Visiting Hebron: The most troubled city in Palestine

That moment when you realize that the Mosque and Synagogue of the Cave of the Patriarchs, one of the holiest sites for both Jews and Muslims, are separated by bulletproof glass, you realize that you are in quite a tense place but, the truth is that you are in Hebron: the most troubled city in Palestine.

For a complete travel guide to the country, read: my guide for traveling to Palestine (Itinerary + Tips)



Visiting Hebron: The most troubled city in Palestine

This article is aimed at travelers interested in visiting Hebron, so I have tried to give an objective opinion about the conflict, based on what both Palestinians and Israeli settlers told me.

What’s my actual opinion? If you would like to discuss it further with me, please leave a comment below.

Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, is located in the south of the region. In case you didn’t know, Palestine is divided into two regions: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, both separated by the state of Israel.

Hebron is home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, the place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah are buried, Abraham being the most important figure and considered a Prophet by Muslims. The Cave of the Patriarchs is the second holiest place for Jews and the fourth for Muslims.

Do you want to visit Hebron with a passionate, professional local guide, who will tell you everything about the political situation? CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Visiting Hebron - The Tomb of the Patriarchs
The Synagogue

The city of Hebron has one peculiarity, which is that it is the only city in Palestine where Jewish settlements are within the city center itself. It’s quite a critical situation.

And why is that so? In order to understand it, we should look back at its history.


A piece of (very short) history

The history of Hebron is complicated but, summarizing, Jews have been present in this city from Biblical times, and Muslims have also lived there for many centuries.

In the middle of the 19th century, there were just a few Jewish communities and Hebron was deeply Islamic, with a tradition of hostility to Jews.

Due to Zionism, the number of Jewish people kept increasing, however, in 1929, the Arabs committed a massacre, killing around seventy Jews.

The survivors were forced to leave Hebron.

In 1967, after the 6 Days War, Hebron came under Israeli control. From then, given its strong religious symbolism, the Israeli Government started to build settlements within the Old City itself.

Read: The art of the Palestine – Visiting the kuffiyah factory in Hebron

The Jewish settlement of Hebrón
The Jewish settlement


Visiting Hebron: The situation nowadays

Israel has been building settlements for more than 50 years, to the extent that, today, the city is completely divided. H1 is the area controlled by the Palestinians (80%) and H2 is the area controlled by the Israelis (20%).

If you own a passport which doesn’t belong to a Muslim country, it’s possible to visit both sides. Otherwise, it won’t be possible for you to visit the settlements and synagogue. 

The full itinerary takes 5 or 6 hours approximately, going slowly and including a lunch break and visiting the Cave of patriarchs (from both sides).

Do you want to visit Hebron with a passionate, professional local guide, who will tell you everything about the political situation? CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

H1 – The Palestinian side

In the old city of Hebron, what used to be a busy market, full of joy and happiness, is today nothing but a semi-abandoned area, whose inhabitants can’t avoid expressing their hatred of the settlers, every time they meet a foreigner.

Abandoned Old City Hebron
The Old City soul used to be a busy place but, today, it’s just an abandoned street
Visiting Hebron - The Old City souq
The Old City souq

Most of the Old City is covered by a metal fence, to protect the street and the people from settlers throwing garbage at them, from their houses. After the fence was built, the settlers started throwing bleach, eggs, and excrements as well.

The fence that protects from the settlers violence in Hebron
The fence that protects from the settler’s violence
Garbage Hebron settlers
The garbage the settlers throw at the Arabs, piled on the fence

The Arab buildings situated in front of the Jewish buildings are also a target for the settlers and, for this reason, their balconies and windows are protected with strong metal bars.

Some Palestinians claim that, occasionally, the settlers have even thrown Molotov cocktails at them.

Arabs Hebron
The Arabs were forced to protect their windows from the settler’s violence

The Israeli Army doesn’t do anything to prevent this sort of violence from the settlers. However, they have the right to shoot at any Palestinian who attempts violence against any settler, even if it’s in self-defense.

Many streets in the Old City were just abandoned, and business and shops were closed, either because they were afraid of the settlers or because the Israeli authorities blocked them, for security reasons.

Read: Lebanon 15-day itinerary

The Israeli authorities blocked streets to build Israeli settlements. Behind this wall you find the Jewish settlement


Abraham’s tomb – Neutral zone

After the H1 itinerary, you find a checkpoint to access Abraham’s tomb.

