Khalili days are: hot. Car horns, taxitaxitaxi, youth with trays of sweets balanced atop their heads and that same stupid “yalla yalla” song playing on every functioning radio. There is a rhythm to the market walk: avoid the man stooping down to tell you about his two shekel deal today only, sidestep a child chasing a kitten with chocolate smeared all over his lips , loudly chastise the shebab that walk close and exclaim ‘woooooooooooow’ (wow ukhtak ya hayawan!) and listen for the (ah, Arabiya hay!). Ignore the welcomes and where froms but dutifully salute the 12-year-old-drop-out-made-bracelet-seller that you’ve managed to befriend as he tries to swindle a couple of French tourists. Stop at the circle, count eight international observers completing their evening patrols, finally take a photograph of the “Fight ghost town” graffiti on the park benches. The sun begins to set.
At about 8, after arguila and delicious fruit cocktail at the café that plays Lebanese music videos on repeat, the air cools drastically and the traffic retreats. Donkeys appear to carry carts back to their storage spots and shop-owners sweep away the plastic, the cardboard, the spoiled fruit. There’s finally enough peace and quiet for me to look up at the garbage and stones resting on the nets overhead and to catch eyes with the soldier observing my walk home from the watchtower over the cafe. Hebron by day and Hebron by night have always seemed like different cities to me: the bustle is gone as families reunite and everything is—seems, rather—quite peaceful and normal. But in reality, volatility lurks around every bend of the dark and dilapidated Old City. Light a match. You might be fine, but there’s always a chance it will explode.
Though Hebron has undoubtedly proved to be stressful place I’ve ever lived in, leaving on Thursday will be bittersweet (though I’ll likely be back in three weeks or so for Ramadan). I’ve carved out a life for myself here. I’ve finally gotten the family experience that I missed out on in Jordan and it’s a wonderful feeling to always have an invitation for lunch on Friday afternoon. I’ve passed through a series of identities that I’ve never had before: the American, the Arab Christian, the foreigner that learned Arabic, the girl who doesn’t like sugar, etc. Everyone that I’ve met chooses what part of the description is most important to them, but all of these bits and pieces are united under the pseudonym ‘Nur.’
This city is filled with contradictions and oppositions that continue to surprise me every day. I’m constantly reminded that an overwhelming amount of forces are at play here and generalizations about Hebron and its residents simply cannot be made. You’d need years to understand everything, and after a full month here, I’ve still only barely scratched the surface.