HEBRON REFLECTION: When Issa walked down the street

CPTnet
17 January 2007

HEBRON REFLECTION: When Issa walked down the street

by Dianne Roe

When Issa Amro walked down the street on the eve of Eid al adha (Muslim
feast of the sacrifice) a few weeks ago, people cheered from their
balconies. Our neighbor came to our door with the news "Shuhada maftuuah!"
(Shuhada Street is open!) A few Israelis and internationals, including
journalists and two other Palestinians walked with Issa from Tel Rumeida
down Shuhada, past the "chicken gate" that closes the Christian Peacemaker
Teams (CPT) apartment off from Shuhada. A few minutes later Issa visited
CPT and showed us the military order that enabled him to walk down the
street.

So, what is so special about a young Palestinian man walking from his home
down the street to the home where he was born in the Old City of Hebron?
What is so unusual about walking on the day before the Eid al Adha toward
what used to be the biggest wholesale market south of Jerusalem? Before
1994, Shuhada Street was a bustling market place. On the day before a
feast, thousands of people and hundreds of cars would have crowded the
street.

In February 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein murdered twenty-nine
Muslims as they were praying in the Ibrahimi mosque. In the weeks that
followed, the Israeli army closed Shuhada Street to the Palestinians, but
allowed the Israeli settlers to roam free, thus punishing the victims for
what one Israeli terrorist had done. Then, in January 1997, with the
signing of the Hebron protocol that was part of the Oslo agreements, the
Israeli government agreed to reopen Shuhada Street to the Palestinians.
However, even with USAID money refurbishing the street for the Palestinians,
the Israeli Army seemed to be taking orders from militant Israel settlers
rather than from signed agreements.

So when Issa walked down the street, many people wondered for how long the
army would honor the court decision. Less than a week later, on the day of
Issa's engagement, the Israeli army stopped CPT and said that they had a new
order to close Shuhada Street again. When John Lynes and Dianne Roe refused
to leave the street, an Israeli settler woman attacked Roe and pushed her
out of the area the Israelis had called "sterile."

When the settlers went inside a half hour later, the soldier whispered to
Roe that she was then allowed to proceed down the street.

When Issa is married next summer, he hopes he can take his bride down
Shuhada Street to the home where he was born. If the Israeli army honors
the court order and the Israeli government honors the Hebron protocol, it
should be an easy stroll down the street. However, if the Israeli army
takes its orders from militant Israeli settlers, the street where he used to
live will be closed to him.