Pictures- Turning Silwan into a military zone during the opening ceremony of a new settlement project
August 1, 2018

The Israeli occupation authorities transformed the village of Silwan into a military zone on Wednesday, in conjunction with the opening of a new settlement project in the village to serve the settlers.

Wadi Hilweh Information Center / Silwan reported that the occupation forces stormed the neighborhoods of Silwan in large numbers and were stationed at the entrances. They were deployed spread in the neighborhoods of Batn Al-Hawa, Al-Bustan, Ein Al-Lozeh and the Central District. They closed some roads and streets to facilitate the arrival of those participating in the opening ceremony of the new settlement project in Batn Al-Hawa.

Before the starting of the opening ceremony, the information center added that the occupation forces arrested Zuhair Rajabi, head of the committee of Batn Al-Hawa / Central District, and director of Wadi Hilweh Information Center Jawad Siam, during their presence in the neighborhood of Batn Al-Hawa, and then began to evacuate the streets of the neighborhood; forcing residents to enter their homes. They also prevented some residents of Silwan from going to the neighborhood, as well as preventing many residents from reaching their homes. Even the children were chased by the Israeli occupation forces to prevent them from playing in the neighborhood’s main street.

The Center explained that the Minister of "Jerusalem and Heritage" Zeev Elkin, Minister of Culture Miri Regev, the occupation government and the Jerusalem rabbi, and representatives of the settlement associations participated in the opening ceremony of the Cultural Center.

The Center added that "the Ministry of Jerusalem and the Ministry of Culture" in the Israeli government allocated 4.5 million shekels (equivalent to $1.2 million) for the settlement project "Center of the heritage of the Jews of Yemen."

The Center and the Committee also explained that the occupation authorities claim that the property of Abu Nab, located on a 700- square meters land, was in the late 19th century a synagogue for the Jews of Yemen, and began to demand the evacuation of the property in 2004. The property is located within the scheme "to control 5200 square meters of "Batn Al Hawa" neighborhood, under the pretext of belonging to Jews from Yemen since 1881.

Last week, Wadi Hilweh Information Center and Batn Al-Hawa Committee issued a joint statement explaining that the project is similar to the so-called "visitors center" in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan, where the Israeli occupation authorities and settlement associations seek to find a story for Jews in Jerusalem in general and the village of Silwan in particular by forging facts and history.

The Center and the Committee added that the Yemeni Jews lived in Silwan as refugees for a period of not more than fifty years, where they were welcomed by the people of Silwan because of the refusal of Western Jews to live with them. This does not mean they own the land, although they sold the property to the people of Silwan, as the residents of Batn Al-Hawa have all the documents to prove their ownership of their homes.

The Supreme Court recently held a hearing on the petition filed by 84 families from Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood, which received notices to vacate their homes for Ateret Cohnim Association. The Israeli Supreme Court requested the Public Prosecution to provide detailed explanations on how to “guardian of absentee property” transferred the ownership of a piece of land with an area of 5200 square meters in the village of Silwan to the association of Ateret Cohanim, especially since the targeted lands are considered "Mere”, i.e., they are governmental since the Ottoman period and cannot be turned into a “Waqf” according to Ottoman law. The court also asked for details regarding the procedures that took place before transferring the ownership of the land.

Batn Al-Hawa Committee and the Information Center explained that the settlement associations are trying to control and seize real estate in Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood by claiming partial ownership of the land or buying pieces of land from those that fall for the money. The increase of settlement outposts in the neighborhoods resulted in a significant increase of assaults and provocations made by the settlers and their guards.

The Committee and the Center emphasized that the existence of a synagogue and a cultural center in Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan has purely political aims to extend their control of the neighborhood and to be overrun by settlers and Israeli officials. There are 8 settlement outposts in the neighborhood, the first being seized since 2004.