The City of the Patriarchs - Hebron
After our morning warm up the campers headed on the bus for a day in Hebron/Khalil. One of the tensest cities in Palestine because of the presence of the tomb of Abraham. Settlers have taken over the old city and segregated the area by taking over Palestinian homes in order to stay closer to the tomb of Abraham located in the Hebron Mosque, now separated in two for muslims and jews. The aim of the trip was also to show the campers that Hebron is also a hub for Palestinian trade as well as a center for Palestinian artisan heritage. We started off the day by stopping at the famous Khalil glass factory. Khalil is known for its production of beautiful ceramics and glasswork that the campers were able to see from start to finish. The glass blowers showed the campers how they work the glass into vases, pitchers and other household items in the red-hot oven set at the center of the factory.
After this the campers also had a chance to visit the ceramics factory located up the road. They observed the meticulous attention to detail that it takes when decorating ceramic plates, bowls and ashtrays amongst other things. The artisans with years of practice have become masters of the profession reproducing traditional Palestinian flower designs and patterns almost effortlessly with mechanical precision.
The campers then went to the last keffiyeh factory in Palestine at the Herbawi factory. There they were greeted by the monotonous clanking of the keffiyeh weaving machines and saw how the age-old Palestinian scarf is made. After a quick tour of the gift a shop and replenishing of keffiyeh supplies the campers headed off to have lunch.
Our tour guide during the trip Walid worked for the HRC (Hebron Rehabilitation Center), an organization set up by Yasser Arafat when the Settler colonialism of Hebron was becoming more and more detrimental to the preservation of the city. The campers went to the center to get a crash course on the situation in Khalil (H1 and H2) and see how the city is segregated between Jews and Palestinians and the constant harassment the locals face with the local settler population. The situation was tense in the city since the recent events so the visit was limited. Althought the campers were able to see Shuhada street, one of the most important commercial streets that was shut down; they were also able to see the cages set up on the roof of the market to protect Palestinian passerby’s from the trash and rocks thrown at them.
Finally the campers went to the Ibrahimi Mosque said to be the location of the tomb of Abraham. To pass through the campers had to go through the revolving doors where they witnessed what negotiating passage with soldiers was like as our director Nisreen explained to them the purpose of our visit. The soldiers were hesitant when they saw “Go Palestine” on the t-shirts but luckily we were able to make them understand that this was a summer camp visit where they reluctantly let us pass. The campers learned about the struggle of living with constant settler presence and were able to appreciate the value of Hebron as a city that contributes to Palestinian heritage on many levels.