Everybody Is Equal, but Some Are More Equal

By Marianna Hillmer-Wiechmann -

Marianna Hillmer-Wiechmann went on our Hebron Tour, and managed to capture some of her impressions of the horrific reality there in word and image (for the original article in German, see here).

A few thousand soldiers are based in Hebron in order to protect a few hundred residents - that's the first piece of information that we get. Also in the newspapers Hebron is regularly referred to as the headquarters of Hamas in the West Bank. So one would think that it's got to be really dangerous there. 


There has to be a rationale for this numerical (dis)proportion, or for the fact that Israeli soldiers are based in a city that is not located on Israeli state land, but deep inside the West Bank.

The soldiers are protecting the Jewish settlers who have been establishing themselves there since the 1960s. By now almost all of the beautiful old city has been transformed into a Jewish enclave, heavily guarded by the soldiers who restrict the access to the Jewish population. The Palestinian residents cannot enter.

The reality on the ground is macabre. Although we are allowed to visit all parts of the city, the very thought that the locals are prevented from doing the same makes us feel uncomfortable.

We stroll around the alleys of the bazaar and our gaze wanders up. There is a wire mesh right above our heads. Some of the houses of Palestinian merchants were occupied by Jewish settlers, on others second homes were built on top.

The mesh wire above us serves to protect the passersby in the bazaar. Bigger objects were constantly thrown from up there; now it's only excrements, it fits through the fence.

I'm shocked. In silence we continue walking.

Some more military checkpoints. I'm being asked for my religious background, I answer I'm Christian, I'm allowed to pass.
We are getting closer to the Machpelah, the graves of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and their wives are buried. To both religions, Islam and Judaism, this is one of the most important religious sites, and the cause for the conflict in Hebron.
The religious complex is divided into two parts, a Jewish and a Muslim one. Through the lattice window at the other side of the grave I can see Jews performing their prayers.

Praying together would be too nice after all.

And after Baruch Goldstein's attack in 1994 it is unthinkable.
Behind the Cave of the Patriarchs a ghost town begins. The shops are closed. The streets are empty. A carriage whirls up dust and an armoured vehicle passes by. The street is divided into two. The right one for Palestinians, the left one for Jews. Palestinians are not allowed to use the Jewish paths.

A disaster for the few remaining Palestinian families on the Jewish side. They had to close down their businesses, there are no more customers left. Now they host the few tourists who come to Hebron. Also us. The atmosphere is gloomy.

The youngest son is trying to explain to us the situation of the family. Through tourism they can make ends meet, but they fear every day that the Jewish settlers could also drive them away.

There is no warning and no compensation.
 
All images in this post are copyright protected and are the property of Marianna Hillmer-Wiechmann.

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