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 tombs of the following prophets are buried in it, 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 the 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.
Hebron is well known for its grape vineyards, pottery, glassware, ceramics, leatherworks, and other handmade arts. Lively, colorful, and creative are the most common words used by tourists to describe this city. There are various attractions in Hebron:
The Charming Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, is the second holiest site for Muslims in Palestine. Located southeast of the new city, in the past it was the center of the city, surrounded by its famous neighborhoods. Prophet Abraham lived in the city 4000 years ago. When his wife Sarah died, he bought the cave under the current building of the mosque and buried her there, where he was thereafter buried alongside her when he died. Isaac, Jacob and their wives would go on to be buried there also, and a shrine for Joseph was built there tool. The building is a formidable rectangular building, giving the appearance of a fortress. The construction of the walls and pavement is the work of King Herod in 37 BC.
Mamre Haram Al-Rameh; located 3 km north of Hebron. After departing from his nephew, Lot, Abraham came to Mamre, where he pitched his tent. Here, three angels descended on prophet Abraham and gave him the glad tidings that his wife Sara would have a son. Abraham went to rescue Lot from Mamre, and there, he pleaded on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. Excavations at the site have found remains of different Herodion, Byzantine, and Muslim buildings.
Oak of Abraham – Russian Orthodox Church(Holy Trinity Monastery); An oak tree 2 km west of Hebron, it is one of the oldest trees mentioned in history. It marks the legendary site where Abraham pitched his tent. The Russian Orthodox Church was built in the beginning of the 20th century in the shape of a cross with a size of 600 square meters.
Old Market; The souq (market) is one of the oldest areas in Palestine known for its historical arched roofs. The shops sell everything from ceramics, pottery, embroidery, postcards, olivewood and glass, to fresh and dried fruits. The famous Palestinian kuffyeh is also sold there, made locally by Palestinians.
There is much more to see in Hebron, from the Hebron Old City Turkish Baths, to the beautiful glass blowing and handmade ceramic factories. If you get to enjoy extended time in Hebron, don’t miss visiting a lot of famous attractions, such as the baptism spring near Taffuh, Yaqen Shrine near Bani Naem, Khirbet Alkarmel near Yatta, Khirbet AlMoraq near Dura, Alqanoub Nature reserve, Hebron Museum, Dura Museum, the moral made by Visit Hebron next to the new Tourist bus station and much more.
To learn more about Hebron or to take a guided tour to visit all the attractions mentioned, visit “Visit Hebron – Palestine” website www.visithebron.ps or its Facebook Page, Visit Hebron.
Tareq Altamimi is the founder and director of Visit Hebron – Palestine, a Palestinian initiative encouraging visitors to Visit Hebron and learn about its history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.fb.com/visithebron