Unione Europea a Expo 2015 Milano – Radio 105

Una chiacchierata su Radio 105 con Bryan Ronzani sul padiglione dell’Unione europea all’Expo di Milano e sull’importanza della comunicazione social fra istituzioni e cittadini

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An #AlternativeBerlin tour to remember

This summer I went on an amazing sort of Eurotrip along Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm. I had never been to any of these three cities and it was time to cross them out of my to-do list. In particular, I went on a quest to find street art around these cities. Overall it turned out to be a pretty awesome trip. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun and met so many wonderful people throughout this relatively short journey.

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In terms of street art and discovering the alternative part of the societies I was about to discover, I would like to take my hat off for the amazing work the people at Alternative Berlin walking tour do. This is not only a free tip-based tour: it’s the best I have ever done.

Taking you beyond the tourist destinations to the heart and soul of the city:

The underground sights & sounds, world-famous STREET ART and GRAFFITI culture, haunts and hangouts of the famous and infamous and the landmarks of rock, reggae, punk and electronic music.

What really made this tour special was the thoughroughness of the information, the explanation of the stories and the roots behind the origins of the current society in the city of Berlin. This wouldn’t have been the same without our awesome guide Jason. From Cali, 15 years in Berlin, and a true passion for this city.

Alternative_berlinThe tour was intense (+ or – 4:30 hours) but I haven’t felt bored once. The passion Jason trasmits when talking about the modern history of Berlin is captivating. You just can’t stop listening. History is made by the victors, they say. True. But it’s also made of a lot of unsual stories that you wouldn’t expect to read in a history book or an official city guide book. Jason knows a big deal of these stories. What happened on both sides of the Berlin wall, why a particular piece of street art has been placed in a specific place, what it meant for society at the time of its making, and what it means now. This is what I was looking for … and I found it.

At the very beginning, you are taken to the “RAW.” The postindustrial jumble of derelict buildings along Revaler Strasse is one of the last alternative compounds in central #Berlin. In its earlier life it was a train repair station, founded in 1867 as the ‘Reichsbahn-Ausbesserungs-Werk’ (RAW for short) and in operation until 1994. Since 1999, the graffiti-slathered grounds have been a thriving off-beat socio-cultural centre offering workspace for artists and creatives of all stripes along with clubs and bars, an indoor skate park and – in summer – a bunker-turned-climbing-wall with attached beer garden and outdoor cinema. This is a place with literally everything but each and every corner has its own story. You can’t miss it.

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Moving on, I was really looking forward to see the work of El Bocho. The Berlin-based artist works with giant cut outs and installations, some up to 20 ft tall, which he then hangs up Berlin city walls during night time. The cut out here below is on a wall just behind the RAW area. Aside from using canvas he has recently started working with tiles. His newest experiment involves exposing poster paper to sunlight and precipitation, then adding color, before leaving it outside again to mesh with the natural surroundings.

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After taking a short train ride, nearby Oranjestrasse we arrive at one of the greatest pieces of street art you can find in the German capital. Victor Ash made the Astronaut mural in Kreuzberg as part of the 3rd editon of the Backjumps Festival in 2007. Since then, the wall has become one of the street art landmarks of Berlin, together with the famous murals by Blu, Roa or Os Gemeos, all in Kreuzberg.

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The visit obviously ends at the Berlin wall which came to symbolize the Cold War’s division of East from West Germany and of eastern from western Europe. About 5,000 East Germans managed to cross the Berlin Wall (by various means) and reach West Berlin safely, while another 5,000 were captured by East German authorities in the attempt and 191 more were killed during the actual crossing of the wall. In 2015 its power, its symbolism and iconology is a strong reminder of what “us Europeans” have managed to achieve in the form of the European union: peace.

L’Europa è più forte unita. Manteniamo la pace e manteniamo l’Europa unita per noi stessi e ele generazioni future

Alternative_berlinI tipped Jason generously because it was a terrifici day and the expertise demonstrated throughout the tour was indisputable. Make sure you join this tour on your next trip to Berlin and do the same.

