to Genesis, he purchased the cave and the field surrounding it from Ephron the Hittite to bury his wife Sarah, subsequently Abraham Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah were also buried in the cave (the remaining Matriarch, Rachel, is buried outside Bethlehem). For this reason, Hebron is also referred to as ‘the City of the Patriarchs’ in Judaism, and regarded as one of its Four Holy Cities.
These settlers live under the protection of the IDF, within the “H2 zone”, frequently carrying out violence and intimidation toward the Arabs around them. This activity ranges from hateful graffiti to theft of Arab properties, throwing of various items (e.g. bottles, stones, furniture, concrete blocks), death threats, break-ins of local shops, and shootings. The IDF have partitioned the town by creating an infrastructure of roadblocks, checkpoints, razor wire, outposts and CCTV. They have created a settler-only zone (parts of H2), a Palestinian-only PA-controlled zone (H1), and a few streets in H2 in which both are permitted. However, in practice the soldiers are not permitting Palestinians into the mixed zone close to the settlers, which includes some of main streets of the old city. The settlers live in new and luxurious buildings, built with predominantly internationally donated money, and supplied by Israeli infrastructure such as water, security, separate access roads, and many others. For example we saw how they are being served by the Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance service funded directly from Jewish US and UK donors. Services such as this are not provided to the Arab population except on unusual occasions such as when the IDF accidentally shot a boy of 15 in the head recently because he was near some suspected stone-throwers. We met his father on his way back from prayers, pictured below, who showed us the IDF report from the hospital. If the IDF had not deemed the shooting accidental he would not have received such medical treatment.
The level of violence and intimidation by the settlers is so intense that the TIPH (Temporary International Force in Hebron) was set up in 1995 to place observers on the streets. This is a non-UN initiative staffed mainly by Norwegians. We met some of these brave observers who explained that although they are unarmed and have no mandate to take action, they attend the homes of Palestinians under attack and their presence in itself can deter some of the more extreme acts by the settlers. Two TIPH observers were shot dead seven years ago on patrol. Another initiative by human right group B’Tselem has been to provide the victims of abuse with video cameras so that they can capture the attacks as evidence to back complaints which otherwise are entirely (as opposed to now predominantly) dismissed by the IDF.
Although the IDF soldiers are in the town ostensibly to protect the settlers, the majority of their time is spent protecting the local population from the settlers, although they are also prone to joining in with the abuse and violence. The IDF outposts cover the whole town especially the rooftops, and the settlers use these positions to hurl objects at the Arabs on their return from Friday prayers. This became so commonplace that first tarpaulins, and later steel mesh, have been constructed above the main road (dubbed “hate street”) to protect them. The settlers now throw furniture and concrete blocks, alongside the other smaller items.
The walls and shops of the Arab old city are now daubed in graffiti ranging from the Star of David to messages of hate (typically “Kill all Arabs”, “Revenge”, “Gas the Arabs”). Frequent break-ins and death threats are intended to deter the opening of shops and to push the Arabs out of this part of town.
Ex-IDF soldiers who served in Hebron during the second intifada, some of whom I spent time with, talk of the abuse, property destruction and violence they themselves inflicted on the local Arabs and some formed a group Breaking the Silence to publish anonymous testimonials. Now of course attention has turned to the new testimonials from Gaza.
Click the images below to see them in full size with descriptive captions. The video below the photos is from the B’Tselem project.
Examples of settler abuse towards locals, capturedon videos resulting from the B’Tselem project.
News report on Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre by Hebron Settlers 1994