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Hebron is located 37 km south of Jerusalem. With a total population of about 120 000 inhabitants, it is the chief town of the southern half of the West Bank and the commercial centre for traders from more than 100 surrounding villages and communities. It is also the largest industrial centre in the West Bank. It was and is still to some extent an important agricultural town.
Hebron is one of the oldest cities in Palestine, dating back to more than 6000 years from now. Around 4000 BC the Canaanite tribes emigrated from the Arabian Peninsula to Palestine and built different villages and towns including some in the Hebron area. Four villages on the hills Hebron were later amalgamated into a unified political and social system and the city flourished after its unification. This is possibly why the city was in ancient times called Kirjah Arba meaning the town of four; or it may have been because of its position on four hills.
The united cities took Tell al-Rumaidah as their headquarters. During the course of history Hebron has been given several other names including: Mattalon, Castellum, Khevron, Khalil al-Rahman, and al-Khalil. Believing that Abraham was the first Moslem, and that the Haram was visited by Prophet Mohammed on his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, the Moslems converted the building into a mosque in the 7th century. Hebron became the fourth most sacred city of Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Except for about a century, during the Crusaders period, Hebron has remained a predominately Moslem city. The Jews were allowed legal residence in the city during the Moslem era. The Crusaders conquered Hebron in AD 1100, changed its name to Castellum, and again banned Jews from living in it.
The Mamluks (AD 1250-1517) allowed Jews to reside in the town that by then had become a district capital, although only Moslems were allowed access to the Haram. During the 1929 upheavals, 67 Palestinian Jews were killed by a mob and the rest of the 2000 members of the strong Jewish community left the city. Things have continued to be tense virtually ever since. Immediately after the 1967 war, the calm in Hebron was destroyed when the fanatical Rabbi Levinger moved into a city hotel the Dabawia Building, which the settlers who live there call Bait Hadasa. This was the first hostile act in the long struggle of the Palestinian people against the settlers which has continued ever since with no end in sight.