الخليل, al-Khalil, Hebron

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.

Hebron-Map-022312
H1 and H2

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.

 

 

Why Palestine?

Over the next few days/weeks, I hope to publish a series of post about my two weeks in Palestine. I am determined to share my authentic experience and hope that whoever reads this, reads it with an open mind and heart. 

When I first found out about going to Palestine, I made sure to tell everyone I was going to Israel. I didn’t want all the extra questions and wanted to avoid all the “warnings.” The idea came when I ran across an internship program that offered Arabic classes and immersion in the Palestinian culture. I was instantly intrigued, but also a little apprehensive.

Growing up and having a southern, Christian education there are certain things you learn, and you learn them fast. During my middle school and high school years I was in and out of Christian schools, and my first memory of genuinely learning about Israel was in a series of books, the Zion Chronicles, that my teacher encouraged me to read. I was enamored and instantly enthralled with the history of Israel and how God brought it all together for them. In high school, we had Bible classes and Bible history that literally had me repenting every other minute because I was sure the rapture would happen anytime. These classes educated me on the superiority of Israel and the evilness of Palestine for making it hard for Israel to become a nation. For example, for a project, we were assigned to write about some of the “evil” (non-Christian) leaders in the world, and mine was over Yasser Arafat. I used texts from my school and literally wrote about how bad this man was, not knowing anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s important to note this teacher was utterly disgusted that there was a mosque a mile away from our Christian school.

I say all that to say, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago I decided to step out of my comfort zone of what I had known my whole life. I allowed myself to doubt, question, and explore the things that bothered me about my faith. (i.e., evangelicals obsession with Trump, lack of diversity in church leadership, the cliche verses, diverted gazes, awkward promises of prayer, and pity filled eyes that were directed at me when I tried to explain why I needed a break from serving in the church and church people, etc.)  It has been a long, lonely, scary season of discovery and I realize that the most significant thing I have gained is that I am open to genuinely learning about things outside the safety of my Christian bubble.

I realized that I wanted to step away from mission trips (something I will expound on soon) and begin to unlearn the ideas and the preconceived notions that were weaved into my Christian education. SO all of that lead me to find a program in Palestine. While Harvey wrecked havoc on Houston, I locked myself in my room and researched for hours about an occupied land and an oppressed people that I had NO idea about. I read so much that I started to doubt half of the stuff I was reading, and that’s was when I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

My goal in going to Palestine was to learn. No agenda to try and convert people or go on some vast spiritual journey to the Holy Land. It was to go and see if the stories I read were real.

And man, was I in for the most heartbreaking reality check.