Humans of Hebron

Hoh_21_Adel.jpegI’ve been a blacksmith for 43 years. I left school to learn in the shop of a famous old man. My parents didn’t know. It the past, you would work with your hands and use fire from coal and old car oil. With technology, it’s cleaner, easier, and more comfortable. In my house even my bed is metal, along with the vanity and the tables. I specialize in fire escapes—up to ten stories tall. Usually you need an engineer, but I can do it on my own. My sons and I have worked at the Polytechnic University, many schools in Ramallah, and made windows, stairs, and doors for the UNRWA refugee camp there. If you go directly to Ramallah from Hebron it takes 45 minutes but the soldiers’ road closures and checkpoints add an extra few hours. We have to wake up at 4am to be there at 7 or 8. It takes energy from you. - Adel Karaki

Hoh_20_Amal.jpegWhen I was young, I would close my eyes and imagine going to the library and seeing books with my name. Now, I’ve written many books and I want to write more. The first book was “How to Read in Two Weeks,” the second “Creative Thinking,” the third about math, and the forth, about improving mental abilities, is in publication. I’ve been a teacher for 17 years. Before, I taught my sisters, brothers, and sons. If you teach Arabic in a suitable way it’s very easy. The school books are difficult. So, I use my own method. I teach students a few letters and make words from these. If you teach the students all the letters at once they will forget them, but if you teach them how to read they will not forget. So, I add just a few letters every lesson and continue. Many students’ families think they can’t learn and are surprised and happy. The students catch my clothes and say, “I can read Miss, let me read.” - Amal al-Jopehi

Hoh_19_Abed.jpegI’ve been a mechanic since I was 16. Usually mechanics work with different types of cars, but I work especially with Mercedes, because they are more complicated. They’re strong and good for our mountainous streets. Even though I didn’t go to university, I can fix any problem and understand the computers in the newer cars––even types I haven’t worked with before, because I follow the technology closely. Though Mercedes is German and we are Palestinian, we can fix anything. - Abed abu Turky




Hoh_18_Aysha.jpegI’m 13 years old. I live in Tel Rumeida neighborhood. I like arm wrestling with my friends. I always win. I usually choose the weak ones and work my way up. The most important part of my day is going to school together with them. I invite them over to my house to see what life is like here. I want the whole world to know about the situation. My neighbors are Israeli settlers. It makes life difficult. Three days ago, the settlers beat my sister. At the same time, the settlers pressed a machine gun against my leg. In any moment, they could have killed me, so I left and circled around so I could stay close to my sister. I’ve been hit before but never had a machine gun so close to shooting me. Now I’m okay. This is life. - Aysha al-Azzeh 

Hoh_17_Rula.jpegI helped establish a new forum which aims to grow the culture of cleanness and beauty in Hebron. We are a group of scholars who give lectures in schools and universities about how to keep our city clean. We visit mothers at their homes to encourage their children not to throw trash in the street. We also help in cleaning the streets. And, we gave the street cleaners a new name, فرسان النظافة, “the clean knights,” to show value and the importance of their role. I always say, if the mayor takes one month of vacation no one will notice, but if the فارس النظافة takes one week, there will be a real disaster. I think it will take a very long time to change the culture, but I have a long breath. - Rula Sharawi


Hoh_16_Zainab_.jpegI’m an office manager at a customs clearance and shipping company. I like getting to know many kinds of sites and people, both in Palestine and internationally. I’m also a steering committee member of Amideast, Hebron [an international culture and language non-profit]. And, I was a leader of a hiking group which made tours around the West Bank. We shed light on forgotten religious places and unknown natural places. In the countryside of Hebron, there is an underground Roman palace that people don’t know of! People outside of Hebron think women here are just housewives. The truth is, there are many examples of women who are very successful and who do much for their businesses and for society. Some people think that woman can only be teachers, but I break the rules. I work with only men. But more women are starting to work and to continue their studies. Even women who are married are restarting school. I hope my daughter can do what she wants without these old rules. She has her own choices to make. I hope she can travel and make her dreams true. - Zainab Shammas

Hoh_15.jpegI’m 22 years old. I’m a French and English translator, a tour guide, and a teacher of Arabic as a foreign language. In junior high school, I didn’t speak any English. I hated it and the teacher. I would get sent to the back of the class for fighting with her and having side conversations all the time. But in 2010, I had the chance to go to Greece with my theater group. I was feeling down because I only spoke Arabic. I wanted to speak English so badly. There were groups from all over Europe, and I was jealous of the students who could talk to one another. When I came back, I spent a lot of time working on my English and with native speakers at the places where I volunteered. I traveled to the U.S. two years later, and I was so happy I could speak. After, I was keen on learning so much more. I majored in English and minored in French. Then, I took German and Hebrew courses. I feel like languages open horizons that you never even thought of and can be journeys of self-discovery. I learned about what music I like from French, while English opened many work and travel opportunities. They change the way you think too, you know. Now I’ve decided to come back to German, and I want to learn Spanish as well. - Shereen Idais


