I’m an office manager at a customs clearance and shipping company. I like getting to know many kinds of sites and people, both in Palestine and internationally. I’m also a steering committee member of Amideast, Hebron [an international culture and language non-profit]. And, I was a leader of a hiking group which made tours around the West Bank. We shed light on forgotten religious places and unknown natural places. In the countryside of Hebron, there is an underground Roman palace that people don’t know of! People outside of Hebron think women here are just housewives. The truth is, there are many examples of women who are very successful and who do much for their businesses and for society. Some people think that woman can only be teachers, but I break the rules. I work with only men. But more women are starting to work and to continue their studies. Even women who are married are restarting school. I hope my daughter can do what she wants without these old rules. She has her own choices to make. I hope she can travel and make her dreams true.
- Zainab Shammas
I’m 22 years old. I’m a French and English translator, a tour guide, and a teacher of Arabic as a foreign language. In junior high school, I didn’t speak any English. I hated it and the teacher. I would get sent to the back of the class for fighting with her and having side conversations all the time. But in 2010, I had the chance to go to Greece with my theater group. I was feeling down because I only spoke Arabic. I wanted to speak English so badly. There were groups from all over Europe, and I was jealous of the students who could talk to one another. When I came back, I spent a lot of time working on my English and with native speakers at the places where I volunteered. I traveled to the U.S. two years later, and I was so happy I could speak. After, I was keen on learning so much more. I majored in English and minored in French. Then, I took German and Hebrew courses. I feel like languages open horizons that you never even thought of and can be journeys of self-discovery. I learned about what music I like from French, while English opened many work and travel opportunities. They change the way you think too, you know. Now I’ve decided to come back to German, and I want to learn Spanish as well.
- Shereen Idais
I’m originally from al-Aqaba, Jordan. When I first came to Hebron to visit my family, it was all one taxi ride, no borders, no crossings. While we were here, the Jordanian army told us to use blue glass in our windows to hide ourselves from rockets in the night. The tanks came, but nothing happened. We stayed until the ’67 war began to subside. When we returned to al-Aqaba, there were two border checks. Soon, I came back to Hebron, and now I have a shop in the Old City. I use recycled glass and old fuel from people’s cars. My uncle did this work, and when I visited his factory, I would collect broken pieces of glass and clean things. When the workers left for lunch, I would try to do a little. My uncle would shout at me “Ard! Don’t do that! It’s dangerous!” I started to sleep at the factory, so I could stoke the ovens and move the pieces from the big oven to the little one. I would work in the night. I would burn myself so much; the glass was like water. The next day, I would watch carefully to fix my mistakes. One day, I made a vase and everyone was shocked. My uncle said “When! Where! How!” The factory made just three or four designs, but while I was falling asleep I would think up many more. The people began to ask for the new ones. Believe me, 90% of the designs in this city are mine–– I have at least 850. I started from nothing. 70 degrees below nothing! I’ve done this work for 47 years now and have been professionally certified in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. I’ve been all over the world to show others how I work. I even brought my oven all the way to France with me.
- Ard Canaan
I’ve worked here since I was 18 with my father. It took me two years to make the first bottle [filled with layers of colored sand]. Now it takes me 10 minutes. In all of Palestine, only three or four people do this. It’s like magic. The people getting married like hearts and flowers. Tourists prefer camels. We also sell them with keffiyeh patterns. I can even do people’s portraits for online commissions. Once, Coca Cola ordered 500 in the form of their bottles. I studied interior design in the Polytechnic University, and I hope soon to expand the business to create glassed-in sand murals.
- Saad Awawdeh
I work as a lecturer for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Palestine Polytechnic University. After having visited several countries of the world, and living in some others, it is sensational to find oneself living in one of the oldest towns in the world with a history of more than four thousand years. I enjoy the academic life with students from all over Palestine. I believe that teaching is all about change. I, of course, struggle to create that change in others by focusing on excellency, professionalism, and honesty. Right now, three of the woman in our entrepreneurial program have created a product to treat tannery waste water with debris from stone quarries. We have many success stories like this!
- Wisam Shamroukh
I was born in 1937 in al Samu’a village near Hebron. My father was killed when my mother was pregnant. Afterwards, she remarried the nicest man. My own husband was killed in the 1969, after we had four children. They didn’t find his body, only his ID. I worked for fifty years at a school. I lived there during the First Intifada, in order to help the students. Now they are grown. They’re engineers, teachers, and lawyers. In the street, they will kiss my hand like a mother. Maybe it is strange, but I’m friends with the snakes here too. Once when I was sleeping, I put my hand down and felt one. At first, I was scared and said “go, I won’t hurt you.” I didn’t see her for a long time. Now we’re good friends. I talk to her like a human and say, “good evening” to her. I don’t need so much, just to be close to God and to use my misbaha [prayer beads]. I’ve seen so many things in my life. But at eighty years, I’m still happy. I have my family.
- Rahag Ajway
Growing up, I lived in H1 [under control of the Palestinian Authority], while my school was in H2 [the portion of the city under Israeli military control]. I would associate H2 with excitement, suspense, and an adrenaline kick. We studied in a mosque for a month when the situation was too dangerous to go to school. I avoided the Old City [H2] during my university years. What was fun for a 10-year-old was a source of anguish for my 20-year-old self. It was only when my friends from abroad would visit that I started to go again to H2 to show them the Old City. I started to realize how important it is to show up there and to support the people. Now, I take international visitors on tours around the Old City and visit families there. I encourage visitors, and everyone really, to support small businesses and handmade products in the Old City which gives people a nudge to keep going. I would also encourage my other Palestinian friends to come visit here. I have two friends from Ramallah who have never been to Hebron! “Too dangerous” or “too far,” I usually hear them say, as I ponder over how divided we are, or so it feels. Ditch the stereotypes, and yalla [come on]!
- Bayan Haddad
Right now I work as a builder. I also study architecture at the Polytechnic University in Hebron. I know how to design interiors and exteriors. I use AutoCAD and 3D Studio Max— it’s hard! When I traveled to Sweden, I would stare at all the huge buildings. This city has changed a lot since I was a child. Things look more modern now. I hope to bring the old and the new together once I graduate.
- Anas Amro
I inherited the business from my father, so I’ve been working in this trade for 45 years. I hand make every kind of product for horses, sheep, camels, and donkeys. My grandfather did this work too. And now I teach it to my sons. I like it because it’s artistic. But, also one must be clever and always inventing new processes. In the past, we would have to import camel saddles. Imports sometimes hurt the animals. We did everything we could to make them as comfortable as possible. Now we can hand make the saddles here. In the end, animals can’t talk. So we look at them very carefully to make sure they are not hurting.
Once, we had a cat that was pregnant with her second litter and was accidentally killed by a car. We took in all her kittens. The older of the litter wouldn’t eat until all his siblings did. Animals have so much compassion. We have speech and developed brains. So why not us?
- Imad Salhab
I was born in Hebron. There were ten of us. We did everything. We would bike and climb and travel around the West Bank and to the beach in Israel, back when it was open to us. At this time of year, I would put all the things for Eid beside my head when I slept, so I could look at them and dream of wearing my new clothes in the morning. We were always so close during Ramadan. My father was very patient and would always make sure we worked out our problems directly. My husband is from the same neighborhood. We met when I was 17 and we were in love for five years. When he went to my father, he told me if you love him, it doesn’t matter even if everyone else says no. We married in 1990. We had a daughter Jannat, which means paradises. I gave her all my time and love. After that, our family became bigger and bigger.
- Fatima Azza with her husband