‘Blast walls, barbed wire, and four thousand soldiers separate Hebron’s 120,000 Palestinians from its 400 Jews. As in similar situations of urban segregation, the close proximity of the two communities provides individuals with myriad opportunities to superficially transgress their boundaries. Israeli security forces and foreign visitors freely pass between Jewish and Palestinian zones; local civilians trade projectiles over—and occasionally cross—the dividing line. On a recent visit to the divided city, I pondered whether or not such acts were truly transgressive, or whether they enforced the power differential that underlies Hebron’s segregation.
Israeli civilians began settle in Hebron in the 1970s by occupying vacant (and often privately owned) land and structures. The Israeli government refused to evict the settlers, and eventually legalized their presence in five areas on the southeastern outskirts of the Old City. Since that time, a few hundred Jews have resided in three complexes at the edge of the medieval town and in scattered buildings on an adjacent hillside.’