20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CLOSURE OF AL SHUHADA STREET.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the closure of Al-Shuhada Street in Hebron. To mark this occasion, the Building Sumud Project has produced a series of images which looks to the future and challenges viewers to #ImagineHebron open and free; a #HebronDecolonized of the architecture and operations of the Israeli Occupation Forces and illegal settlements.
These images are intended to not only offer a view to the future, but also aim to highlight the destructive effects that Israeli military operations and illegal settlers have caused the inhabitants and architecture of the Old City.
This image is located at the top of Al Shuhada Street, where the Old City meets the New City. It is the main Israeli point of control of Palestinians who live in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood (located immediately beyond the checkpoint) when passing from the New City to the Old City. The checkpoint also marks the beginning of a string of illegal Israeli settlements which stretches 1.5km from the Beit Hadassah settlement to Qiryat Arba settlement.
Al Shuhada Street / Old City Today
There has been a long history of colonisation in Hebron dating back to 1968, however a pivotal moment occurred in 1994 following the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre by Baruch Goldstein, an illegal Israeli settler who killed 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded another 125. This event ironically paved the way for the closure of Al Shuhada Street by the Israeli military, increased settlement construction and greater oppression of Palestinian Hebronites .
As a result of spatial security restrictions imposed by the Israeli army, such as the closure of the central business district of Al-Shuhada Street, the introduction of roadblocks and finally the construction of checkpoints, the Old City has suffered an economic and social death over the last 20 years. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports that 80% of Palestinian adults in the Old City are unemployed, while an estimated 75% of the general population live below the poverty line.
Along with these spatial restrictions, Old City Palestinians have been the subject of physical, psychological and symbolic violence in their day-to-day lives, which has led to an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among residents.
The policies of the Israeli occupation safeguard the daily lives of the several hundred settlers, leaving the Palestinians open to systematic direct and indirect forms of hardship. In the Old City the space is colonised from above by the settlers, who inhabit the higher floors of buildings in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods. From there, they periodically raid the buildings and streets, marking the space with dirt, refuse, insulting graffiti and national flags.
These actions are manifestations of symbolic violence: a form of aggression which targets the values and cultural and social practices of a specific community. This materialisation of symbolic violence in everyday life has a tendency to normalise the situation particularly for the youngest population of the city who have never lived in an unoccupied environment.
In Hebron’s Old City, conflict is played out through urban space in multiple ways, such as forced evictions, the displacement of everyday activities, and the suppression of public spaces which can be seen as a violence against the fabric of the city itself