Abraham’s mosque checkpoint
To enter Abraham’s Mosque, the Palestinians need to go through strict checkpoints

Abraham’s tomb is literally located between the synagogue and the mosque, so it’s visible from both sites. However, in 1994, an American Jewish entered the mosque and opened fire, killing 24 Palestinians, during prayer time on a Friday in Ramadan.

It was a real act of cruelty that moved the entire world. Since then, the security checkpoints have become just insane and Jews can’t enter the mosque and Muslims can’t enter the synagogue.

Abraham’s Tomb, which is the area shared by both religions, is separated by a bulletproof window. This place is just crazy.

Do you want to visit Hebron with a passionate, professional local guide, who will tell you everything about the political situation? CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Visiting Hebron - The Abraham’s mosque
Abraham’s mosque
Abraham's tomb military security
Inside the synagogue itself, the military presence is high
Abraham's tomb - bulletproof window
Abraham’s tomb and the bulletproof window, which separates the mosque from the synagogue


H2 – The Jewish side

The Jewish side is of less interest than the Palestinian for the simple reason that it’s just a residential area. The streets, which used to be busy, have become mere transit roads for the military.

On these streets, there are still a few Arab families living. To protest against that, some Jews painted the star of David on each one of their doors.

Arab houses stamped with the star of David
This street was closed for military transit purposes. A few Arabs still live there and, as a sign of protest, the settlers stamped their houses with the symbol of David

If you wish to have a broad and generic opinion about the conflict in Hebron, I suggest you talk to any settler living there and let them tell you their side of the story.

Since they’ve received a lot of international criticism, many of them will be happy to share their version with you.

Basically, they will talk to you about the 1929 massacre, when Arabs killed over 60 Jews. The Jews have inhabited Hebron since Biblical times and Abraham’s tomb is one of the holiest places for their religion.

They have the right to live in Hebron and banning them from living there would be the equivalent of banning Muslims from visiting or living in Mecca.

A Jewish praying in the Jewish settlement of Hebron
A Jewish praying in the Jewish settlement

They also say that the Israeli Government and Jewish Institutions in New York are offering 20 million USD to every Palestinian family who leaves their house in the Old City.

However, the Palestinians refuse it for two reasons: Firstly, they claim that, according to the Quran, if they accepted, they would go straight to hell for helping the enemy. Secondly, because if they did, they would have to leave the country because all Palestinians would exclude them from their society.

Hebron checkpoint
The checkpoint for those few Arabs who live in the Jewish settlement


What’s the actual truth?

Like a good Palestinian friend of mine once told me, the reality is so complex that we will never be able to know the real truth.


More information about visiting Hebron

Don’t forget your passport!

ToursGetYourGuide offers tours which can be booked with just one click and always count with professional local guides. Their Hebron tour is run by a very passionate local dude. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

How to get in – There are direct buses from several big cities, including Jerusalem (16ISL – 8$), Bethlehem (8ISL – 4$) and Ramallah.

Is it safe to visit? – Yes. Violence is occasional and it would never target foreigners. Besides, the weapons used are bleach and excrements rather than bullets.

Is it possible to visit Hebron on a day trip? – Yes. It’s possible to visit Hebron on a day trip if your intention is to just do the main itinerary. However, Hebron has many interesting sites, such as the Palestinian Kafiyya factory, Abraham’s monastery or enjoying the multiple restaurants serving traditional Palestinian food. Visiting these places would require additional time.

Where to eat – Around the Old City, you’ll just find Arab fast food. The area containing all the restaurants serving traditional food is far away from the city center. These are the coordinates: 31.5550231,35.0997087. However, unless you spend the night in Hebron, you won’t have time to go there.

Where to stay in Hebron

Backpacker’s Hostel – Hostel Hebron – The most popular hostel in Hebron. With a set of pretty new facilities and awesome reviews, this hostel is located next to the old city.

Click here to see the latest prices


NGO HostelLamar Hostel – This hostel is owned by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), an organization which aims at providing with decent housing to Palestinians living in the Old City. If you stay here, you will help to improve the life of the many Palestinians suffering in Hebron.

Click here to see the latest prices


Couchsurfing at Mo’s – Mo is a Palestinian who has hosted over hundreds of people in Hebron. He was more than happy to be included in my guide Meeting Mo was one of the highlights of my trip!

Si te gusta mi blog y encontraste el artículo útil, que sepas que si comprases cualquier servicio a través de cualquiera de mis links, me llevaría una pequeña comisión sin que a ti te suponga un coste adicional. Dichas ganancias son las que me ayudan a mantener este blog con vida.

