Published:  03:36 AM, 02 August 2021

Palestinians in Jerusalem neighborhood fear for their future

Palestinians in Jerusalem neighborhood fear for their future Jews and Palestinians have been clashing over the Sheikh Jarrah for decades. -DW

Four Palestinian families could soon find out whether they will be evicted from their homes in occupied east Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlers. The move would leave them homeless - and could spark new tensions.Muna al-Kurd, a 23-year-old university graduate living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied east Jerusalem, is facing possible eviction along with her family from their home of more than 60 years.

"All probabilities are on the table. They might reject our appeal which means expulsion, or they might postpone again," said al-Kurd in a video update on social media a few days ago. "I think they will decide in favor of the settlers, not the Palestinians," she added, looking across the street where nationalist religious settlers already took over a house a decade ago.On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court could decide the fate of al-Kurd's family, along with that of three other families threatened with eviction from their homes.

Earlier this year, a lower Israeli court ruled in favor of the settler organization that claims ownership of the land, paving the way for the eviction of the four families. Using their last legal option, the families have submitted a request to file an appeal to Israel's Supreme Court. The pending eviction has already sparked weeks of protests and is believed to be one of the reasons for the 11-day military conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May.

But a final decision is still up in the air. Last week, Israeli media reports quoting an unnamed government official suggested the Israeli government might want to seek a freeze in the decision, or won't implement an eviction, so as not to further inflame tensions in the city. A hearing by the Supreme Court on that matter had previously been postponed.

The eviction plans have been sharply criticized by the international community, including the European Union, the United States and the United Nations. The US State Department, in particular, has previously expressed concern; Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is expected to visit Washington in the coming weeks.

While the situation has slightly quietened down since May, and media attention moving on to other topics, the residents' uncertainty over their future continues. "Imagine yourself in my place, you live in your house, with all of your memories in your home, the home that is yours and you own," said al-Kurd. "

Then comes someone and knocks on your door and demands that you get out, this is not your house, this has become my house. Would you accept this?" Together with her twin brother, al-Kurd has become one of the young voices of a protest campaign against the evictions on social media and in the street.

Decadeslong battle over the neighborhood A few hundred meters away, on a hilly spot that overlooks the leafy green neighborhood, Chaim Silberstein visits a small Jewish settlement enclave he helped establish decades ago. It's located near the tomb of Simon the Just, or Shimon HaTzadik, an ancient Jewish high priest who is believed to be buried here. The tomb is particularly revered by ultra-Orthodox Jews who come to the area to pray.

"Dozens of Jewish families lived here until 1948," said Silberstein, referring to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, also known as the Israeli war of independence, after which Jordan would administer the eastern part of Jerusalem which includes the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. During the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis in 1967, Israel captured and later annexed east Jerusalem, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.

In 1948, the Jordanians illegally occupied all of eastern Jerusalem, including this area, and after 1967, the Jews who were evicted from their homes, from their properties, wanted to return to them. Most were unable to," explained Silberstein who, as founder of the nationalist group Keep Jerusalem, aims to reestablish a Jewish neighborhood here.

"We found the original purchases belonging to two religious trusts in Jerusalem that had purchased this four-acre property in 1875," he said. "Together with a group of investors we purchased the rights to the property in 2003 and then began a process of clarifying the legal status of the Arab tenants of this neighborhood. And the process went through the court system until it reached the Supreme Court."Silberstein added that the courts had ruled that "the Jewish ownership was authentic and was real and valid."


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