When life hits you badly, you gotta stand up and hit it back

In the past few months life hit me badly. Not once, but twice and it keeps banging on me. Sometimes it feels like you hit rock bottom. The pain, both physical and emotional takes a big toll on you, no matter how much you could bench press, or how long you can concentrate or how much dedication you are putting in the things you love. It’s just life. And sometimes life likes to hit you…and hit you…and hit you again.

The good thing is that when you get down to the ground, you learn something. You put things into a different perspective. You revaluate what you thought was just and right and acknowledge what was wrong. You face it, you wipe it off your chest and you move on.

Yes, you face it and you wipe it off. Because, it doesn’t matter how often this will happen…because it will happen again. You will get tackled down badly. What matters is your willingness to stand up every time. What matters is the people around you who are there for you no matter what. What matters is that sometimes you have to take your own responsibilities, but you should also learn when to say “fuck it.” What matters is being able to forgive, forget and move on.

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I have never been an exceptional athlete but this is one of the things rugby has taught me. Rugby is not just a sport. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of life. It’s a true lesson for yourself and everybody you care about. You get tackled and you stand up…you stand up quickly because YOU are gonna make the next big hit. YOU are gonna hit life badly this time.

This is dedicated to some of the amazing people who have been around me no matter what and to let them know I’m there for them always. Thank you guys.

The medical sector needs to adapt to digital natives, not viceversa


Two very similar episodes happened these last few days during my (enforced) stay in homeland Italy. I just had ankle and foot surgery due to a bad rugby injury. Since this operation forces me to bed for a while, I decided have surgery and recover in the village of Salsomaggiore, nearby Parma, where I grew up and where my family still lives. Apart from the comfort of being surrounded and helped by family, I have been experiencing the long forgotten discomfort of dealing with local administration, especially medical administration.

After being dismissed from the hospital, I needed to go to my GP to get a sick leave certificate. In Italy, the surgeon that operates you (the person who knows best your condition and needs after surgery) is not legally entitled to release sick leave certificates. Patients need to go to a GP who will just read the surgeon’s paper and translate it into a certificate (yes, that’s absurd). Anyway, I went to my GP and handed him the papers from the hospital. To my surprise he starts handwriting the certificate and the prescriptions. Since, I will need to send these documents to Belgium, where they will be translated and presented to my insurance, I kindly ask the doctor to type them on his computer. His response was “That can’t be done.” “What do you mean” – I replied. “It can’t be done.” he confirmed. I asked for an explanation since it sounds to me very unusual that in 2014 a medical document cannot be typed. I was not happy with his response and after talking it over with him, it turns out he didn’t know how to use Microsoft Word or any other typing software whatsoever. According to him, in his career, this was never necessary. Although I was astonished, I kept it cool and we found a solution asking a secretary of a medical studio nearby to type the documents that he then signed and stamped. I know the Italian administrative systemis obsolete but, this was a first for me.

The second episode was at the follow up visit for medication at the surgeon’s studio. Continue reading “The medical sector needs to adapt to digital natives, not viceversa”

Screening Twitter privacy policy


Twitter is now officially sending out emails covering its new privacy policy and terms of service, mainly updating its policy to buy merchandise. The email states Twitter has updated its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to reflect new features they are testing (starting in the U.S.) to allow users to buy merchandise from some of the most popular names on Twitter, without leaving the Twitter experience. Its Terms of Service update now introduces the terms covering use of its commerce offerings. The new terms also describe Twitter users relationship with merchandise sellers, including their responsibility for order fulfilment, shipping and returns.

The email continues to read: And since you’ll need to provide certain information to make a purchase, such as a credit card number and shipping address, the Privacy Policy update includes new sections on that information. You’ll also see provisions relating to commerce services that we’ll be testing in the future, like special offers you can redeem at select stores using your credit card. Twitter is also updating the Privacy Policy to clarify how other parts of our services work, including: That we may request additional account information to help us prevent spam, fraud or abuse. As well as the broad audiences that receive public user profile information and public Tweets, including search engines, developers and publishers. The types of non-private or non-personal information that is shared with others, including reports to advertisers about the performance of their advertising campaigns.

