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Kids' Zone Jasmine Dispatch

Promises of the Promised Land
December 18, 1999

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Inside the Ibrhimi Mosque

So, just as I was just getting used to the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv, where everyone spoke Hebrew, and the veiled Muslim women were now trendy and fashionable Israeli women, dressed in the latest Euro-designs, chic winter ensembles and high-heeled boots, I land in a place where things were very different but somehow familiar. Hebron was nothing like Tel Aviv but, just like Egypt. I felt like I'd been transported back across the border into the Khan Al-Kalili souq in Islamic Cairo, Egypt. Kevin, who had been recovering in Tel Aviv all this time was shocked at the glaring contrast between life here and life only two hours away in Tel Aviv. If we were wondering at all, the confirmation that we were in a new and different place came just as we made our way out of the small minibus that brought us in from Jerusalem into the busy city center in Hebron. We were quickly cautioned about speaking Hebrew by the driver who seemed a bit annoyed.

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Jasmine in downtown Hebron
We decided to walk through the market, it's the best place to go to get a feel for the people of a new city. Since the people did speak Arabic I had a chance to practice a bit of what I'd learned in Egypt. 'Shalom,' a greeting that means 'peace' in Hebrew, was now 'Salem Walekum' again, which means 'peace be unto you' in Arabic. So, Kevin and I reviewed a little Arabic with each other and began exploring. We made our way through the crowded market with ease; passed huge sheep on their way to the barber shop (to make winter coats for everyone), mules carrying loads of spices for sell, and entire camels on hooks at the butcher shops. "No kofta (ground meat) sandwich for lunch for me!" I exclaimed.

After that appetizing display, Kevin agreed, and we decided to stop for falafel and salad instead. At the very end of the market we came out of a tunnel and into a courtyard. We'd been wandering around the market for so long, I figured we should probably start looking for the mosque. Just then Kevin pointed to the four armed guards. The tombs of Abraham and Sarah, their son Isaac and his wife Rebekkah and their son Jacob and his wife Leah are all inside, but the actual bodies are supposed to be buried 5 meters below ground in the cave spoken of in the Biblical book of Genesis. The fully active Ibrhimi Mosque and adjoining Synagogue before us was originally a palace built above the cave. Still it felt more like visiting a maximum security prison then a place of worship. We were questioned heavily about what religion we practiced before we were even allowed to pass through the first set of metal detectors and into the mosque on the Muslim side of the complex. A nervousness ran through me as I approached the soldiers behind the second checkpoint at the main entrance to the mosque. Did people really deal with this every week? It was scary, and rightfully so, it was just four years ago that a Jewish settler opened fire on the Muslim congregation at prayer, killing 29 people and wounding numerous others. This is not quite what I'd imagined it would be like when I envisioned visiting the Biblical sites of the promised land. What's more is that this is the reality for the residents of Hebron and most any of the surrounding Palestinian territories.


When They Say 'Stay', They Mean 'STAY!!"- When to Listen to Your Parents!

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