I went to England to study as a jeweler for three or four years. Afterwards, I came back and settled down. I have a nice family, two sons and a daughter. My daughter is 29, and my sons are 28 and 24. My sons both do civil engineering–one of them works with the CCC and the other is a university teacher. My daughter finished her master’s in mathematics. They are really good kids. I’m spending all my time in this store, but in a way, I am retired now that they are fully independent. I’ve been coming to this market for at least 50 years to join my father at his business. We would come down from the house to pick up things for my mother. Everyone from all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Bedouin villagers, used to come every morning to this market to collect whatever they needed, pray in the Ibrahami mosque, and leave in the evening. Today, we like people to come down and to see things here, because the media is not on our side. They call us a lot of bad things: terrorists, vicious, bad people. We are not like that. To be honest, we are fully educated, polite people; we don’t do anyone any harm. We want people to come down and witness things themselves. - Jamal Maraqa


I’m growing old. Maybe 20 years old now? No, I’m 56. I was born in the house where my parents were born, near the Ibrahimi mosque. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys and was the only daughter in my family. I lost my father in the 1967 War, so me and my brothers were sent to boarding schools. I got my schooling in Jerusalem, until the 11th grade, when I decided I needed to go back home and join my family. I studied English and education at Hebron University. Teaching gave me a lot of experience on how to deal with the community and put me on the first step towards volunteer work. I love children. My passion is for kids. In school, I would go to the children's section to help the babysitters with bathing, feeding, and playing with the kids. I always classify myself as the oldest child in the old city. I am from the area, so I know the needs of the children. I have a kindergarten as a volunteer project. For me it’s not an investment, it’s life. I cover many of the expenses myself. Children are the angels in life. It’s my world. - Zleikha Muhtaseb


Actually, I did not enroll in pharmaceuticals. I enrolled as an x-ray technician in the Philippines, in 1989, at the College of Medical Technology. One of my friends told me that x-rays were very dangerous. He advised me to enroll in physiotherapy, but others discouraged me. So, I went finally to pharmaceuticals. We’ve done business here almost 30 years. Before, it was very nice, business was flourishing, but now business is going down due to the devision of Hebron. Before, this area was the best. Now people are moving up north. People are not coming anymore because of what they see, and what they hear, and the checkpoint 100 meters away. - Nodal Zalloum


I am originally from Hebron. I work at the Governmental Hospital. All my work is humanitarian. I chose to study as a doctor because I love to help people. I support poor families and the sick. When someone comes to the hospital with many broken bones after falling, or with leg wounds, to see him standing and walking again is an achievement. I’ll feel proud. We don’t have weekends, we’re always on call. Because of this, it’s difficult to have a personal life. Yesterday, I was at the hospital and returned home at 1:30am. A few years ago, when things were worse, I used to stay until 6am to give treatment. I am helping people all the time, but I think I have to do more.       - Jibreel al-Hashlamon

hoh_5.jpegMy name is Zaina. I’m seven years old. I’m in the first grade at Kortoba school. I fasted for the first time this Ramadan, for one day. I felt hungry, so I stopped. I like cats, and I like birds because they can fly everywhere without any borders. Today, I bought new clothes and sandals for Eid [the celebration which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan]: a pink tee-shirt, white pants and new sandals. I have a friend named Hannan, whom I play with everyday. Tomorrow we will go to the park to climb around. I want people to know I am clever. 

I am Qamar. My name means moon. I am six and I have two sisters. We live in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. We were living in Jordan, but I like it better here. Here, I can spend beautiful time with my grandmother. I like sheep. I finished kindergarten, so next year I’m so excited to go to primary school. My favorite thing to learn about is numbers. I can count to ten in English. One, two, three

Hoh_7.jpegI was born in Hebron. There were ten of us. We did everything. We would bike and climb and travel around the West Bank and to the beach in Israel, back when it was open to us. At this time of year, I would put all the things for Eid beside my head when I slept, so I could look at them and dream of wearing my new clothes in the morning. We were always so close during Ramadan. My father was very patient and would always make sure we worked out our problems directly. My husband is from the same neighborhood as us. We met when I was 17 and we were in love for five years. When he went to my father, he told me if you love him it doesn’t matter even if everyone else says no. We married in 1990. We had a daughter Jannet, which means paradise. I gave her all my time and love. After that, our family became bigger and bigger. - Fatima Azza with her husband

Hoh_8.jpeg I inherited the business from my father, so I’ve been working in this trade for 45 years. I hand make every kind of product for horses, sheep, camels, and donkeys. My grandfather did this work too. And now I teach it to my sons. I like it because it’s artistic. But, also one must be clever and always inventing new processes. In the past, we would have to import camel saddles. Imports sometimes hurt the animals. We did everything we could to make them as comfortable as possible. Now we can hand make the saddles here. In the end, animals can’t talk. So we look at them very carefully to make sure they are not hurting.
Once, we had a cat that was pregnant with her second litter and was accidentally killed by a car. We took in all her kittens. The older of the litter wouldn’t eat until all his siblings did. Animals have so much compassion. We have speech and developed brains. So why not us? - Imad Salhab

