Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Tue 16.10.12, Morning
A 6:30 departure brings us without incident to Hebron, along Route 60, except for a few pedestrians.
The spy balloon floats in the sky, but looks different, more like a parachute with a tail. We wave.
At the entrance to Hebron a group of soldiers receives the daily orders. We head for the Beit Hameriva [House of Contention] which is silent behind its massive barricades of concrete. A lone soldier peers at us from the roof but we are not challenged. We wander across the checkpoint into H1 and look at the graves in the cemetery, then return but all is silent. Signs of renovation and building abound.
Our next stop is the Ibrahim mosque or Cave of Machpela were we disguise as tourists leaving our MW tags out. We visit the 7th step where the locals allowed Jews to pray until the 1967 war and subsequent Israeli occupation. A lone woman prays nearby. A large sign tells the history of the place. Hebron is full of reminders of the insults and injuries of the past that merge with the insults and injuries of the present. Inside, we discover what it is that the settlers do all day, or why they are mostly absent from the streets: they are praying. Two groups of men and young boys are deeply involved in the morning service. The women's section, a narrow corridor separated from the men by a wooden screen, peeping space only, is empty. The many inscriptions and decorations in Arabic calligraphy have not been obliterated but there has been an effort to minimize these by means of black velvet hangings embroidered in gold and silver with Hebrew inscriptions. A large sign in English tells of he exploits of the early settlers who managed to force their way down into the bowels of the cave, via a wall hung with "Arab" prayer rugs, and found remnants dating to the time of King Solomon. There is also the story of Moshe Dayan who let a 12 year old (Jewish) girl be lowered into a dark tunnel in an (unsuccesful) attempt to reach the holy dust. By and large the place is dirty and untidy and totally uninviting.
We try to enter the Muslim side but are prevented by the Border Police guards. Their officer tells us we can go in on the next Jewish holiday when only Jews are allowed in on the Muslim side as well. He confirms that there are some fine artifacts there.
After the obligatory tour of the town we leave for Bani Naim where the well-irrigated vineyard belonging to Menachem Livni, ex Jewish Underground, (on private Palestinian land) flourishes. The great yellow gates that protect the looted land are firmly closed. The sign denoting the entrance to Area A, and thus barred to Israelis, has been moved from the entrance to the town, where it belongs, to a point beyond the vineyard. All of this could not have happened without the active cooperation of the Civil Administration, the army and Israeli rule of law. So nothing new there.
...Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world..
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and every where
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity...
From Second Coming W B Yeats