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HebronHebron

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Hebron, one of the oldest cities in the world, is known in Arabic as "Al-Khalil Al-Rahman". In English this means "The Beloved of God the Merciful".

In the Bible, Hebron is called Kiryat Arba, the "Village of the Four". This is variously explained as a reference to: four giants who fell from Paradise, four biblical couples said to be buried here (Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah), or the four hills of Hebron settled by four Canaanite tribes which formed a confederation and established the first city-state. There is a date given for the founding of the city in the Old Testament, seven years before the founding of Tanis in Egypt, or 1730 BC (Numbers 13:22). While the historical accuracy of this date is questionable, the fact remains that the city has its origins in antiquity.

The Haram Al-Khalil

The Haram Al-Khalil.

inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque

Inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque.

patriarch's tomb

Patriarch's tomb inside al-Ibrahimi mosque.

The Haram Al-Khalil, al-Ibrahimi Mosque (or the Tomb of the Patriarchs) Palestine's holiest site outside of Jerusalem, is found here. To Muslims, this site ranks as the fourth holiest in the world, after Mecca, Medina and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is also the second most sacred site to Jews, after the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. It is this veneration for what is a relatively small site which has caused so much friction, for the same building is home to both the Mosque and the Synagog, separated only by a heavy wooden partition.

inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque

Inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque.

inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque

Inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque.

inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque

Inside the al-Ibrahimi mosque.

From the outside, the Haram Al-Khalil looks more like a fortress than a place of prayer. Its windowless walls with towering minarets and crenelations look austere and forboding. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldiers guarding each entrance, and harassing anyone wishing to enter the mosque (including us), only magnify this feeling. The IDF troops are there to prevent further atrocities like the one that occurred in 1994 when, during Friday prayers, a Jewish terrorist, Barukh Goldstein, opened fire in the mosque and killed 29 people. Israeli troops outside opened fire on the people fleeing the carnage, making matters even worse. After this incident, the Haram was closed for six months. When it re-opened, it was divided, one half for Muslim worshippers, and the other half for Jews. It is still divided.

Hebron Old City

Hebron Old City, cavernous streets.

Hebron Old City

Hebron Old City, shopping in the suq.

Hebron Old City

Hebron Old City, restoration project.

Hebron has a fascinating old town made up of twisting and turning streets running between the high walls of its Mamluke architecture. Each turning opens another unique view. The narrow streets of the suq are almost claustrophobic and in some places give one a feeling of passing through a series of caves. Many of the oldest structures are sadly in need of restoration, and work is ongoing to restore and make them habitable.

Donkey in Hebron

Family donkey in the yard.

Hebronite

Hebronite walking down a street.

garden

A garden tucked away between houses.

Hebron is a very conservative town. Here one can see ladies wearing hand-embroidered ankle-length dresses decorated with the colourful traditional counted cross-stitch patterns of old Palestine. A donkey grazing in a garden is a common sight. A man walking down the street wearing a long robe looks almost Biblical.

The city itself has a population of 150,000, making it the largest city in the West Bank after East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 war. Hebron district has a population of over 400,000 of which 67% are city dwellers, which makes it the largest urban area. The remaining 33% is divided between rural (villagers or Bedouins, 30%) and 3% in the refugee camps.

old Hebron

Architecture in Old Hebron.

old Hebron

A mosque in Old Hebron.

old Hebron

ARchitecture in Old Hebron.

Hebron is today a divided city. Sector H1 is administered by the Palestinian Authority and comprises 80% of the municipality. Sector H2, the remaining 20% of the town, is under Israeli control. H2 takes in part of the Old City including the Haram. 40,000 Palestinians and about 500 Settlers (most of whom come from the US) live in H2. The presence of an illegal (under international law) Israeli Settlement in the centre of the city, together with the 4000 or so IDF troops stationed here to protect these fanatics, is the cause of the ongoing tension. There is continuous harassment of the Palestinian population, journalists, diplomats and tourists by the Settlers and IDF. There are frequent acts of vandalism against Palestinian property. In some places in the Old City, Settlers have taken over the upper stories of some buildings, and these nut cases amuse themselves by throwing garbage down onto the Palestinian streets below, which have been covered over by netting to deliniate the boundaries of the Settlement. Since 1996 there have been international observers stationed in Hebron (Temporary International Presence in Hebron - TIPH and Christian Peacemakers Team - CPT) to record IDF and Settler acts of harassment, including acts aimed directly at the observers themselves.

settlement in centre of Hebron

Israeli Settlement in the centre of Hebron.

Israeli graffiti

Israeli graffiti outside the mosque, "Death to Arabs" in Russian.

garbage thrown by settlers

Garbage thrown from above by Israeli Settlers.

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Visit the other pages in the Palestine section. click the link to go to the page.

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Patti

This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was updated using Nvu and Style Maker.

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