We are about 30 people, from the global music in Palestine for Palestine Music Expo. Entering Hebron is surreal. It’s a beautiful old town, but your first view is a checkpoint - turnstiles. The queue was too big, so we waited for around 45 minutes before trying again. You are corralled through the double turnstile, guarded with CCTV cameras. Eventually we make it through. A kid has kicked their football onto a roof. We try to help him bring it down, it turns into a fun challenge for everyone, people on each others shoulders, trying to rescue the ball. Then the soldiers come out. They look on angrily, some shout at the kids.
We move through the old town. Our guide talks us through the horror of living in this place. It’s an old Palestinian town with a settlement build on top of it. It’s hard to picture and it’s complicated when you are there - it’s a place of two places, divided absolutely so the twain rarely meet and certainly never mix. The Palestinian houses have wire gates on the windows to stop them being broken as settlers throw rocks; we see streets divided with cement walls to keep the Palestinians away - blocking the entry to family homes; routes home become impossible by some streets, so the only way home is to jump across the roofs of houses; some streets are literally caged off with a door for entry, that buzzes when people enter to inform the Israeli forces, who can of course close it at anytime; armed Israeli solders guard each street corner.
While we are listening to the explanation from our guide, just next to a street where Palestinians are banned from walking on, a car drives towards our group of 30, directly towards us at high speeds. I run and jump out of the way to avoid being hit. The driver looks intensely angry. It was frightening. And we aren’t even Palestinian. We move through the town, the Palestinian economy in tatters - closed shops, where there once was a vibrant shopping district. A tank like car drives past with soldiers with Ski masks and balaclavas inside. It looks intimidating. We are told of the spraying of ‘skunk’ spray into people’s home, leaving a smell that doesn’t disappear. Israeli flags are everywhere. The car that had tried to drive into us appears again, this time stopping and re-angling the car, clipping one of our group. It becomes clear that the settlers are actually more dangerous than the soldiers. Israeli soldiers watching on ask us why we are there, whilst simultaneously filming us.
We go to the mosque, with 8 CCTV cameras on entry and again passport checks by Israeli soldiers. Only a few years ago an Israeli settler stormed the mosque dressed in military uniform and killed 29 people, injuring 100. It’s a stark reminder of the anger faced by settlers that seems deeply entrenched. Finally we walk through the old town back to our vehicle. Palestinians have placed a mesh ceiling over the street, to stop settlers throwing stones onto the streets below and worse, sometimes rubbish, sometimes excrement. It’s medieval and it’s real.
It’s like a laboratory, a prison and often reminiscent of a zoo. People kept in cages, limited to move and living in complete and constant fear. The Palestinians don’t have weapons. They don’t have jobs. They can’t move. They are humiliated and live in fear. They have nothing. It’s clearly a breach of every human right.