At first one may think that Palestine, Hebron in particular, is an unsafe destination for an international visitor. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly; the fact that Hebron is a conservative community and secondly; due to the presence of the Israeli occupation soldiers who patrol the checkpoints which mark the division of the Old City of Hebron. However, this image of Hebron is unfounded. In reality it is very safe for internationals, both men and women, to visit, live and work.
The fact that Hebron is a religious and conservative city does not mean that it is unsafe for young western visitors. Rather, it only demands that they should be respectful in the way that they act and dress. Much of this is simple common sense, as Patrick Magee from Ireland, an international volunteer who was participated in the Volunteer in Palestine program summer 2015 at the Excellence Centre commented; “it is not a dangerous place for western men or women to visit, because if you respect the people and their culture, everyone will welcome you. They want to demonstrate to visitors and the rest of the world that Palestine is a peaceful and happy country.”
Regarding the occupation, one 15 year old student, Shahad, brushed off a question about the presence of Israeli troops; explaining how they are a part of everyday life and that she is not afraid of them when she is walking in the street. As an international, the troops have little to no impact on your daily life. Indeed, in the New City, where the Excellence Centre is located, you never meet any settlers as it is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Marwa Shantir , a Palestinian teacher commented that she always feels safe in Hebron “because you do not see the settlers and because the people in Hebron do not want to cause any problems”. Even when visiting the Old City, which is been divided between the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities, the atmosphere is very calm and safe. Emmy Zeothbrood from Holland who was a participant in the Volunteer in Palestine program summer 2015, said that she had never encountered any tension when visiting the Old City, nor any hostility towards her from either side of the divide.
Indeed Hebron has a rich cultural and historical heritage within the ancient walls of its Old City, which internationals are able to discover and experience alongside it’s inhabitants. “In my own experience, I have never had any problems concerning safety in Hebron. I use the local transport services alone and enjoy walking in the Old City at all times of the day”. Muad Jovet from France said
Many images may come to mind when the topic of security in Palestine is discussed; but as two 12 year old Palestinian students at the Excellence Centre (Mohammad and Obyda) described: “Hebron is a beautiful place, people are friendly and generous… it is like one big family.” I believe that this, more than anything, demonstrates the importance of the community for the people of Hebron. The nature and strength of this community is what makes it such a special and welcoming city for men and women from across the world