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Dreading the holidays in Hebron

We stopped by a shopkeeper friend in the Old City recently for tea. She had just had a bad experience on the holiday the Israeli settlers celebrate here in Hebron commemorating Abraham’s purchase of Sarah’s burial place. Hundreds of settlers had come through the market and invaded the shops…

Jewish holiday clip art

We stopped by a shopkeeper friend in the Old City recently for tea.  She had just had a bad experience on the holiday the Israeli settlers celebrate here in Hebron commemorating Abraham’s purchase of Sarah’s burial place.  Hundreds of settlers had come through the market and invaded the shops.  One had stolen a piece of merchandise  (she sells embroidered goods and scarves) from her shop and when her assistant had tried to wrestle the piece of fabric from the settler’s hands, an Israeli soldier had grabbed it out of the assistant’s hands and given it to the settler.

I asked her whether Chanukah was a holiday during which settlers tended to cause problems for people in the Old City.  “There’s another holiday coming?” she asked, distressed, and then posed the question of why a people would need so many holidays to create so many problems for others.

Now, among CPTers I am in the unusual situation of being married to a Jewish man and having a substantial number of Jewish and Israeli friends.   I have celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Pesach, Sukkot and Chanukah with my in-laws and friends.   I said, “You know in the U.S., for most of these holidays, my husband’s family and other Jewish families just get together for a big family meal and visit with each other.”

She was genuinely astonished.  “Really?”  She asked and pondered what I said for a moment.  I said that in the U.S., Chanukah (which is heavily influenced by secular celebrations of Christmas) involved children lighting candles and getting presents. “Really!” she said again.

I don’t blame her.   The only experience of Jewish holidays for our friend and the other residents of the Old City is increased restrictions on their movements, the hostility of the soldiers protecting the masses of visitors who come through the market—all to send the message that “this will be ours some day,”—the threat of violence their presence always represents.

European Jews used to dread Christmas and Easter, because those were times that Christians often chose to blame them for the death of Jesus and attack their communities.  That feeling of dread is how Palestinians in Hebron approach Rosh Hashanah, Pesach and worst of all, Purim the day that Baruch Goldstein massacred dozens of people praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994.  Whether settlers and their supporters actually attack them on those days or not, the history of the violence is always there.

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