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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Life in Hebron

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | March 25th, 2007 | Comments 1 Comment »

Christian Peacemaker Teams ( ) has a “team” on-the-ground in Hebron, a delightful old city now defined by its tension. The maze of above-ground tunnels twist in every direction, leading to a labyrinth of shops and homes. The CPTers live in the “chicken district,” a more airy area living up to its fowl-neighbored name. There are 6 rotating “CPTers” who either work full-time in 3-month in-country stints, or act as volunteer “reservists,” spending up to several weeks supporting the skeletal staff.
CPT has few hard and fast rules. Among them are they live as locals do, in modest conditions. In our case, that means a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom drafty apartment shared by 9 people. The bathroom is considered a bit upscale because it boasts a hand-held showerhead with an anemic drizzle and water charitably described as tepid during its best moments. A separate closet features a squat toilet with a handy pitcher of greywater to pour down to “flush” the waterless toilet.shuhada-street.jpg

The other rule is that unmarried men and women room separately. Reread the paragraph above for clues on how little rule #2 interferes with my desire to intermingle with the opposite sex.

We sleep on floor mats made more comfy by the sleeping bag I lugged from LA. Space heaters and the camaraderie among our 9 delegates and the 6 trained CPTers warm the rooms. We rotate cooking duties and eat ample, healthful, vegetarian meals. (I confess I did sneak away one afternoon for a chicken schwarma.)

Our days begin with joining the CPT team in “school patrol”: Posting ourselves at a checkpoint to help children come into the Old City for school. Afternoons, we split up and support the team in “street patrol,” monitoring the checkpoints and recent hot spots to be sure Palestinians are not being hassled, hurt – or worse. In between, we meet with journalists and leaders of non-profit organizations involved in rebuilding the city.

I’ve been to post-invasion Baghdad, but I’ve never experienced such institutionalized militarism. Some soldiers don’t think twice about pointing their long rifles into the chests of innocent Palestinians just going about their day. Others follow children and old women down the streets, as if they are heading to some secret terrorist den. I am appalled.

And I am helpless.

We wander down Shuhada Street, a formerly vibrant street that bustled with Palestinian shops until conservative Jewish settlers moved in. Now, it’s closed at either end, shops long gone, irreverent Stars of David triumphantly graffitied by the Jewish settlers on the shuttered storefronts.

Shuhada Street was named specifically in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords to be reopened by the Israeli government. Now, 15 years later, this street, whose name means “witness” in Swahili, is witness only to continued desolation, wasted opportunity and insidious discrimination.

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One Response to “Life in Hebron”

  1. Wafa Says:

    I’m sure you’ve noticed and learned that Hebron’s situation is completely different and more complicated than any other city in the WB. My first visit to Hebron ever was only last summer and it was heart breaking to see the Shuhada street and the old town turned into ghost town basically!!! I wonder if you got the chance to visit Al-Ibrahimi Mosque!! It’s one of the oldest and beautiful shrines in the area.

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