Saturday, May 30, 2009

off the beaten path

This morning we woke up to our usual routine, the kids got ready for school and left one at a time and we did a lengthy interview with Joseph over some Arabic Coffee (see last blog entry). In our interview Joesph mentioned a certain refugee camp near Hebron and off we went. Hebron, is a densely populated city south of Bethlehem known for its figs, limestone and glassblowing is also know for the intense friction between the local Palestinians and Israeli settlers and the continued violence between the two.

We grabbed a service (its like bigger than a cab and smaller than a bus) to Hebron, where we met a Muslim woman coming back from Bethlehem from school. I asked her where she was going, and she told me she lived in Hebron with her husband and children but was studying Microbiology and that the college nearer to her did not have the classes she needed. We asked her about the refugee camp and she told us more about it. She wanted to know if we had a guide or an interpreter with us, and seemed to suggest that we should. We didn't.

On arriving in Hebron, it was about 10-15 seconds after stepping out of the service, that we met the first of our many local guides. Mohammed was a kid of about 16 who asked us where we were headed, and after some miscommunications back and forth in neither real English or Arabic, he asked if were were going to see the mosque of Abraham. Since we knew the Mosque was through the old city, and since he offered to show us, and since Hebron is VERY DENSELY POPULATED, we agreed, and he and his friends took us through the center of Hebron and into the old city.

Now, I knew a little about the settlers from Bethlehem but the settlers in Hebron were not off on a hill slowly im
posing themselves, but rather they were right on top of us, quite literally. Going deeper and deeper into the old city, the shops began to change in look from mid 20th century to mid 16th century and the wide open street turned into something that looked and felt more like a tunnel. The fabric hanging from building to building to keep out the sun turned into chain link keeping out garbage and stones and unfortunately not (from what I have read, and after what I have been told today) water and bleach.
What was going on here? On our way in we met a man running a little textile shop, who spoke English (with a rad cockney accent,) who filled us in a bit. I asked him what the chain link was about and he told us that the settlers were above them and that the shop keepers themselves had installed the chain link to keep the garbage off their heads. Apparently the settlers in there will stop at nothing to run the people of Hebron out of the city and return it to the Jewish control (as in return it as it was 4000 years ago under Abraham). After a quick interview, and an Arabic coffee with our new friend we were off to the Mosque, even though our first guides had long ago become bored and disappeared.

In order to get to the mosque we had to go through two check points over about 200 ft of space run by the Israeli boarder control (not sure what "border" this was supposed to be) where we were told quite explicitly to not shoot any stills or video. So, that's what we were told, and that's all I'll say for now.

On our way back we stopped by our friends shop again, and he acted as a lesion for our third guide who we would "buy a CD from" in exchange for access to his roof in order to see the settlement and the Israeli border patrol, and then would bring us t
o a woman at the Christian Peace Maker team.

As this our third guide lead up up a long stair case, we both wondered
if perhaps, we were being lead into a trap. But the plan went off without a hitch, we "bought the CD" got our footage and were brought to a woman named Donna who we sat down with and chatted about the situation in Hebron. We sat there with her getting advice on covering refugee camps and decided that we would visit the one in Bethlehem tomorrow. Sitting there with her there was a strange feeling that we had reached then end of our winding journey.

So we went back to Bethlehem.


  1. Dear Katherine and Sean,
    My deepest respect goes to you for getting that camera in where most people would not. By sharing your words and images, you are taking all of us with you. We are quietly waiting for your reports. It is hard to use your camera in the same flow... In 1997, I brought cameras into an underground slave auction where people were being sold at prices one would never imagine, either too low or too high. My friend and I were the only ones with a hidden camera in our belongings.

    Some of us bring in cameras to places just like you do. select in youtube
    The Free Gaza Movement, February 2009

    Here is some uplifting music for you and Joseph
    find in youtube
    The Jewish-Arab Peace Song (w/ English subtitles)

    I can not wait til I get to introduce you to a born in Germany, raised in Denmark, Palestinian femaledrummer, Simona who performs with "Middle East Peace Orchestra: Hinmatov" look in youtube. She will be arriving to SF soon for the Pride.

    Again, thank you for keeping your mind open and acting upon your will and enjoy your journalism life to the max! We will pay attention to everything you are doing there. At any time, you need any help, please let me or Robert, Jamie know.

    Yuki Togawa

  2. There is so much I did not know about Palestine until I started following this blog and now it seems there is a whole world of news there for me. This is very interesting. By the way, I found online a recipe for Arabic coffee: