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An Israeli-Arab odd couple seek peace in Hebron

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Hebron's troubled past

The Jews and Arabs of Hebron have been locked in a decades-old blood feud that is a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While still under the British Mandate, in 1929, 67 Jews were murdered in an Arab riot. In Kiryat Arba, a memorial was raised to Baruch Goldstein, a New Yorker who gunned down more than two dozen Palestinians in 1994 in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The ensuing Palestinian uprising triggered militant killings of more than a dozen settlers and an Israeli-army enforced segregation of the city, which has forced thousands of Palestinians to vacate residences, according to human rights groups.

Given all that baggage, participants said the unlikely meeting last week mixed went off successfully, mixing the trappings of a summit and familiarity of town meeting.

Dressed in a traditional robe, Jaberi, a relative of one of Hebron's first Palestinian mayors, welcomed the visitors with pita bread and fruit. The guests of honor – settlers infamous in Israel as ideological provocateurs – snapped pictures and sat alongside their hosts.

"I told them we've been living together for 60 years. There's bloodshed every single day," recalls Jaberi. "We cannot cancel you and you cannot cancel us."

Settler leaders said they took that to heart.

"This was music to our ears," says Mr. Haetzni, a longtime resident of the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba. "We want to live together, and have no dream that there should be no Arabs in Hebron."

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