During the occupation, Hebron has undergone a number of stages in the invaders’ Judaization process. The aim has been to create a geographical unity within Hebron and its suburbs. The Kiryat Arba settlement was created in 1968 in the Eastern part of Hebron. Then, certain areas in the Old Town were taken over and transformed into Jewish residential neighbourhoods.

In 1979, settlers raided and occupied the Dibboya House. They also occupied the central vegetable market deep inside the Old Town in 1980, where they built what it known as the Avraham Avino Settlement. In 1983, they took over the Ussama Bin Munqiz school and the bus terminal. During that period, aggression perpetrated by settlers in Hebron increased exponentially. Tal al Rumaida was occupied in 1984 and settlers transformed the buildings they occupied inside the city into Jewish settlements. Hebron settlers are considered the most extreme of the extremists.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the strategy aimed at the Judaization of Hebron entered a new phase, with the imposition of repressive measures such as the closure of streets, alleys, markets and shops. Terrorism against Palestinians living in Hebron worsened, especially around the settlements, and was maintained in the hope of creating a geographical link between extremist settlements established inside the city and the Kiryat Arba settlement.

Occupation authorities imposed policies aimed at evicting thousands of Palestinian Hebron residents from their homes and shops, and deliberately demolishing many historic and archaeological buildings. Such policies are designed to intimidate Hebron’s Palestinian residents. The occupation army, for example, imposed curfews for days and months at a time, and blocked Palestinian traffic on main and secondary roads under the pretext of safeguarding settlers’ security. These actions created opportunities for settlers and their army to swiftly occupy lands, destroy houses and displace Palestinians. For example, the occupation authorities built a 6- to 12-meter wide road linking Kiryat Arba to the Ibrahimi Mosque, and demolished a number of buildings in the area, including a host of historic and archaeological buildings dating back to the Mamluk and Ottoman eras (1250-1916), thus damaging the architectural fabric of the Old Town of Hebron, and wiping out parts of the Mosque’s historic surroundings.

Following the signing of the Hebron Protocol, on 17 January 1997, between the National Authority and Israel, the city was split in two distinct political regions known as H1 and H2. In accordance with this Protocol, Israel was given total control of Hebron’s Old Town and outer parts.

The final episode of this policy concerned the Ibrahimi Mosque. Jews had started to visit the compound individually and in groups since 1967, straight after the fall of Hebron. However, these visits only became official in June 1972, when military authorities officially authorized Jews to pray there, albeit at different times from Moslems. These prayers were more akin to demonstrations. Around the end of 1978, they undertook a new campaign to complete the transformation of large parts of the compound into a synagogue.

The opportunity to fully implement the control regime presented itself on 25 February 1994, when Jewish settler Barukh Goldstein attacked Moslem worshippers at 5.30 am, during dawn prayers. He opened fire with his submachine gun, killing 29 worshippers. Despite the fact that Palestinians were the victims, the Israeli government, following this massacre, punished the people of Hebron with a 30-day curfew during which they were not allowed to leave their homes. It then closed the Mosque for ten months. At the end of that time the Ibrahimi Mosque was divided into two sections, one for Moslems and the other for Jews, with two separate entrances. Palestinians have to undergo very complex security measures on their way in.

The Old Town now lives under a full Apartheid-style system. Many roads are totally reserved for settlers; palestinians are not allowed to use them. There are other roads where Palestinians are allowed to travel on foot but not in their vehicles; and still others where Palestinians are allowed to drive through but not leave their vehicles. There are houses in the Old Town where residents were prohibited from using their front doors, so they have converted windows into doors or simply created new doorways.

Others can only reach their houses via the roofs of neighbouring buildings. There are neighbourhoods which Palestinians are not allowed to enter if they are not residents, so no visitors are allowed; and other neighbourhoods that can only be accessed through gates and physical check points. All these “arrangements” are aimed at facilitating and guaranteeing the livelihood of less than 400 settlers living in and around the Old Town.

So the Old Town’s Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Project has multiple aims: to conserve the architectural heritage and cultural fabric, to house the residents, to revive the economy, to fight poverty and unemployment, to struggle against the settlements and against the confiscation of property, to prepare the Old Town for the return of tourists, and to integrate the Old Town within the new city of Hebron.

More details in "Old Hebron, The Charm of a Historical City and Architecture"