My three sons are married. The three and their families live in three different neighborhoods in the town of Silwan. One of them lives in the neighborhood of Al-Bustan. In 2004, he received an administrative demolition order.
He has a court hearing, on 15 August 2021, where a final decision of demolition might be issued. Part of the home where I live with two of my sons has already received a decision of demolition.
My other married son lives in Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan. The home there is threatened with confiscation as a settler organization called Ateret Cohanim falsely claims ownership of the house.
No final ruling by the court has been made yet. My other son lives in Wadi Yasul, another neighborhood in Silwan. The home received a demolition order in 2013.Juma’ Odeh from Silwan.
The story of Juma’ and his family of 12 people is only a microcosm of what thousands of Palestinians in Silwan face. No matter where one lives in Silwan, be it in Al Bustan, Batn AlHawa, Wadi Yasul, Wadi Helweh or any other neighborhoods of the town, the existence of every Palestinian is threatened with obliteration.
Silwan, which consists of twelve neighborhoods, spreads out over some 5640 dunams (approximately 1394 acres) of land. Silwan grew, in part, with the arrival of Palestinian refugee families following the Nakba in 1948 and in the aftermath of the 1967 War. Current estimates of Silwan’s population range between 60,000 and 65,000 Palestinians, including both original Silwan families and Palestinian refugee families from other Palestinian cities and villages.
Prior to 1967, Silwan’s residents owned land located in the eastern Jerusalem periphery, near Khan Al-Ahmar, in an area known as Khan Al-Salawnah or the ‘Lands of the Salawnah’ covering some 65,000 dunums of land (approximately 16,062 acres). This land was mostly used for agricultural purposes, before Israel confiscated it. Today, the illegally erected Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim lies on large swathes of land belonging to Silwan’s residents.
The town of Silwan is located a stone’s throw away from the southern part of Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound. It is also home to several archaeological sites and the Silwan Spring. Its strategic location along with its historic significance have made Silwan a target of Israeli colonization and settlement expansion.
The six targeted neighborhoods
Al Bustan neighborhood lies at the heart of Silwan. On its 70 dunams (appr. 17 acres) of land, live about 1550 people. 97 of their homes are threatened with demolition. 17 of them will be demolished according to the ‘Kaminitz’ law, which gives Israel even more powers to demolish homes and seek prison sentences and higher fines for breaches of its discriminatory urban plans and laws, while also limiting the judicial recourse to courts. Thirteen of the threatened houses have reached the last stages of the Israeli court system and no appeals are possible anymore. They will be demolished at any moment.
On the ruins of Palestinian homes in Al Bustan, the Israeli occupation authorities will create a ‘biblical garden’. Officially, the Jerusalem Municipality has changed the name of the neighborhood from Al Bustan to the ‘Garden of King David.’
Amany Odeh, a dentist and a mother of two kids, who lives with her husband’s family, narrates the Israeli oppressive practices plaguing them:
On the basis of the Kaminitz law, we expect that they will demolish our home at the end of June. They want to force us to demolish the house with our hands; something we reject to do.
Although we are committed to paying all the taxes and fines imposed on us, the Israeli occupation authorities refuse to issue us a building permit.
My parents’ home faces a similar destiny as mine. They want to empty the neighborhood from its Palestinian inhabitants. This amounts to mass forcible expulsion.”
The Israeli occupation authorities often request Palestinian house owners to demolish their property by themselves. It is an attempt to force Palestinians out of their homes silently. Israeli occupation can avoid media coverage as there is usually no bulldozers, Israeli soldiers or acts of resistance by Palestinians when Palestinians destroy their homes with their own hands.
Palestinians are compelled to choose their hammer instead of Israeli bulldozers to avoid the high costs and fines charged by the Jerusalem municipality if the owners of the homes refuse to do the demolition by themselves.
Batn Al-Hawa is located in the middle of Silwan. About 800 people live in Batn Al-Hawa. Around 726 of them, constituting 86 families, live in 15 buildings are threatened with Israeli ethnic cleansing from their homes.
Since the start of 2021, seven of the 68 threatened families have received eviction orders.
The Israeli occupation authorities divided Batn Al-Hawa into fifty parcels, nine of which are allegedly owned by the settler organization of Ateret Cohanim; while five others are already inhabited by illegal Jewish settlers. So far, Ateret Cohanim has filed cases against 81 families in Batn Al-Hawa. Moreover, the Jerusalem municipality fined two Palestinian families and issued demolition orders for parts of their homes under the pretext that they are built on a land owned by settler organizations.
Israeli settlement expansion in Batn Al-Hawa started in 2004 when two settler outposts were created. By 2017, the number of settlers living there had increased to reach 30 families.
The fanatic settlers who live in Batn Al-Hawa in stolen Palestinian homes keep harassing the residents of the neighborhood. This is usually met by Palestinian resistance to the violent abuse of settlers. Armed Israeli police forces intervene and suppress Palestinians in order to protect the settlers in their savage assaults on Palestinians of Batn Al-Hawa.
