Cultural Landscape Conservation in Hebron

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  • Ecotourism and Cultural Landscape Conservation in Hebron, Palestine By Nisreen Ajlouni'

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Name Ecotourism and Cultural Landscape Conservation in Hebron
Location Hebron
Country Palestine
Topic Recreation, Tourism and Landscape Development
Case study author(s) Nisreen Ajlouni
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Rationale: Why is this case study interesting?

This study examine the conservation of cultural landscape through applying the ecotourism model and trails system (landscape, human, environment, economy) in Hebron. The research addresses and assesses the potential of cultural and eco-tourism and the opportunities and constrains that face this process. In addition, the study addresses the role of different stakeholders in the tourism activity and how they can promote the conservation of cultural landscape.

Although the general trends of future development of the Palestinian landscapes are rather known, planning and managing future landscape remains difficult and extremely uncertain. The impression exists, that protection of natural and cultural assets is still in the background and only very few spatial plans pay sufficient attention to these aspects. Therefore, there is a need for the cultural landscape interests to play a stronger role in planning in order to achieve sufficient attention towards conservation of the cultural monuments and landscapes.

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Author's perspective

  • What theoretical or professional perspective do you bring to the case study? Please answer from your personal perspective.

Landscape and/or urban context

  • Biogeography, cultural features, overall character, history and dynamics

Hebron is Lying just 36 kilometers south of Jerusalem, it is in many ways Palestine’s southern capital. It lies in the most elevated area of the country, at 1,000 meters above sea level, stretching between two ranges of hills. The fertile soil, abundant rainfall, mild temperatures, and the skilled farming techniques of its inhabitants have made Hebron one of the most flourishing cities in the country.

Hebron is the last hill-top city one encounters before entering the desert, i.e. it is a city surrounded by Bedouins and semi-Bedouins from both the South and the East. Its mountainous and fertile land as well as its agricultural soil just right for grapevines and fruit trees requiring relatively low temperatures (apples, cherries, apricots, plums and almonds) have given the city a strategic importance.

The climate in Hebron is temperate and the mean year-round temperature ranges between 15-16° (an average of 7° in winter and 21° in summer). Annual precipitations average around 502 mm.

The site is among the inventory of cultural and natural heritage sites of potential outstanding universal value in Palestine which prepared by The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in 2005.

Illustration: Map; sketches; short descriptive analyses

Cultural/social/political context

  • Brief explanation of culture, political economy, legal framework

Economical Situation: Hebron is today considered a major vibrant city. Despite repeated closures and various pressures imposed upon its residents, especially due to settlement activities in and around it, construction as well as industrial and commercial investments are among the highest in the areas under Palestinian Authority control. Its dynamism is rooted in the energy and craftsmanship for which Hebron is famous, to say nothing of the enterprise which has transformed the city into the economic capital of Palestine. Hebron has been famous for its traditional handicrafts since the Middle Ages. It is also known for its various crops such as grapes and olives. Its people are well versed in trade and industry, and many ancient trades are still practiced today. These include glass-blowing, and the manufacture of terracotta products. Many modern industries have also boomed, such as shoemaking, stonecutting, weighing scale and metal furniture manufacturing, as well as a few other foodstuff and chemical industries. Studies conducted over the last ten years indicate that Hebron has become Palestine’s major centre for industry and trade.

Moreover, some of its inhabitants work in agriculture, as the city is surrounded by fertile valleys and mountains. During past decades, tourism had been a major source of revenue for many Hebron residents, with their city being included in all tourist itineraries. However, this revenue has diminished due to the city’s political turmoil, which has pushed tourism back to pre-18th century levels.


Plitical Situation: Since 1967 Hebron is occupied by the state of Israel and under its control. During the years Jewish settled near the city and in the heart of Hebron Old City. This causes many problems and makes Hebron to be a special case in the palestinean-israeli conflict. On 25 February 1994, an Israeli settler opened fire in the Abraham mosque during the Friday dawn praying, killing 29 Muslim worshippers. As a result, Hebron has been divided into two parts – HI and H2, according to Hebron Protocol signed between Palestinians and Israelis in 1997 . H1 area, formalizes 80% of the city, under full Palestinian Authority. H2 area, formalizes 20% of the city, has remained under the Israeli military control.


