The old city of Hebron is alive during this month of Ramadan. People, young and old, walk the winding alleyways buying souvenirs, sweets, vegetables, bread, housewares and toys. Locals and visitors make their way to the Al Ibrahimi mosque at the end of the alley. There is an atmosphere of joy during this holy month.
But sadly, Palestinians face difficulties when entering the area around Ibrahimi mosque. First, there are checkpoints. Everyone must pass through metal turnstiles, which are controlled by the soldiers. Periodically, they close the turnstiles. Sometimes for a very short time, sometimes for longer, so people have to wait. Then, inspection from the soldier. During Ramadan, there are crowds of people so sometimes Palestinians and visitors are not asked for identification. But sometimes they are. It seems random. The dull beep of the metal detector as people pass through is becoming more familiar to me. The exit door is also controlled. You feel slightly helpless as you wait to pass.
Surrounding the Ibrahimi mosque are soldiers. There are always soldiers here, but there are more during Ramadan. In outposts, on the streets, on rooftops. Each carrying a weapon which has the capability of taking a life.
Then, there are the streets that Palestinians cannot open shops on, cannot drive on or even walk on. Soldiers guard these points to make sure Palestinians do not cross these restrictions. Al Shuhada Street, once the main artery of Hebron city but now forbidden for Palestinians to enter, stretches into the distance, almost always empty.
Pray that these restrictions end. Pray that the checkpoints are emptied, and these big ugly metal structures are dismantled, and people can walk freely to see friends, pray, and go where they wish.
Pray that there is not a soldier in sight. Pray that people feel safe and are not at risk of being stopped, detained, arrested or attacked at any moment. Pray that there are no weapons.
This day will come, but I do not know when. Pray for the people of Palestine as they continue this struggle.