Around fourty Israelis and Palestinians from the PCFF came on the 11th of November 2008 to visit Hebron. The Palestinian police accompanied the group from Halhul to Hebron and at the entrance to the city a jeep belonging to Hebron's governor escorted the visitors to the HRC office.
A presentation told us all about the situation in Hebron from the point of view of the Palestinians who live there and try to rehabilitate the old city. Old, neglected and abounded buildings stand in the streets of the old city. Their residents left the 200 hundred and even 800 hundred years old buildings after they couldn't make a living and move around freely in the current situation in Hebron (Hebron is divided into two ;H2 –where the Jewish settlements are and where Palestinians aren't allowed to move around freely and H1 – which belongs to the Palestinian government)The HRC renovates the buildings according to international standards and brings back residents into the houses. The HRC attracts the residents back to the houses by offering free medical care, no rent and free water. The good conditions helped in bringing back to the houses few residents.
We went to tour the old city, Hebron's Kasbah and the Cave of Machpela. We were impressed by the renovations and by the beautiful area which resemble different parts of the old city of Jerusalem; narrow passageways, old stone buildings with arcs. Many passageways were sealed with concrete or a heavy iron door. Most of the shops are closed. A red circle on the door tells the observer that the shop was closed by an IDF order and the door is soldered. It was hard and painful to see how 4 settlements with around 400 people terrorize and damage the basic human rights of around 40,000 people.
We didn't feel any fear, it seemed like the Palestinians we met can differentiate between friends and enemies and don't think all Israelis are the same. The entrance to the Cave of Machpela from the Kasbah is only for Palestinians and the Israeli PCFF members weren't allowed to enter the cave with them. A senior officer from the Israeli army who came to help checked with his superiors over the phone if he can give us a permit to enter the cave, after hearing how he described us I had to ask him if he knows us, yes, he answered and told me that Salma and Camal Zidan (PCFF members) are his aunt and uncle. He even knew about Salma's expected visit to Beit-Omar with the PCFF women's group. We didn't get the permit but we did get a warm-hearted attempt to help.
A group of soldiers, who came by showed their concern tor our well-being although there was no need to and escorted us to our cars. Our protestation wasn't accepted. The officer said it was an order he received. Rami Elchanan, our member who lost his daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem asked the officer to open his mind and look at this unique sight of Bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who walk and work together and maybe this sight will reduce the fear and then maybe the mutual hatred will be lessen.
Nir Oren, Sharon Kalimi Misheiker
Photography: Nira Lavi