EDIT: I was contacted by TIPH to please remove all the pictures taken inside their headquarters due to their “sensitive nature.” I have obliged.
Today I visited the city of Hebron in the lower West Bank. Hebron, the home of Abraham’s tomb, is a very violent city; usually when the West sees Katie Couric talk about new waves of violence among Israelis and Palestinians, often times it is Hebron. Mainly this is due to the presence of several thousand Israeli settlers that live literally above the local Hebronites. The settlers enjoy access to services and roads not offered to the Palestinians.
A group of us organized a tour with TIPH, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, as visiting Hebron without a tour is strongly not recommended due to security issues. TIPH is a 6 nation consortium consisting of Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, and Turkey that was initially created by the United Nations. Their job is to merely observe and demarcate the violence. The group reports to both the Israelis and Palestinian Authority as well as the member countries.
The TIPH compound is incredibly secure. After being attacked in 2003, their new compound has electronic locks from within – even if someone is able to penetrate the walls and actually get inside, they are unable to venture farther in without security codes to open the mechanized doors. Sadly, however, in 2002 two TIPH members – from Turkey and Switzerland – lost their lives when a crazed Arab man unloaded his weapon in their car.
After handing over our passports, signing a hazard waiver, and getting clearly demarcated “OBSERVER” badges in Arabic, we began our walking tour. We were met with lots of curiosity – not often do the Hebronites see tourists, let alone Westerners (as opposed to Israeli settler tourists, which I am sure they are not so pleased to see) The pictures explain more, but I will say that I withheld some pictures from posting. The settlers, an extreme fringe group of Israeli society that is not widely supported among the larger Jewish populace, have created some extremely disturbing graffiti on walls and in playgrounds. I am not posting those pictures.
Anyway, the Hebron pictures…