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Introducing Hebron

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About Hebron

Hebron is a very ancient city. It's 3,000ft up in the Southern West Bank. It's called Al Khalil by Palestinians, meaning 'The Friend', alluding to the Patriarch Abrahim or Ibrahim, 'God's Friend', who lived here over 3,000 years ago.

It was a Hittite, Canaanite, Jewish, Greek, Roman, Fatimid and Ottoman centre too. It has long been a trading place where traders from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Arabia and the Levant met up.

Here's a poignant contrast: a minaret and an Israeli military watchtower overlooking Hebron.
Old Hebron, above the souk.
The nearby building on the left is an Israeli urban settlement.

Here's a poignant contrast: a minaret and an Israeli military watchtower overlooking Hebron.

Above: Old Hebron, above the souk.

Above right: the nearby building on the left is
an Israeli urban settlement.
Right: another Israeli urban settlement.
Settlers here are notably aggressive and ideological.

Here's the Souk, running down to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old Town. The settlers are trying
to take over the centre of Hebron, but the Palestinians are staying put, whatever happens.

Another Israeli urban settlement. The settlers here are notably aggressive and ideological.
The settlers are trying to take over the centre of Hebron...
The Souk, running down to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old Town.

The souk is a fascinating place.
Once upon a time Hebron's souk was one of the greatest trading places in this part of the Middle East, but now Hebron is isolated by Israeli borders and the long-distance trading routes of the Middle East are gone.

...but the Palestinians are staying put, whatever happens.

Below left is the more active end of the souk, but below right shows the dying end of the souk.
If a shopkeeper goes away, the Israeli settlers often weld the shop doors closed.

This is the more active end of the souk, but...
...here's the dead end of the souk. If a shopkeeper goes away, the Israeli settlers often weld the shop doors closed.

Here's an Israeli urban roadblock
- railings piled with rubbish.

Here's a building that was burned out during
the intifada ten years ago. Israeli lookouts
and gun emplacements are on top.

Settlers throw rubbish from upper floors that they have occupied onto Palestinians below.
Here's an Israeli urban roadblock - railings with rubbish.
Here's a building that was burned out during the intifada ten years ago. Israeli lookouts and gun emplacements on top.

Above: settlers throw rubbish from upper floors
that they have occupied onto Palestinians below.

A security situation.

Old Ottoman buildings above the souk.

Some shopkeepers are quite firm about staying open, despite everything. The EU subsidises shops in the souk to stay open because settlers' activities are incendiary and illegal, and this is a heritage site.

A security situation.

Old Ottoman buildings above the souk.
Some shopkeepers are quite firm about staying open, despite everything. The EU subsidises shops to stay open because settlers' activities are incendiary and illegal.

The ceiling of the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The inside of the Ibrahim Mosque, with one of the tombs (Isaac, I think).

Here's what it's all about: the Ibrahimi Mosque, the tomb of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives.
The inside of the Ibrahim Mosque, with one of the tombs (Isaac, I think).

Here's what it's all about: the Ibrahimi Mosque,
the tomb of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives.

Inspiring.
 

But to get there you have to get past this guy,
on one of the three urban checkpoints
before you get to the mosque.

Here's the great man himself:
it's Ibrahim the Patriarch's tomb.
A powerful place, it inspires reverence
and a sense of intense inner stillness.

Here's the great man himself: it's Ibrahim the Patriarch's tomb. A powerful place, it inspires reverence and intense inner stillness.
But to get there you have to get past this guy, on one of the three checkpoints before the mosque.

Old Ottoman buildings, restored.

Here's an instrument-maker in front of his shop.

Happier scenes: two Israeli soldiers chat with two young Palestinians.
Old Ottoman buildings, restored.
Here's an instrument-maker in front of his shop.

Happier scenes: two Israeli soldiers chat with two young Palestinians.

.

It's well worth visiting Hebron.

It's well worth visiting Hebron.

Today Hebron has a population of around 200,000, and it's the largest Palestinian city on the West Bank apart from East Jerusalem.

The city is divided into H1, the Palestinian sector and 80% of the city, with nearly 200,000 people, and H2, the Israeli sector and 20% of the city, with 600-1,000 settlers.

It's Palestine's most important industrial centre, with pottery, glass-blowing, engineering, carpet-weaving and clothing, shoes and other manufactures.

It all centres around the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is a synagogue on the other side - Abraham was patriarch to both peoples. One son, Isaac, gave birth to the Jewish people, and the other, Ishmael, gave birth to the Arabs, as tradition has it. Isaac and Jacob and others are entombed here.

It's a powerful place. The souk is both enchanting and depressing, for its history and character, and also the edgy influence of the Israeli settlers, who make life hard on the Palestinians. The mosque is captivating, an intensely spiritual place.


NEXT: Bethlehem, Jesus' birthplace
Or to read a chapter from the book about Hebron, click here

 
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