There was a lot more in this full day other than Hebron, but it is what I will remember the most, and was most moved by. Hebron is south of Jerusalem but like so many places here, it might as well be a thousand miles. This town is a very divided town, an occupied town. The first thing you notice is how “dead” it feels. Lots of houses and so few people. Here is where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca are buried. It is a reverred sight by Muslims and Jews and both claim the spot, but again, like so many places here it is divided. We visited first the mosque, the Muslim portion. Here is Isaac and Rebecca, with a room which is divided by a wall for Abraham and Sarah. Their actual remains are 40 feet below and the tomb was once and finally sealed by King Hussein of Jordan several years ago. The hosts were most gracious to us. Of course, the women in our group must wear a special garment, covering their heads, as you will see in the videos. It was here on February 25, 1994 that an American born Israeli opened fire with a machine gun on praying Muslims, killing 29 and wounding 125. Widely denounced in the Jewish community, it nevertheless has been tense ever since. We had to go through several checkpoints to get into the synagogue, mosque, and even the Souk, the marketplace. The town feels in lock down and in a state of suspension in time. It was one of the oddest places I have visited on the planet. Amongst the Palestinians, extreme poverty, and yet literally across a checkpoint and in a matter of seconds, you find yourself in a modern, Jewish settlement where there is no want.
As I said, we first visited the mosque
Then we visited the Souk, the Marketplace; Here we say something very interesting and sad, that you will see in this film below. It is the custom for the father in a Palestinian home to simply add a floor unto the top of his for the next generation. But, in Hebron the Jewish ssttlers are taking over the roofs, building so that the Palestinians cannot do this. And they build right along the marketplace, and so you will see the fencing above, due to the fact that the Jewish settlers will often be a bit indiscriminate in where they throw their trash, and other things.
Then we visited the Synagogue:
And we saw the distrust and tension in the bulletproof glass curtain that is beside the Tomb of Abraham, there to keep Muslims from shooting Jews and vice versa.
As I said, the town is so poor. In the marketplace a vendor came up and pleaded with our tour guide to allow the group to stay a little longer, he said, “No tourists come here anymore, please.” And when we left I recorded this encounter with about 5 boys, ages 8-13, who were some of the many their age who tried to sell you Palestine bracelets for a dollar. As our bus was trying to pull out, the boys put themselves in front of the bus, claiming that someone on the bus took a bracelet but did not pay. At first, we gave them a dollar but then they stated, they all wanted a dollar. You can see where it goes, and it escalated into some violence against the bus door. Our driver turned them into the Israeli Army, there are no police. Such desperation is not hard to understand when you see their plight.
We went from there back through Bethlehem where we stopped to look at a part of the wall erected by the Israeli government in order to disrupt and separate the Palestinian population from the Jewish. Two pictures to show the expanse of the wall (being added onto every day) and to show some of the amazing graffiti on it.
We traveled to the Dead Sea and took a float, and then to Jericho to see the Mount of Temptation, and then on to Jerusalem for our evening stay.
But, what will stick with me, for a long time is my first look at Hebron, and to remember the microcosm and the icon to our brokenness and the brokenness of this current situation here. I think of bullet proof glass at the side of the founder of faith, and those little boys.