Arriving aboard a tour bus, accompanied by a former Israeli machine-gunner turned human rights activist, an international delegation of pretty famous writers came to the heart of this old city to see for themselves how 850 hardcore Jewish settlers, protected by 650 young Israeli soldiers, live among 200,000 angry Palestinians.
The writers didn't like what they saw. The settlers didn't like the writers much either, especially their hosts. The Israeli military occupation is "the most grievous injustice I have seen in my life," Michael Chabon, the American author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," told the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, a day after seeing Hebron. "Liars!" the settlers shouted at the writers. Through the summer, 25 novelists will journey to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip to gather material for a book of essays to be published by Harper Collins in June next year (and simultaneously released in a half dozen other languages). The book is designed to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories - and to make a political splash. The organizers hope their words will kindle reflection, outrage, change. They think that after five decades of daily news coverage, often numbing in its narrative of stalled "peace processes" and kill-reprisal-repeat, the Israel-Palestinian conflict needs a novelist's chops to tell old stories in new ways.