Earth : Asia : Middle East : Palestinian Territories : West Bank : Hebron
Hebron (Arabic: الخليل al-Ḫalīl; Hebrew: חֶבְרוֹן Ḥevron, Ḥeḇrôn, or Ḥebron) is an ancient city in the southern West Bank. It is mentioned in the Bible as the home of Abraham, and the burial place of him and several generations of his family. In King David's time, Hebron was briefly the capital of the Israelite state, before the capital moved to Jerusalem. Today, Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews due to its association with Abraham.
The Jewish population of Hebron was evacuated after a killing of nearly 70 of them in 1929. Then, after the 1967 war, a few Jewish settlers went to visit Hebron for Passover, then decided to renew life in what used to be the Jewish quarter of Hebron until 1929. Today, about 500 Jews live in part of the old city of Hebron under continual IDF protection, and with a ratio of four Israeli soldiers for each Israeli settler in Hebron. The remaining 166,000 residents of the surrounding city are Palestinians. The Cave of Machpelah or the Ibrahimi Mosque, Abraham's burial place and the main holy site in the city, is on the border between the Palestinian and Jewish sectors.
If you want to go to the Palestinian Authority controlled side of Hebron (the majority of the city) grab bus 21 from the Arab bus station just out and to the right from Damascus gate in Jerusalem. It will cost you less than ₪10 and tell them Hebron or Al-Khalil (Arabic) they will take you to a mid way drop off point at the Bethlehem bus station and from there you need to go to the very bottom floor of the Bethlehem bus station where a serveese (small collective taxi) will deliver you to Hebron for less than ₪10.
If you want to go to the Israeli controlled side, which includes the Cave of the Patriarchs, take bus 160 from the Jerusalem Central Bus station. This is the easiest route to get to Hebron because it is a direct bus ride that is quite fast and requires no transfers. The bus driver routinely charges student or senior citizen price for all passengers, so round trip can cost as low as 10 shekels or so. The regular price is 9 shekels ($2.25USD) each way which is quite cheap as well.
There are also a few buses from Be'er Sheva if you are coming from the south. Check that it goes into Hebron and not just to the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. It is impossible to access the Jewish settler's section of Hebron on foot. Palestinian taxi drivers are not allowed into the Jewish settler's section, so you will need to travel there from an Israeli town or a Jewish settlement. (This is not entirely true. Internationals can but if your driver is Palestinian, then your vehicle cannot. Hence, avoid this mess, take the Palestinian route above)
If you want to access major metropolitan Hebron, you can take a servees taxi from the bus stations in Ramallah or Bethlehem. If you are coming from Jerusalem, you can also take the bus to Abu Dis and tell the bus driver you are going to Khalil
The by far easiest and cheapest way to get to Hebron from Jerusalem is to take a so-called Service-Taxi to Betlehem, then ask the driver where to take another Service-Taxi to Hebron. Total cost for oneway trip to Hebron is around ₪15.
Make sure to agree on a price for a taxi before getting in. Taxi rides within the city shouldn't cost anything more than ₪15-20. For seeing sights out-of-town, it's best to take a service-taxi (the Palestinian version of a sherut, called a serv-eese in Arabic) at the service-taxi/bus station or negotiate a fair price with a taxi driver.
The Muslim side of the Cave contains the only known entrance to the Cave below (it is locked by a marble door).And as well, the tomb-markers of Issac, and Rebekah, with the tomb-markers of Abraham and Sarah lying on the border of both the Muslim and Jewish section of the cave so both have access to Abraham and Sarah's tombs from each side. The Jewish section contains the tomb-markers of Jacob and Leah. Most of the time, half of the building is used for Muslim and half for Jewish prayer. On a few predetermined days each year, each religion gets to use the entire building. For the Jews, in addition to the normal holidays, one of these days is "Shabbat Chayei Sarah" each fall, on which thousands of people from all of Israel visit Hebron to commemorate Abraham's purchase of the Cave from its previous Hittite owners. For the Muslims it is on Friday's during Ramadan and as well during the Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha holiday which Islam commemorates as the day Abraham was willing to sacrafice his son.
Purchasing items in the Old City district of the city (near the Ibrahimi Mosque) Hebron's Old City is an awesome place to get your Holy Land souvenir shopping done.
Buy some tabun (large, soft, round) bread in Bab il Zaweya and pick up a container of hummus nearby and you are set.
Falafel is one of the most famous "snacks" in Israel in general. Hebron has many famous falfel restaurants that are always crowded because of their tasty falafel. From the beginning of Ein Sarah Street to its end, you will find many falafel stalls or restaurants. Grap your sandwich for ₪2-3 and enjoy.
Hebron is famous of its traditional dish called (Al-Qidrah Al-Khaliliyah). This meal contains mainly rice and meat (chicken or lamb). Al-Qidra is eaten usually on Fridays and other festivals. Since it needs time to prepare and it should be cooked in a woody oven in bakery, it is not easy to find in casual restaurant. However, it is available in restaurants like "Abu Mazen" and "Al-Quds" in Ras al-Jora. It could be expensive for local citizens. The dish for one person with drinks would cost around ₪35.
If you are a sweet lover, do not miss to get some sweets from the many sweets shops around in Hebron. Try Kinafa, Baqlawa, Harisah, Kolaj and the list can go long.
As a city of Muslim population, Alcoholic drinks are not available in Hebron, at least in the Arab areas. Nevertheless, natural juices can be found in many coffee shops with nice atmosphere. Ein Sarah Street is the main street for night life between 7PM to 11PM. Many coffee shops are available there where you can smoke shisha and drink soft beverages.
In late 2010, when the research for the Bradt Guide to Palestine was being carried out, it wasn't clear whether this hostel in the Old City of Hebron would remain open. However, as a popular, clean, extremely affordable and very well-located place to stay in this under-served city, it's worth getting in touch to check. Shared kitchen, small dorms, linen supplied, owned by a tour guide who can also arrange trips. (This hostel is still there but the owner is changed).