Sunday, April 12, 2009

Inside the hammam in Bab az-Zawiyyah, Hebron, May 2001

When I was last in Israel-Palestine, Aug 2000 - June 2001, one day I went to Hebron to see the realities there with my own eyes.
I went to visit the
Christian Peacemaker Team who had been living in Hebron for several years at the invitation of the mayor so that they could serve as witnesses and reduce the level of violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers and authorities.
I took a Palestinian bus from the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and traveled with Palestinians on the back roads through fields and orchards because they are prohibited from the main roads.
What I saw in Hebron eight years ago shocked me despite all the reports I had heard. Well over 100,000 Palestinians locked down in their own city to provide "security" for a tiny handful of several hundred fanatic Jews. Signs of brutal violent repression were everywhere. Homes and stores everywhere were pock-marked from being raked with large-caliber machine gun fire. Horrible anti-Arab graffiti, "Death to the Arabs" in Hebrew, was spray painted on shops and homes. Many shops were burnt out. Israeli military patrolled everywhere and had set up outlooks and gun posts on rooftops all over the city. It had been this way for decades.
One very beautiful place was this, the inside of the hammam or bath house in the neighbourhood called Bab az-Zawiyyah. Even after decades of occupation and repression, it was an oasis of calm and comfort. I learned later that a zawiyyah is a Sufi prayerhouse and I remembered my rebbe, Reb Zalman's experience with the Sufi sheikh in Hebron years ago. Was this the place?
I have no idea if hammam is still opan and functioning. There's been so much further destruction of Palestinian life in Hebron since I was there eight years ago. I'd like to go there again on this trip and see.
The Christian Peacemaker Team is no longer there. I don't know if they were expelled by the Israelis or if they left on their own. They have moved to
At-Tuwani in the south Hebron hills, between Hebron and Beersheva, a place where Palestinian farmers and villages have been under intense assault from fanatic Israeli settlers in recent years. I hope to visit there on this trip and will let you know if I do.

1 comment:

  1. Hebron is certainly the capital of Jewish religious extremism. I have been there and have seen the "mavet l'aravim" graffiti. Extremism is dangerous, and extremism prevents peace. HInt: Yigal Amir, the suicide bombings that off set the peace process etc. and corrupt leaders like Arafat that didn't have the courage or will to stay at the negotiating table.

    But I think you should avoid using generalizations, especially when many people reading your blog may not be familiar with the complexities of Israeli Arab conflict.

    If you refer to all the Jews of Hebron as "fanatic jews" and "fanatic settlers", people will think that the 200,000+ Jews living beyond the green line are the same as Baruch Goldstein. I don't believe you think that.

    The acts of violence that have been committed by Jews in hebron are inexcusable. But you are painting the story in one way. Remember baby shalhevet pass, who I believe was shot by a palestinian gunmen when she was in her carriage? Many Jews have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks in the hebron area. Furthermore, it is true, population wise, that hebron is a palestinian city. However, don't forget 1929!

    Like I said before, Extremism is the primary obstacle to a real and lasting peace. But thank god there are so few Jewish extremists and that the government closely monitors them.

    If only the arab/muslim world could do the same! If only the elected Palestinian government wasn't bent on the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews worldwide! If only Mein Kampf wasn't a bestseller in the the Muslim world!!

    A true peace can't happen without controlling the extremists. Luckily, there aren't too many Jewish extremists to control. The realities among the Palestinians are unfortunately quite different. I agree that extremism should be targeted, but by using words like fanatic settlers, people will think that every Jew living in Gilo is a Kahanist.