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Deputy Jerusalem Mayor David Hadari (Habayit Hayehudi) is weighing the possibility of opening up an office in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in an effort to “assist neighborhood residents,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Hadari said he would tour the area on Tuesday to explore logistical and financial aspects of setting up an office in one of the homes where Jewish families currently live.
“I’m going to Sheikh Jarrah first of all, to strengthen the Jewish residents there,” Hadari told the Post
. “I want to see if there is any way I can help them.
“Furthermore, I think that it’s extremely important for Jews to be able to live in every single part of Jerusalem,” he added.
Hadari said that if he does decide to set up an office in the neighborhood, residents will be able to come to him for all issues that concern the municipality.
“I hold the Finance portfolio at City Hall,” he said. “So for example, if people have questions about their property taxes, bills, etc., I’ll be happy to assist them.”
A spokeswoman for the NGO Ir Amim that advocates for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem told the Post
that Hadari’s statements amounted to “nothing more than a provocation.
“The deputy mayor is joining the most extreme right-wing elements in an attempt to light up this explosive place,” the spokeswoman said. “We expect [Jerusalem] Mayor [Nir] Barkat to condemn this statement by his deputy mayor.”
Tensions in the neighborhood remain high after the August evictions of two Palestinian families – the Gawis and Hanouns – from their homes there.
Jewish families were moved into the houses soon after the evictions, which took place after lengthy court battles ended in favor of Jewish claimants to the homes.
The neighborhood was home to a number of Jewish families before 1948, who fled during the War of Independence. Twenty-eight Palestinian families, who were receiving UNWRA refugee assistance, were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956 as part of a joint effort between the UN and the Jordanian government, which controlled the area until 1967.
As part of the resettlement program, the families were to forgo their refugee status, and in return receive the titles to the properties – a step which never took place.
Two Jewish organizations – the Sephardi Community Committee and Nahalat Shimon International began petitioning the courts in the 1970s for renewed rights to the properties and legal battles have continued since.
Meanwhile, weekly demonstrations in the neighborhood against the home
evictions have reached a fever pitch. A rally in Sheikh Jarrah last
Saturday night drew thousands of protesters while Friday afternoon
rallies continue to draw hundreds of Israelis, Palestinians and
international left-wing activists.
There has also been sporadic violence between the Palestinian and
Jewish residents of the neighborhood leading a number of MKs to ask the
Jerusalem Police to beef up their presence in the area as a means of
preventing further unrest.