Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank and is known as the “cradle” of all three monotheistic religions. It’s a shame that in the recent years it also gained the reputation of a flashpoint for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The city is most notable for containing the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Cave of Machpelah, and the Ibrahimi Mosque that lies above it together with the adjacent Jewish temple.
What distinguishes Hebron from other Palestinian cities is the presence of Jewish settlements within the city centre. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention reads: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies”. However, Israel never ratified the Conventions.
We approach an old bazaar. The street is barricaded, three fully armed soldiers stand besides. “Where are you from?” is probably the most common question here. They don’t even look at my passport though, my words, Slavic features and pale skin are apparently enough. My guide hands in his papers. The bottom line states “Religion: Christian”. He won’t get through: the soldier withholds his ID and warns not to walk away further than 50 meters. Mohaned smiles at me and says he’s used to that but he doesn’t sound too convincing. He tells me how to get to the mosque and stay at the barricade. When I get there, the next soldiers stop me, ask questions, scan my bag – but at the same time they are polite and talkative. During my journey I witness this many more times: when the Palestinians are not around, the Israelis are working hard on the image of their army in the eyes of the international public.
I walk through empty streets that used to be a bazaar once – currently the land belongs to the settlers. Also in other places lots of stalls are closed – lost of tourists prefer to omit the city. The open ones are overloaded with local products: ceramics, glassware, embroidered bedspreads and pillow cases, colourful scarfs. If you plan shopping during your trip, it’s a good idea to do it here, not only because of the prices, but most importantly for the quality of what Hebron has to offer.