Hebron is not only one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in Palestine but also in the world. Hebron is full of rich heritage and history. It is the largest of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank and an important economic center. The city has multiple markets, three universities and one academic institute (Hebron University, Palestine Polytechnic University, Al-Quds Open University and the Al-Aroub Institute).
The Old City of Hebron, aside from serving as a beautiful example of ancient Palestinian history, is rife with religious significance. According to both Jewish and Muslim traditions, the prophet Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) and his wife Sairah were laid to rest in Hebron known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (Mosque of Ibrahim).
Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett recently announced the approval of a new Jewish only neighborhood in the old section of the Palestinian city of Hebron. This new neighborhood, which lies in the heart of the Palestinian city, will include as many as seventy residential units. The move is not Israel’s first attempt to colonize Hebron. In 2017, the Israeli government approved the building of 31 housing units in a new settlement in the Old City on the Shuhada Street. According to a statement from the Defense Ministry, the construction project would double the number of Jewish residents in the city.
A short recounting of events from 1967 until today reveals a slow ethnic cleansing of Hebron’s Old City by Israeli authorities and its repopulation by Jewish settlers. This take over was carried out by allowing violent gangs of extremist Jewish settlers to invade the city and terrorize its native Palestinian population, all under the protection of the Israeli army. This is a tactic used by Israel throughout Palestine. Send in fanatic, armed settlers to terrorize Palestinians in a particular town or village, allow them to settle, call in the army to protect them and before you know it, you have another Israeli town or city in its place.
In 1968, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, a group of Israeli settlers led by a fanatic Rabbi called Moshe Levinger rented a hotel room in Hebron claiming they wanted to celebrate the holiday there. When the festivities concluded, they refused to leave and declared that they were taking over the place. While the Israeli government initially showed some objection to the hostile takeover, Israeli cabinet ministers gave the settlers their full support, and of course, the settlers enjoyed the protection of the Israeli army.
After a few months, the group agreed to leave the hotel in exchange for the establishment of a settlement on land confiscated by Israeli authorities on the outskirts of Hebron. Today, that settlement is the city of Kiryat Arba where close to 7,500 Israeli settlers reside. It is known as a hotbed of racist, violent gangs of settlers that regularly and freely terrorize neighboring Palestinians.
For decades, violent settlers protected by the Israeli army have been invading the old city of Hebron in an attempt to force out Palestinians. The Bait Hadassah settlement, Beit Romano, Avraham Avinu, Ramat Yishai, and others, were all established by radical Israeli settlers with the full support of multiple Israeli governments. Ramat Yishai is the name given by settlers to Tel Rumeida, where approximately ten housing units were built under the pretense of fulfilling “security needs.”
The 1997 Hebron protocol, a by-product of the Oslo Accords, divides Hebron into two parts, H1 and H2. H1 is the largest portion of the city and comprises the new city officially under the control of the Palestinian Authority. H2 includes the Old City, which has its own commercial center. Of the 220,000 Palestinians in Hebron, 35,000 live in H2 under full-time Israeli military control and under near-constant harassment and attack from H2’s 600-800 Jewish settlers. Palestinians residents of Hebron have to be registered and will not be let into the city without their registration number.
In 1994, in what became known as the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, an Israeli-American army doctor living in Kiryat Arba shot and killed 29 Palestinians, wounding more than 100 others. The massacre, and the protests which followed, led the Israeli army to shutter 1,800 Palestinian shops and more than 1,000 housing units. All the main markets were closed and Hebron’s Old City main street, Shuhada Street, which has connected the northern and southern parts of the city for generations, was closed to Palestinians. In other words, the very heart of Hebron’s Old City was now inaccessible to its own Palestinian residents.
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