The name Hebron is often associated with a tragic event that happened in 1994, when an American and Israeli religious extremist entered the compound of the Tomb of the Patriarchs and proceeded to massacre and injure 29 Palestinian Muslims during prayer. Located about 930 meters (3,050 feet) above sea level, Hebron has long benefited from its mountainous climate, which encouraged the cultivation of fruit trees and vineyards. For the settlers, the Jewish presence in Hebron is justified from a religious point of view, since it is the location of the Mosque of Abraham, venerated by both Muslims and Jews. In modern times, Hebron was administered as part of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-4); after the first of the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948-49, it was in territory annexed by Jordan (1950).
In late February, an Israeli court ruled that the Israeli military could continue to use a building in Hebron built mostly on private Palestinian land, arguing that the Jewish presence in the West Bank is part of the Israeli military's security doctrine. This has pushed thousands of Palestinians to leave, what human rights groups (PDF) have described as massive forced displacement. Last week, Israeli forces closed the Abraham Mosque to Palestinian worshipers for several days, while facilitating the entry of thousands of Israeli settlers. We have been in Hebron for more than 20 years, providing mental health treatment and support to those suffering the consequences of living under occupation.
Modern Hebron is a center of agricultural marketing and trade, where glass and leather goods are produced there. On these occasions, tensions on the ground increase as Israel deploys more army and police to protect settlers, and Palestinians suffer from increased restrictions on movement and state and settler violence. After Israel moved toward normalization with the United Arab Emirates and then with Bahrain, Washington was flooded with widespread rumors among analysts and politicians that others would follow. Sudan, a country that suffers tremendously from debilitating US sanctions, decades of dictatorship that its people were able to forcibly evict last year and a humanitarian disaster due to massive floods, was the latest country to point to a process of normalization, although it is still subject to a future Sudanese Parliament.
To put it bluntly, normalization with Israel is used as a lever to remove Sudan from the sanctions lists, at a time when Sudan desperately needs it to save its population from the crisis. Nearly three months after an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip left 256 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, the situation across Palestine remains volatile. After an agreement reached in January 1997, part of Hebron came under the administration of the Palestinian Authority (PA), while part of the city remained under Israeli control. I've been hearing the term “Abrahamic beliefs” in my work for a long time, but Hebron gives it a new meaning.
It is in Hebron that the military occupation actually divides the civilian population, in the very center of this ancient city. The Palestinian city of Hebron is located south of the West Bank occupied by Israel; Zanuta is a Palestinian village in Adh Dhahriya about 20 km southwest of this district which exemplifies what Palestinians experience in this region.