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By Fuad Sultan Tamimi
Hebron is one of the most important and oldest cities in Palestine’s history, dating back more than 6,000 years. It is called ‘Al-Khalil’, or ‘Khalil Al-Rahman’, abbreviated from ‘The City of the Friend of God’, the friend of God being the prophet Abraham or, as he is referred to by the Arabs, ‘Abuna Ibrahim Al-Khalil’-‘Our Father Abraham, the Friend’. Thus Hebron is regarded as holy by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike.
Hebron is famous for its holy and historical places, particularly ‘Al-haram Al-Ibrahimi’, or the Abraham Mosque, which refers to where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives were buried. Al-haram is also famous for its twelfth-century-workmanship platform.
Hebron is considered to be one of the holiest places in Palestine and welcomes many religious visitors, most of whom are Muslim. The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is said to have given the area of Hebron to one of his companions, Tamim Ibn Aus Al-Dari. The descendants of Tamim still exist in large numbers in Hebron, Nablus, and Jordan. Moreover, Hebron is familiar to most of Palestine’s inhabitants, who refer to the gate from Jerusalem that leads to Hebron as ‘Bab Al-Khalil’, or ‘the Gate of Hebron’, rather than other names often used by tourists, such as Jaffa Gate.
The ancient and traditional town of Hebron is considered to be one of the oldest towns in Palestine and, indeed, has some claim to being among the oldest continuously inhabited places anywhere, and it is really worth exploring.
Hebron has many historical sites that originate from the successive civilizations that have continued through the ages. The souk (bazaar), with its arched roofs and the magnificent alleys, shows the distinctive art of the architectural model. The shops sell everything from pottery, olives, and glass to fresh and dried fruits. The grapes produced in Hebron are converted into jam and molasses, and the traditional crafts of glassblowing, pottery making, and tanning have been adapted to small-scale factory production. The most famous historical souks in Hebron are ‘Azazin’, ‘Il-aban’, and ‘Khan Shaheen’.
The Russian Orthodox Church, considered to be the only Christian site in the city, was built near the oak of Abraham. This site commemorates the promise made to Abraham that he would become the father of a son, Isaac. Until recently, visiting pilgrims would often cut small pieces of the oak trunk for good luck.
‘Birket Es-Sultan’ or, ‘The Sultan’s Pool’ is located to the northeast of Al-haram, but it is now closed for safety reasons. Ramet El-Khalil, or Al-Rameh, marks the site of an ancient town called ‘Terebinthus,’ which was considered to be an important commercial centre during the Roman Age. ‘Tal Rumaidah’ is the site of an old mosque. The Hebron Museum, which is located in the heart of the old city of Hebron, was originally a Turkish bath.
mixtures of the successive histories and civilizations have enriched Hebron with a special bouquet of cultures and reserved its identity as a pure Palestinian city.
Modern Hebron is reputed for its opportunities in education, agriculture, trade, tourism, and industry. Hebron boasts several well-known academic centres such as Al-Quds Open University, the Palestine Polytechnic University, and Hebron University, in addition to many cultural and scientific centres that offer courses and resources for the inhabitants of Hebron as well as those of the surrounding areas. Hebron is also famous for the cultivation of fine grapes, vegetables, fruit, grains, and olives. As an industrial centre, Hebron has a wide range of industries that include glassblowing, tanning, shoemaking, ceramics, and pottery. In addition, there are many stone-processing factories and workshops that use natural, colourful stone and marble that come from quarries in the region. Hebron products are widely used in the local Palestinian markets and exported to many countries in the Middle East and the world.
Fuad Sultan Tamimi lives and works in Hebron. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week in Palestine