Wadi Helweh is located to the south of Silwan. It is adjacent to the southern wall of the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound. Wadi Helweh spreads out over 750 dunams (appr. 185 acres) of land on which about 5000 Palestinians live. Since years, Israeli state institutions and settler organizations have been relentlessly trying to ‘Judaize’ the area. At first, they changed its name to ‘City of David’. Then they started excavations under the homes of Palestinians. The demolition of homes began and many homes are now under threat of confiscation.
The settler organization of El’ad is responsible for the excavation activities in Wadi Helweh. So far, the government-backed organization has created twenty-one tunnels through its excavation activities. Due to this, around 128 homes belonging to Palestinians might collapse at any moment as the excavations have created rifts in the walls of these homes.
While 128 homes are expected to crumble, 65 percent of Palestinian homes in Wadi Helweh are either threatened to fall prey to the grip of settlers on the basis of Absentee Property Law as the Israeli occupation authorities claim that the homes used to be owned by Jews before 1948, or razed to the ground by Israeli bulldozers.
The various Israeli ethnic cleansing practices in Wadi Helweh have resulted in the construction of 42 settler outposts in the neighborhood. This number will only increase as long as the settler organizations and the apartheid system supporting them continue to loot Palestinian property without any form of accountability.
Similar to Batn Al-Hawa, Palestinians of Wadi Helweh are always subject to the harassment of Israeli settlers. It has become normal to see settlers walking in the streets and pointing their guns against Palestinian children in the neighborhood, or spraying Palestinians with pepper gas. Armed Israeli forces invade Wadi Hewleh daily to provide total protection to settlers while they violently abuse Palestinians.
Wadi Al-Rababah lies west to Silwan. On its 180 dunams (appr. 45 acres) of land live about 900 Palestinians. About 400 people face the imminent demolition of their homes under the pretext that they are built without a permit.
Permits are impossible to obtain as the refusal to issue construction permits to Palestinians is part of the Israeli systemic measures to ethnically cleanse Palestinians.
On the ruins of Palestinian homes, the Israeli occupation authorities plan to found a ‘biblical garden’. They are also preparing the infrastructure necessary for a cable car project to facilitate the ‘Judaization’ of the area.
To justify its savage and brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Israel falsely claims that Wadi Al-Rababah was created on the ruins of a Jewish graveyard. Yet, Palestinians documented when the so-called Nature Authority and the Authority of the Antiquities placed 935 fake graves on tens of dunams robbed off Palestinians in order to fabricate proof for their lies.
In addition to the fake tombs, the Israeli occupation has set up three settler outposts among Palestinian communities in the neighborhood. 23 families of settlers inhabit the outposts.
Wadi Yasul is located in the south-western part of Silwan. It spreads out over 310 dunams (appr. 77 acres) on which a population of about 1050 people live. 84 homes have received demolition orders. When they are demolished, about 600 Palestinians inhabiting these homes will become homeless.
After classifying the neighborhood as a ‘green area’ in 1977, the neighborhood was targeted by the Israeli Nature Authority justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as a necessity to preserve the environment. Later, the fanatic settler organization of El’ad has been charged with the task of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homes.
Years ago, Elad has proposed a plan to confiscate the lands of Palestinians in Wadi Yasul. The Jerusalem Municipality and the Jewish National Fund, which are in charge of managing the so-called ‘peace forest,’ supported this proposal. The so-called ‘Peace Forest’ was created on privately-owned Palestinian land in 1970. Based on the proposed plan, in 2019, Elad turned the confiscated area into a camping facility that hosts about 300 people per night. In the camping area, Elad also seeks to set up the infrastructure of zip lining- a recreational activity that involves riding a steel cable on a protective seat or a belt between two points and generally on a valley, as Wadi Yasul is close to this forest.
In 2019, eleven Palestinian residents of Wadi Yasul have been made homeless after the Jerusalem Municipality razed to the ground two homes and stores in the neighborhood. The people of Wadi Yasul are fighting to save the rest of the threatened buildings from the same fate.
Ein Al-Lawza neighborhood
Ein Al-Lawza neighborhood is located to the south of Silwan and spreads out over 870 dunams (appr. 215 acres) of land. Around 3400 people inhabit Ein Al-Lawza. Like in other neighborhoods in Silwan, Israeli occupation forces threaten the people in Ein Al-Lawza with imminent displacement. About 282 homes and a mosque are threatened with demolition under the pretext that they are built without a permit. The demolition of these homes will leave around 900 people homeless.
On the ruins of Palestinian homes, the Israeli occupation authorities seek to build parts of the ‘biblical garden’ they plan to establish.
For more information about the struggle of Palestinians in Silwan against Israeli apartheid regime, please read a detailed report released by Al-Haq here.