And I saved my love for that magic land, and at night city lights filled my dreams. It did not matter that other lands were accessible. It was there that I wanted to be.
As I sat on a stone today looking west, I felt it all, vividly. And I tried to remember when it was that I realized I loved this rocky land. When I began to treat it as mine.
Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian writer
Palestinian roads: Hebron, West Bank
Hebron (Arabic: al-Khalil), a Palestinian city on the West Bank south. City of concrete, rocks and poor land. Palestinians from other cities think of it as gloomy and are often surprised to hear a foreigner went there. ”Why would anyone do that?”. Its residents (Khalilis) are of few words and even the sweetest ones are wrapped up in a rough peasant accent. You won’t find it in cities like Bethlehem or Jerusalem. Khalili mentality is the same, difficult, at least at first sight.
Even from far away you can notice the architectural boredom of the city and sense the neighbor’s relationships. They are displayed on a red warning board at the entrance: This road goes to section (A) under Palestinian control. Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter, it is life-threatening and against the Israeli law.
In the ”confession room” at Tel Aviv airport I told Israeli officials I am staying in a village outside of Hebron, with my Palestinian host family. I will be volunteering in a language school. After that, I will continue traveling around the West bank by myself. Still, it seems like even a tourist is a terrorist here until proven innocent.
But, back to our destination: with a bit more than 200 000 people, Hebron is an important city in both historical and religious terms. It’s precisely because of that why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict broke in such a vulgar and bloody way here. It’s definitely not a city for your regular tourist break and happy postcards for friends and family, but if you want to understand the core and proportions of conflict, search there.
Soon I will get to see things we thought were left behind in history ruins 80 years ago: checkpoints where soldiers stop the cars and search for documents (this can take hours and disrupts the ”normal” life, going to work, to doctors…), Jewish settlements with fences and wires prohibiting Palestinians from entering, demonstrations and bullets shot on weekly basis, segregation on national and religious grounds, special access for Muslims, special for Jews, special plates on cars and special documents that determine where you are (not) allowed, closed and abandoned houses marked by David’s stars, special roads and pedestrian crossings for Palestinians and Israelis…
It’s as if there’s too much life in such a small space now, and something or somebody needs to go. But that’s a bit of thought too big for now. My host, whom I will refer to as my Palestinian dad because I’m staying with a Palestinian family, was waiting for me to get in the truck and take me home. And when I say he was ‘waiting’, I mean: he was one hour late in the first place. Lesson number one, as told by Arabs themselves: ”We don’t respect the clock”.
None of my days here to come will follow any schedule, the only sane thing to do was to relax and go with the flow.
So, let’s make it one step at a time. Slowly, like we do here in East. Ahlan wa sahlan fi Khalil.