Hebron is a special town in Israel in many ways. With the tombs of the patriarchy (including Abraham and Sarah) located there, the town is holy and of great significance in both Judaism and Islam. The town lies in the West Bank and the majority of its inhabitants are Palestinians. However many hundreds of Jewish settlers also live in the city. This means that the city is divided into several zones: Zone “H1” is under Palestinian administration and inhabited by Palestinians, and “H2” is under Israeli control and inhabited by both Palestinian and Jewish settlers.
The settlers in zone H2 are protected by Israeli soldiers. The two zones are kept separate from each other by checkpoints, walls and a buffer zone. This buffer zone is an uninhabited, deathly silent street, which feels like a ghost town and is patrolled by soldiers. Being divided into two parts and with a high level of military presence, the city is reminiscent of a divided Berlin before 1989. Hebron is the constant centre of conflict between the religions and has a long history of violent confrontations. At the time we visited the city, the situation was very tense as a result of the kidnapping of three Jewish youths from Hebron. Their bodies were found the next day – the further developments have been covered in the news.
The division of the city is most evident at the Cave of the Patriarchs. The building can be accessed from both the Jewish and the Arabic side and is divided into a mosque and a synagogue. The graves of Abraham and Sarah can be seen from both sides of the building, but are protected by bulletproof glass.