Hebron's Old City is one of the oldest souks in the world. Historically it was the hub of activity and life in the city.
In 1994 Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler in Hebron who was also a practicing doctor born in New York, walked into Ibrahimi Mosque with an automatic rifle and opened fire on worshippers as they prayed. At least 29 Palestinians were killed and more than 120 were injured. Ever since the massacre, the Israeli army – who protect an estimated 400 settlers that have occupied several areas in the heart of the Palestinian city – began to implement severe closures across the Old City.
17 checkpoints now divide the historic centre of Hebron with some areas entirely closed off to Palestinians. Several walls have also been erected by the military to close streets to Palestinian residents.
During the Second Intifada, the area was placed under military curfew for many months. Many shops were destroyed by settlers and their doors then welded shut in an attempt to prevent the shopkeepers from returning.
In recent years there has been some minor reactivation of the area by Palestinians as they struggle to remain in the Old City but many shops still stand empty. For the shopkeepers attempting to work there life is a daly struggle. Daily patrols of Israeli soldiers still spread through the area, and weekly 'settler tours' take over the Old City on Saturdays accompanied by a substantial military escort. Many Palestinians who have lived in the Old City for centuries have now left, and amongst Hebron's Palestinian population of 200,000 people many are understandably scared of entering the Old City.
Despite these oppressive and sometimes violent daily realities, some people refuse to be forced out of the area. This photo-essay looks into the lives and struggles of shopkeepers as they attempt to hold on to their businesses, their city and and their Palestinian identity in Hebron's Old City.
MEMO Photographer: Rich Wiles