On Friday afternoon, about 500 organizers and supporters of the Sheikh Jarrah
movement brought their weekly protest to Silwan, where Jerusalem Mayor Nir
Barkat recently announced a plan to raze a wide swath of buildings, 22 in all,
to build an “archeological park.”
Barkat’s idea is to expand what he, his
NGO partner, the right-wing Elad (recently awarded the right to administer the
site), Elad’s zealot settler- supporters and American funders and the Tourism
Ministry all call the “City of David.”
This site has been developing
beneath the radar for several years across from the Dung Gate, where you
to the plaza leading to the nearby Western Wall.
Just to be clear, there
is about as much evidence that King David’s palace would be excavated by
project as evidence that Queen Helena actually found the grove from
true cross had been cut in the Valley of the Cross. But like Helena’s
she was said to be the greatest archeologist in history, because she
looked for something she didn’t find – Barkat’s City of David is
to excite pilgrims – you know, guests of a bar mitzva who are looking
something to do on Sunday afternoon.
But even if the site had some
scientific value – excavations were carried on here under British
during the Mandate Period – it would be terribly provocative to make 22
homeless, as in Sheikh Jarrah, or impose a development plan on the
without the agreement of its residents (who have a neighborhood
willing to negotiate).
SILWAN IS the heart of the most heavily populated,
impoverished and angry parts of the city, certain to be in any future
Which means that protests in this part of the city
are much more explosive than in Sheikh Jarrah. In Silwan, stoning of
settlers is commonplace, as are armed threats by settlers against
Youth gangs and neighborhood resistance are hard to tell apart.
walked down the streets and neglected alleyways of Silwan, it was clear
men on the stoops, women and children in the windows and preening young
the corners that they had never seen, nor expected to see, so many
Israelis coming into their neighborhood to back them – and that for
mere presence of more Jews of any kind was not entirely welcome.
a teaching moment for all of us who were, on both sides, making
vulnerable to the other’s decency.
Halfway through, someone in the
settleroccupied houses overlooking the march let off a couple of stun
which made a dreadful boom, but caused no real hesitation.
Then, in the
middle of the square slated for demolition, we gathered for speeches,
and one of
the heads of the neighborhood association took the megaphone. He picked
Hebrew chant protesters have used often in Sheikh Jarrah: “Jews and
not meant to be enemies” – a banal thought when you think about it, but
moving surrounded by this kind of tension.
I approached the unofficial
leader of the protest, Assaf Sharon, and found him relieved, even
how many protesters had come out, given how much grittier, and
dangerous, was the confrontation in Silwan than in Sheikh Jarrah. He was
back and forth, scanning the hills for potential disruptions, feeling
responsible, like the father of a toddler near a jungle gym.
The idea, he
told me, was to let Barkat know that if he brings bulldozers, there will
hundreds sitting down this time, his eyes betraying both weary optimism
“Anyway, just look at these people coming out, and
the way they are being received.”
The writer is adjunct professor of
business at Hebrew University and the author of the recently published
Hebrew Republic. This article was originally published on