...reflections from a Compassionate Listener

Friday, May 28, 2010

The battle for Sheikh Jarrah

Avital in her home in Sheikh Jarrah (Photo credit: Ellen Greene)

Thursday, May 27, 2010, Visiting the Settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.
Avital is a young, orthodox Israeli Jewish woman and mother of three young children. She grew up in the Israeli city of Netanya on the Mediterranean coast, and has lived in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, for the past 6 years. Avital and her family won the right to occupy their current house by a court decree that the home is owned by Jews. Avital tells us that this area – approximately 40 acres – was actually purchased in the late 1800s by a mixed group of Ashkenazi and Sepharic Jews, who then began to settle there. The area surrounds the tomb of Shimon HaZaddik, a pilgrimage site for Jews since ancient times.

In 1948, when the land fell under Jordanian occupation, Jordan resettled Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem in the empty houses, with help from the United Nations. Nasser Ghawi’s family was one of the recipients of the homes, and his family has lived there continuously since 1954…until the day last summer in early August, when settlers and the military moved him and his family out by force, along with all of their possessions.
Now eight Palestinian families have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, and there is fear that more evictions are coming. Some of the families are still living in makeshift tents across the street, holding vigil and lifting the injustice to the level of international observation.

Avital tell us, “The last year has been very hard. There is a demonstration every Friday here, to protest the decision of the courts. We feel that we are under the eyes of the world. Everyone has something to say about this neighborhood. I feel that the demonstrations that have been here every Friday are saying ‘we want this neighborhood to belong to Palestine’. The issue is, if Jews don’t have the right to live if Jerusalem, then where do we have the right to live?”
Avital continues, “It was a problem, what to tell the children during the demonstrations. I don’t want to hide it from them, as some of the other families do. My children know the chants and actually sing with the demonstrators now. We say that this is their right to demonstrate. We are here because the judge and the court say we have the right to be here. The demonstration is always before Shabbat – we can time Shabbat by them. I don’t believe that I stole this house. I’m here because the courts say I could be here. When I met the families that lived here, I respect them. I feel for them. We have to answer many questions that we had for ourselves. With the demonstrations, I think we’ve gotten stronger. I feel more right, more moral.”
“I cannot lie to you – these are difficult times. People call you thief. Chase you, threaten you. I want to have a perfect life for my children.”
“I don’t think they want to hear us. They are trying to picture us to the media that we are violent. We’re more concerned with what we’re having for dinner. I think it’s comfortable for them to picture me as an evil person.”
“It’s hard for both sides. We don’t want to conquer them, and they don’t want to conquer us. In this neighborhood, we lived as normal families, we all have children. If we all respect each other, we can live together.”
In 2001 in the 2nd Intifada, my nephew was killed when a Palestinian threw a stone that hit him in the head. He was 6 months old - he was the youngest victim. Respect is the key to life. “
“The bible gives me my courage. We think that this is our country. Until a real peace is here, I would never submit to living under Palestinian control.”

Friday, May 28, 2010
Today we visited with the evicted Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, and witnessed the Friday protest.

On August 2, 2009, following an Israeli court decision, two Palestinian families (al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi), consisting of 53 persons, were evicted from two homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. The Israeli Supreme Court previously ruled that Jewish families had owned the land. The municipality of Jerusalem intends to build a block of 20 apartments in the area. The United Nations coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry, said the evictions were "totally unacceptable actions... contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory. These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace."[21] United States State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said they constitute violations of Israel's obligations under US-backed "road map" peace plan.[22] Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the move, saying "Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep."[21] Yakir Segev, a member of Jerusalem's municipal council, countered the condemnations stating "This is a matter of the court. It is a civil dispute between Palestinian families and those of Israeli settlers, regarding who is the rightful owner of this property... Israeli law is the only law we are obliged to obey."[23]
While Jews maintain they legally own the land based on documents from the Ottoman Empire, Palestinian lawyers claim that they have a document from Turkish archives that says the Jews who claim to own the land are not the rightful owners.[24] As such, the Palestinian families and their supporters maintain that the legal decision is based on forgeries and should be reversed.[25][26] The lawyer of Israeli families claim that the land deeds were checked by many courts and found to be authentic.[24]
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Jarrah

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