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Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation

Goaded by Israeli construction in the Old City and fearful that Palestinians would gradually be displaced, the Palestinian Authority with Saudi funding embarked on an immense program of reconstruction in the old city. The work has won a major award from the Aga Khan Foundation, and it's not hard to see why.

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The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 1

The easy part is fixing the public spaces, like this sign for milk-market street.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 2

Here, on a Saturday morning when things are quiet, a crew was about to resurface the qusseba with stone paving. Goodbye, asphalt.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 3

The heavy work was in fixing up the compound houses so people would once again want to live in them.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 4

This is one of the many alleys off the qusseba that were remortared, plastered, painted, and fitted with electric lighting.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 5

The irregular design is typical of Hebron and perhaps more interesting than the heavily Europeanized designs found in Bethlehem.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 6

An elegant opening for someone to chat with someone in the courtyard below.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 7

This restored hallway, massive as a Crusader fortress, serves several compound houses.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 8

There are no maps of the Old City, apart from a careful drawing done about 1930 by the British. Even with that map in hand, it's easy to get confused.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 9

The following pictures, taken during rehabilitation, give some sense of the unique forms being created in these old buildings. The market here is low-income Palestinian families, but the units are all equipped with completely new facilities, including water and sewage mains, electricity, kitchens and bathrooms.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 10

Utilities are being run. The characteristic ingenuity of local masons is displayed by the improvised stone beams, tying together two buildings abutting at an odd angle.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 11

Stone walls and plastered vaults. Electrical lines are sunk in the plaster, but the stone walls are remortared and even dismantled as necessary.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 12

Doorways are true, but walls are often free form, especially where plaster covers utilities.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 13

Some of the stairs require agility.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 14

Another tricky staircase.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 15

The arches have been left unplastered--a nice touch. Demand for renovated apartments like these is high, and there have been cases where owners have decided to return, years after having abandoned the old family home to tenants.

The West Bank: Hebron 3: the Old City's Rehabilitation picture 16

The renovation work was divided among many different contractors. Some were better than others. Here, a ceiling was already showing signs of damage from water percolating through the massive, rubble-filled walls.


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