Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Israel opens Jewish Heritage Centre at the heart of Silwan

By Maria Correia - August 06, 2018
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES]
Tags: [Silwan] [Jerusalem] [Settlers]

In a provocative move, a Jewish Heritage centre was opened on August 1 in Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood that is facing steady Israeli annexation.

While the Israeli government treats the building as an old synagogue that supposedly belonged to Yemenite Jews, the local Palestinians call it the Abu Nab building, from which five Palestinian families were evicted by settlers.
The inauguration welcomed Israeli settlers, politicians as well as the local and international Jewish population. Press and Israeli activists were denied entry by Israeli soldiers and police.
From inside the inauguration. Photo: Myriam Purtscher.
Amidst heightened soldier and police presence, Palestine Monitor interviewed a local Silwan resident, Zuheir Rajabi who demonstrated concern about the potential snowball effect the centre could cause.
Zuheir Rajabi in front of his home. Photo: Myriam Purtscher. 
Rajabi told Palestine Monitor that he received an eviction order in 2015, and has since then had to defend his family’s right to stay in their house. His home is located less than a 50 meters from the new centre.
He described how issues in the neighbourhood began in 2004, but greatly intensified in 2015. He is afraid that the centre will invite more right-wing jewish visitors and create increased tension and friction.
There are currently 80 Palestinian families that have been threatened with eviction from their homes by settler organisations.
Rajabi told Palestine Monitor he subpoenaed his case at the supreme court, on the grounds that the organisation has no right to take his home. However he is sure that with the new centre opening, the judges will face governmental pressure to deny his petition.
Rajabi emphasized that the threat of eviction and problems was not only from settlers but from the Israeli government and ministers as well.
Shortly after the interview Rajabi was taken into the police station, without explanation. He was escorted away by seven soldiers. According to a report by Haaretz, he was summoned by the Shin Bet security service for a cautionary chat.
According to his friends it was the second time that day he was taken to the station.
Police tell Rajabi he needs to go to the police station for the second time that day. Photo: Myriam Purtscher.
Among the big names present were ministers Miri Regev and Zeev Elkin, a Mayor candidate Moshe Leon and the leader of the settler organisation Ataret Cohanim, Mati Dan. Also former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was in attendance.
The Cultural Minister Regev and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Elkin allocated the budget of 4.5 million shekels towards the centre.
Guest to the inauguration. Photo: Myriam Purtscher.
Amongst the settler groups was Australian-born Jewish rights spokesperson Daniel Luria, the executive director of Ataret Cohanim, an organisation dedicated to 'redeeming’ Jewish neighbourhoods and property.
Luria, who guided the groups to the new centre heavily guarded by police, described the Arab residents of Silwan as, “thieves, who dump their rubbish in front of settler houses,” pointing out where they have used 'molotov cocktails’.

After a few hours of inflow of settlers and Israeli politicians, the soldiers escorted press, foreigners and Israeli left-wing activist away from the scene, blocking anyone opposed from accessing the centre.

Lead image: Settlers enter the new centre with private security protection. Photo: Myriam Purtscher.


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