Desolation in Hebron - Shuhada Street

by Miri
Shuhada Street, Hebron - Keren Manor/ActiveStills
February 24th 2012 has been declared the global day of action to open Shuhada Street in Hebron. In the recent two years solidarity actions took place in Israel, Europe, the US and many other places all over the world.

Shuhada Street was once one of Hebron's busiest and most important streets, linking the north to the south and passing by the major markets, the Old City, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi mosque, as well as Israeli settlement compounds.

In 1994 Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler entered the Ibrahimi Mosque, and opened fire on unarmed Palestinian worshippers and killed 29 of them and wounded 125 more. After the Goldstein massacre the Israeli army started restricting Palestinian, rather than settler movement along the street in order to ensure the settlers' safety.

With the 2nd Intifada erupting in October 2000, the army severed the movement restrictions on Palestinians, not allowing them to walk or drive on the entire length of Shuhada Street and also prohibiting Palestinian traffic on adjacent streets. According to Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem, “no valid military order for the closure has been presented”.

Shuhada Street, Hebron - Keren Manor/ActiveStills
These and other restrictions on Palestinian movement led to an economic collapse and has turned the once so busy area into a ghost town. B'tselem reports that 304 shops and warehouses on Shuhada Street closed down, and also a great number of  private homes were either abandoned by its residents or closed down by military order. The few Palestinian residents that remained are not allowed to enter their homes through the main entrances on Shuhada Street, but have to use side entrances, or, in the case that there are no side entrances, have to use ladders in order to enter their homes through the roof.

Notwithstanding public pressure and the petitioning of human rights organisations, Palestinian movement on Shuhada Street remains prohibited. The Israeli army insisting on the necessity of the maintenance of the prohibition has never elaborated on the rationale other than with the notorious “for security reasons”. 

Hebron probably constitutes one of the most intense places in the whole of Palestine, and any West Bank tour is incomplete without a visit to Hebron. More than any other place, Shuhada Street and the area adjacent to it, exemplifies the policy of discriminatory segregation that the Israeli state imposes on the city of Hebron and also testifies to its success, which has effectively turned the once so busy area into a ghost town.