Opinion: To see what UN will investigate, visit Hebron
Opinion: To see what UN will investigate, Visit Hebron
By Tareq Jalal Altamimi
Published on March 28th 2012
The United Nations Human Rights Council finally decided last week to investigate Israeli settlements in Palestine. While a UN report can document what is happening in this infamous conflict area, the best way to understand the situation is to see it with your own eyes.
For instance, by visiting the Palestinian city of Hebron.
There is much more to this city than the conflict portrayed by the evening news. Nevertheless the conflict does have a vast influence on the city and the daily life of its residents. A visit to Hebron can shed more light on the conflict than visiting dozens of other cities. The heart of the Old City of Hebron has five Israeli settlements built right on top of the oldest buildings of the city. Strangely enough, in Hebron Israelis and Palestinians are literally living on top of each other even though their lives and aspirations are miles apart.
This proximity has serious implications. Many Palestinian shop owners shut down after business crashed when Israeli settlements were established upstairs. Settlers are known to throw household trash, human waste and even rocks down on the Palestinians below. The dangling trash caught in nets -- put up by shop owners for protection -- are a testament to the human impact of conflict. Around 400 settlers live above Palestinian homes in Hebron, guarded by about 2,000 Israeli troops. The soldiers, checkpoints and settler-only streets, mean Palestinians can never know if they will get from A to B in 10 minutes, hours, or more. Random aggression takes place under the noses of the Israeli security forces.
I was directly affected by this ugly situation. I was raised during the second intifada and lived under this occupation from the day I was born. Not only was I prohibited from leaving my country, but even within my country and city I could not move freely. I missed out on a normal youth. I lived under curfews, strikes, the sound of bombs, gun shots and explosions. Growing up in Hebron I was saddened by the low number of visitors to our city. Hebron has so many historically significant sites that it is a great shame so few people can enjoy them.
Many visitors do not even see the real stories of Hebron, as Israeli tourist information paints a different picture. So a fellow Hebronite and I decided last summer to start the Visit Hebron – Palestine initiative. We organize city tours to Hebron with trained guides to show the world the many historical and political significant sites the city has to offer. Hebron is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and there is much to see. For instance, the grave of Prophets Abraham and Sarah, the oldest tree in the world (The Abraham Oak), a Russian Orthodox church and many bustling markets that are a bargain hunters delight.
We want to boost the local economy in Hebron by giving visitors the chance to buy inexpensive traditionally made, pottery, leather and glass products in the local market. This way we hope to encourage shop owners in the Old City to reopen their shops, so the this historic Palestinian city can live up to its potential, despite the conflict. But most importantly, we want to give visitors the opportunity to see the reality of conflict, and the lives of those living in its midst.
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 email@example.com or www.fb.com/visithebron