Hebron is an ancient city of 6000 years and of enormous religious significance. There are many interests and tensions here.
In its modern life it is home to 250,000 Palestinians and is the main centre of commerce and business in the West Bank.
The city was divided into H1 and H2 as a result of the Oslo agreement in 1993. The oldest part of the city, also has a settlement slap bang in the middle of everything, home to a few hundred very orthodox and at times aggressive Jewish settlers, guarded by a 1000+ security forces.
There is a history of tension and violence and as a result the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was set up in 1994. We visited these folks and they do good work in patrolling, monitoring and reporting any incidents (14,000 since 1994). They do not intervene.
We also met with the Mayor of Hebron who has one simple goal….”My vision is to bring back normal life to our city”. He notes that 58% of the population is under 18. And he worries that the youth don’t have the options and alternatives they need, especially at night. “Their CV’s don’t say PhD or BSc it says too often, 5 years in jail”. The city has built a new sports arena that will open in three weeks and this is a major accomplishment.
The Mayor believes the old part of the city should be a “heritage of mankind”. But it is now a ghost town with 1800 shops closed by the Military since the massacre in 1994. It’s a long way to “normal”. But this Mayor is like most all Mayors….he wants his city to prosper, and its citizens to have a good quality of life.