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History

  • How did the area/project/plan at the focus of the case study evolve?

Hebron is one of the most ancient cities in the Middle East and one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world. According to archaeological findings, Hebron was an ancient Canaanite royal city founded as early as the 3500 BC. Its survival in spite of successive political changes can be traced to the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim al-Khalil, or Abraham the friend), the forefather of all the prophets. The most important monumental site in Hebron Old City is the Abraham mosque (in Arabic ‘ Al-Haram Al-Imbraheemi’); the place where Abraham along with his wife Sara and their sons with their wife’s were buried. Due to this Hebron is a holy city for Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

The city has figured in many wars in Palestine. It was taken (2d cent. B.C.) by Judas Maccabeus (see Maccabees) and temporarily destroyed by the Romans. In 636 it was conquered by the Arabs and made an important place of pilgrimage, later to be seized (1099) by the Crusaders and renamed St. Abraham, and retaken (1187) by Saladin. It later became (16th cent.) part of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 20th cent., Hebron was incorporated (1922–48) in the League of Nations Palestine mandate, and in 1948 it was absorbed by Jordan. As one of the major cities in the Israeli-occupied West Bank 1967, the city became a focus of Jewish-Arab tensions. The emergence of the Intifada in the 1980s was accompanied by an escalation of violence, and in 1994 the Mosque of Ibrahim was the site of the murder of Muslim worshipers by an extremist Israeli settler. Under the agreement establishing Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, the Israeli occupation of Hebron was scheduled to end by Mar., 1996. After setbacks and delays, most of the town of Hebron was handed over to Palestinian control in Jan., 1997."

The site is among the inventory of cultural and natural heritage sites of potential outstanding universal value in Palestine which prepared by The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in 2005

Illustration: Table or time line.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

  • What are the main structural features?
  • How has it been shaped? Were there any critical decisions?

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Analysis of program/function

  • What are the main functional characteristics?
  • How have they been expressed or incorporated?

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Analysis of design/planning process

  • How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?
  • Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

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Analysis of use/users

  • How is the area/project/plan used and by whom?
  • Is the use changing? Are there any issues?

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes


Cross-cutting questions

Why is participation important?

The concept of hiking trails is not a new innovation to the Palestinian culture; over viewing clues and signs in the Palestinian landscape show historically that the use of different types of trails was subjects to various purposes mainly trade and religion. However the tendency of using paths for recreation and educational purposes is yet unpopular, and has no history or traditions, but yet the awareness of the vital need of ecotourism on both local and national level is increasing and spreading rapidly. Therefore, dealing with different stakeholders who share this activity and introduce their role in enhancing the conservation of cultural landscape in Hebron will be in a great importance.

In which ways does tourism effect on the local identity?

Developing tourism through hiking trails could provide a system of environmental awareness and develop a sense of aesthetic importance of the landscape, if merged with an institutional framework and public participation. Moreover, the economical income of ecotourism due to hiking trail system for locals and tourists will be of much interest to a large portion of the market. The landscape of Hebron is the best historian, narrating the story of Hebron and its people; the scars and pleasantness of time have been manifested upon the landscape and left clear signs, which can only be scenically interacted with by molding into the landscape by means of trails

Which are the mutual influences for protected areas and cultural landscapes and tourism and how can they coexist?

The cultural landscapes in Hebron have different value: historical, natural and visual value. Various villages around the city, each have their own remarkable landscape, which is considered part of the Palestinian cultural heritage. These legacy treasures hold potential for economic development into tourist attraction since many of these sites are referred to in the holy books of the three world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as historical records, great cultural eras and in contemporary literature.

What are the tasks of the management?

The situation in the West Bank demands for an immediate coordination between planning for urban economical needs and planning for hiking as part of the environmental sustainable development spectrum. The land situation due to interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority uncovered the critical task that is lying upon Palestinian shoulders to make use of their lands in an optimal mode and yet maintain both urban economical development and environmental conservation and protection. Therefore, planning for hiking trails in this political stage is vital for achieving the integration between the two sides of development in the future, each side will be developing and growing bonds and links that could fit with the other if deal with in an elementary stage

Future development directions

  • How is the area/project/plan evolving?
  • Are there any future goals?

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Peer reviews or critique

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  • What were their main evaluations?

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Points of success and limitations

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References

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