Hebron

Travel Guide Middle East Palestine Hebron

edit

Introduction

Al Khalil, as Hebron is called in Arabic, means “The Friend of God”. In ancient times it was known as Mamre and Kirjath Arba, “The Town of four” because of its position on four hills. Situated at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Hebron has been continuously settled for 5,000 years. It is regarded as holy by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike because the prophet Abraham is buried there.The ancient town of Hebron is considered to be one of the oldest towns in Palestine, and indeed has some claim to being among the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. The Souq (market) with its arched roofs and maze of alleys is worth exploring.

Hebron is mentioned in the Bible as the home of Abraham, and the burial place of him and several generations of his family. In King David's time, Hebron was briefly the capital of the Israelite state, before the capital moved to Jerusalem. Today, Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews due to its association with Abraham. (Christianity is also an Abrahamic religion, but Christians haven't paid as much attention to Hebron.)

The Jewish population of Hebron was evacuated after Arabs killed nearly 70 of them in 1929. After the 1967 war, a few Jews resettled the Jewish quarter. Today, about 500 Jews live in part of the old city of Hebron under continual Israel Defense Force protection, and with a ratio of four Israeli soldiers for each Israeli settler.

Today, the city of Hebron is home to about 500 Jews and 200,000 Palestinians. The Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba (population 8,000) is a separate city immediately adjacent to Hebron. Hebron is divided into two sectors: H1 is entirely Palestinian and includes about 80% of the city's residents, while H2 contains all the Jews and the remainder of the Arabs. H1 is under full Palestinian control (i.e. Area A), while H2 is under full Israel control. The Cave of the Patriarchs, the main holy site in the city, is on the border between H1 and H2.

This has been one of the tensest places between Jews and Palestinians, as in Hebron both sides here tend to be more extreme and violent than the average for their ethnic groups. Jews here have the 1929 massacre on their minds, while Palestinians have Baruch Goldstein's 1994 massacre of praying Muslims on theirs. This is not a good place to express your opinion on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Even Jewish residents here have an often-hostile relationship with the Israel army, because they see it as being too accommodating to Palestinians. Unfortunately, the 2017 declaration of the Old Town as a UNESCO world heritage site has done little to ease the tensions, as the Israeli government protested its classification as an "endangered" "Palestinian" site, despite its Jewish heritage.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

  • Cave of the Patriarchs (al Haram al Ibrahimi/Ibrahimi Mosque, Ma'arat HaMachpelah/Machpelah Cave). The main religious site in the city. The cave, where the Patriarchs and their wives are buried, is deep underground. Now, people pray in a building on top of the cave, built by King Herod about 2000 years ago. The building is divided into Muslim and Jewish sections. Visitors are welcome to visit both sides when they are not being used for scheduled prayer. The Muslim side provides cloaks for women to cover up when visiting. The Muslim side contains the only known entrance to the Cave below (it is locked by a marble door), as well as the tomb-markers of Isaac and Rebecca. The tomb-markers of Abraham and Sarah lie on the border of both the Muslim and Jewish sections, while the Jewish section contains the tomb-markers of Jacob and Leah. Most of the time, half of the building is used for Muslim and half for Jewish prayer. On a few predetermined days each year, each religion gets to use the entire building. For the Jews, in addition to the normal holidays, one of these days is "Shabbat Chayei Sarah" each fall, on which thousands of people from all of Israel visit Hebron to commemorate Abraham's purchase of the Cave from its previous Hittite owners. For the Muslims, it is on Fridays during Ramadan, and during the Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha holiday, commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. The Cave of the Patriarchs is a WV-Unesco-icon-small.svg UNESCO World Heritage site, and the contested recognition of it led the US's and Israel's 2017 decision to leave the UNESCO on 31 Dec 2018.
  • Al Sultan Pool - The Sultan's Pool (Birket-Al Sultan) is was built by Mamluk sultan Qalawun.
  • Hebron Cultural Forum - The Hebron Cultural Forum was established in 1993 and functions to organise cultural political and educational events and to promote democracy in Hebron. It has an elected board.
  • Ibrahimi Mosque - Al-Haram al Ibrahimi al Khalil (The Sanctuary of Ibrahim, the friend) is a massive mosque with a 20 metre-high wall. The lower part dates from the time of Herod while the main part was formerly a Crusader Church which was an enlargement of the original Byzantine basilica used by Christian pilgrim en route to Abraham’s Oak at Mamre. The upper part of four minarets (of which two remain) were added by the Mameluks. As the place of David’s anointment and the burial of patriarchs, the sanctuary is regarded as holy to Muslim, Christians and Jews.
  • Old Market - The Souq (market) with its arched roofs and maze of alleys is worth exploring. The shops and stalls sell everything from pottery, olivewood and glass, to fresh and dried fruits. The grapes produced here are converted into jam and a kind of molasses and the traditional craft of glass and pottery making, as well as leather tanning, have been adapted to small scale factory production.
  • Tel Rumeida (Tel Hebron) (next to the Jewish cemetery). In this place archaeological digging revealed the ruins of a 4,500 years old city wall and staircase. On top of which a building with apartments was erected standing on pillars. In this building, also the Hebron Observatory can be found – just walk up the stairs inside of the building and hope the upper door is not locked. According to the nearby stationed Israeli Army, this is one of the most tense places in Hebron, because Palestinian and Jewish houses are built right next to each other with no fences or walls – you will notice by the different large flags posted in front of two houses.

