I know I left y’all with a cliffhanger, but hold on to your seats because things are about to get a little crazy. This post will provide a little bit of history, and I’ll add some hyperlinks if anyone would like to do their own research.
I was staying in Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic), which is considered to be one of the holiest cities in the Holy Land. It’s about an hour away from Jerusalem and 30 minutes away from Bethlehem. It is a bustling city that overwhelmed this suburban girl, who is not used to dodging yellow taxis and trying not to run into all the people on the street. Hebron is a resilient city that continues to thrive in the midst of occupation. I walked down the street every day greeted with smiles, welcomes, and sometimes free coffee or falafel! I was never harassed or objectified which is something I have come to expect whether I’m abroad or at home. This was a massive relief as I was able to travel freely by myself throughout the city and that was so liberating for me as a woman traveling alone. I looked lost more than once, and people would take time to direct me to where I needed to go. One time my taxi driver called the person I needed to meet up with because I was so lost and my Arabic was horrendous. I was a frequent visitor to the Nutella shop, drolled over the fresh falafel being cooked outside, and literally fell in love with shisha. My host family was THE best, and I plan on sharing my experience living with a Palestinian family because they are seriously AMAZING.
When I first arrived in Hebron, I had no idea how conflicted the city was and how it is divided between the Palestinians and the Israelis (see above). I knew that obviously there is a divide between Israel and the West Bank, but it was a shock to learn that THE CITY was divided into H1 (Palestinian) and H2 (Israeli). My first few days, I lived in blissful ignorance in H1 until I realized the Old City of Hebron is in H2. My host mom took my roommate and me to the Ibrahimi Mosque, and we were greeted with a checkpoint and two armed Israeli soldiers.
I had the privilege to have a tour of H2 with my Palestinian history teacher, who has special permission as his family is one of the few Palestinian families still living in H2. The amazing, Amos Libby, did an interview with my Palestinian teacher that you can check out here. His voice is so important as you hear first-hand someone who grew up in H2. I also encourage you to friend Amos Libby on Facebook, he gives an unfiltered view of life in the West Bank. He is a fountain of knowledge and taught me so much during my time in Hebron.
Something that I learned and could not shake was that in 1994 an American Jewish settler (which a lot of American people are illegal settlers in the West Bank) entered the Ibrahimi mosque and killed 29 people and injured more than a hundred while they were praying. In response, the Israeli government began to take control of what was once Palestinian land in the name of protecting Jewish settlers. If you would like to read more about it in detail, click here. It is also important to note that in the illegal Isreali settlement this man is regarded as a martyr.
We walked down Al-Shuhada Street that segregates Palestinians from Israelis. This take over of Shuhuda street forced many Palestinians to leave their businesses, homes, and livelihoods. For example, Palestinians who live in H2 are no longer allowed to drive, but Israeli settlers are free to drive throughout the settlement I go into more detail with pictures on my Instagram story. I will make sure to archive it under H2 when the 24hrs is up so it will stay on my page. Also, a break down of the checkpoint leading to H2 (pictured below) can be found here.
As an American, I have the privilege to move between H1 and H2 freely, but I quickly determined that if my Palestinian friends couldn’t go then I wasn’t going either. Martin Luther King Day is coming up, and it’s easy to search google and find an MLK quote that makes you feel good. But I challenge you to think and meditate on this quote.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Think about it.
Ps. Next, I’ll spill the beans about my experience in Jerusalem and Trump’s decision, and if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, educate yourself.
Pss. I’m open to questions and comments. Starting conversations are vital in demolishing ignorance and establishing justice.
and yes, it took me forever to type Al-Khalil in Arabic. I’m trying y’all.