Middle East

Oct 31, 2012

Walking the streets of Hebron, a city cleaved in two

Hebron is an experience like no other -- the most striking and terrible manifestation of Israel's occupation that one is likely to encounter -- but the halting journey is ultimately worth it.

Matthew Clayfield

Journalist, critic, screenwriter and playwright

I meet Shehada at his home early in the morning and we set off with his friend and neighbour, Isa, in the direction of Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city. It should by rights be a half-hour drive: Hebron is less than 45km from Ramallah as the crow flies. But with Jerusalem, and therefore Israel proper, lying smack bang between the two, the only way to get from one to the other without crossing over and back again — which the boys, in any case, are not entitled to do — is to take a wide berth around the city to the east, so that Jericho and even the Dead Sea become briefly visible, before curving back to the west towards Bethlehem. It adds nearly an hour to the total driving time.


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9 thoughts on “Walking the streets of Hebron, a city cleaved in two

  1. Clytie

    I suggest, when you finish this series of articles, that you publish them as an ebook. They form an important and poignant record of something those outside the area rarely, if ever see: a seeping social wound, the edges of which we all must take responsibility for holding open.

  2. Wombat

    Really enjoying your series of articles, mate. Keep up the good work

  3. Kfix

    Thank you for this, and the other articles. And I second Clytie – I’d buy that.

  4. Matthew Clayfield

    Thank you. It means a lot to me to know that the pieces have been so well received.

    This was my final dispatch from Israel and the West Bank, not to mention my final piece of foreign correspondence for the year. I’m thinking about heading to East Timor early in the new one and perhaps to West Africa later on in it. You can keep abreast of my movements here. I actually rely on my readers to help finance quite a lot of my work and I will doubtless be running another crowdfunding campaign before I set off on my next trip.

    As for turning these pieces into an e-book, I would certainly consider it. I’m also toying with the idea of releasing a collection of my articles from the past three years—articles on issues as varied as Mexico’s drug war, Cuba’s economic reforms, the Russian presidential election, and the eurozone crisis—and this series might wind up in there. Does that sound like something you would be interested in?

    In the meantime, I already have some e-books available: The Caucasian Semi-Circle: A Journey Along Russia’s Exposed Nerve, which I wrote following two weeks in Russia’s North Caucasus earlier this year, and Waiting On the Arriaga-Ixtepec, which I wrote in 2010 following a week spent with illegal Central American migrants in southern Mexico.

    Thank you again for your kind words.

  5. Kfix

    I would be interested – having also enjoyed your pieces on Russia that Crikey have run in the past, I just bought The Caucasian Semi-Circle and subscribed to your RSS. So yes, looking forward to seeing some longer form work on Israel and the West Bank.

  6. shoshana cohen

    Hebron is not “under Israel’s occupation” is is part of the Israeli soul and has been since the time of Abraham.

    Hebron is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world, which dates back to Biblical times. The Book of Genesis relates that Abraham purchased the field where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located as a burial place for his wife Sarah. The tomb of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah is located in Hebron.

    King David was anointed in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years. One thousand years later, during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, the city was the scene of extensive fighting. Jews lived in Hebron almost continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods. It was only in 1929 — as a result of a murderous Arab pogrom in which 67 Jews were murdered and the remainder were forced to flee — that the city became temporarily “free” of Jews. After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established.

  7. Kevin Herbert

    shosana cohen:

    Such blatant race supremacism…and to think that you say it proudly, and as if it should be believed.

    You & your ilk are condemned by your own bigotry.

  8. Kevin Herbert

    In an earlier post on your visit to Israel you make the following generalization about the 44 year occupation of Palestine lands by Israel:
    “I do think that this is a more complex issue than anyone in this comment thread has really allowed. The loudest voices on both sides, Arab and Israeli, tend to be the most extreme, and for some reason we in the west happily buy into this false dichotomy, assuming these to be the only positions we can choose between. We become more radical, one way or the other, than many of the people on the ground, who I constantly found rejecting the river-to-the-sea nationalism and religious fervour of both groups of extremists out of hand. The real dichotomy is the one that exists between those who would happily fight forever and those who would lay down arms and become neighbours, even unfriendly ones, again”
    Clearly, you’re having a Kumbaya moment by stating a view of the occupation that was vogue in the 1990’s. Your ‘complexity’ position is exactly the Israeli Government’s key propaganda has been for 30 years. The reality is far simpler, as declared by the vast majority of non MSM commentators (many of the Jewish) globally i.e. after 44 years of occupying Palestinian territory beyond the green line, the Israeli Government has no intention of giving up a single centimeter until its ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and other areas its claims under Biblical authority, are completed. There is no peace process, and there hasn’t been one since the Oslo Accords. You should read some of the noted Israeli American scholar Dr Norman Finkelstein’s writings on this point, to name but one of a multitude of similar views. Also, check out Antony Lowenstein’s ‘After Zionism’ or the US based liberal Jewish groups Code Pink or Muzzlewatch or Independent Australian Jewish Voices, or Haaretz’s Gideon Levy.
    While Israel remains under the control of the various US financed warmongering Knesset coalitions, and the US Congress is forced to do Israel’s bidding by the AIPAC/Christian Zionist DC lobby, there will be no just peace in this conflict. I’ve said before that this unjust 64 year suppression of the rights of 5.1 million Palestinians living in the words of President Jimmy Carter as ‘farm animals’, is going to end badly for the region one day…..very badly. To think that both the Australian major political parties provide active, vocal support for the current scenario, is a stain on our national conscience.

  9. Kevin Herbert

    For a summary of how US Jewry, particularly among the young, are deserting Israel check out US?Israeli historian Dr Norman Finkelstein’s latest scholarly work:

    “Knowing Too Much – Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End”

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