Hebron is an apartheid town: FOR Palestine arts delegation report 2
As always, it is an amazing experience to be in Palestine. Connecting with long time friends in Hebron, Beit Sahour, and Bethlehem reminds me that to be involved in the struggle for freedom for Palestinians under Occupation is, at the same time, a struggle for the heart of Judaism and Jewish people as well. It is hard to sit with the ugliness of the settler community throughout the West Bank, which is completely supported by the entire political, economic, and military infrastructure of Israel.
The very first night in Hebron, as others have written, a young 19-year-old woman named Sundus and her brother were viciously attacked by a “known troublemaker” named Eitan who drives settler children in a bus. He stopped his bus and beat up Sundus’s brother, who was then brought to a police station (without his parents), fingerprinted, and sent home at 1:00 a.m. in the monring. When the news came, our host families were frantic. The children started crying. Heshem apologized to us and ran out of the house to see if he could be of assistance to his neice. The next day Sundus and her brother and mother came over. I saw the bruises.
The settler community here, as everywhere, is given permission to settle above Palestinians on hilltops, and then, quickly or slowly, drive them from their homes. In the case of Tel Rumeida, the families are holding on, even though they have no direct access to their own houses. The settlers poisoned their 2,000-year-old olive tree, cut the grapevines in half, ripped up their water pipes, beat up their families, and block their access. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hangs out on their roof top every night. The IDF also enters their house at will several times a year.
Hebron is truly an apartheid town. There are roads that settlers can drive while there are 101 internal checkpoints for Palestinians and over ten kilometers of roads that are off limits to them, even as settlers drive by cursing out the window. All the passageways to Abraham’s tomb are blocked and only one is open — and that has three separate checkpoints, making prayer during holy days almost impossible.
As an older person, I found it physically challenging to go back and forth to my host family’s home. I had to hold on to a younger person to go up and down the unpaved roads and rocky pathways to the houses, since the regular routes are blocked. The families have to carry everything to their home. Everything. There is no ambulance access either. Part of Shuhada Street is literally cut down the middle with a barrier. [See photo above, at left.] One side for Palestinians, one side for Jews. It is guarded by Israeli soldiers. If this isn’t apartheid, I don’t know what is.
The murals we painted were very well received. I love being part of a project that not only reports what we see, but is also able to involve the community in creating beauty in the neighborhoods. Once again I am here in the Jewish holy day season, and once again I am overwhelmed by the complete contrast I feel between the worlds of Israelis and Palestinians. I feel like the regime of Occupation has stolen my beautiful heritage from me — and I want it back.
Forty-two years ago in Wadi Qelt, I became a pacifist. Today I stood overlooking this same valley and realized how long my path has been from then to now. This year is also the beginning of my fortieth year as a rabbi. I hope and pray, and of course pledge my activism, to overcoming the militarism that has transformed life into a constant struggle. May this be the year that the tide turns and hearts awaken to the possibility of peace. In order for that to happen, all of us have to demand an end to occupation. This injustice cannot remain.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is one of the first ten female rabbis in modern Judaism. An avid proponent of interfaith engagement for peace and justice, she is coordinator of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Interfaith Peacewalks project and has led more than a dozen Middle East peacemaking delegations on behalf of FOR, including this year’s Arts of Resistance delegation. Click here to read a more complete bio for Rabbi Lynn.