JUNE 5, 2017 MARKS 50 YEARS since the Naksa, or “setback,” when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip (2017 is also 69 years since the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands to make way for the establishing of the State of Israel). Qiryat Arba, the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank, was established in the outer Hebron area in 1968. Eleven years later the Beit Hadassah area of Hebron’s Old City was taken over by settlers who squatted in buildings in order to take them over. The Israeli government later expanded the Beit Hadassah settlement and built a yeshiva. There are now 560,000 illegal Israeli settlers living the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Around 500 of these settlers live within Hebron’s city center and an additional 7,000 are in Qiryat Arba.
I was born into Occupation in the old city of Hebron in 1980, thirteen years after the Occupation began. When I was a child, my father used to hold my hand tightly as we walked through Shuhada Street because it was so crowded. In 1994 Brooklyn-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire in the Ibrahimi mosque killing 29 Palestinians in worship and injuring some 120 more. In response to the massacre, the Israeli army boarded up and sealed shut Palestinian storefronts and homes on Shuhada Street. While settlers now roam freely on Shuhada Street, carrying machine guns, pistols, and other weapons, Palestinian families that live on the street have to use back doors, alleyways, and rooftops to enter their homes. The once vibrant marketplace where my father used to hold my hand now resembles a ghost town.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:63