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Why the Palestinian jeweler from Hebron has an Israeli ID card

When the jeweler told me his grandfather and father saved 24 Jewish families during the 1929 pogrom
Illustrative: A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Tomb of the Patriarchs at center, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/ Flash90)
Illustrative: A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron with the Tomb of the Patriarchs at center, on January 18, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/ Flash90)

“Do you know I have an Israeli ID?” the jeweler inside Damascus Gate asks, while he folds up his prayer rug and begins brewing sage tea.

“No. How’d you manage that?” I ask.

“I’m from Hebron,” he says and the room is quiet and he looks at me with hooded eyes. “Muslims from Hebron don’t have Israeli ID cards.”

I watch him put sugar in his tea and stir.

“My father is from Hebron and his father is from Hebron and his father is from Hebron,” he continues and rubs his eyes. “Do you know what happened in Hebron in 1929?”

“Yes, there was a massacre, and many Jews were murdered,” I reply.

“It was a genocide,” he corrects me.

I would call it a pogrom — a hideous massacre that left nearly 70 people murdered, including women and children — some younger than 5-years-old. But the Palestinian jeweler in the Old City calls it a genocide, and I wait for him to continue.

“My grandfather, and his father saved 24 families during the genocide,” the jeweler tells me. “And afterwards, the Israelis offered us land — and we said, ‘No, we have land, we have our olive trees,’ and then they offered us money and we said, ‘No, we have money, and it is enough,’ so they gave us ID cards and travel documents to thank us, instead.”

“Wow.”

He takes out his blue ID card, same as mine.

“There were many in Hebron who did this — many families saved Jews, and there are also many in Hebron who hate what we did and they call us collaborators. Fuck you, I tell them. We saved children. We saved families. These were our friends and our neighbors. We had meals together!”

“That’s right,” I say. My eyes fill with tears.

“Years later, I went to watch the municipality build an electrical system. I love electricity just like I love art. The man in charge asked my name, and when I told him, he said, ‘Are you from such-and-such family from Hebron,’ and I said yes,” he pauses and adds more sugar to his tea. “Don’t tell my wife, I’m diabetic. Anyway, the man in charge hugged me like a brother and kissed me. His grandfather was saved by my grandfather, and he told me to call him if I ever need help, no matter what! No matter what time of night! He said I am his brother and he will do anything to help me.”

The jeweler smiles and drinks his tea.

“Did you ever call him?”

“Of course not.  And I told him I will never need to call – not even once – because I have everything I want: I am in Jerusalem.”

 

For more stories from the Old City, follow Sarah on Facebook, and check out her memoir about her year living in the Old City, Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and talking to strangers. She is the author of the book Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered. Sarah is a work in progress.
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