Poor old Hebron, caught between a rock and a hard place, between the stones of the tomb and the rubble of the wrecked shops in the streets below, between the worn gun-metal of M16s and the falafel in the souk [freshly made]
Caught between the wheels of the speeding cars, flying small Israeli flags, and the clatter of hooves, as the blinkered horse pulls the home-made cart down the hill to make hay on the empty street below the Tomb.
Here everything makes sense, and nothing adds up. Every word has two meanings.
I was there on a fine spring day, sunny and still, a day between other days. On this day only the usual things happened. No violence, no killing. Even the soldiers were bored.
I sat on a white plastic chair with a group of Palestinian men, for whom merely being here, drinking cups of soup in the spring sunshine, is an act of intended defiance.
I had herbal tea with a Jewish man in his house on the hill where a small community have built their homes near to the old graveyard, they are deep-rooted, and he tells me in a calm, joyful voice how proud he is of his son who lives in a caravan on a dry rocky hilltop, in defiance of the treaties and without electricity.
I saw a flying cart and a blinkered horse, a waving man, a smiling woman. They were going so fast.
I saw a black goat with mutilated ears, who seemed to be asking questions but it might have been rumination
I saw a fading photograph of Jewish men killed in the massacre of 1929 in the ruins of a bakery. The ovens were cold.
I went through the checkpoint to the souk to buy falafel, and made my way back through the turnstile to the ghetto, raising the falafel wrap in the air by way of explanation
I saw a blinkered horse eating hay and a man on a mobile phone. I saw another horse which on closer inspection turned out to be a white donkey
I met a soldier who had lived in Liverpool. I met another soldier who searched me after I looked too closely at a bullet hole in the armoured glass of a control post
I saw men running in the road, and their shadows
running below them
I saw a man with his hand on the stone of the tomb, he was saying something, it was far away
I saw a flood, not some prophesy in a Book; a drain had blocked, and nobody to clear it
I saw a concrete stairway reaching to the heavens, which turned out to be a temporary carpark, and at the base of the steps a woman waiting for the bus
I saw a shepherd drive his flock past the remains of a Yeshiva, dismantled 31 times by a weary IDF and rebuilt 30 times by the Rabbi
I saw a barrier of metal drums filled with concrete to block a road, but now there is no traffic.
Then I waited with four other people for the heavy armoured bus back to Jerusalem, already half-full of soldiers, their guns worn like old cameras, which developed gearbox problems on the gradient by Kiryat Arba, and so we waited for an hour for the next one, it was getting dark when it arrived.
Here everything adds up, and nothing makes sense. There are two names, but only one meaning.
A drive-by reportage from H2, the Israeli-controlled section of the divided West Bank city of Hebron.
H2 has the feel of no-mans-land; entry is by checkpoint or armoured bus, blocked roads, shuttered shops, barbed wire – everything points to a frozen conflict, a brittle calm in the present, but with the memory of violence and death – and scattered within are the remnants of a Palestinian community and three pockets of settlers, watched over by a weary IDF. It has the feel of a ghetto – but for whom?