On 5-6 Feb. 2011, I visited the EAPPI team that is placed in Hebron. I don’t expect that I will forget these 24 hours very quickly. I arrived in time for the settler tour. This is a 3-pm event on Saturdays in the Old City of Hebron. On 5 Feb. 2011, about 35 Jews visited under the eye of about 20, fully armed, Israeli soldiers.
Some background info:
From Wikipedia – “Hebron (Arabic: الخليل or al-Ḫalīl) (Hebrew: חֶבְרוֹן or Ḥevron or Ḥeḇrôn) is located in the southern West Bank, 30 km (19 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters (3,050 ft) above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter. The city is most notable for containing the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs and is therefore considered the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem. The city is also venerated by Muslims for its association with Abraham and was traditionally viewed as one of the “four holy cities of Islam.””
From a 2009 travel book that I bought (see this webpage and scroll to the end of the page for a sample of this English-language document) – “In the old city there are 5 settlements, with a total of around 500 Jewish settlers coming mainly from the United States and France. They are located along the Street of the Martyrs, from which Palestinians are banned, which links Kyriat Arba to Tell Er-Rumeida. The settlers are well armed and protected by between 1,500 and 2,000 Israeli soldiers. What used to be the centre of commercial and social activity in Hebron is today both bleak and depressing. Although it retains its authentic character the old city is being strangled by the restrictions, which are enforced by metal barriers, turnstiles, omnipresent barbed wire, and blocks of concrete.
Wire grills have had to be installed to protect Palestinian passersby from rubbish and rubble thrown down by Jewish settlers from the upper storeys [sic] of illegally occupied houses, which used to be inhabited by Palestinian families. Moreover, a number of modern Israeli buildings and other structures have been built that clash with the architecture of the old city and spoil its traditional character.” (p. 33)
I walked with Laura, an EAPPI Hebron Team member, behind the 12 soldiers who walked behind the tour group. (Eight soldiers walked ahead of the group.) At the end of the tour, we found ourselves exiting a laneway and inadvertently between the main group and three tour members who had stopped to take a few final photos. Two soldiers accompanied the three people as they walked by us and joined the rest of the group before entering this gate.
One woman called out to Laura and me:
“Shame on you!!”
Who do you see within this vest?
Within this skin?
What do you see?
Who are you that you see me in this way?
What has brought us together in this place?
I am guessing that you have more layers than this surface.
I can feel them. And the fear. And your shock.
Can you feel my shock?
Are you feeling a kind of oppressive pressure-like nausea, too?
Your accent sounds North-American, like mine perhaps…
What is your name…
My name is Sherry Ann…
I am a visitor here, too…who cares…
Perhaps, we will meet again…
Perhaps, we might find ourselves in a discussion about this place…
I hope that you might see me, then…I hope that I will be allowed to see and hear more of your layers…
Peace be with you.
-Sherry Ann (6-8 Feb. 2011)
I am sitting here in semi-shock and goose-flesh, having read your ‘dialogue’ with the passing tourist. What, indeed, could she have been thinking? I am in awe of your generous allowance for her coming from some legitimate not-understood context, and your openness and desire for meaningful conversation.
Thank you Sherry Ann for sharing your experiences – tough as they are sometimes – it does give us a window into a world that if hard for us to fathom. So much injustice and misunderstanding in this world. We watch the events happening in Egypt and wonder if the protests will spread to Israel and other countries in the area. Here in Mexico we see problems of unemployment and poverty as the recession has affected the people here. Many Mexicans have come back from Canada and the US when they lost their jobs and have not been able to find employment here. There are many poor people begging on the streets. We give to them and hope it helps. We send you hugs and hopes for a better outcome for the Palestinians and Israelis. May there be peace in that region someday. Love, Annabel and Don
Sherry Ann, you are certainly having some difficult experiences. The photo of old Hebron was quite poignant and we thank you for sending it. The stories are truly beyond anything we can imagine back here in Canada!! Our love to you and Hope!
Shalom Sherry Ann,
A powerful story from Hebron. I too would feel shock and disbelief. I have experienced those of other religions and cultures who are angry with us. Our experience was in the city of Havana, proud people, poor people carrying centuries of memories we can never understand. We didn’t experience their pain, we can only sympathize, and then return to our safe lives. They know that, and their anger shows. Be safe Sherry!
P.S. Kent & Colette have a new baby boy, Jack Michael, all is well.
I just have to tell you how brave I think you are! Thanks for posting such eloquent descriptions of your experiences.
Thanks Sherry Ann for your pictures and description of Hebron. We are glad that you are safe. When I was in Israel in 1992 and 1993 we were advised by both UN and Palestinians staff not to go there as it was not safe. With all the current uncertainty in Egypt things must be even more tense…