Hebron, hallowed or not, like most cities or towns in the Occupied Territories, once beautiful places in which to live, delightful cultural and religious places to visit, is now a divided military zone. Instead of villages and squares there are divisions with zone names like "Area H-2", for areas where people once lived free from occupation and were able to honor sacred places in a diversity that supplied prosperity for many.
Occupation combined with home demolition is nothing new to Palestinian populations in Area H-2 or anywhere else under the control of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In the 1990's, before demolitions were determined and enacted in the name of retribution, retaliation and deterrence, homes of Palestinians with no ties to terrorism were specifically slated for demolition. The owners were pushed out of their homes on the pretext of non-existent building permits on land that belonged to some Palestinian families for generations. Most of the homes designated as "illegal" by the IDF happened to be located near roads and/or were situated close to settler homes. Imagine one house being made illegal over the other. Was this punishment for Palestinian resistance or rewards for violent settlers?
In its last official report (
“[S]ince September 2000, some 43% of the residents of the three main streets in the Casbah have left their homes, at least 2,000 businesses have closed, and three schools in which 1,835 pupils studied were taken over by the IDF and closed.”
The report further describes reasons why the Palestinians have abandoned the Casbah.
“The ongoing abuse of
Violence By Settlers and Lack of Law Enforcement:
Despite the numerous cases of violence by settlers, some of which were clearly anticipated, there is almost no law enforcement on the settlers. A presentation made by the Civil Administration, which is included in B'Tselem's report, states that, "The State of Israel has a very bad image as relates to law enforcement in Hebron" (emphasis in the original).
Violence By Security Forces:
IDF soldiers and Border Police officers commit acts of violence against Palestinian residents of the city. The report presents testimonies of such incidents, including several which occurred after the exposure of a series of violent acts by Border Police officers.
Curfew and Closing of Businesses:
The Israeli security forces do not allow Palestinians in
The IDF and the settlers have been in the wind for years around
Next to the more infamous cries of "anti-Semitism" every time there is any criticism of the more deplorable state in Israel, there is no louder cry than that of "bribery! fraud!" to drown out any whispers of withdrawal or any vision of ending the occupation.
Some of the the main players continue to steal all of the big scenes.
In 1997, after three months of investigation, the Israeli police recommended an indictment of then Prime Minister Benjamin "BiBi" Netanyahu on charges of breach of trust. The scandal centered around the cabinet appointment of Ronni Bar-On, a relatively unknown Jerusalem lawyer and Likud activist, who had been briefly elevated to the position of Attorney General. His tenure lasted about 48 hours but caused such a huge scandal that many felt it should have toppled Bibi. The media event was called "The Bar-On For Hebron Affair", but somehow the city of Hebron got rather lost from public site.
The Bar-On appointment only became a scandal when a state owned television channel reported that Ronni Bar-On was hand picked as part of a deal in which to supply suitable plea bargaining for one of Netanyahu's political allies, Shas party boss and a founding member, Aryeh Deri, who was then on trial for corruption.
At the time, there appeared to be some extraordinary hope dangling about the deployment of troops, most significantly being removed from the holy area formerly known as the "city" of Hebron.
Aryeh Deri, a political architect of the Shas party, had been a key player in the Oslo Accords. His representation along with the blessing of spiritual leader Rav Ovadia Yosef favored the Accords. Rav Yosef had ruled that it was religiously permissible to make concessions over the land for the purpose of preventing future war; scripture so justified by the saving of human life. This was a profound statement creating a path towards settling land disputes and maintaining peace.
It was, however, counter to and grievously opposed by powerful rabbis in more orthodox Zionist camps, who countered that Jewish law forbade ceding parts of the biblical Land of Israel.
In positing such a motion towards land negotiations, Rav Yosef and Deri were actually creating new harmony between the Sephardic community and some Ashkenazi leftists who also favored peaceful co-existence. And for first time in Israeli society, there was a possibility of successfully mingling, even oddly unifying, Ashkenazi together with Sephardi, for the very good purpose of peace and safety for all.
Then, just when it was to getting religiously AND secularly interesting, Deri (and only Deri) got sent to jail for his bribes and somehow along with him went this possibility for a happier or at least a quieter Hebron.
