Yesterday, Sunday, we visited Hebron. There we were able to walk through both H1 and H2 but our guides could each not go into the other section – access is restricted. Now I would previously have thought “oh, so there are two separate commercial centres and suburbs interspersed / close to each other” but this is not the case at all. It is necessary for life for people to pass into another’s areas and yet it is dangerous to do so. So much so that the checkpoints have international monitors and there are groups (both international and Israeli) who volunteer to walk school children to and from school. We met a World Council of Churches monitor. We visited a museum in Hebron and spoke with a settler about the 1929 massacre and Jewish history and current re-settling of Hebron.
Then we visited the Abraham Mosque and Synagogue at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – quite something! And more on all that to follow in specific posts.
We visited with a Muslim Palestinian family in Hebron who own a shop there selling many locally made items. They were incredibly hospitable and we had a delicious lunch in their home behind the shop.
On the way out of Hebron we had a long stop at the checkpoint. They asked us to pull over to the side for additional investigation. They spoke with our leaders outside the bus, invited the driver into a little building for additional questioning / checking and then did the same with our Palestinian guide. Because of that, our Israeli guide insisted she also be checked. The officers did a walk through of the bus checking all our passports. Our driver and one guide are Palestinian and so it is likely because of this (and perhaps also the person caught with numerous bombs that same day at a checkpoint near Jenin). In some way I was pleased for this experience because it gave us a view of what life is like.
After that, we drove to Sderot and spoke with Nomika, a Jewish woman who lives in an urban kibbutz. It has been three weeks since the last missile fell there but our talk still started with our host telling us what we should do in the event of a siren (and she mentioned that we wouldn’t possibly all make it to her basement shelter in time). This visit was incredibly moving. Nomika shared very candidly and deeply about her experience. I will blog more about her because she started an organization called Other Voice and published a ground-breaking article bringing another voice to the Israeli narrative.
But I have to run – it’s morning and we’re off to visit settlements and volunteer someplace. Tonight we will pack for tomorrow night’s overnight home stay. We will be staying the night with Christian and Muslim families in Bethlehem and another refugee camp. So I may not be able to post for a few days again but will catch up soon after.