HEBRON, WEST BANK — Hebron is rich in religion, conflict, and history. It is a market town, the urban hub of the southern part of the Palestinian West Bank.
Muslims believe that Hebron is the post-Eden retirement home of Adam and Eve. Abraham and Sarah are buried here, along with their son and grandson and their wives. And it is where Palestinians and Israeli settlers live in violent proximity.
Hebron is notorious for its massacres. In 1929, rioting Arabs killed 67 Jews. In 1994, a lone Jewish gunman killed 29 praying Palestinians.
Alone among Palestinian towns and cities, Hebron is cut in two under a 1996 agreement between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. In the Israeli-controlled section, several hundred settlers live under copious military protection. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live all around them.
Amid frequent disturbances, the Israelis impose - and the Palestinians endure - closures and curfews that curb the life of the city's cobble-stone central market, whose streets and alleys wind their way under arches and tattered canopies. Its shops and stalls house everyone from camel butchers to metalworkers.
Somehow, people manage to get their hair cut, read the Koran, buy bread, play dominoes. Despite the intifada, the commerce of everyday life continues.