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Thoughts of a German traveler in Israel / Palestine

2012 Travel Writing Competition Entry 

Thoughts of a German Traveler in Israel/Palestine
by Marianna Hillmer, Germany

I‘m German, well half, but born, raised and educated in Germany. I mention that, because our handling with Israel is different, is sensitive. Israel and Israeli politics are kind of untouchable. If you dare to criticise them you either mention your knowledge and compassion about the holocaust in the same sentence or you risk getting the stigma of antisemitism. And before visiting Israel and joining two of the Green Olive Tours (Hebron&Bethlehem and greater Jerusalem) this year, I believed the same: of course you‘re anti-Semite, if you criticise Israeli politics. From a clear black and white status, my mind is mixed with lots of grey shades now. I thought, there is not a lot to criticise about the Israeli politics, because the way the so called high quality journalism and the german and western politicians are presenting the topic is the truth - it is all about self defence.

For example our politicians and the news, when referring to Hebron, they do always add terrorist connected attributes like „capital of the Hamas“ or „Hamas controlled city“ and the thousands of Israeli soldiers stationed in the city are there to protect some hundreds of Israeli settlers.

Having been there the situation looks much more complicated and in a way twisted. Who should get protection too, are the palestinian families in Hebron. The Israeli army seems to be there to give the Israeli settlers the opportunity  and right to discriminate against the Muslims, expropriate and suppress the Palestinians. Walking through to the old market and realising that some of the houses on the top of the market are build or occupied by Israeli settlers is strange enough. Realising that the fence above my head is build by the salesmen to protect the palestinian vendors and shoppers from stones and much more falling from the sky thrown by Jews settlers is shocking me, like the two separate footpaths, one for Jews and one for Muslims - or you could synonymous also say one for Israelis and one for Palestinians. Which doesn't sound as discriminating as the first subdivision, but means pretty much the same. Because Israeli is not a nationality, it is just another wo rd for Jew. That‘s how I finally understood the terms. You don‘t belong to a nation, you belong to a religion and that one is defining your nationality for your passport and your legal rights. And Palestinians=Muslims have not a lot of rights.

The situation in Hebron shows that in a dramatic way.

The old city of Hebron, lots of it is Israeli occupied now, looks pretty much like a ghost town, almost every shop is closed, nobody is on the streets. And how could it be crowded, where thousands of Muslims lived once, and now some hundreds of Jews stay.
But some of the houses in opposite of the grave of Abraham, are still inhabited by palestinian families. Families who struggle, because they have no income anymore, ‘cause there is nobody to take advantage of their occupations. Jews don‘t want to and Palestinians are not allowed to, ‘cause they‘re not allowed to cross the street. The staked areas are not easy to understand, for foreigners, for me.

A Muslim boy is telling us in a frigid voice, that his Jew neighbour killed 7 people and his uncle and shot his friend, when he was young. My irritated question: „And the guy is still living here? He is not condemned as murderer?“ got a short reply: „No he is not.“ There is even not a trial.

He belongs to one of the last families living in the old city, living a realistic nightmare knowing, that every day in his house could be the last day. Jewish occupation can happen day by day in Hebron, without warning, without compensation.