Life and death in Palestine

Ben Ehrenreich,
The Guardian Journal.

Planet Hebron is far, far away. The fact that you can drive there, or take a bus, only makes things more confusing. If Hebron were hidden away on a mountaintop or deep in a canyon at the bottom of the sea, if getting there meant descending through dim, crumbling shafts to the centre of the earth, it wouldn’t feel so odd. But it’s right there on the crust of this same globe, just like Tel Aviv or Amman or any other metropolis. Maybe it’s more useful to think interdimensionally and to understand Hebron as a weird crease in the weave of things that through its distortions and deformations and awful echoing feedback somehow manages to tell us exactly who we are.

Overall I spent about a month there. Not very long, really. Long enough. Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank and the only one in which Israeli settlers have established a permanent presence – hence the checkpoints and the hundreds of soldiers, and the division of the city into two zones, H1 and H2, the former ostensibly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the latter without question by the Israeli army. Hence the near-kaleidoscopic fragmentation, the cities inside the city and the cities inside them, and, above and beneath and between them all, in the cracks that separate each side from its other, the imagined cities of Hebron’s inhabitants. Hebron is nothing but other sides, like a single page you can keep flipping and flipping without ever finding the same text. If all of Palestine is marked by furrows and folds, realities that overlap but almost never intermingle, Hebron is a cartographic collapse, a mapmaker’s breakdown.

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