In the ancient Arab-Jewish city of Hebron, people don’t even pretend to coexist in peace; Hebron is literally a divided city. Arabs and Jews are separated by walls and checkpoints which divide streets and buildings. Most importantly, the Iron Wall divides people.
For a foreign Lama visiting Hebron, it means for example the following:
- I have to take off a necklace given to me as a gift when I’m crossing a checkpoint from the Palestinian side to the Israeli side of the street. It could raise suspicions and lead to questions.
- Any signs of speaking or understanding Hebrew must be concealed. Otherwise, I might be considered a spy or an upright enemy.
- I can count myself lucky to be able to move freely between the checkpoints. A Palestinian or an Israeli are not allowed to cross checkpoints to each other’s territories. But because I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian – just a foreign Lama – I can see both sides.
Division Fuels Fear
Hebron’s division does one thing: it fuels fear. People living literally a couple of meters from each other live in fear of each other.
People fear what they don’t know.
We fear when we don’t understand. When we don’t understand, we don’t feel compassion.
I have a little suspicion:
That where there is no compassion,
There is not a solution.
Fear creates monsters. It starts with monsters in our heads; then we project the monsters onto other people and objects. Because we feel ourselves separated, we think that other people are monsters. But really, it is just Fear playing a Game with our Mind.
The concept of an Enemy
What is an enemy?
Enemy is another word for monster. Something evil that I have to defeat or it will defeat me.
Babies don’t know enemies. But we do our best to teach them fast to know their enemies.
How do babies get to know their enemies?
By not getting to know the real people.
When babies grow up not knowing the real people, and instead hear about monsters hiding behind the wall, they learn fast that the Enemy is behind the Wall. The Wall is what divides Me from the Enemy. The Wall is the protective line between Us and Them.
On each side of the wall, everyone knows exactly their enemy:
The one that we cannot see.
The monster that we cannot talk to.
The projection of our fear that we cannot touch.
So I just want to let you know,
The Enemy is the One we do not know!
Waking up from a nightmare
Why are we still living the nightmare of conflicts on this Planet?
Because we let fear of the Unknown control our hearts.
The good news with nightmares is that it is possible to wake up from a nightmare.
How do we wake up from a nightmare?
By turning on the Light.
Every conflict, in its essence, is the monstruous result of Fear. Therefore, to wake up from the nightmare of a conflict, let us turn on the Light in us.
The Hebron Paradox
According to the traditions of both Judaism and Islam, Hebron is a city where the ancient Fathers and Mothers are buried. In the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Ibrahim Mosque, both Muslims and Jews come to honour the graves of Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah.
The Cave is a holy place… For whom? Arabs or Jews?
The Cave is a holy place for both Arabs and Jews.
Both Jews and Arabs trace their origin back to Abraham. Today, the Cave where the forefathers are buried, is divided into a Muslim and Jewish part. It is both a mosque and a synagogue. But, apart from 10 special days each year, the Muslims don’t have access to the Jewish part, while the Jews are banned from entering the Muslim part.
The children venerating the father,
But without knowing each other.
I have visited Hebron twice so far. My first time was right before I left Israel in December 2021 and I saw the Palestinian side of the town. For the second time, it was during my short visit of Israel in May 2022, exploring both the Palestinian and the Israeli side of the town.