This article by Noam Hoffstater, Peace Now General Manager, is based in his speech at a Peace Now rally in Hebron, on Sunday 22 December 2002.

Leave Hebron Now!

"Peace Now" held a demonstration in Hebron on Sunday, 22 December 2002. Behind us stood a few of those from the most extremist of the settlers, not very satisfied that we had arrived to Hebron. On Thursday 19 December, following the symbolic evacuation of the new outpost these settlers tried to establish on the very place we intended to hold the demonstration, a police officer asked me, by telephone: "Is it still relevant? Do you still want to demonstrate?" In Jerusalem, a few days before the rally, I received some friendly advice: ‘Go to Gaza, demonstrate in front of Arafat’s compound’; even my friends sometimes ask in bewilderment: "What’s with all these demonstrations? What did you leave behind in Hebron?"

I first was in Hebron as a soldier. I was there to protect several settlers (who are still there) as they celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of one of Moshe Levinger’s sons in the Cave of the Patriarchs. At that ceremony, the father blessed his son with the words: "May you continue to overturn the stands of the Arabs in the marketplace."

I want to tell all of those people, and everybody else, "why we go to Hebron" and "what have we lost there".

We are in Hebron to give the government of settlements and its supporters – the fanatical settlers - a clear message: We too are committed. The Occupied Territories are not your private kingdom; they are not your special place for tyranny, not your special Apartheid Gardens, hidden in the back yard of the state of Israel. The Israeli opposition to the occupation knows no boundaries. We will show the entire country and the world this most ugly back yard and after we exposed it, we will return to Hebron – to ask whether or not it is something to be ashamed of.

We are in Hebron to deliver a message to Hamas, Jihad and those who share their ideology- the Goldstiens of Hebron, Itzhar and such: Your path of violence is killing us. We have stopped dying for you. We have stopped killing in your service. Every Jew and every Palestinian who has died is blood on your hands – you, who sanctify land and blood.

We are in Hebron to demand the return of those things that "we left behind in Hebron":

For the sake of all of these, we demand the end to the occupation, this accursed occupation that is destroying us from within – the same occupation that Occupied Hebron and the road that we traveled to reach it symbolizes and actualizes above all else.

Peace is not sacred; it sanctifies: humanity, life, freedom and equality. All who say "Peace" but deny these basic essences of humanity are denying reality to embrace a mirage. We come to Hebron with a commitment to Peace. We come there in peace. We come in the name of those hundreds who were not allowed to be there physically because of security restrictions and in the name of those millions – from Palestine and from Israel- who value and seek Peace. Our commitment will tear down the border that you tried to create with an army; our path remains the path of Peace: it will defeat the settlements, the para-military outposts, the siege and even the pain and the hatred. And we will pave a new road: the road to Peace; peace between Israel and Palestine.