Hebron’s Ghost Town: Shuhada Street

15 September 2012

Shuhada Street used to be an integral part of the vibrant centre of Hebron. The shops and markets, for which the city is renowned, lined the pavements. The street itself was a busy main road through the city and was considered the most important street in Hebron.

Since the Goldstein Massacre, the Israeli occupation forces chose to make restrictions on the Palestinians rather than on the Israeli settlers living inside Hebron and the Palestinian movement have been restricted intermittently. Vehicles were banned from using the Shuhada Street, but it remained a hub of activity in the old city.

During the Second Intifada, in September 2000, Israel placed even further restrictions by closing the street completely off to the Palestinians. The justification given was “security”, often cited as an excuse to violate the rights of the Palestinian people. Today, only a few Palestinians are allowed to enter the area.

The closure of the street has had severe effects on the day to day life for Palestinians in Hebron. The loss of a main thoroughfare has forced people to take much longer routes whilst going about everyday business. For example, locals no longer have direct access to the central vegetable market, meaning that they must take major detours to do their daily grocery shopping.

All the shops in the Shuhada street and the surrounding area were closed during the Second Intifada leaving the merchants with massive financial losses. As many as 304 shops and warehouses had to close and one can only imagine the consequences for these traders.

House owners in Shuhada Street have to enter their homes from side entrances and rooftops since the main entrances in Shuhada Street are closed off. Houses without such sideways are often abandoned since the families cannot enter their homes from the closed street.

Since its closure the area, formerly active and lively, is now a quiet and empty place. There are few people to be encountered on Shuhada Street, with the exception of the Israeli soldiers who watch from every street corner. No wonder this area often is referred to as “Ghost Town”.

The Israeli army have repeatedly claimed that the area was to be reopened, but so far nothing has happened. One might see the indefinite closure of the street as part of an Israeli policy of de facto annexation, taking Palestinian land of the benefit of settlers, and a part of a long term policy of ethnically cleansing the Palestinian population.