Top

edit

Getting There

If you are visibly Jewish, it is probably not safe to travel unaccompanied to the "other" side of Hebron. However, if you look and sound like an international tourist, you should be fine on both sides.

To the Jewish side

From Jerusalem – Take bus 381 or 383 from the CBS (₪8.10) to the Jewish side of Hebron. The final stop is in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs on the Jewish side.
From Be'er Sheva – Take bus 254 (₪13.50), which terminates at the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, from where you can take 381 or 383 over to the Jewish side of Hebron. This transfer might be free if you show them the bus 254 ticket.

To the Palestinian side

From Jerusalem – Take bus 21 from the Sultan Suleiman bus station just out and to the right from Damascus gate. Tell them Hebron or Al-Khalil (Arabic). They will take you to a mid way drop off point at the Bethlehem bus station. From there, go to the very bottom floor of the Bethlehem bus station where a servees (the Palestinian version of a sherut, called a serv-eese in Arabic) will deliver you to Hebron for less than ₪10.
Alternatively, take the bus to Abu Dis and tell the bus driver you are going to Khalil.
From Bethlehem – As mentioned before, from the very bottom floor of the Bethlehem bus station (at Manger Street) a servees will deliver you to Hebron for ₪9.
From Ramallah – Direct servees to Hebron depart from one of the many bus stations in Ramallah, just ask around. It might be faster to go to Bethlehem first, though.
From Be'er Sheva – Make your way to the last stop in front of the Church of the Patriarchs on the Jewish side, as explained before. From there just walk further passing by at least three Israeli checkpoints, with the 1 last checkpoint being a gate which "delivers" you to the Palestinian side. Alternatively, you can directly enter the Palestinian side via a 2 gate to the left of the Muslim entrance of the Church of the Patriarchs, after which however you will need to go through a lengthy and little depressing souq alley.
Also, arriving at 3 Kiryat Arba, you can walk directly into the Palestinian part of Hebron – consult Google Maps for the best way. However, taking the short ride with the Egged bus might be more convenient coming here the first time.

Top

edit

Getting Around

The Hebron Bus Station for servees to and from the surrounding areas, and even Bethlehem and Ramallah is on the upper floors of the Jeel-Saed shopping centre along Adel Street.

On the Palestinian side of Hebron, taxi rides within the city shouldn't cost more than ₪10-15. For seeing sights out-of-town, it's best to take a servees taxi at the service-taxi/bus station or negotiate a fair price with a taxi driver. Make sure to agree on a price for a taxi before getting in.

