Silwan is home to 50,000 Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, just south of the old city. Since 1967, no building permits have been approved in the neighbourhood. As families expanded over the years, residents were forced to build without permits making their homes illegal and vulnerable to demolition.
Complicating the situation, the ancient remains of the City of David lie below the heart of the neighbourhood. In the 1990’s ELAD, a private settler organisation, took over management and promotion of the site. Since then, they have closed off public areas and been accused of invasive archaeology. Recently the Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem approved a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes to make way for Israeli settlement growth as well as the construction of a tourist centre, the King’s Garden which will include restaurant and boutiques.
Palestine Monitor, 26 June 2010
Hundreds of Israelis joined Palestinians and international peace activists in the streets of Silwan, East Jerusalem yesterday in protest against the decision to destroy 22 Palestinian homes. The historic show of support coincides with UN and US condemnation of the Municipality‘s provocative scheme. Written by Michael Carpenter. Photography by Rebecca Fudala.
Take Action Against Silwan Demolitions. (June 26, 2010, Rebecca Fudala)
“The state of Israel has taken a bad path in the last several decades, and we are here to say that not all Israelis support it.” Said Shira Wilkof, one of seven principle organisers of the Israeli-led protests in Sheikh Jarrah. This week they lent their support to the people of Silwan. Speaking just before the march began, she explained, “This is going to be one of the biggest demonstrations in one of the most sensitive and complex neighbourhoods where I would say some of the most evil occupation is taking place. For me, this is an historic event, because Israelis do not come to these areas, and today we expect between four and five hundred.”
Estimates say at least 500 protesters joined the march. As the demonstrators passed, Palestinians cheered from their windows and balconies.
Under international law, East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians, but the since the 1967 war, Israel has occupied the city and conducted an illegal campaign of transferring its own population onto the Palestinian side.
Hajj Fahkri Abu Diab, head of the popular committee of Silwan.
Silwan residents. The baby’s shirt reads ’I love you Silwan’.
The IDF monitor proceedings.
Silwan is a particularly contentious area of East Jerusalem, because the beautiful valley neighbourhood lies just south of the old city and on top of the ancient remains of the 3000-year old city of David. Jewish development companies have wedged settlers into the Palestinian neighbourhood and funded archaeological digging where Palestinian buildings once stood. Earlier this week, after several years of controversy, the city formally approved an incendiary plan to raze 22 homes in the el-Bustan block of Silwan to make way for tourist sites and urban development.
Settlers observe from a distance.
Local Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, with international support, hope to reverse the decision. The event was a success by both its size and peaceful nature, but this does not mean the houses of Silwan will be saved.
“I have no expectations or hope from the current government or the municipality,” Shira says sadly. Referring more broadly to the last few decades, she laments, “Its basically a collective suicide what we’re doing. Its like Barbara Tuchman’s famous book The March of Folly. She analysed the causes of the first World War, and she analysed the stupid actions taken by governments that led to the inevitability of destruction.”
Silwan - Palestine Flag (June 26 2010, Rebecca Fudala)
Children spread the message. (June 26 2010, Rebecca Fudala)