Weekends in the West Bank: Hebron

Hebron (El-Khalil)

I arrived on a bus from Jerusalem to Hebron in the middle of the night, with no idea where I was going exactly.

Palestinians are incredibly friendly people, so when I couldn’t find my Airbnb, a random guy brought me into his house. There, his two children were eating dessert, a sugary noodle dish called Shariya, which they happily served me. After I ate and warmed up (this was in January so it was really cold), he called my Airbnb host and showed me the way.

In the morning when I woke up, this was my view- the beautiful old city of Hebron.

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Cave of the Patriarchs – Al Ibrahimi Masjid

The most notable site in Hebron is the cave of the Patriarchs, where the prophets of the Old Testament are buried.

The site is split in half, with a mosque and the tombs on one side, and a synagogue and reading room on the other. In the middle, with windows from both sides, is the tomb of Abraham, who is thought of as the father of both the Arab and Jewish people.

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Drone shot of the Ibrahimi Mosque and Old Town

The massiveĀ building was built by King Herod over 2000 years ago and located just outside the center of the old city.

Tip: Visit during the week (Sunday-Thursday) because Friday is the holy day for Muslims, and Saturday for Jews, so you may not be allowed to enter out of respect for those praying.

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Inside the mosque: the burial chambers of Jacob and Leah, and Isaac and Rebecca

I was particularly impressed by the intricate details of the wood-carving, painting, and mosaics inside of the tombs and mosque.

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The intricately decorated minbar of the Saladin mosque

To be honest, only the Muslim is worth visiting. The Synagogue is a recent addition and looks like the inside of a classroom. (If you want to see a really impressive Jewish reading room, visit the Western Wall.)

Christians are allowed to enter the Muslim side, but the Jewish side is for Jews only. Obviously, you can just lie, but again, out of respect, best not to intrude on holy days.

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The tomb of Abraham/Ibrahim

Tip: Bring your passport EVERYWHERE in Hebron. There are several checkpoints in the city, and surrounding the Ibrahimi Mosque, guarded by Israeli Soldiers. It is difficult to visit both sides on the same day.

(To be honest, only the Muslim is worth visiting. The Synagogue is a recent addition and looks like the inside of a classroom. If you want to see a really impressive Jewish reading room, visit the Western Wall.)

Hirbawi Kufiya Factory

The Kufiya of keffiyeh is a traditional Arab headdress made of a square cotton cloth. The black-and-white variant came to be popularly associated with Palestine and Palestinian liberation due to Yasser Arafat, the leader of the PLO, who was always seen wearing this traditional dress. However, in many Arab countries, there are several colors, generally red, white or black that are worn.

The Hirbawi Kufiya Factory is a landmark because it is the only traditional Kufiya factory still operating in Palestine. For many reasons, most kufiya are now made in China, Bangladesh, or other countries that produce cheap textiles.

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Here, you’ll see the workers diligently working the looms to create the striking black and white patterns. In the shop, they sell for $10-20. You can buy a cheap on in the old city or anywhere in Israel-Palestine for $3, but these are the high-quality kind actual Palestinian men wear. You’ll feel good knowing you’re promoting an old tradition and the local economy!

The Market

Most of Hebron’s old city shops have been closed due to the occupation, however, the produce market is still vibrant, and a great place to grab lunch.

Walking through the long market street, I ate some of the best fried cauliflower, eggplant, falafel, potatoes and strawberries I’d had in months — and all of that for less than $5.

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They say Nablus has the best food in Palestine, but I’d give the award to Hebron, hands down.

Visiting Hebron might look like a fun time, but it was actually heartbreaking.

Why? Look out for my next post: Hebron, A Divided City to learn more about this city’s grim history and current occupation.

 

 

 

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