How Twitter collects certain types of information, including location information (such as through IP address or nearby access points), and information when you install another application through Twitter. Twitter may share data with our corporate affiliates consistent with our respective privacy policies, for example, if you use your Twitter credentials to login to Vine, its short looping video service, or to provide better ads through MoPub, Twitter mobile-focused advertising exchange. (Source Online Social Media Net)

What I can see from their Private Policy is that Twitter basically retains the right to use any information on users’ behaviour even from third parties tools (exactly like Google and Facebook). I suppose this is something we already knew. However it is interesting to have a read through the full policy document. Below I highlighted what Twitter retains (in orange), how they use that information (in blue), how they retrieve it (in green).

One difference with Facebook is that their default settings are almost always to make the information a user provides public for as long as they do not delete it from Twitter, but they generally give you settings to make the information more private if you want.

Twitter instantly connects people everywhere to what’s most meaningful to them. Any registered user can send a Tweet, which is a message of 140 characters or less that is public by default and can include other content like photos, videos, and links to other websites.

This Privacy Policy describes how and when Twitter collects, uses and shares your information when you use our Services. Twitter receives your information through our various websites, SMS, APIs, email notifications, applications, buttons, widgets, ads, and commerce services (the “Services” or “Twitter“) and from our partners and other third parties. For example, you send us information when you use Twitter from our website, post or receive Tweets via SMS, or access Twitter from an application such as Twitter for Mac, Twitter for Android or TweetDeck. When using any of our Services you consent to the collection, transfer, manipulation, storage, disclosure and other uses of your information as described in this Privacy Policy. Irrespective of which country you reside in or supply information from, you authorize Twitter to use your information in the United States and any other country where Twitter operates.

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, please contact privacy@twitter.com or here.

Information Collection and Use

Basic Account Information: When you create or reconfigure a Twitter account, you provide some personal information, such as your name, username, password, and email address. In some cases, you may be required to provide your phone number, for example, to use Twitter via SMS or to help us prevent spam, fraud, or abuse. Your name and username are listed publicly on our Services, including on your profile page and in search results. Some Services, such as search and public user profiles, do not require registration.

Additional Information: You may provide us with profile information to make public, such as a short biography, your location, your website, or a picture. You may provide information to customize your account, such as a cell phone number for the delivery of SMS messages. We may use your contact information to send you information about our Services or to market to you. You may use your account settings to unsubscribe from notifications from Twitter. You may also unsubscribe by following the instructions contained within the notification or the instructions on our website. We may use your contact information to help others find your Twitter account, including through third-party services and client applications.Your privacy settings control whether others can find you by your email address or cell phone number. You may choose to upload your address book so that we can help you find Twitter users you know or help other Twitter users find you. We may later make suggestions to you and other users on Twitter based on imported address book contacts. You can delete your imported address book contacts from Twitter at any time. If you email us, we may keep your message, email address and contact information to respond to your request. If you connect your Twitter account to your account on another service in order to cross-post between Twitter and that service, the other service may send us your registration or profile information on that service and other information that you authorize. This information enables cross-posting, helps us improve the Services, and is deleted from Twitter within a few weeks of your disconnecting from Twitter your account on the other service. Learn more here. Providing the additional information described in this section is entirely optional. Continue reading “Screening Twitter privacy policy”

What we learned from #Talkdigital


By @marcoRecorder and @CommunalSpoon

Between May and June 2014 we hosted #Talkdigital: a writing competition which gave us the opportunity to listen to our followers, fans and website-users. We wanted to hear from people who connect online with the Institutions. What do they think of how the EU communicates digitally? What changes would be most welcomed?

Run by the European Commission’s Social Media team, the initiative, which received 50 entries, provided us some really valuable insights that we will seek to include in all future communication activities.

We would like to share some of these insights with you…

LISTEN, RESPOND, ENGAGE

Engagement and reliability are golden on social media. Since the establishment of our social media presence we have been trying to be responsive to our followers and fans, to do our best to keep providing them with useful and practical information.

