Pictures - Opening of a synagogue in Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood in Silwan
August 24, 2017

Israeli Ministers, members of Knesset and Rabbis participated on Thursday in opening a Jewish synagogue in the neighborhood of Batn Al-Hawa in Silwan south of Al-Aqsa Mosque amid closures and a tight siege imposed in the streets of the village.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center explained that the Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, and members of the Knesset as well as Rabbis and nearly 300 settlers opened a synagogue in Batn Al-Hawa in the property of “Abu Nab” which was seized in 2015. They brought two books from the Torah inside the property. Before that, a settlers’ march launched from the neighborhood of Al-Ein and passed through Al-Bustan neighborhood reaching the location of the synagogue where they formed dancing and singing rings.

The center added that the forces started deploying at the main entrances of Silwan since Thursday noon and increased their presence in the afternoon hours. Occupation forces and snipers ascended the roofs of several tall residential buildings after threatening the owners.

The center also added that the forces imposed a tight siege on several neighborhoods in Silwan especially in the area of Al-Ein, Bi’er Ayoub Street, Al-Bustan and Batn Al-Hawa for more than five hours. They were heavily deployed in the streets and prevented locals from using some roads; a helicopter flew above the village. They also harassed locals as they were stationed in front of their buildings and houses. 

Zuheir Rajabi, head of Batn Al-Hawa Committee, explained to Wadi Hilweh Information Center that dozens of settlers raided the neighborhood of Batn Al-Hawa to open a synagogue while the forces imposed a curfew on the area and restricted the residents by preventing movement.

Rajabi added that the settlers seized the property of Abu Nab family in 2015 which consists of 5 apartments. This building is characterized by its distinctive character and settlement organizations claim that it was a synagogue for the Jews of Yemen in the late 19th century and began to demand the evacuation of the property since 2004. The property falls within the scheme of "Ateerat Cohanim" to control the 5200 square meters of the neighborhood of "Batn Al-Hawa" under the pretext of ownership of Jews from Yemen since 1881.

Rajabi also added that since settlers seized the property of Abu Nab family, there has been increasing assaults and provocative acts by settlers, their guards and occupation forces against the locals of the neighborhood. On one occasion, live bullets were used indiscriminately in the place, not to mention the random arrests of children and young men under various pretexts, the latest of which was the arrest of a child under the age of six under the pretext of insulting a settler.

On the other hand, the director of Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Jawad Siam, explained that this synagogue was the first in the village of Silwan. Since its takeover, settlers living in settlement outposts in the village have come to it during various Jewish holidays, such as "the Jewish New Year or the Fall of the Torah". They performed religious services and prayers in addition to weekly prayers. Today, it was officially opened with the participation of ministers and members of the Knesset.

He said: “The presence of the synagogue inside the neighborhood of Batn Al-Hawa in the village of Silwan which has a high density of housing is for political reasons and not religious in order to provoke the locals and control the neighborhood. Settlers were calling others to "join the joy of Israel" and it was a general call to storm the village permanently and go to Ein Silwan and perform the prayer in this synagogue, especially since the settlers in the village are constantly heading to Al-Buraq Wall - Western Wall of Al-Aqsa - to perform their rituals and prayers, not in a private synagogue.”

Siam added that opening a synagogue in Silwan came at a time when the occupation municipality is threatening to demolish mosques or parts of them in several areas of Silwan under the pretext of building without a permit.