Welcome to the chicken market of Hebron.
We are standing in front of a cement barrier two stories high. The resemblance to the Berlin Wall is unmistakeable; the new wall could be the younger, hipper niece of the iconic separator. This wall bears a depiction of the coming of the Messiah, the return of the Jewish Temple. It was painted by Israeli settlers on this wall between buildings holding homes and shops. Or what used to be homes and shops. Now the wall bars entrance to the street, and the once-bustling chicken market — like many other streets and markets in Hebron — is silent. A ghost town.
The power to destroy economies and self-determination is the power to destroy the very threads of society. Worshippers can revert to secret gatherings when repressed. Families with means can escape occupation. But without the basic ability to trade, barter and support one’s family through a stable marketplace, a city falls apart.
The abandoned chicken market is one of many stories we saw yesterday in Hebron as we toured the once-busy city center, which today is a patchwork of buffer zones and checkpoints to protect Israeli settlers who are expanding their presence in the city. Ownership and origination issues aside, the Hebron of today is a broken place. As a fellow trip member said so eloquently yesterday, “we saw a lot of cramped hearts today.” My heart hurts for both groups vying for a place in this city of their ancestors — but it beats in time with the protestations of the Palestinian people who, here, are subject to double standards and military law and an unpredictable, violent daily existence under occupation. “If you are looking for logic, look somewhere else” said our tour guide, a former Israeli soldier who served in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Whatever you do, don’t look at the children running around with guns.