Hebron is one of the most bizarre and tragic places in the Middle East. It is the biblical burial site of Abraham, and holy to Jews and Muslims, which is the root of the problem. It is the largest city in the West Bank, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Judea and Samaria or Palestine, the use of any of those names is highly political and dependent on your perspective. In the center of a city of 165,000 Arab Palestinian residents, 500 Jewish settlers have staked a claim and are living there, citing their belief in biblical promises to the Jewish people. Some 2,000 young Israeli soldiers are posted in Hebron to protect these settlers from violence by their neighbors who view them as invaders. There are rules as to who can use which sides of which streets, claims and counterclaims, and frequent violence.
In 1994 an American Jewish settler in Hebron, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians and injured 125 more as they prayed in the main mosque. It is very unsettling to me that a public monument to this mass murderer has been erected in the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.
As the biblical burial site of Abraham that is holy to both Jews and Muslims, Hebron is a microcosm of the larger Israel/Palestine conflict. Much like Alice in Wonderland, once you go through the looking glass, nothing is as it appears and it all gets very complicated.
I became involved in this project through my work engaging top CEOs on both sides of conflict in conflict regions to better understand the others’ perspective and making a difference in difficult situations. Through the Peace Action Network (PAN) of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), an international network of over 20,000 CEOs in 123 countries, much of my work has been in the Middle East, specifically Israel and Palestine. In this work I became aware and very conscious of tensions surrounding Hebron and through YPO members engaged in Forum dialogue, was able to obtain access to top Jewish and Arab leaders around the community.
This project began approximately three years ago. During that time and through multiple visits I have been able to evaluate and assess the situation as it has evolved, while also developing relationships and spending time with leaders and other individuals on both sides, as well as organizations active in the area. Keeping a record of my learnings, I do extensive photography, interviews, and videography trying to capture and convey the multiple perspectives and sense of unreality that this conflict embodies.
My hope is that the viewer will come away from this project with a renewed sense and deeper understanding that the very nature of being in a conflict region so distorts the conception of reality, that gaining perspectives and recognizing the existence of multiple and differing realities is vital. Appreciating that each side has a narrative, which forms the basis of their individual understanding and truth, and acknowledging that these narratives are parallel, is the first step toward reconciliation.
For photo gallery, click here.