Voices in Hebron: “They are killing us slowly each day” 21Aug12 August 21, 2012

From Hebron    -    20 August 2012

Murad is 23 years old and still remembers Shuhada Street before it became a desolate strip lined with soldiers, settlements and checkpoints. He used to come here each week with his mother, he tells me. The place bustled with life. The street wasn’t just the heart of Hebron; it was the heart of the southern West Bank.

This was nearly twenty years ago. Today, the shops have been welded shut by the Israeli army, and the markets lay empty. Hundreds of Palestinian families have been forced out. Since 1994, Palestinians have been banned from driving on the street. Since 2001, they have been banned from walking on all but a short section. This is all done on behalf of the few hundred settlers living on the street, whose presence violates international law.

Silently I wonder what it’s like, looking past soldiers down the street of your childhood, where you haven’t walked in years.

Instead of the locked doors and stray dogs, the smashed windows and armed settlers – and of course the soldiers – perhaps you still see the dairy market, the leather market, the chicken market. Maybe you hear the fruit sellers greeting your mother. Maybe you still feel them rustling your hair.

Then I wonder how it feels now, when you pass through a military checkpoint onto Shuhada Street each day – that small strip still open to you – to be greeted by a soldier pointing his gun at your face.

Then Murad breaks the silence and I stop wondering. “They could shoot me and it would be okay,” he says. “But this is worse. It’s killing me slowly each day. It’s killing all of us each day.”

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