Sometime ago I wrote a blog titled: “We Need to Talk About Hebron”
I find myself coming back to the matter of Hebron again over a year later.
There is a moment I cannot get out of my head. I need to understand why Hebron keeps coming up for me. In a year’s time I have come to learn that Hebron is not talked about at great length. Judea & Samaria/West Bank/Occupied Territory/Jerusalem is discussed, but not Hebron.
Last year I was visiting with three other people and one of them said it was the 30-day memorial of their colleague. He asked if we would mind making a pit stop to attend. The colleague was a gardener about my age who was brutally stabbed to death by a Palestinian. The mourner’s were all gathered and I was standing several feet away, but mumbling Kaddish to myself along with them.
Suddenly I heard a disruptive sound; it was my first time hearing the Muslim call to prayer. I was confused at first because I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and didn’t know it could be heard in a Jewish city. (Yes American Jews can be naïve). I walked away from the group and went a little ways up a hillside. I realized the Muezzin was in surround sound. It was all around me, 360 degrees.
It was in that moment a light bulb went on.
I realized I was standing in the middle of a doughnut hole.
I grasped the severity that this tiny Jewish community was in the center of a rather large Palestinian city
I looked through a fence and saw a huge bustling metropolis. I didn’t know Hebron was the second largest city there. I also didn’t know what H1 and H2 were. I didn’t know there were 215,452 Palestinians there and that it was given to them at Oslo. I didn’t know there were only 80 Jewish families living there.
I stared at the fence.
I stared at the metropolis.
I heard the loud sound of the Muezzin.
I turned and saw the mourner’s out of the corner of my eye.
I lost my shit right then and there.
I began to cry on the spot.
One of my friends walked over to me and said- “Buddy, you ok?”
I said – “Are you ok?” He said- “I cried my first time here too. There would be something wrong with you if it didn’t make you cry.” The only response I could utter was – “This is not ok.”
A year later I found myself in a café in Jerusalem telling this story to a Palestinian friend who lives in Bethlehem. He wanted to tell me how horrible life is under the occupation in Hebron. I listened respectfully, validated his feelings and then shared my experience with him about my visit there.
He looked at me and said – “I’ve never felt sympathy for a Jew before. I am sorry Kara.”
Yesterday I met a Palestinian jeweler in the Old City. He made me a tiny pendant and I put it on my necklace. I wear an amulet containing the Shema and a Hamsa. There are now three charms that hang together from my neck. He, like every person I meet when I go there invited me to sit and chat. He has an old book, Hebron Sefer. His family rescued 24 Jewish families from a terrorist attack. They were given citizenship. The book chroniclalized this and has the names of these Jewish families in it. I told him Hebron is the saddest place for me and I feel differently there, more than anywhere else in Israel. I did not share my story with him. Instead, I listened to his story because it felt very right.
I have a friend in Hebron who runs a hostel and he is always inviting me to visit. He also wants me to take a tour. He is Palestinian. I also have friends who invite me for Shabbat in Hebron. I have been avoiding another visit there. I don’t ever want to cry like that again.
I can sense it coming. I know I am supposed to go back. I know I should meet my Palestinian friend. I know I should listen to what he has to say. I know I should spend another Shabbat there. I know I should go to Friday night service at Machpelah. I remember last time it was cold, windy and rainy. I was freezing and my body was shivering. I was so happy though because the sound of Jews singing their guts out in this place where we had no shelter from the cruel elements gave me strength. The PA won’t let us put anything but plastic above our heads and it is a miserable substitute for a non-existent roof.
I am not ready to see the IDF standing in Kiryat Arba staggered every so many yards apart. I am not ready to feel the tension that is so thick in the air, it suffocates me. I am not ready to put myself in that headspace. I am not ready for my heart to hurt.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
I will deliberately continue to put myself in uncomfortable situations.
I will keep choosing to be with people who are different than me.
I will not stop spending time with people who have different opinions than me.
I will not stop listening to them.
I will not shun otherness.
I will not avoid difference.
I will not let fear dictate my choices.
You know what else I will not do?
I won’t let social media tell me about Hebron.
I won’t let an Op ED tell me about Hebron.
I won’t let a meme tell me about Hebron.
I won’t let Wikipedia tell me about Hebron.
I go there myself. I have my own experience.
Hebron is mine. It’s been mine for over 4,000 years and I will not shy away from it because we gave it away. Hebron is not a possession. Rather, I belong to Hebron. Herod was our king, not theirs. He built Macpelah and don’t you and your guards ever forget that, ok?
Please dear Palestinians, at a minimum- do not forget you converted our rectangular, epic Herodian, Judean structure into a Saladin era mosque.
It’s cool though, right? Cause peace…
When I wrote the first draft of this blog, this ^ paragraph was not in it. The piece read rather soulfully. Then I began to ponder the way I felt inside Macpelah and it dug up old feelings. So I edited it…
Sometimes I think peace is possible in Judea & Samaria and the West Bank.
Sometimes I think peace is possible in Jerusalem.
Sometimes I think peace is possible in Gaza.
(Go on laugh, yeah it was funny, eh?)
But I do not think peace is possible in Hebron.
This is because Hebron is not like anything else in the Oslo agreement.
It is very different indeed and it is the worst part of it.
It is not like the rest of J&S/WB.
It is H1 and H2.
80% is controlled by the PA (in reality it is more like 90%) and 20% is controlled by Israel (in reality it is more like 10%).
Hebron is everything.
Hebron is the beginning of us.
Hebron is the most important place on earth to me.
I love it more than the Temple Mount.
I love it more than the Kotel.
I love it more than the whole of Israel.
I don’t know how to handle how much I feel about this place.
And this is why I have avoided going for a year.
I am afraid of my heart and how Hebron makes me feel.