Social media engagement should not be a passive experience. Instead of waiting on your followers and your community reach out to you, proactive engagement can really make a difference in community management. This requires more resources than passive listening but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The #TalkDigital winning entry suggests that EU institutions set-up a “permanent digital helpdesk service for the EU”; a sort of customer service-like approach to citizens’ questions, following the example of companies such as @DB_Bahn, @eurostar or @talktalkcare on Twitter. Even though the EU already provides a similar service via the Europe Direct Information Centers, we understand that the world of digital institutional communication is increasingly moving towards real-time digital reliability. The idea of moving such services towards a more digitalized dimension certainly fits the way communication is evolving.

Continue reading “What we learned from #Talkdigital”

Why people love to hate Ryanair?


Summer holidays have come (for some of us) and bad comments about Ryanair are regularly being posted by friends on their social media. I mean, ok…for people that are slightly taller than average it’s getting increasingly harder to fit in their seats, the continuous offers, promotions etc.. don’t allow you to even take a 10 minutes nap cause you know that a lottery, or a trolley or whatever is coming to you, and it’s coming loud.

Still, for most routes, especially for expats in Brussels, they’re overall the most competitive airline. I hardly take a flight with them which is longer than 2 hours, but if I pay 19.99€ to get home I can live with the all the small annoyances that made (apparently) Ryanair one of the most hated companies (but still the most used in Europe).

Have you got any bad experience with Ryanair? Because I still love it.

Middle East Chronicles: Petra

Marwan and Layan are coming with us to visit Jordan’s most famous historical attraction. It’s a 3 hours drive from Petra and we can’t set off before getting our Jordanian coffee. We know it’s going to be a tough day. The sun is up high and the hiking will be demanding but the desire of visiting this beautiful place gets us very excited.

Petra, the fabled “rose red city, half as old as time”, is a well known ancient Nabataean city. Due to its breathtaking grandeur and fabulous ruins, Petra was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

Petra was the impressive capital of the Nabataean kingdom from around the 6th century BC. The kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire in AD 106 and the Romans continued to expand the city. An important center for trade and commerce, Petra continued to flourish until a catastrophic earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled vital water management systems around AD 663. After Saladin’s conquest of the Middle East in 1189, Petra was abandoned and the memory of it was lost to the West.

The ruins remained hidden to most of the world until the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, disguised as an Arab scholar, infiltrated the Bedouin-occupied city in 1812. Burckhardt’s accounts of his travels inspired other Western explorers and historians to discover the ancient city further. The most famous of these was David Roberts, a Scottish artist who created accurate and detailed illustrations of the city in 1839. The site was included in the Steven Spielberg movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989 and was chosen in July 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The entrance to Petra is a long, winding sandstone canyon known as the Siq (about 2km). There are minor carvings spotted here and there throughout the Siq, but the most impressive sights are the colorful and unusual sandstone patterns in the rock walls. There are also remains of terracotta pipes built into the sides of the canyon that were used in Roman times to carry water.

The site at the top of the mountain contains elaborate rock altars used for sacrifices. From the High Place, one can view much of Petra from above. Beautiful scenery. It can get cold and windy up there. The trek down the back side of the mountain reveals many interesting tombs and carvings that might be missed by the average tourist.

The Bedouin tradesmen around the area will display artificial “ancient” Roman or Nabatean coins which are rather large in size. If pressed further, they will generally have a hidden stash of small, authentic coins from various periods. However buying these coins encourages the illegal looting of archaeological sites. To supply you with a souvenir the local inhabitants destroy graves, tombs and buildings in searches for coins and other antiquities. The Antiquities Law of 1988 states that individuals who engage in illicit excavations and/or trading in antiquities are criminals.

Throughout Petra, vendors will offer bottles of decorative sand art. While they may appear similar to other such souvenirs found in other Jordanian locations, these are unique in that the sand used to create the art is naturally colored sand scraped from the rock walls of various Petra canyons and not artificially colored. The most common design displays a camel’s silhouette against a desert background.

