The atmosphere in Hebron is tense, following the extrajudicial killing at point-blank range by an Israeli soldier of a Palestinian young man who stabbed a soldier, but who had already been wounded by IDF forces and posed no danger. The filming of the incident by Tel Rumeida resident ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh on a camera donated to him by the Israeli Human Rights Organisation B’tselem and the subsequent trial of the soldier responsible has caused uproar in Israeli society and demonstrated that a good proportion of that society is in favour of such extrajudicial killings.
Despite this tension however, there is room for celebration. We make our way to the Hebron Governorate building for the awards ceremony where the 80 women who have completed Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) training will receive their certificates. No half measures here. Many of the women have donned their Palestinian costumes – bright reds and golds and greens embroidered on black in beautifully crafted cross-stitch. There is a stage with a podium and pictures of Lasser Arafat and Abu Mazon, music – and then speeches. Eventually each woman is presented with a certificate in a brightly coloured frame.
It is a joyous event, but also has a deeper significance. All of these women come from H2, the area of Hebron where there are around 500 radical Jewish settlers, guarded by some 2,000 IDF soldiers. The combination of the two makes life unsafe and miserable – involving daily abuse, harassment and inconvenience. They testify that AVP has helped them to deal with the stress and violence of their situation better, to be more resilient, and to support one another better. They are more assertive and self-confident, better able to handle conflict in their families and community, and are more hopeful for the future. Some of them will become facilitators and will go on to train others.
In the evening we enjoy a special meal of Maqloobah (upside-down chicken) and start to bid farewell to Maryam, the head of the counselling centre in Hebron, and some of her co-facilitators. We know that the AVP programme will go from strength to strength in Hebron, largely due to Maryam’s drive and vision. Nevertheless, it is alway difficult to say goodbye and prise ourselves away from their hospitality. We look forward to returning next year.