My street is a closed military zone!

By EA Ingrid, Hebron team, 

Amid escalating violence Palestinian school children continue to bear the brunt of harsh Israeli policies and prolonged military occupation. Since Oct 30th Israeli authorities have declared large parts of Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida (H2) in Hebron’s city center a closed military zone. In this same area where several Palestinians were shot and killed during this fall; harassment and violence from settlers is commonplace.

4.11.15 Hebron Check Point 56 Children and teachers waiting too pass morning school run. Photo EAPPI/I. Stolpestad

4.11.15 Hebron Check Point 56 Children and teachers waiting too pass morning school run. Photo EAPPI/I. Stolpestad

Continue reading

PHOTO ESSAY: Two faces of the Hebron’s urban planning

by Diana, Hebron team

Hebron’s appearance is slowly changing… while carrying out are usual EAPPI tasks, we can observe both – the Israeli settler’s and the Palestinian resident’s efforts to transform the city.

Israeli settler efforts are concentrated mainly on Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida hill. They tend to highlight the ancient Jewish heritage in Hebron. That’s why they paint graffiti on the door of closed palestinian shops, they arrange gardens in place of streets formerly leading to the old city market, they put informative signs and mark tourist paths. Recently, they also renamed the streets in the area of settlements in the old city. On the top of Tel Rumeida hill the ongoing archaeological excavations will create a Biblical Park explaining the Jewish history of the site and the city.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) focuses its efforts on the Old City of Hebron. They rebuild houses demolished by Israeli forces, restore the former look of historical sites of the old city, and make better everyday life of its inhabitants, many of whom have moved out of the Old City after its closure. Lastly, HRC also strongly promotes tourism and other sectors of Hebron’s economy.

*Read more about the Archeological Excavations in Hebron.

*Check out our Three-part series about Shuhada Street.

The Struggle for Shuhada Street

This is part 3 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.

by Sarah, Hebron team Group 50

Open Shuhada Street demonstrations from 2011. This year's week of solidarity will be February 21-25. Photo EAPPI/L. Tuominen.

Open Shuhada Street demonstrations from 2011. This year’s week of solidarity will be February 21-25. Photo EAPPI/L. Tuominen.

For years Palestinian residents of Hebron have been prohibited from walking on the majority of the city’s main road, Shuhada Street. Even those who live in the houses lining the street are denied access. An entire generation of Palestinians have never set foot on the main street of their city. Instead they are required to search for detours to access the mosque, the market, and several schools. As Hebron resident Jawad explains:

“Shuhada Street is the lifeblood to Hebron. Shutting down the street is like someone who has a sick heart. So he needs to have open-heart surgery.”

According to the “Agreed Minute” in the Hebron Protocol of January 1997, the process of reopening Shuhada Street “would begin immediately, and would be completed within four months.” It is now January 2014, 17 years since the agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation was agreed upon, signed, and ratified, and yet Shuhada Street remains closed, empty, and useless. There appears to be no plans by Israel authorities to follow through on the internationally recognized agreement.

There are several organisations committed to realising the reopening of Shuhada Street most notably the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) initiated Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC). The aim of the campaign is simple: put pressure on the Israeli government through non-violent means to allow access to Shuhada Street for all people regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. The campaign “protests the segregationist nature of the closure of the area and of the division that has been created in Hebron”, says Irene Nasser, a Palestinian activist.

The South African based organization Open Shuhada Street “aims (to) raise awareness about the lack of freedom of movement in Hebron in the West Bank, and how this reflects some of the worst manifestations of the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories.” Like YAS and OSC, Open Shuhada Street is committed to bringing about change using non-violent means such as advocacy and protest.

You may wonder why such a fuss is being made about a single street when there must be multiple other streets available in Hebron.

For Jawad, born and raised in Hebron:

the “reopening of Shuhada is equivalent to a return of Hebron and life returning to the body.”

He explains that today he is required to walk 5km to a destination that he previously only had to walk 1km to reach. The simple inconvenience of a closed street not only interrupts daily activities but also reiterates the separation and access control policies of the Israeli occupation. The restrictions in force on Shuhada Street exemplify the imposed inequalities in Hebron and across the West Bank.

What can you do to help the struggle for freedom to Shuhada Street? Join the Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC) from 21 to 25 February 2014. Activists and organisations across the world will stand in solidarity with the residents of Hebron and all Palestinians through protest and other non-violent actions. The initiative began in 2010 to “demand the opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians and an end to the Israeli occupation.” Connect with your local OSC or create one in your area. Use the hashtag #OpenShuhadaSt to spread the word and join the resistance. For more information contact media.yas@gmail.com

In the occupation every action, regardless of how small it is, has an eventful impact. Nothing is insignificant. Nothing is unimportant. One street in Hebron represents so much suffering, so much discrimination, and so much hope. Let’s struggle to open Shuhada Street together!

Life on Shuhada Street

This is part 2 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.

by Sarah, Hebron team

Former Palestinian shops in Shuhada street are now overgrown with plants. Photo EAPPI/J. Schilder, 2010.

Former Palestinian shops in Shuhada street are now overgrown with plants. Photo EAPPI/J. Schilder, 2010.

 

Today, the once lively Shuhada Street in Hebron is a shell of its former self. Welded shut doors, rusty awnings, graffiti-sprayed walls, weeds, and caged balconies characterize this once active and busy street. The street was essentially shut down during the second Intifada and access to the street denied to Palestinians. Despite Israeli pledges to reopen the street, Shuhada Street remains closed and eerily empty.