We rest for a little while at a “bar” at the top of the hike and head back. It was a wonderful day which I will never forget.

The Israeli disappointment and the Jordanian surprise

Before leaving to the Middle East, I wasn’t completely unprepared. I knew all about the conflicts of the region, the history, the Israeli-Palestinian question, the economy, the Arab springs etc.. Besides, I had already been to Lebanon the previous year and I had studied a bit of Arabic at the Arab Cultural Centre of Brussels. Nevertheless, what this trip revealed to me sort of broke the images I set off with, giving me more insights on the sad truths that gather in the area. Obviously my judgement relies on a very short visit to the area and the opinions I’m about to give are based on that. As I have a 1h40 flight I thought I’d just write a quick post about my big disappointment and my big surprise over there.

Israel was overall quite a big disappointment. I had very high expectations on many fronts but eventually I came back with a negative image of both the country and the Israeli society. On the other hand, I didn’t have many expectations from Jordan which actually turned out to be really great for both its people and the land itself.

In Israel we found awful service, unfriendliness and always a sort of gain-oriented approach. For instance as I explained in one of my posts about Tel Aviv, people working in bars and restaurants would always ask for tips, which I found very unusual and quite inappropriate. If 2 driks were 80 shekels (Tel Aviv is indeed exhorbitant) and you give them a piece for 100, they would automatically ask “Should I keep the change?” and my answer (to their surprise) was “No you should not”. Also, at the level of accommodation we didn’t get so lucky either. We had arguments with the owner of the place we stayed at which went on and on even after I came back to Brussels due to a bad review I gave on Tripadvisor. What and idiot.

Apart from this irrelevant detail that only foment groundless prejudices, the fact that I witnessed the occupation and apartheid in Palestine certainly did not help raising the profile of Israel to my eyes. The adjective I use when describing my visit to Palestine is “touching”. Touching in a way that can’t be easily erased. Being an international relations graduate I find it unacceptable that a state which is currently in violation of a number of UN resolutions is still allowed to perpetrate massive human rights abuses. Also, during our tours and chat with Israelis we always sort of felt a fake sense being under attack and that, even though many segments of the society are against the government, the IDF’s actions were always sort of justified.

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The word “settlements” has a completely different meaning in my mind then when I left Belgium to reach Israel. A meaning of hatred and permanent impasse of a situation that only the Israeli establishment and don’t want to solve.

What came as a real surprise was Jordan. What a great place and what a great people are the Jordanians. I had been already to other Arab countries but Jordan was different in a very positive way. Jordan is a very hospitable country to tourists and foreigners and people will be happy to help you if asked.

I must say that that we were also very lucky to have met amazing people such as Marwan and Layan who were also so kind to drive us to Petra and visit it with us. By the way, Marwan is a very professional and enthusiastic consultant. I recommend visiting his company’s website (http://www.beyond-consult.com/) if you’re interested in making business in the region.

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Also, we found kindness and great service everywhere. We could really see, even in the modest hotels where we stayed in Amman and Aqaba, how hotel personnel would really try to make the best to make us enjoy our stay and encourage us to come back. Thank you very much Jordan.

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Marco Jordanian version with Marwan

Middle East Chronicles: Hebron

Hebron is mentioned in the Bible as the home of Abraham, and the burial place of him and several generations of his family. In King David’s time, Hebron was briefly the capital of the Israelite state, before the capital moved to Jerusalem and today, Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews due to its association with Abraham.

The Jewish population of Hebron was evacuated after a killing of nearly 70 of them in 1929. Then, after the 1967 war, a few Jewish settlers went to visit Hebron for Passover, then decided to “renew life” in what used to be the Jewish quarter of Hebron until 1929. Today, about 500 Jews live in part of the old city of Hebron under continual protection by the Israeli Defence Forces with a ratio of four Israeli soldiers for each Israeli settler. The remaining 166,000 residents of the surrounding city are Palestinians. At this regard, I recommend watching “This is my land, Hebron”which sheds light on the hard coexistence of the two religious communities in this Holy place.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the main religious site in the city. The cave, where the Patriarchs and their wives are buried is deep underground, and now people pray in a building on top of it, which was built by King Herod about 2000 years ago. Visitors are welcome to visit both the Muslim and Jewish sides of the cave when they are not being used for prayer schedules. The Muslim side provides cloaks for women to cover up when visiting.