Visiting Hebron

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  1. Very interesting post, and I appreciate that you covered the troubled past that has led to the troubled present. I have a Jewish friend whose family had lived in Hebron for centuries and was subsequently forced out, so I think the reality is not nearly as black and white as some on the Palestinian side would present.

    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for sharing your opinion 🙂 I’m sure your friend’s family must have very interesting stories to tell.

      I tried to cover what happened in the past but, as I said, this is a very small summary. Their history is too complicated. We can’t say that the 1929 massacre was the cause of the conflict, as this fight has been happening for centuries. Also, this 1929 massacre could have been partly caused by the Zionism, a movement which I don’t believe in. There are too many causes and consequences. We’ll never find the truth but, if there is something I am sure about, is that for the last 5 or 6 decades, the Israeli government is not acting correctly.

      1. I read this article for some information and was very disappointed at the bias displayed here. You call people Jewish incorrectly, such as the Jewish is standing and praying. It is actually the Jewish man or Jewish woman, not just a Jewish. Secondly, you attempt to justify the murders of Jews in 1929 due to “zionism” which means simply Jews believing they can live in Israel which is their Holy land. Yet, you discuss as “cruel” the murder of Arabs praying in a mosque. So according to you, Jews deserve to be murdered for simply living in a place, but the murder of anyone else is “cruel”. While settlers may throw garbage onto the street as pictured here, or even commit other unacceptable acts (I only have your words here to go on as you haven’t offered proof of excrement or bleach thrown), you completely gloss over and leave out the reason why there is a military presence in the area which is the constant and violent attempts by Arabs in the area to murder Jews. You say that you are neutral, but then admit in the comments that you are anti-zionist. So essentially, you don’t believe that Jews should be allowed to live in a place where their holiest sites are, in peace, and you ignore the fact that the only reason there are checkpoints is to protect those Jews from being murdered. Yet you point to the jewish star of David stamped on Arab doors as a great crime, while hiding the crimes against those Jews. I am not one to defend the bad behavior of Jewish settler’s, but you have no excuse to hide the truth of how violent and intolerant the Muslim Arab population is towards the Jews in Hebron.

        1. You are putting some of my words out of context but anyways, if you want me to say it… Yes, I don’t believe in Zionism and I don’t like Hamas either. I don’t like any extremism and I think that those settlers are crazy fucks. Moving to such a troubled place, forcing many Palestinians to go away from their homes, just because it is their holy place, just because a deal they made with god centuries and centuries ago, and all happening in the 21st century… This is totally bullshit man and maaaaaany Israelis know that… Murdered for simply living in a place? Please, don’t make me laugh… The Palestinians may have done many things wrong but dude… what the settlers are doing has no name. Internationally, the settlers policy is only supported by Donald Trump, so that says everything…

          1. Ronny Ahlsen Nilsen

            “Yes, I don’t believe in Zionism ”

            So you dont believe in the right for jews to have their own country in their homeland?
            But you have no problems, what so ever, with there being over 40 moslem states/countries…
            Hebron, hebrew.
            Jews/Jood/Jude -, Judea.

            Arabs cant even say P so how can “palestine” be theirs?
            Filastiiiin filastiiin… Well, if theyre “filistines” they should go back to Crete or stay in Gaza.

            “Internationally, the settlers policy is only supported by Donald Trump, so that says everything…”

            Maybe you should educate yourself and listen to what other national leaders say about this.. I.e the President of Czech Republic for instance.

            And isnt it hilarious that the moslems claim every God damned place to be “holy” to them?
            How many are they going to have?
            And you show your lack of knowledge by saying its “islams 4th holiest place”. What a load of BS.
            Especially since the Shias and Sunnis have different opinions on this.
            Two towns in Iraq are more “holy” to moslems than Hebron, which puts it at #6…
            Hell, PETRA is even more holy to some moslems than Hebron.
            They have their Meccas and Medinas, Jews have Yerushalaem and Hebron.
            With moslem logic the jews should probably claim Jericho as well.

            Your attacking the jews for the same reason your supporting the arabs moslems. They say that their “prophet” claims this and that, and youre okay with that. But when the jews say it, its “a deal with god centuries ago” and it doesnt count.

            What about jews living in Mecca today? (ironic, right?) – for how many seconds would their house stand before someone sets it on fire and kills them?

          2. Joan, you are disappointing me. I don’t like extremism too, as you put yourself, however:

            1. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people for self determination. If you don’t believe in Zionism, you are putting yourself in the side of those whom oppose the the Jewish right of self determination, while you are supporting the Palestinian right of self determination. Why only the Jews are not “worthy” enough for self determination? Are you really against extremism? if you are, you should respect the Jewish right of self determination.

