Aside from the harmonious sound of little children chanting the weekly Torah portion at a nearby study hall, the Jewish neighborhood of Avraham Aveinu in Hebron on Tuesday was dead silent. The riots of the past few days were nowhere in sight and had it not been for the police jeeps splattered with paint and the dozens of reporters, they might have been totally forgotten.
Jewish Hebron was almost back to normal on Tuesday, with local residents doing their best to forget the past four days of violent clashes between masked right-wing youths and IDF troops and policemen. Buses filled with American tourists hopped between the different Jewish sites in the West Bank city and veteran settler spokesman Noam Arnon was out in full force speaking to the media and guiding the tourists throughout the snaky alleyways.
This first day of quiet gave the residents of Hebron the opportunity to review the last few days of violence and attempt to understand where they may have gone wrong.
"There is no doubt that these riots harmed our image," Arnon admitted for the first time since settler youth began violently protesting against the government's plans to evacuate eight stores in the local market taken over by Jewish families. "No one had control over the youths that were behind the violence."
Claiming that the government treated him and his neighbors as "subhuman," Arnon said that while he was opposed to the violence he identified with the rioters. The youths, he said, were still reeling in pain from this past summer's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. "It is not surprising that they lost their senses," he added.
Moshe Meron, a resident of Hebron, blamed the government for starting the riots. The announcement of the planned evacuation was enough in Hebron, he said, to get people to take to the streets.
"In these parts of the world," he said, "we take words very seriously." Milling around the neighborhood with a camera slung over his shoulder to film what he said was "imminent police brutality," Meron kept up a positive outlook predicting that in the end the government would back down from its evacuation decision.
But while the city remained clear of masked rioters, the IDF checkpoints and desolate streets split in the middle by concrete barriers served as a reminder that Hebron was not only inhabited by Jews. While very few Palestinians ventured out to the nearby streets dozens could be seen cowering behind fences that overlooked the main drag connecting Avraham Avienu and the other parts of Jewish Hebron.
The latest clashes have given the Palestinian residents of Hebron hope that the government was serious in its intention to enforce the law in this seemingly lawless city.
Taking a break from burying an elderly woman in the Palestinian cemetery opposite the Jewish quarter, Zalu Mohammed expressed hope that the evacuation of the Jews from the marketplace would set his city in order. His family, he said, had lived in Hebron for over 1,000 years and land he owned had been confiscated by the IDF.
"They have taken my land away and I can't even drive in my own city," Mohammed said while tugging at his long grey beard. "I am sick of this type of life and let us just hope that this time the government acts on its declarations to restore order in my city."