The Muslim side of the Cave contains the only known entrance to the Cave below (it is locked by a marble door). And as well, the tomb-markers of Issac, and Rebekah, with the tomb-markers of Abraham and Sarah lying on the border of both the Muslim and Jewish section of the cave so both have access to Abraham and Sarah’s tombs from each side.

Most of the time, half of the building is used for Muslim and half for Jewish prayer. On a few predetermined days each year, each religion gets to use the entire building. For the Jews, in addition to the normal holidays, one of these days is “Shabbat Chayei Sarah” each fall, on which thousands of people from all of Israel visit Hebron to commemorate Abraham’s purchase of the Cave from its previous Hittite owners. For the Muslims it is on Friday’s during Ramadan and as well during the Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha holiday which Islam commemorates as the day Abraham was willing to sacrafice his son.

Regardless of the sacrality of the place, Hebron was the place where the only “accident” during our trip occured. While we sort of got lost after visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs, we ended up in a kind of maze which was an extension of the souq. At a certain moment Olga, Mustafa and myself start hearing some noise, like a sort of chanting, from a group of kids walking behind us. At first, I thought they were coming closer to ask for some money, as it had happened before while we were visiting the famous protection nets. While the chants got louder I noticed that their intention was completely different. Stones started being thrown at us, small at first but when I turned my head we had a dozen kids throwing bricks. At first we felt incredulity. Within my dumb international relations student’s rationality I thought “Why was that?” We were an Italian, a Greek and a Syrian and clearly with a pro-Palestine view on the conflict. We started to run and Mustafa stopped and shouted at them in Arabic “We are Arabs, we are Arabs”.

This calmed them down but I admit we had some very bad 30 seconds. Later on I realized that these kids have been witnessing pure hatred for all their lives. They’ve been witnessing the rape of their land by a foreign colonizing army. They have seen their family’s shops qnd dwells being evacuated from one day to the other against the blind eyes of the international community. Whatever different, more Western or non-Arab we could look at that moment,  it us made look like intruders to them. It’s not their fault. Hatred breeds hatred and this is just a product of this relationship.

Under the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine passed by the UN in 1947, Hebron was envisaged to become part of an Arab state. While the Jewish leaders accepted the partition plan, the Arab leadership (the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine and the Arab League) rejected it, opposing any partition. Following the Six-Day War, Israel occupied Hebron. In 1997, in accordance with the Hebron Agreement, Israel withdrew from 80% of Hebron which was handed over to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian police would assume responsibilities in Area H1 and Israel would retain control in Area H2.

An international unarmed observer force—the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was subsequently established to help the normalization of the situation and to maintain a buffer between the Palestinian Arab population of the city and the Jews residing in their enclave in the old city.

Hebron was the one city excluded from the interim agreement of September 1995 to restore rule over all Palestinian West Bank cities to the Palestinian Authority. Since The Oslo Agreement, violent episodes have been recurrent in the city. The Cave of the Patriarchs massacre took place on February 25, 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli physician and resident of Kiryat Arba, opened fire on Muslims at prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29, and wounding 125 before the survivors overcame and killed him. Standing orders for Israeli soldiers on duty in Hebron disallowed them from firing on fellow Jews, even if they were shooting Arabs.

This event was condemned by the Israeli Government, and the extreme right-wing Kach party was banned as a result. The Israeli government also tightened restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in H2, closed their vegetable and meat markets, and banned Palestinian cars on Shuhada Street.

In the 1980s Hebron became the center of the Kach movement, a designated terrorist organization, whose first operations started there, and provided a model for similar behaviour in other settlements. Hebron is one of the three West Bank towns from where the majority of suicide bombers originate.

Within his holiness, this is a city of pain and blood. The type of blood that stays within the the veins of many generations.