16 April 2015
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Old City under water, under occupation
[This piece has been adapted for CPTnet. The original is available on the CPT Palestine website.]
After just a few short hours of rain, dozens of Palestinian shopkeepers in Hebron have spent the past week salvaging their stores’ goods and exhausting their modest bank accounts to return places of business into working order. To a simple passer-by, the flooding would have looked like the rare product of circumstances: poor infrastructure and the Old City’s location at a point in Hebron lower than the surrounding hills. But that isn’t the whole story.
More than 100 roadblocks, checkpoints, and barricaded alleyways restrict and control the movement of Palestinians in Hebron. This military apparatus was specifically engineered to create a matrix of control around the Ibrahimi mosque, linking all of the Jewish settlements from Tel Rumeida to the northwest to the main settlement of Kiryat Arba to the south east— all built and maintained under the political buzzword of “Israeli security”.
But this isn’t simply about security; it’s about creating a completely unsustainable living situation for Palestinians living in the low valleys of the Old City of Hebron.
A small corridor separates the Jewish settlement of Avraham Avinu from the Palestinian community in the Old City. This historical corridor didn’t just serve as a passageway to link up the different neighborhoods of Hebron—it also served as a strategic point of drainage during the rainy season.
If the aim for sealing off the corridor was to prevent people from passing, a simple gate would have worked. But instead, the Israeli authorities installed a door that restricts the passage of water, preventing the water from flowing freely out into the streets and into the main drainage points.
This iron door is completely unnecessary from a security framework. The result: Palestinians must rehabilitate their shops every time a substantial rainstorm hits Hebron for a few hours.
Tahar Mosbah Sa’id Ahmed who owns a radio and video shop had to throw away hundreds of shekels of inventory because of the flooding. After several days of cleaning his shop, he is still not done.
“This shop has been here for sixty-six years, and most of those years, we didn’t have this problem,” he said as he walked around his store. Tahar walked through the Old City streets, pointing to the high water marks on the walls and doors of the shop–reaching five feet in some places–before pointing to the iron barricade that separates Avraham Avinu from the Old City. “This is the problem,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head. “Why? Why do they [the Israeli military] do this to us?”
Ismail Shweki, who has run his grocery store for decades,
had to pay out 500 shekels in cleaning expenses to get his store ready.
“This has only been like this since 2001 – since the Second Intifada,” he said. “Before that, the water ran out like normal. Now we have this.”
The iron door is symbolic of Israel’s military occupation: an iron door tucked away in the shadows, unknown to most of the world, and damaging the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians.
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