Below you will find the story of a historical visit of a join Israeli-Palestinian interfaith encounter group to the Palestinian side of the City of Hebron, with permission from the army authorities.
With us was a reporter of ISRAEL21C and here is his story:
On a personal note: I joined this so special visit and encounter and for me there were several extremely unique elements to it:
First thing that was striking, was the calm and relaxed atmosphere of the tour. Most tours include a lot of anger – either towards the Jewish side or towards the Palestinian side. This tour was different and it was for me an indication to the high level of friendship and trust that developed within the group.
Another striking element was the emptiness of the old market. I was last in it when I was briefly a settler I Hebron some 30 years ago and I remembered it as full of life – with Jews, Palestinians and tourists filling it to the degree one could hardly move in it. It was very sad to see it so quiet and empty.
Then, in the Cave of the Patriarchs I met the spokesman of the Hebron Settlers and was happy to see how happy he was to hear about our group and its special visit and how he longed with me to the return of the good old days.
I went back from this day with a lot of hope!
On November 4th we had our encounter in the city of Hebron. We were around ten of the group members from Hebron, five from Qalqilia, three from East Jerusalem and seven Israelis.
We began with a visit which included a tour of the old city, the old market and the Cave of the Patriarchs. The tour was led by the Palestinian members of the group from Hebron. They explained why the market is nearly empty and showed us the division between the Palestinian side of the city and the Jewish side of the city. The explained the complexity of living in the city and its consequences. When we arrived at the Cave of the Patriarchs we split and entered from different entries: the Muslims from the Muslim side and the Jews from the Jewish side.
We then all went to sit in a café in the city center, where we talked about the sanctity of the the City of Hebron in Islam and in Judaism. Finally we reached the conclusion that the city is holy to both religions for the same reason: the fact that the Patriarchs are buried in it. We ended with Falafel, Nargila and lemonade and everyone said they enjoyed a lot this visit!
It is important to note that despite the political differences between the two peoples, the tour went in a very calm and peaceful way, in which we were privileged to get to know the city and hear about it through the people who live in it. May many such encounters happen!
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