07 August 2007

Arriving In Hebron

I spent a couple of days in Ramallah to attend the nonviolent resistence ISM training which more than prepared me for life in the Tel Rumeida (TR) section of Hebron. Actually, the training scared the heck out of me. Worst case scenarios were given and they certainly appeared to be the worse. I had roughly one day after training to make my way down to Jerusalem where I took in some of the sites in the old city before I headed to TR the following day. I didn't intend to do ISM work while there, only teaching the kids, but later would find that it was impossible not to help out in other ways due to my conscience.

From Jerusalem I took a service taxi with Katie and Mary. The ride takes just about an hour. We had to switch services in the middle of a highways just outside of Jerusalem because it could not pass through the checkpoint. The road system is quite strange due to divisions between Israel and Palestine. I never did quite figure it out in regards to this point. Once we switched we headed directly for Hebron. The terrain is quite beautiful.

Rolling hills covered with rock gardens and catus. It reminded me of the high desert in eastern Oregon and Washington states. Every so often you can see a small village with just a few houses that look as though they will fall over at any minute. The closer we got to Hebron the more trash we saw, evidence of extreme poverty.

Once we arrived in Hebron I had a nervous feeling. This was it! I'm here to stay. We passed through the checkpoint dividing H1 from H2. H1 is a Palestinian only section of Hebron. H2 is where the Tel Rumeida settlement is. I can't even remember at this point if they asked for ID but regardless if they did this time, there would be many, many more times in which they would. We exited through the metal detectors and looked out onto Shuhada Street (street of martyrs).

It was like a ghost town. All of the oxidized bluish-green doors closed up. Once the heart and soul of Hebron but now a heavily armed guarded area completely shutdown. It was hard to imagine at that moment how things once appeared. Immediately we turned right to begin our walk up the very steep hill on Tel Rumeida Street.

The Palestinians are forced to walk up and down these extremely steep hills on a daily basis. Palestinians in TR are not allowed to drive cars. However, the settlers can. If someone was handicapped and could not walk I am not sure what they would do. Most likely they would be confined to a life at home. Even I had trouble walking down the hills. I was always in fear that I would slip and fall. Most likely a psychological block because others, especially Palestinian women, could walk down in high heels! But, they have had years of practice. One positive thing I can say about the hills is that they helped maintain my leg strength for running (which I couldn't do at all in TR).

At the top of the hill we passed another checkpoint with armed soldiers stationed at both sides of the street. Directly across from us where the road dead ends sat two ISMers keeping watch over the soldiers. Up the hill to the left sat the TR settlement. The soldiers here are basically useless and their job seemed to be to harrass Palestinians instead of providing protection to anyone. Eventually I would see them day after day playing around with each other, pointing guns as a game at women and children who walked by, stopping young Palestinian men to ask them to lift their shirts and trouser cuffs as though they were equipped with bombs.

Across from the settlement is a Palestinian home. We were told that we are not allowed to walk up that direction passed a certain point. Even the Palestinian's family members are not allowed to enter the family's home that way. Instead they must walk all the way around the back. About a 15 minute extra walk. Just the beginning of the absurd things I would hear about and witness with my own eyes.

Off in other direction was the international apartment. Atop the apartment was a roof with the most incredible view of Hebron as well as the areas we would patrol.

Across the street was the community center where I would begin teaching my classes.

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