Hebron, Beyond History
Hebron is located in the southern West Bank 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. It lies between 400 and 1020 meters over sea level. It is surrounded by Bethlehem from the north, Beersheba from the south, The Dead Sea from the east, and Beit Jibreen, Dawaymenh and Falojeh from the west across the Green Line. The total population of the area surrounding Hebron is 750,000 inhabitants, 200,000 of whom live in the city Hebron which covers an area of 30 Square meters. The governorate has more than 100 villages and towns; the most famous are Dura, Yatta, Halhoul, Seir, Dahryeh, Bani Naem, Shyokh, Samoa’a, Beit Ula, Nuba and Ithna.
Hebron is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. History contains the Canaanites living in Hebron as early as 2000 B.C.E. It is believed that Adam and Eve lived in Hebron after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. There are over 450 main tourist sites in Hebron and more than 2000 archeological sites such as caves, cemeteries, churches and shrines. The city contains the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. The city is notable for its Mamluk and Ottoman architectural engineering which has been preserved over the centuries to maintain its unique cultural diversity.
This beautiful location, religious importance and historical significance have now been shrouded under the auspices of the occupation. The city was occupied in 1967 together with other cities in the West Bank. Since then, the occupation has neglected the city and tried to delete it from the tourist map. The Israeli occupation facilitated for the establishment of the Israeli settlements as facts of the ground to forbid any Palestinian independence or stability in the future. The Kiryat Arba settlement was created in 1968 in the Eastern part of Hebron. Then, certain areas in the Old City were taken over and transformed into Jewish residential neighborhoods. Israeli policy in the city center has led thousands of Palestinians to leave their homes and some 1,829 businesses have been shut down since 1994, when an Israeli settler conducted a massacre inside Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29 worshippers and injuring dozens of others. Following the massacre, Israeli occupation soldiers present in the holy sanctuary and its vicinity closed the gates of the Mosque, preventing survivors from leaving and having help reach the wounded. Again, the victims paid the price. The world stood and watched while Israel closed down the holy sanctuary for many months. Israel subsequently seized more than half its area and transformed it into a Jewish synagogue. Muslim worshippers were prevented from reaching the mosque, while increasing checkpoints surrounding it made access very difficult.
Hebron is unique for being the only city in the West Bank with settlements located in the heart the city. There are five illegal Israeli settlements currently, built on the location of what was once schools, health clinics, vegetable markets and the central bus station. Approximately 400 Israeli settlers are living within these settlements, guarded by over 2000 Israeli soldiers. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s report rebukes “the insertion of settlers into the heart of a densely populated Palestinian city”. The settler community in Hebron is considered among the most extreme of all settlers in the West Bank, with violence and harassment from the settlers a common sight.