While backpacking in the Middle East, I made sure I headed to some insightful places to help understand the history and politics of this divided region of the world. After reporting on my tour of the Palestinian side of Hebron, I also visited the Israeli side to get both views, opinions and standpoints on this divided and puzzling city. If you want to check out the first part of this – read my Hebron Palestinian Side H1 post. The tour was a full day trip organised by Abraham Tours of the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem.
So following on from that, we walk into the same building we were in before (The Ibrahimi Mosque) BUT now we are in a synagogue with lots of Jews praying and reciting verses, when in the same building on the other side we had seen Muslims praying. There seems to be a denial or a disbelief that Jews viewed from the other side were wearing shoes and laughing at Muslims. But they were – we saw it with our own eyes. The Jews are disrespectful here and the Muslims completely innocent. It’s completely confusing. I mean the same building used by both religions, and two communities that are at war with each other. Even growing up in Northern Ireland, I couldn’t recall an actual church or chapel that had a dividing wall and was used by both sides of our religious divide – Protestants and Catholics.
I almost wanted to call Colombo (Peter Falk) and get him to investigate the case. Although, for today thankfully no homicide, just a mystery of conflicting views and opinions within the same building. Our Jewish guide insists this building belongs entirely to Jews and the Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to lay claim to it, as they took it illegally. Earlier we heard a similar tale from Mohammed our Palestinian Guide but that it is a Muslim building. SO basically the argument also boils down to who owns this building. A building which on one side is a Mosque from Muslims and on the other side a Synagogue for Jews. The Muslims respected the Jews part and removed their shoes. It was sad that these arrogant Jews refuse to take their shoes off when entering the Muslim Mosque.
We leave the Mosque/Synagogue. We head to the point in the road where last week a soldier was shot dead in cold blood by a Palestinian sniper. It’s a poignant moment and for now, we side with the Israelis. it’s an emotional sectarian drama before our very eyes – and we came here as tourists. Another spot in the road was the scene of a horrendous suicide bombing, where Israeli children were killed some years ago. This is sad. We visit the memorial, which is still there. A Jewish synagogue is also here and in good condition. It’s survived some bad times.
Murals on both sides seem to portray the exact opposite. I have a chuckle at the “Free Palestine” and “Free Israel” signs. On a later trip to Bethlehem, I was also startled but not surprised to see the Israeli Jews being compared to Nazi Germans in a wall graffiti act bearing the Swastika. It’s interesting when you look at the world from someone else’s point of view.
The Jews are in the major minority in Hebron, but we catch up with a local Jewish lady who has been through family deaths and lives a tough life. We totally side with her, when earlier in the day we sided with the Palestinians, this double narrative tour really takes you to the heart of both sides.
Then we walk up to a guard post, high above the city. The Israeli soldier there talks for 5-6 minutes. He has no fear in life. He shows us the exact location where the Palestinian sniper came from the previous week and killed one of his army colleagues. It’s a matter of life or death in parts of Hebron and it’s truly sad.
Our final part of the tour on the Jewish side takes us to the Jewish Museum, which I find ridiculously biased. It completely only shows things from the Israeli side. Palestinians live here too and are good honest, hard working people for the most part. But how can a tourist solve a problem which has been going on for years? I can’t but I hate the way both sides hate each other.
A tour of Hebron is one of the biggest eye openers from my travel journeys and completely educated me on the whole problems with the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. I also visited Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho in Palestine, but Hebron is the place to see things at first hand. I’ve been quite mild and non opinionated in this post, here are a few photos portraying the dangers of Hebron.
It’s sad to see the divide and how the Palestinians are completely enclosed. Whether a two party state or a one party state is the best option, one thing’s for sure, closing people off from fellow humans is in itself absurd and inhumane. My heart goes out to everyone in Hebron.
“Your destiny will keep your warm” – Noel Gallagher
Peace, love and happy travels to one and all.
Here are some videos from my time backpacking in Hebron: