|An Israeli settler screams at young Palestinians in the court yard of |
the Old City of Hebron.
Every Saturday a group of Israeli settlers and Jewish
tourists, escorted by dozens of Israeli soldiers, parade through the Old City
on a tour, in which they hear an exclusive rightwing Jewish narrative of the
city's history. Last Saturday,
however, was a holiday commemorating Abraham’s purchase of land in Hebron to
bury his wife Sarah, so an unusually large number of Israeli settlers, Jewish
tourists (many from New York), and Israeli border police and soldiers were
present. For nearly three hours,
hundreds of Israeli settlers and occupying forces overtook the Old City,
restricting Palestinians' freedom of movement and causing shops to close early.
While a normal Saturday tour means restriction of
Palestinian movement and disruption of the lives of those living and working in
the Old City, last Saturday’s holiday tour created greater disruptions. The Ibrahimi Mosque was closed, which
meant that not only could Muslims not pray there, but that the checkpoint
leading to it was closed. When the
checkpoint is closed, Palestinians have to take much more circuitous (and
hilly) routes from one side of the mosque to the other, adding time and
difficulty to daily tasks.
The settlers and tourists, many of whom were young men,
danced, jumped, and chanted Israeli nationalistic slogans as they slowly made
their way through the Old City, blocking passage for residents and creating
noise that interfered with any sense of normalcy.
As CPTers and representatives from other NGOs stood along
the route, settlers and tourists questioned them, sometimes aggressively, about
their presence and work and accused them of anti-semitism. One tourist threatened to hit a CPTer;
another asked a CPTer to take a picture and then threatened to break the camera
(which he'd already tried to handle as he passed by). A number of tourists said to observers,
"Welcome to Israel," though no country in the world recognizes the
Palestinian Occupied Territories as part of the nation of Israel.