After Baruch Kappel Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians at worship in the Ibrahimi Mosque, the UN decided that there should be an international observer mission in Hebron. The actual history behind the long-standing tensions in Hebron goes much further back than this incident in 1994, but it is important to note that Hebron has been the centre of such conflict partly because it is an important holy site for both Jews and Muslims, being the burial place of the Patriarchs of the Abrahamic faiths.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has been in existence since 1997. Our visit to Hebron with them was probably the most impacting experience on our trip. We were first given a briefing about the mission, what it does and the situation in Hebron. Hebron has been separated into 2 divisions since the Oslo Accords: H1, controlled by the Palestinians, and H2, controlled by the Israelis. There are around 500 settlers living in H2, and Israeli troops are stationed there to protect these settlers. The effects these settlers have had on the Palestinians living in Hebron, which we saw on some footage and when walking around Hebron, was shocking for us.
Walking around Hebron was a chilling experience. Once-bustling roads were deserted, save for a few Israeli army jeeps. Many houses had doors they could no longer use because they were forbidden to use the road it opened onto, and rows and rows of front doors had the Star of David spray-painted like a sign of territory, of power. Windows were caged up in wire mesh to protect residents from the stones thrown by settlers, as were the spaces between the alleyways in the old Souq (sadly also greatly decimated in size). Residents told us that the wire meshes were often not effective as settlers didn’t just throw stones at them, but excrement too.
Maya Sikand (Kenya, AC06-08)
– United World College Student Magazine –