Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Last week I went to Hebron with my friend Palden, a British volunteer in Bethlehem.

Here's what I already knew about Hebron:

Part of the city is designated Area H2, which means it's a "special case." So it's not Area A (under Palestinian control) or area B (Palestinian administrative control and Israeli security control) or even Area C (full Israeli control).

Israeli settlers occupy the top floors of buildings above the Old City of Hebron, and throw trash down on the markets. The nets that separate them are sagging with garbage.

Some streets are designated Jewish-only, and the Palestinians are constantly harassed by armed settlers and soldiers.

All in all, I wasn't enthused about seeing all this, but I realized as I glimpsed Hebron for the first time, that I was holding onto assumptions that I should have done away with long ago. Just last year I learned that the West Bank was a safe place to visit, Bethlehem was Palestinian, and a whole lot of other things that blew my mind. Why was I still assuming that Hebron was too intense, too depressing to visit? I knew more about Hebron than the average bear, but everything I'd learned from my YouTube and blog binges on Palestine had discouraged me from going there. From what I knew, all of Hebron was like H2, and Shuhada street.

I hadn't caught any messages of warmth and humanity from Hebron, and who's to blame for that? Was I just not looking hard enough?
While I was in Hebron I took a lot of footage, but I couldn't accentuate the positive. That would involve me pointing my camera at people moving about their lives, and that felt bothersome and disrespectful. I need to strike a better balance. All I managed to do was be an "occupation tourist," capturing the settlers' homes and the Israeli guards stationed on rooftops. I didn't care about bothering them. It didn't feel right taking footage of Abraham and Isaac's tomb at the Ibrahimi mosque....but it wasn't mumnua, forbidden at all, so I did.

Here is Palden's blog post, please accept it as a substitute for mine, he's much more experienced at capturing the positive.

I just want to say that the kids playing soccer in the shut-down marketplace were so cute. One of them kicked his shoe off and starting laughing hysterically. I wish I could have captured him.

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene

Palden's Blog-Visiting Abraham the Patriarch Again