Today we visited Hebron; a city that that truly exemplifies this place as the “holy and broken land.” I am not quite sure exactly where to start because, no matter what I write, there is no way I can fully express to you the impact that this city has had on my outlook of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Much of what we have seen so far has been Palestine. The people in the places we have seen have been all Palestinians and they are completely separate from the Israelis. However Hebron is different.
It is a Palestinian city that has a wall straight through it and Israel is right on top of it, in the same city. The Place has been completely segregated so that Palestinians and Israelis are occupying virtually the same place and thus continually coming into contact and clashing with one another. Because they are fighting to hold the very same land, much violence against each other occurs. There is a huge military presence in the two cities. There are nearly 3 Israeli soldiers for every one Israeli settler living in Hebron. Israeli’s are not allowed in the Palestinian portions of the city but they are so close that they are able to throw things down into the markets such as trash or eggs. The Palestinians have a school for children that is on a road that is occupied by Israel, and here, the Palestinian people are not allowed to drive. They must walk on only certain parts of the road and take roundabout paths in order for their children to reach their school.
As we walked on both sides of this broken city, I became ashamed of the fact that I was a foreigner on this soil. Yet I had more freedom and privileges to walk around than the natives of the land I was exploring. I was able to snap a picture of a bolted up shop that was once a part of a thriving Palestinian marketplace and was now on land Palestinians were not even able to walk or drive on. I was able to cross the invisible line that separates the two occupations of the same street without being arrested or having my bag searched for weapons, when young children, who were born in Hebron, had to undergo such searches by the police each morning. In the same aspect, I understood the Israeli’s who had only 3% of the city they consider holy, and the rest of the city was blocked for them to be able to walk or drive on as well. In a place that I lay no claim, I have more freedoms than the citizens of Hebron. This eye opening fact made me really “get” the conflict in this land. Though, I also agree that the more I know, the more the knot gets twisted and complicated and makes me feel like I can never understand what these people are going through. What I do know is that Hebron citizens deserve to have the freedoms that I experienced today. And they want that freedom back.
I can’t wait for the contended educational and eye-opening experiences that this trip will hold. Hebron was truly an impactful experience.
~ Ashley Ross