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…

The Tomb of Abraham; notice how it is termed a mosque even though Abraham is the father of Christianity and Judaism (which came first out of the 3 main monotheistic faiths)

We wore things around our neck that clearly read this. Our tour guide has it on her back to alert the locals not to attack.

Though we went on Friday (the day of Muslim prayers), we were told the Old City here has almost completely shut down all its vendors due to a lack of tourists

Walking through the Hebron Old City. Notice the Israeli flag above the wire. The settlers of Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham) live up there.

The temple of Kiryat Arba (which means Town of Four in Hebrew, referring to the Biblical people who were alledged to live here), the largest settlement in Hebron and one the largest in all of the West Bank. The Hebrew reads "Kiryat Arba is Hebron."

Kiryat Arba again. Notice the Israeli flags in the windows. Settlers often throw garbage down from their windows and the Palestinians throw up rocks.

Garbage thrown from Kiryat Arba down on the Palestinians

A one-way entrance to Kiryat Arba

I love cool signs

While the settlers have their graffit, as do the Palestinians. "Zionism" as a buzzword has been used a bit too erratically that the people that claim to be victims of Zionism likely do not udnerstand the origins of the term.

We were allowed to go into Kiryat Arba because we were official guests of TIPH. This is the entrance to the Israeli checkpoint entering the settlement. Areas like this might be the only Israeli installations where Arabic occurs above Hebrew for obvious reasons.

A sign in Kiryat Arba proclaiming that the Arabs stole Jewish land in the 1929 Hebron Massacre in which over 70 Jews were killed.


Abraham's Tomb. There exists certain days when only Jews are allowed inside and days when only Muslims are allowed in. The two groups pray in distinct sections though, monitored by cameras. The conflict arises when the Jewish and Islamic holidays coincide, creating a fog as to who should get exclusive access.

Another view of Abraham's Tomb. It was Friday, so Muslims were streaming in.

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2 Responses to Flashpoint

  1. jml says:

    What an unbelievable experience!!! Did you have any contact with an”average everyday” settler?

    • zlain says:

      Our only contact was curious looks by settler children from rooftops. An “average settler,” though, is part of the fringe right – who else would choose to live in the heart of Hebron?

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