Hebron, a beautiful verdant landscape filled with rich vineyards, encompassing intricate authentic architecture and bustling street markets sprinkled with ancient olive trees, is a Palestinian city that has been diagnosed with cancer. Citizens of Hebron have become strangers in their own ancestral homes, while Jewish foreigners have come to take over their houses and claim them as Israeli.
A few days ago, my friends and I went to Hebron to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque. Ever since the trip, I have been unable to bring back life to my soul. The majority of the mosque has been turned into a synagogue, splitting the area into two parts. The Muslim part is clamped down with severe security measures, where the entrance is blocked by an Israeli checkpoint and security booth. To further exacerbate the situation, there are numerous heavily armed soldiers roaming the inside of the mosque where prayers take place. At the door, we witnessed three Israeli-settler children hounding two younger Palestinians with a baseball-like bat. The sound of one of the Palestinian mothers shrieking as she ran to the scene seemed to have deafened the entire city. Around four Israeli soldiers ran up to her and physically restricted her, keeping her from rescuing her child—a typical day in Hebron. Passers-by looked on, but kept moving.
As we walked through the narrow streets of the old city, I felt like we were in a dark dungeon. I tried to look up to catch some of the clear blue sky when my eyes met the low, heavy-looking, never-ending fence that constituted the ceiling. I learned that the Palestinians had built it in order to protect themselves from the garbage being thrown at them from the settlers living above. The settlers have occupied most of the second and third stories of the historic houses in the old city and tauntingly place Israeli flags on the outside of their windowsills.
“Why do they [the settlers] do this to themselves? Don’t they see that by trying to turn our lives into a living hell, they make theirs one?” I cried out in frustration.
“I think they truly believe that this is their land. They genuinely think that by occupying us they are resisting and defending their right as the chosen people,” my friend responded.
All settlements on Palestinian land are illegal, despite the reasons behind their erection. The settlers in Hebron are the worst, because the majority of them are ideologically-motivated and claim Hebron [and Israel] as their biblical home. They successfully managed to turn Hebron, Palestine’s largest city, into a settlement enclave. There are roughly 500 Jewish settlers living in Hebron and around four times that number in Israeli soldiers solely at their disposal for protection. The settlers occupy the most beautiful houses in the old city and around each of those houses a number of Israeli forces stroll around carrying weapons. Daily curfews are carried out by the Israeli soldiers, in order to imprison the Palestinians in their own homes as the settlers freely wander the streets and markets of the city, generally trashing the sections designated for Palestinians, smashing their cars and throwing rocks at their windows.
These settlers are creating a garbage dump in the land they claim to love, living in it and raising their children on hate. Why else would little Israeli children know to beat on Palestinian children with a baseball bat?
I have so much respect for the Palestinians living in Hebron and suffering massively on a daily basis to stand as Palestinians and exist, despite all the hardships. In my opinion, settlers act the way they do because they are consumed with immense fear. According to them, it’s either us or them- meaning that if we expand and grow, they are under threat, and fear the possibility of vanishing. Perhaps they are right. We as Palestinians will never accept the settlements or the settlers illegally squatting on our land. In any kind of peace, settlers cannot be part of the equation.
Mayse Jarbawi is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.