A Zionist Tour
At one end of a paved square in Hebron’s Old Town stands an Israeli military observation post beside a thick, metal gate. Through a slit in the gate I can see a mass of zionist Israeli settlers. A soldier is watching over this square as the Palestinian residents of the Old Town pass through. A football with which a group of young boys are playing occasionally rolls up to my feet.
Twenty-minutes earlier, I was sat in the café of Hebron Women, drinking a cup of sweet, mint tea. The lady running it explains that the settlers will soon be starting their tour of the Old Town. At this point, I don’t know anything about this weekly event, but along with an American documentary film-maker who was in the café, we walk down to the square to find out more.
Members of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) and Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) begin to congregate. They will be observing the event to ensure that nobody is mistreated by the soldiers. Tensions are particularly high this week because the previous day, a Palestinian man was shot dead by an Israeli soldier.
A little later, the gate opens and Israeli soldiers burst into the square, waving around their rifles. Once the area is clear, the mass of Jewish settlers begin to congregate behind the soldiers lines, ready to begin their tour of the Old City. The few Palestinians who remain in the area watch on.
I learn that this takes place every week. The settlers come into this region of H1 — which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) — accompanied by Israeli soldiers, nominally to visit sites important to Judaism. In reality, this is a show of strength, and an (unnecessary) reminder to the Palestinians of their presence and the belief in their Biblical right to this land. The young men contemptuously sneer as they stand behind the might of the Israeli military.
For around an hour, they walk around the Old Town, whilst the IDF soldiers close off the streets through which they will travel, thus disrupting the lives of both the residents and the shopkeepers as they do so. A CPT volunteer points out the soldier who had shot the Palestinian man only yesterday; he is still very much in active service.
Occasionally, they let women with shopping pass through, but the majority of the time, people must keep their distance. We are told to keep back ten-feet from the last soldier. Whole groups of men, women and children are forced to wait. Throughout this time, Israeli Border police randomly stop Palestinian men, checking their identity papers. All of this in the area of Hebron which is nominally under PA control, and in a city which lies in the heart of the Palestinian Territories.
» A set of my photographs documenting the event are here.