Whose Land is This?

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hebron was a flashpoint for Israel and Palestine, where tensions were clearly high, on Mohammad's birthday, a full moon, and during the Jewish Purim celebrations, the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre.  Matthias, Ontie from Finland, and myself traveled to Hebron to do our little part, as tourists who can visit simply as observers, helping to keep the peace.

Official TIPH observers walked the streets along with Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose slogan is "getting in the way."  We met with both these groups to talk about the various issues and problems.  You can click on their names above to get an idea of what they do and some more details on the issues, but one of the main themes is that they are here to make sure that Israeli soldiers and settlers are not abusing human rights, if possible.  We also met with someone from the Palestine Solidarity Project who told us more about the situation in Hebron.

The work isn't easy, seeing that dozens of Israeli soldiers patrol the streets in active house-to-house tactics, pointing their automatic weapons around corners.  At the same time, settlers freely arm themselves and continually harass the Hebron Palestinians, evicting many and destroying houses, little by little.  Two observers were recently killed. 

Despite being deep into the agreed-upon Palestinian State, Hebron is now home to several Jewish settlements.  But this is where things get difficult, because Hebron is the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah--the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.  Jacob was renamed Israel by God, who made covenants with Abraham, Israel, and Moses about occupying the lands west of the River Jordan, Caanan.  These were the three covenants of which the New Mexican settler reminded me:

"I won't allow the enemy any square inch of it."

And this wasn't just any square inch: it was Holy Land.

So the people of Israel were not only descendents of Israel, the man, but also residents of Israel, the land West of the Jordan River: blood and soil combined.  But as one man pointed out, how do they know that many of the Palestinians aren't part Jewish, given hundreds of years since the area became Muslim and Arab dominated.


For thousands of years, the Jewish people have lived in Israel and have been evicted from Israel.  For thousands of years, the Jewish people have killed their enemies and their enemies have killed and oppressed them.  History has been reaffirming itself, with Palestinians massacring Jews when Jordanians were in control.  During this time, the Jewish people were the oppressed, so conducted terrorist missions, and many Jews were evicted from Hebron or killed.  Then came the Holocaust. 

But now Israel is firmly in control.  If Israel is serious about their own state and about claiming to be a victim, their actions aren't helping them or any peaceful settlement: "They are making me a terrorist," complained one man, as his house was being undermined by tunnels and his house faced with demolition, "but if you treat me fairly, then..."

He was paraphrasing the Koran (2:193).  He was trying to forgive.

We walked around Hebron, slowly, as prayer times during the sacred holiday created huge crowds in the bazaar and around the mosque, which was closed to non-Muslims for the holiday.  Around the streets, many people wanted to say hello and some wanted to talk about the situation in Hebron.

With the help of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, we agreed to assist with a group of Palestinian journalists.  Our first mission was to photograph the site of the perpertrator of the 1994 Cave of the Patriarch Massacre: Bauch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler from the controvertial Beer-Sheeva Settlement.  He killed twenty-nine people on that day, injuring over one hundred.

As the martyr's grave was in the gated and heavily-guarded Beer-Sheeva, we were denied entry (not too surprisingly).  In fairness, most Israelis condemned his actions, but the few who do see him as a martyr are many of the Hebron settlers, who are the ones above the law and directly in conflict with the Palestinians for the Holy Land Soil. 

We met with one of Baruch Goldstein's victims, who was paralyzed, holding the photograph of him taken on that bloody day.  The journalists interviewed him, in Arabic, for their local newspaper.

Afterwards, we had a late lunch together before Matthias, Ontie, and I headed back to Jerusalem, having learned the roots of terrorism, injustice, fanaticism, and competing holy claims--but still clearly just a smidgen--about the current situation in Palestine/Israel.
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