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It’s frustrating to be a Jew in Palestine.
We showed our passports to the two young soldiers. Where was I from in the States? Chicago? Go Bulls! Passports back. My friends and I walked into H2 — the section of Hebron under complete control of the IDF and with the highest concentration of settlers.
First impression: Wild West. “High Noon.” I imagined a crow cawing; a vulture circling; tumbleweed blowing down Shuhada Street, bumping up against the concrete barrier that blocks off the small part of the road on which Palestinians are permitted to walk. I felt my belt, half expecting there to be a six-shooter. Nothing. But the young settler jogging with a baby stroller and wearing a rainbow yarmulke had an M16 slung over his shoulder.
I looked back at the soldiers. One of them was leaning against a wall, soaking in the sun. The other was moving in the direction of a young Palestinian boy.
Farther down the street, a couple more soldiers eyed us as we walked. One made a catcall at us. We kept walking. A few more soldiers were on the next corner, standing, alert, hands on their weapons. I looked up and saw more soldiers on the rooftops, looking down. One waved. In Hebron there are some 4,000 IDF soldiers to protect 500 Israeli settlers.
The street was lined with stores. Each storefront was welded shut. Many spray-painted with a Star of David, a menorah, or the Israeli flag. My friend pointed out that these were Palestinian shops that had been shut down by the settlers or soldiers.
I thought about the Palestinian man I’d just met, who told us how his son was blinded when a settler threw acid in his face on his way to school. Who told us how he often had to shut down his shop when settlers hurled urine-filled bottles from above onto the Palestinian market below.
Stars of David. Everywhere. On stores, on doors, on walls, on windows, on flags, on shirts.
We passed a sign explaining — in Hebrew and English — that this was an area of Hebron that had been “liberated” from the Arabs.
It feels awful to be a Jew in Palestine.
Beth Miller is a 2010 graduate of Macalester College and has been working with a human rights organization in the West Bank for the past year and a half. She will be a candidate for a Master of Arts in human rights law at the School of Oriental and African Studies this fall.