Hebron (Arabic: الخليل al-Ḫalīl; Hebrew: חֶבְרוֹן Ḥevron, Ḥeḇrôn, or Ḥebron) is an ancient city in the southern West Bank. It is the traditional burial place of the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives. This makes it a significant religious site for the Abrahamic religions. In 2017, the old town was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

For other places with the same name, see Hebron (disambiguation).

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Hebron is mentioned in the Bible as the home of Abraham, and the burial place of him and several generations of his family. In King David’s time, Hebron was briefly the capital of the Israelite state, before the capital moved to Jerusalem. Today, Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews due to its association with Abraham. (Christianity is also an Abrahamic religion, but Christians haven’t paid as much attention to Hebron.)

The Jewish population of Hebron was evacuated after Arabs killed nearly 70 of them in 1929. After the 1967 war, a few Jews resettled the Jewish quarter. Today, about 500 Jews live in part of the old city of Hebron under continual Israel Defense Force protection, and with a ratio of four Israeli soldiers for each Israeli settler.

Political map of Hebron

Today, the city of Hebron is home to about 500 Jews and 200,000 Palestinians. The Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba (population 8,000) is a separate city immediately adjacent to Hebron. Hebron is divided into two sectors: H1 is entirely Palestinian and includes about 80% of the city’s residents, while H2 contains all the Jews and the remainder of the Arabs. H1 is under full Palestinian control (i.e. Area A), while H2 is under full Israel control. The Cave of the Patriarchs, the main holy site in the city, is on the border between H1 and H2.

This has been one of the tensest places between Jews and Palestinians, as in Hebron both sides here tend to be more extreme and violent than the average for their ethnic groups. Jews here have the 1929 massacre on their minds, while Palestinians have Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of praying Muslims on theirs. This is not a good place to express your opinion on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Even Jewish residents here have an often-hostile relationship with the Israel army, because they see it as being too accommodating to Palestinians. Unfortunately, the 2017 declaration of the Old Town as a UNESCO world heritage site has done little to ease the tensions, as the Israeli government protested its classification as an “endangered” “Palestinian” site, despite its Jewish heritage.

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