Shuhada Street stretches from the entrance to H2 from H1 at Checkpoint 56 to the opposite side of H2 and Checkpoint 209 and is home to Israeli settlers and Palestinians. There are three settlements on Shuhada Street: Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano, and Avraham Avinu. The location of these settlements is what makes Hebron such a unique city as they are situated in the heart of a Palestinian city and Shuhada Street is closed to Palestinians because of it.

Life on Shuhada Street for Israeli settlers is quiet. There is no traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, there is excessive security ensuring safety, there is a coffee shop, school, and museum. Residents of Beit Hadassah deliver snacks and hot tea to the soldier at Checkpoint 56 below their building each morning. Children wait at bus stops for the school bus to collect them. Worshippers walk up Shuhada Street to the synagogue and the Cave of Patriarchs. Tour groups of settlers and internationals peruse the street with interest and intrigue. As a settler, life on Shuhada Street is normal.

Life on Shuhada Street for Palestinian residents is a struggle. Those still living on the street are forbidden from accessing the street and therefore using their front doors. As a result they are required to search for alternative access to and from their homes, which often means dangerous careering across staircases and rooftops. Many, if not all, of the balconies are encased in fencing with the goal of preventing stones and eggs reaching their belongings.

Cordoba School, for Palestinian children, is situated above Shuhada Street and access to the school is a steep staircase at Checkpoint 55 that also marks the border of Palestinian admission to Shuhada Street. Ecumenical accompaniers monitor this checkpoint and Checkpoint 56 two times a day during the school week. Israeli soldiers and settlers often harass children walking down Shuhada Street to school. EAs attempt to prevent such agitation by providing protective presence and in the process develop relationships with the children and teachers of Cordoba School.

From the staircase leading to Cordoba School to the access road of the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians are forbidden from walking or driving on the Shuhada Street. Approximately 30,000 Palestinians and 700 Israeli settlers live in the H2 partition of Hebron. For Palestinian residents, Shuhada Street is a clear symbol of the occupation. Israeli authorities use the Palestinian nationality as a weapon to control where they walk, how they live, and where they exist. The empty Shuhada Street epitomizes the Israeli occupation.

Life on Shuhada Street is a dream for some and a nightmare for others. For the Israeli settlers inhabiting Shuhada Street is a dream of access, peace, and protection. For the Palestinian residents of Shuhada Street life is a series of humiliating checkpoints and restrictions. It is a conundrum of rights and a skewed priority of safety.

* Read Part 1: The Story of Shuhada Street.

The Story of Shuhada Street

This is part 1 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.

by Sarah, Hebron team

Nov 2013 Shuhada Street 2 Hebron S. Robinson

Walking down Shuhada street is undeniably eery and feels as if walking in a ghost town. Photo EAPPI/S. Robinson.

Shuhada Street; most cities have one: the street that embodies the values of the community. The street where people meet and tourists visit. The street that breathes with activity and life. The street that symbolises all that it good and all that is bad in a city. New York has 5th Avenue, London has Oxford Street, Johannesburg has Bree Street, Paris has the Champs-Elysees, and Hebron has Shuhada Street. Or rather, Hebron had Shuhada Street.

Shuhada Street rests in the soul of the old city of Hebron. For centuries it was the commercial and social heart of this historic city. Shop keepers lived above their stores so life on the street was not limited to trading hours. The main fruit and vegetable market operated on Shuhada Street and the access to side roads and slip paths originated from this street. It was a bustling and busy road full of activity and life for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Then, in 1994, after the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque where a Jewish settler named Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshipers, the street was closed to Palestinian vehicles. When the second Intifada erupted six years later, the street was shut down completely. Shops were closed, people evicted, and Palestinian access banned in the name of security. Today, almost 20 years later, Shuhada Street is a shell of its former self.

This once exciting and elegant stretch of Hebron is now a ghost town. Palestinians have access to approximately 100m of the street. Israelis have access to the entire street. Palestinians that still live on Shuhada Street are forbidden to use their front doors. Instead they are forced to find alternative routes to their homes through the back of the buildings and over roofs.

According to B’tselem:

“As a result of these severe restrictions, 304 shops and warehouses along Shuhada Street closed down, and Palestinian municipal and governmental offices that had been on the street were relocated to Area H1. Israel also took control of the central bus station that had been on the street, turning it into an army base.”

The significance of Shuhada Street extends to both Palestinians and Israelis. There are three Israeli settlements on or near the street; Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano, and Avraham Avinu. These residents have full vehicular and pedestrian access to Shuhada Street. Several military checkpoints dot the road, all equipped with heavily armed soldiers. It is because of these settlers and their prioritised protection that Palestinians are barred.

Walking down Shuhada Street is undeniably eerie. Stray cats and military dogs add to the mysterious images of broken windows, welded shut doors, graffiti stained walls, army jeeps, and shattered stone. The little life this street holds is quick to enter and often eager to escape. Many walls host Israeli posters describing the history of the street albeit remarkably one-sided. Occasionally the face of a small Palestinian child peaks through a caged window on the second floor of a building curiously inspecting a street they have never stepped foot on. Israeli children catch buses to school and settlers enjoy a morning run on this stricken street. The separation is seamlessly clear.

The story of Shuhada Street is not complete. Several chapters are yet to be written. Many organisations are tirelessly campaigning to open Shuhada Street. The separation cannot be sustainable for Israelis or Palestinians. Until the street is opened, the dream of what Shuhada Street could be is just that; a dream.