The name Hebron in both Hebrew and Arabic – Hevron and al-Khalil – is derived from the root meaning “friend.” The city, holy to both Jews and Muslims, is believed to be the burial place of some of Judaism and Islam’s most consequential patriarchs and matriarchs.
Nestled in the hills some 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem, Hebron was once a model of Jewish-Muslim coexistence, but is now typified by a very strained and often violent relationship between its Israeli and Palestinian residents.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Jews and Arabs lived side by side in Hebron, sharing shops, hospitals, and holy sites. However, with the rise of increased Jewish Zionist immigration to Palestine and the growth of Arab nationalism and incitement, growing tensions culminated in the massacre of 67 Jews in 1929, effectively ending the Jewish presence in Hebron.
The event was so destabilizing to Jewish-Arab relations that historian Hillel Cohen called it “year zero of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” despite Arab violent opposition to Zionism even before the British Mandate.
WHEN JEWS returned, under the protection of the IDF and the State of Israel, to the city in the decades succeeding the 1967 Six Day War, the Palestinian population viewed them hostile occupiers.
While succeeding governments did not actively promote Jewish settlement in the city, they acquiesced to the uncompromising settlers, who viewed their mission in messianic terms.
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