Besides spending most of the time in the Old City of Jerusalem particularly within the Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex, we were also brought to a tour of Hebron, a Palestinian territory located in the southern West Bank, 30 km south of Jerusalem.
Hebron is no stranger when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is one of the most prominent symbols of the conflict and it is here where Palestinians have been experiencing ever-expanding restrictions on their movement around Jewish settlements.
The wall. The physical evidence of restrictions put upon communities. This kind of walls go to the extent of many kilometres in range, a clear sign that in this land, segregation is real.
A nice street art in Hebron with a strong message.
It is no surprise that security was super tight as we approached Masjid-e-Ebrahim, an important site in Hebron for both Muslims and Jews. Guarded by the Israeli’s security force, screenings were thorough and questions were asked about our visit but according to our guide, it is just part of parcel of ensuring safety of everyone.
It is in this particular mosque back on February 25 1994, a US-born Israeli military physician walked into the mosque armed with a Galil assault rifle. During that early morning of Ramadhan, Baruch Goldstein opened fire to Muslims who were praying killing 29 worshippers and injuring hundreds.
People will definitely remember this 1994 massacre but more importantly the Masjid-e-Ebrahim is significant because it is where lies the graves of four Prophets and their wives. The four prophets are Nabi Ibrahim (upon him be peace), his son Nabi Isaaq (upon him be peace), his son Nabi Yaqoob (upon him be peace) and his son Nabi Yusuf (upon him be peace).
Unfortunately there are Muslim and Jewish sides of the mosque but do not this to stop you from appreciating how beautiful and peaceful this mosque is. It is also a wonderful reminder of how the religions are linked.
Walking from the mosque back to our bus was also an experience by itself. An opportunity to interact with groups of kids who obviously are familiar with the “tourist route”. Some would find them annoying, pushy yet some would sympathise with them trying to earn a living. In the end they are just kids, unfortunate to have a challenging time growing up in this kind of conflict environment so if you are coming here, be ready to help them by buying whatever they are selling or simply by sharing some money.
Despite Malaysia lost 6-0 to Palestine…
Speaking of shopping, a tour to Hebron will also most likely bring you to a couple of souvenir stores. Tourist trap or convenience all-in-one-place souvenir store? Depends on what type of traveller you are.
Bethlehem was our next stop. Here we had the chance to stop at Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest Church in the world.
Interestingly it was my first time seeing a historical site conservation work in progress. At this Church, many Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.
An interesting outing discovering these historical places. A tip: make sure you do some reading before you actually visit these places as it would allow an interesting interaction with your tour guide. I regret not doing this and many times questions start to arise when I’m already back from the trip!