Deri was only one of several players. Two people who did NOT go to jail, though directly implicated was then PM Benjamin Netanyahu and David Appel, who was at the time in the "construction business." 
If there seems to be shades of deja vu concerned with Hebron, deployment and nefarious dealings and delays towards peace, think about Amir Oren, military and political analyst, writing for Ha'aretz who said, when discussing the latest mob figures, convicted racketeers and extortionists to gain posts in the Likud party infrastructure:
"Organized crime has spawned a political wing, and is penetrating the government echelons. It is literally taking the law into its own hands. Its influence will be felt in legislation, votes (for the Judicial Selection Committee, the president-the vital partner in the pardoning process-and the state comptroller) and the immunity granted from surveillance of home, office, car and telephones in the registered in the name of an MK..."
While there is much to keep US citizenry pre-occupied with endless
Enronesque internal investigations, how can any US representative ever
justify paying foreign aid to a country as corruptive towards living
peacefully as the present state of Israel, without directly reflecting our
approval of how Palestinians continue to be treated? And without
reflecting the Israeli disregard for international and humanitarian law to
the rest of the world.
Given even the suggestion of corruption, WHO among US officials felt it a necessary precaution to sign an Israeli and US agreement limiting the extradition of their citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague? The implication of this is agreement is that war criminals and/or corrupt government officials need protection. Is not the function of the ICC in The Hague such a place that fairly deals with the injustices inflicted upon all peoples concerned?
In between promises of deployments and corruption charges in the headlines, there have been these brave and outspoken teams of Internationals, including Israelis and Palestinians who work daily for peaceful solutions and who provide the guidelines for non-violent resistance despite having been systematically hurt, maimed, jailed and/or killed.
A critical question: why is it that some Israelis and Internationals and Palestinians can converge successfully together with purpose and determination? Could it be that the wrong teams of people are in power and influence?
The wise judge might consider this and counsel:
THESE are the men and women to gather together for peace talks. They have done well and have proven themselves in their commitment towards peace. Let them come together and speak further in order for the world to hear what they have to say and to get on with making Peace.
Palestinian garbage gets routinely blocked from collection and is halted to stand and to rot. The garbage collectors must receive "permission" in order to collect waste that gets more vile with each passing hour. This has become a breeding ground for a population of super rats. The name for the aggressive occupiers of Area H-2 is a word in Hebrew, similar to “Crats” which is also an indication of how large the rats have become. 
Crats only benefit by the new ecology and sustainability of Area H-2. They have doubled and tripled in size and population. The Crats have gone from the streets and infiltrated into the military barracks. They are an enemy who knows no flag nor allegiance. According to the newspaper Maariv, at least two soldiers were bitten directly, one on the ear and the other on the lip. The army does not give out any more information except that they will use pesticides and traps. Will the IDF be notifying the civilian population with warning of the use of these chemicals? In the recent past, the IDF seems not to have done so while crop spraying Bedouin farmers in their fields.
Mustafa Natche the Mayor of Hebron said that garbage piles up in the Israeli controlled area of the city for several days before Palestinian garbage collectors receive permission from the army to enter and clear it away.
"This is, of course, affecting the health of Israelis and Palestinians living in the area," Natche said.
And so the lost sons of Abraham continue to erode the ancient city, the holy place, with hatred and with garbage. The garbage has meshed into and become part of the landscape. The vermin from religious extremes continue to prey upon the weaknesses and psychological imbalances of the other. And now this rising "third" population lives ferociously in Hebron, along with the Palestinians and the settlers and soldiers.
They have come about as a direct result of the illegal occupation, but are in some ways symbolic of the different kind of existence that Old Hebron has become as it is called, Area H-2.
Mary La Rosa is an artist and a librarian. In agreement
with her representative, Daniel Kurtzer, she would prefer to see
US tax dollars in foreign aid to Israel spent ONLY as positive
re-enforcement of peaceful intentions that have been ACTED upon. She can be
reached at: email@example.com.
Residents of the Casbah in Hebron Leave their Homes," B'Tselem, August
Other Articles by Mary La Rosa