Separation policy in Hebron: Military renews segregation on main street; wide part – for Jews, narrow, rough side passage – for Palestinians

2 Apr 2015

Video footage, February 2015: Border Police implement Separation Policy in Hebron. Footage: Manal al-Ja’bri, B'Tselem 

In January 2015, B'Tselem learned that the Israeli military had renewed segregation on the main street of the neighborhood of a-Salaimeh, Hebron, which leads to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The military does not allow Palestinians to use the main, paved, part of the street and directs them to use a narrow, unpaved and rough pedestrian passageway.

This segregation had been previously implemented from September 2012 to March 2013. It was discontinued as a result of a short video published by B'Tselem, which showed Border Police officers explaining that the main part of the street was for Jews only. After the video circulated widely and received much media coverage, the military withdrew the policy and allowed free passage to residents, until recently.

Video footage, March 2013

Nabilah al-Ja’bri, 45, mother of ten, resident of the al-Ja’bri neighborhood, Hebron, describes how the ban on passing through the main part of the street makes her feel:

נבילה אל-ג'עברי, חברון. צילום: מנאל אל-ג'עברי, בצלם“About a month ago, Border Police officers once more started blocking my access to the paved road. When I asked why, one of the policemen told me that there were new directives which ban Palestinians from using the paved part of the street and dictate that we have to walk on the other side of the fence. Since then, my kids and I have been using the side road every day. Only the settlers are allowed to use the main road. I no longer argue with the policemen, and neither do the rest of the residents in the neighborhood. When we get to the checkpoint, we just head right over to the side road.

I feel humiliated when I walk along the dirt path behind the fence and see the settlers using the main part of the street, with a chain-link fence – whose existence is completely unjustified –separating us from them.”

Iman Abu Ermeileh, 35, mother of one, a bookkeeper who lives in a-Salaimeh, Old City of Hebron, described the situation in the area:

“Over the past two years, passage was rarely barred. That is not to say that I, and the residents of the neighborhood and the Old City, don’t suffer from the many checkpoints around al-Haram al-Ibrahimi [the Tomb of the Patriarchs], not to mention the fact that we can’t reach our homes by car. Still, being able to walk on the wider side of the street lessened the overall suffering a little bit.

I, along with the rest of the local residents, was surprised when, about a month ago, they blocked off the street to us. Border Police officers once again prevented me from walking along the wide part of the street and made me use the narrow passageway behind the chain-link fence. When I asked one of the policemen, he said it was a decision by the “captain”.

Since then, I’ve had to walk behind the chain-link fence, a distance of about 70 meters. It’s bad enough that every morning I must leave my home in the Old City on foot, and only once out of the Old City can I take a taxi to work. It’s a long and exhausting commute, and the fact that they won’t let us use the wide part of the street just makes it worse.

The main street in the neighborhood of a-Salaimeh leads, among other things, to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. It is about 70 meters long and has a checkpoint at either end: the Bakery Checkpoint at the northern end of the road and the Bench Checkpoint at its southern end. Until this renewed ban, Israeli security forces permitted Palestinian pedestrians and cyclists on the street. To transport heavy loads, Palestinians had to use horse-drawn wagons or pushcarts. Israelis, settlers and otherwise, are permitted to walk and drive along the street.

Since the 1994 massacre of Muslim worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli military has adopted an official policy of separating Jews and Muslims in the city of Hebron. The policy is implemented primarily through severe restrictions on Palestinian travel and movement in downtown Hebron, the site of most Israeli settlements and outposts. Given the fact the settlements are unlawful in themselves, these restrictions merely add insult to injury, with a sweeping and disproportionate violation of the right to freedom of movement of an entire population being imposed in order to perpetuate an illegal policy.

Some of the main roads in the area are completely off limits to Palestinians, and many roads bar any and all Palestinian vehicles. Israel’s strict restrictions have made the lives of Palestinians in downtown Hebron intolerable, forcing many to leave their homes and jobs.

Israel must immediately lift all travel and access restrictions imposed on Hebron residents.