            2. Settlers – the settlers are not a homogeneous group. Calling them as a group ‘crazy fucks’, apart from the extremely INAPPROPRIATE foul language, shows that your views are ‘black and white’. Everybody knows that the world is grey (except for extremists). If you are not an extremist, I think you shouldn’t use foul language at all for once, and I would expect you, a person whom have traveled in the West Bank, to know that the Israelis that live in the West Bank are coming from very, very, wide backgrounds, beliefs and political views. Thus, not calling them as a group in any adjective.
            Thinking that ALL settlers are there because of a deal with god is part of the problem, of not understanding the wide Israeli society.

            3. “murdered for simply living in a place?” – are you really blaming the Israelis for murdering Palestinians for a place? I am in awe.
            Are there rogue Israelis? yes. Are there rouge Spanish people? yes. Does it say that all the Israelis or all the Spanish people are bad? NO.
            I am not justifying actions done by individual settlers, whom consist a very small minority of all of them. They should be persecuted by the law, and many are – as Israel is a lawful country.
            If you believe that Israelis are murdering Palestinians as a matter of state policy, you are being brainwashed. Joan, I thought you are smarter than that.

    2. Hebron is the oldest Jewish city in the world. The fact that “Palestinians” (Arabs from Arabia) now live there is of note but the true history of the place can’t be ignored. Additionally, ths article shows a “fence” above a market place. But the comment about it doesn’t make any sense. Written in the article is that the settlers throw eggs (etc.) down from there so the fence stops that. Frankly, I have no idea how what is show would stop anything. Anyway, then the article goes on to say that AFTER the fence was constructed, then the settlers starting throwing eggs, etc. So what is it? Before or after? It is difficult to take seriously an article that is written so badly and contradicts itself, although always framing Jews as culprits.

  2. What you’ve written under the title “A piece of (very short) history” is very biased!

    My comments:
    The Jewish presence in Hebron goes back for centuries, before Arabs came to to city.
    The Jewish community there was actually not Zionist. They even rejected the proposal from Zionist Jews to have armed Jewish guards (as they were in other Jewish communities in the country) since they believed centuries of co-existence with their Muslim neighbors will do their job. But, that didn’t work, and as you mentioned – there was a massacre in 1929, after which the Jews were forced to leave their homes in Hebron. As an ancient community in the city, the homes of the Jewish community are located in the old city of Hebron, naturally.

    Since 1967, Jews returned to Hebron and settled back in the JEWISH PROPERTY left behind in 1929, the same Jewish homes in the old city of Hebron.

    1. Thanks for adding the comment. It’s difficult to summarize everything in 2 sentences but, at least, I tried to mention the 2 massacre from both sides, to keep the article objective. I have approved your comment so people can read it. thanks

  3. Hi Joan,
    I loved this article! There are always two sides to a story, and in the case of Palestine and Israel, you can’t win. If you offer a thought, you will get blasted from one side or the other. This article is about unbiased as you can be without picking a side. I admire that you held your own on these comments. I write a blog as well, and I defend my thoughts when people want to debate my experience or tell me how it is according to them.
    What baffles me is how many people will jump in with their opinions. Most have not experienced it for themselves. Mainly people from the west who live off of the politically driven version of news vs. reality. I can say this with clarity – I live in the US!
    I did a tour in Belfast where we explored the area’s where the Troubles occurred. I’ve not written about it yet. But, whenever I tell people about it, they have no clue what I am talking about. Add insult to injury they can’t comprehend the reality of walls diving communities over religion. And that’s in Belfast
    At the end of the day if people don’t like what you offer they should move on. Cudo’s for being brave enough to share your experience. Great article!
    Nikki – Brit on the Move

  4. Hello, how are you?

    Is it possible do visit Hebrom without a guide?
    The bus station is near the Complex and the Souq? I mean, can i do walking?


  5. Thank you for the quick reply.

    So, the same place where i will be dropped i get the bus back to Jerusalem or Bethelem?
    From that place is easy to find the souk?


    1. The souq can be easily found, yes. You just need to go straight, down the avenue. Do you have
      That place where I dropped off isn’t really a station but if you go back, you should find one going to Bethlehem on the same street. Worst case scenario, you can ask about Bethlehem Service. They will understand what you mean.