On the Jewish side of Hebron, a 10-minute walk will take you from one end to the other.

Crossing between the sides

There are at least two gates that allow passage on foot between the Palestinian and Jewish side.

There is a myth that it is impossible to access the Jewish side of Hebron on foot coming from the highway/main road. However, this is likely only true in tense times, because there are no gates and metal detectors you can be checked with. (Generally, Palestinian taxi drivers are not allowed to drive to the Jewish side.) In that case, you will need to go by taxi or bus from an Israeli town or a Jewish settlement (like Kiryat Arba). Either way, internationals can drive into the Jewish side, if your driver is not Palestinian.

You can walk into the Palestinian part of Hebron and from there to the Jewish side through either of the two gates. If you are not able to get from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of the Patriarchs on foot directly, walk via the Palestinian side and then through one of the gates coming from Be'er Sheva.

Top

edit

Eat

Buy some tabun (large, soft, round) bread in the Bab il Zaweya quarter and pick up a container of hummus nearby and you are set.

Falafel is one of the most famous "snacks" in Palestine in general. Hebron has many famous falafel restaurants that are always crowded because of their tasty falafel. Grab your sandwich for ₪3 and enjoy.

Hebron is famous of its traditional dish called Al-Qidrah (Al-Khaliliyah). This meal contains mainly rice and meat (chicken or lamb). It is very tasty and lovely, Al-Qidra is eaten usually on Fridays and other festivals. Since it needs time to prepare and it should be cooked in a woody oven in bakery, it is not easy to find in casual restaurant. However, it is available in restaurants like "Abu Mazen" and "Alquds" in Ras el jora. It could be expensive for local citizens. The dish for one person with drinks would cost around ₪35.

If you are a sweet lover, do not miss to get some sweets from the many sweets shops around in Hebron. Try kunafa/kenafeh (₪5 for a regular plate), Baqlawa, Harisah, Kolaj and the list can go long.

Top

edit

Drink

As an overwhelmingly Muslim city with a more conservative culture than cities such as Bethlehem and Ramallah, alcoholic drinks are not available on the Palestinian side of Hebron.

Ein Sarah Street is the main street for night life between 19:00-23:00. Many coffee shops are available there where you can smoke shisha and drink soft beverages.

Natural juices can be found in many coffee shops with nice atmosphere. Orange and pomegranate juice near the gate to the most in the Old City is stellar. It runs about ₪2. You can also get carrot juice prepared in front of your eyes.

Top

edit

Sleep

  • H2 Hostel Hebron (Hostel in Hebron), Bab Al-Zawiya Square, Floor 3 (Standing at the double junction 20 m from the checkpoint gate, when entering the Palestinian side of Hebron, directly diagonal/opposite the building complex at the bottom of the junction is the complex containing the hostel, where on its north-eastern side you will find the entrance to al-Sa'ah Restaurant and at the 3rd floor the hostel (trust the GPS marker).), ☏ +970 599 576 638, ✉ Hostelinhebron@gmail.com. The budget and increasingly popular option in town. Dorm bed ₪50.
  • Homestay, ☏ +970 599185654, ✉ zmuhtaseb@hotmail.com. There is a possibility to stay with families in the old city of Hebron. Some of these families have extra rooms that are usually rented to visitors. Trips can also be arranged.
  • Al-Amanah Hotel (Hebron Hotel), Ein Sarah Street (5 min away from the city center "Bab El Zawyieh"), ☏ +972 2 225 4240, ✉ hebron_hotel@hotmail.com. You can check with the hotel management about the availability of rooms and prices
  • Abu Mazen Hotel, Namera Street, ☏ +970 2 221 1113. From ₪216.
  • Queen Plaza Hotel, Ainsara, ☏ +972 2-222-3222. From ₪280.

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Top

Hebron Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Hebron

This is version 2. Last edited at 10:08 on Jul 9, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License