Hoh_9.jpegRight now I work as a builder. I also study architecture at the Polytechnic University in Hebron. I know how to design interiors and exteriors. I use AutoCAD and 3D Studio Max— it’s hard! When I traveled to Sweden, I would stare at all the huge buildings. This city has changed a lot since I was a child. Things look more modern now. I hope to bring the old and the new together once I graduate. - Anas Amro







Hoh_10.jpegGrowing up, I lived in H1 [under control of the Palestinian Authority], but my school was in H2 [portion of the city under Israeli military control]. I would associate H2 with excitement, suspense and an adrenaline kick. We studied in a mosque for a month when the situation was too dangerous to go to school. I avoided the Old City [H2 part of Hebron] during my university years. What was fun for a 10-year-old was a source of anguish for my 20-year-old self. It was only when my friends from abroad would visit that I started to go again to H2 to show them the Old City. I started to realize how important it is to show up there to support the people. Now, I take international visitors on tours around the Old City and to visit families there. I encourage visitors, and everyone really, to support small businesses and handmade products in the Old City which gives people a nudge to keep going. I would also encourage my other Palestinian friends to come visit here. I have two friends from Ramallah who have never been to Hebron! “Too dangerous” or “too far,” I usually hear them say. I ponder over how divided we are, or so it feels. Ditch the stereotypes, and yalla [come on]! - Bayan Haddad 

Hoh_11.jpegI was born in 1937 in al Samu’a village near Hebron. My father was killed when my mother was pregnant. Afterwards, she remarried the nicest man. My own husband was killed in the 1969, after we had four children. They didn’t find his body, only his ID. I worked for fifty years at a school. I lived there during the First Intifada, in order to help the students. Now they are grown. They’re engineers, teachers, and lawyers. In the street, they will kiss my hand like a mother. Maybe it is strange, but I’m friends with the snakes here too. Once when I was sleeping, I put my hand down I felt one. At first, I was scared and said “go, I won’t hurt you.” I didn’t see her for a long time. Now we’re good friends. I talk to her like a human and say “good evening” to her. I don’t need so much, just to be close to God and to use my misbaha [prayer beads]. I’ve seen so many things in my life. But at eighty years, I’m still happy. I have my family. Rahag Ajway
Hoh_12.jpeg I work as a lecturer for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Palestine Polytechnic University. After having visited several countries of the world, and living in some others, it is sensational to find oneself living in one of the oldest towns in the world with a history of more than four thousand years. I enjoy the academic life with students from all over Palestine. I believe that teaching is all about change. I, of course, struggle to create that change in others by focusing on excellency, professionalism, and honesty. Right now, three of the woman in our entrepreneurial program have created a product to treat tannery waste water with debris from stone quarries. We have many success stories like this. - Wisam Shamroukh


I've worked here since I was 18 with my father. It took me two years to make the first bottle [filled with layers of colored sand]. Now it takes me 10 minutes. In all of Palestine, only three or four people do this. It’s like magic. The people getting married like hearts and flowers. Tourists prefer camels. We also sell them with keffiyeh patterns. I can even do people’s portraits for online commissions. Once, Coca Cola ordered 500 in the form of their bottles. I studied interior design in the Polytechnic University, and I hope soon to expand the business to create glassed-in sand murals. - Saad Awawdeh



Hoh_14.jpegI’m originally from al-Aqaba, Jordan. When I first came to Hebron to visit my family, it was all one taxi ride, no boarders, no crossings. While we were here, the Jordanian army told us to use blue glass in our windows to hide ourselves from rockets in the night. The tanks came, but nothing happened. We stayed until the ’67 war began to subside. When we returned to al-Aqaba, there were two boarder checks. Soon, I came back to Hebron, and now I have a shop in the Old City. I use recycled glass and old fuel from people’s cars. My uncle did this work, and when I visited his factory, I would collect broken pieces of glass and clean things. When the workers left for lunch, I would try to do a little. My uncle would shout at me “Ard! Don’t do that! It’s dangerous!” I started to sleep at the factory, so I could stoke the ovens and move the pieces from the big oven to the little one. I would work in the night. I would burn myself so much; the glass was like water. The next day, I would watch carefully to fix my mistakes. One day, I made a vase and everyone was shocked. My uncle said “When! Where! How!” The factory made just three or four designs, but while I was falling asleep I would think up many more. The people began to ask for the new ones. Believe me, 90% of the designs in this city are mine–– I have at least 850. I started from nothing. 70 degrees below nothing! I’ve done this work for 47 years now and have been professionally certified in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. I’ve been all over the world to show others how I work. I even brought my oven all the way to France with me. - Ard Canaan

"Like" Humans of Hebron on Facebook and check back regularly to see more stories added.