  6. I’m so glad to find this as I am about to post about my experience on the Dual Hebron tour on my blog. Would it be okay if I used your picture of Abraham’s tomb? It came out better than mine. I’d be glad to give you photo cred and I’d like to link this post to mine at for readers who are interested in more perspective if that’s okay with you? Thanks!!

  7. Mitchell Rapoport

    Your objection to Zionism, as extremist, means you do not believe the Jewish people deserve a state in the homeland in which they have resided for 3,000 years, no matter how minuscule. It might be helpful to your readers to understand your reasoning.

    1. Coming back to the Holy Land land, mainly because a deal you made with God 3000 years ago is totally bullshit, and colonialist, and racist, not to mention the expulsion of the Palestinians from the land they had been living for generations. Zionism’s plan was not to take a minuscule land as you say, but it was a movement that lead to actual violence and truly promoted land confiscation.

      I’ll always be against any form of antisemitism, but Zionism is bullshit.

      1. Please learn about the 850,000 Jewish families who, in the 1930s, were forced to flee with only the shirt on their back and all their properties confiscated, from Arab nations: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia, Libya, Iran. These precious people had nowhere else to go. How would YOU like to have NO PLACE in the world where you could lay your head down to sleep and feel safe?
        Current research documents that the number of Jews living in Arab countries and Iran totaled more than 850,000 at the time of Israel’s independence. Some scholars even think the number is closer to one million. In the North African region, 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco, 140,000 from Algeria, 100,000 from Tunisia, 75,000 from Egypt, and another 38,000 from Libya. In the Middle East, 135,000 Jews were exiled from Iraq, 55,000 from Yemen, 34,000 from Turkey, 20,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria. Iran forced out 25,000 Jews.

      2. 1. “Coming back to the Holy Land”:
        1a. You are ignoring the fact that there were always Jews in the Holy Land.
        1b. Yes, the Jews came back, not because of a deal with god. Zionism, The Jewish movement for self determination, is – believe it or not – secular, always was. I hope one of your eyebrows moves up (otherwise you have been brainwashed too much I would say). The fact that there was a Jewish Kingdom in the Holy Land for over 1000 years is indisputable (and I’m not talking about beliefs). Since it has been conquered by the Romans in 70 C.E (whom have relocated many Jews to Europe as a punishment), there was never any other independent country in the region. It took the Jews 2000 years but they are still here today, and they have a right of self determination. No, not on the expense of the Palestinians. But a right of self determination, just like any other nation has.
        The Palestinians bear a right of self determination too. And them too, not on the expense of the Jews. The Israelis and Palestinians will have to find the middle way here.
        The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict. Jewish or Muslim values are not attacked in the crisis. I am sure you have mentioned that, and thus I hope you realize that those whom try to take it to the religious level are the extremists.

        If you have access to history books, try to get a book on the 19th century, to see how small the population was in the country, almost an empty land. I cannot accept any attack on the Jewish right of self determination that globally says that the Jewish right is bullshit, colonialist or racist. Either be precise, talk about specific cases, or do not talk like this. Please, this is not the way civilized people talk.

  8. Hi Joan, I visited Hebron last year, as a “born-Christian, now aethiest” European. I think you have presented a very fair and reasonable explanation of the conflict and tensions in Hebron.
    I found the settler’s conduct appalling, and I was disgusted by how they treat the Arab families still living in H2. There were even 2 Jewish men in our group and they were shocked by the situation.
    There was an Arab shopkeeper close to the synagogue, who was a very nice man, and his family too, and we saw first-hand how badly he was treated by not only the settlers passing, but also the Israeli army in their checkpoint hut opposite his house.

  9. To be anti-Zionist is a form of being antisemtic, and your article and the comments that follow scream it. I don’t agree with violence of any kind, and this article only briefly mentions a massacre against Jews in 1929 (this was 20 years before the state of Israel was established, the residents were not Zionists), and then goes on to a laundry list of transgressions by Jews against Palestinians. Without degrading the very real and upsetting Palestinian experience, if you had spent any time speaking to the Jewish population with an open mind, you would have heard that there have been–and continue to be–two sides to this story. Among your most shocking omissions (of which there are many), you forget to include that in 2001 that a Palestinian sniper aimed, shot, and killed a Jewish BABY (Shalhevet Pass) solely because her father was dressed as a religious Jew. Did you just “forget” the Israeli government’s large, bright red signs that dot the road as you approach Hebron and warn Jews to only enter the city at their own peril? Suffice to say there is a reason that the IDF has a strong presence in Hebron, and to use your own crass words–it’s not just to back up the bad acts of some “crazy f*ck” settlers.

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