Wadi Hilweh

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The village boundary of Silwan in 1943–1946 is outlined in green. The boundary of Silwan in 2020 according to the Israeli municipal plan of Jerusalem is outlined in blue.

Wadi Hilweh is a neighborhood in the Palestinian Arab village of Silwan, intertwined with an Israeli settlement.[1][2][3] The Silwan area of East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War and 1980 Jerusalem Law, an action not recognized internationally. The international community regards Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

The "City of David", or the Palestinian village of Wadi Hilweh, shown from the air in 2013

The Wadi Hilweh neighborhood stretches over historical Jerusalem's so-called Southeast Hill, [a] extending down from the southern city walls of the Old City. According to tradition, Silwan originated at the time of Saladin in the twelfth century on Ras al-Amud,[clarification needed] on the southwest slope of the Mount of Olives, then in the early twentieth century[dubious ] it expanded across the Kidron Valley (known to locals as Wadi Sitti Maryam or the Valley of St. Mary), eventually incorporating all of the Southeast Hill.[5]

Modern history[edit]

Late Ottoman period[edit]

c.1870 (Illés Relief)
1910
1931
The development of the City of David / Wadi Hilweh area 1870-1931. A few small buildings can be seen on the hill facing the houses of Silwan in 1870; further houses were constructed in the following decades
UN map showing the City of David area as a series of Israeli "Inner Settlements" – each represented as red crosses – around "Beit Hazofe" (בית הצופה, "Observation House"), and adjacent to Silwan and Ma'ale HaZeitim.

The area immediately outside the walls of Jerusalem was undeveloped for most of early modern history, with the exception of the village of Silwan. Modern settlement outside of the walls began in the late 19th century. A few small buildings are visible on the hill facing the houses of Silwan in the Illés Relief, built between 1864 and 1873. In 1873–1874 a member of the notable Jewish Meyuchas family moved to a house on the towards the bottom of the hill.[6][dubious ] During the early 20th century, Baron de Rothschild acquired some land in the same area for the purposes of archaeological excavation.[7] The Meyuchas family left in the 1930s; no other Jewish families are known to have settled in the area during the period.[7]

Settlement in Mandatory Palestine[edit]

During the later stages of the Mandate era the houses of the nearby Arab village of Silwan expanded across the Kidron Valley and up the ridge of what became Wadi Hilweh.[citation needed]

Jordanian period[edit]

After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the whole area fell on the eastern side of the Green Line under Jordanian control.[citation needed]

Post 1967 and Israeli settlement[edit]

Arab families continued to live on the ridge and to build houses there after 1967.[citation needed]

More recently, the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood has become the scene of both archaeological exploration and Israeli settler activity, becoming embroiled in what archaeologist Rafi Greenberg has called "the Israeli national project of unifying Jerusalem and the settler project of breaking Palestinian Jerusalem apart", both of which have "joined to disenfranchise the people living above and among the antiquities".[8]

Greenberg noted that, as of 2014, the local settlers were "a tiny, belligerent minority in Silwan", while the "indigenous [Palestinian] community are deprived of their materiality", calling it a "classic case of residual colonialism".[8]

In October 2014, Uri Ariel, politician from The Jewish Home party and at that time Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, caused controversy when he suggested he was considering taking up residence in the area.[9]

Archaeological excavations[edit]

From 1968 to 1977 the Israel Exploration Society began the first excavations on the hill that rises to the north of the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood, believed to be the elevated area known as the ophel of Jerusalem in the Hebrew bible. The work was led by Benjamin Mazar and Eilat Mazar.[10]

National Parks[edit]

The Jerusalem Walls [National] Park was declared in 1974 on "a large part of the neighborhood of Silwan." Other parks in East Jerusalem include Tzurim Valley Park in 2000 and in 2013, Mount Scopus Slopes National Park (located between al-'Esawiyah and a-Tur), and Refa’im Stream National Park (on lands belonging to al-Walaja). These parks were approved on privately owned Palestinian lands and in built-up areas or areas bordering the built-up sections of Palestinian neighborhoods and villages. According to B'Tselem these parks are not meant simply to protect nature, landscape and heritage but are also, "perhaps mainly", meant to promote political agendas. By declaring parts of the city as parks entails no development in these areas and serves the political agenda far better than any municipal restrictions on planning and building.[11]

In 1997, management of the City of David within the park was assumed by the Ir David Foundation (commonly known as Elad). First suggested in 1920 for this particular area, the term "City of David" was used officially from the 1970s onward, following the capture of East Jerusalem by Israel, but today the name with its biblical and political connotations is questioned by some in the archaeological academic community.[12] Since El'Ad took over the management of the park in 1997, 'David's City' has essentially become a religious-nationalist battle cry that has transformed the area from an ordinary Palestinian neighbourhood with a few excavation pits, largely unknown to the Israeli public, into a religious settlement and major national biblical monument with hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and an official education site for Israeli school children and soldiers.

Around 70 homes in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan are under threat of demolition. According to Ir Amim plans call for the establishment of a touristic and archeological park (King's Garden) which would extend the City of David southwards to cover the entirety of Al-Bustan and towards the settler enclave in central Silwan (Batan al-Hawa) where the Ateret Cohanim settler organization is active.[13]

After having been run by Elad for three years, management of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Center, south of the Western Wall Plaza, with effect from July 2021, reverted to the government’s Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter.[14]

Development projects[edit]

A US$60–66 million project to construct a 1.4 km cable-car running from the First Station compound, passing over the neighborhoods of Abu Tor and the Valley of Hinnom, then through the Mount Zion parking lot and ending at the Kedem visitor center in Silwan/City of David was put on hold following a judgement by the Israeli High Court on 24 February 2021. Since 2019, the court has several times examined petitions against the project, which is closely connected with Elad. Israeli authorities were given until 22 April to provide explanations to the Court on various matters.[15][16]

Elad is planning the construction of a 16,000 m2 structure on the opposite side of the Wadi Hilweh Street, at the former Givati parking lot, the "Kedem Compound", which was approved in April 2014,[17] a project that was denounced by UNESCO in October 2016.[18]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Southeast Hill is the most excavated place in Jerusalem, with a history of more than 150 years of exploration." [4]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Wendy Pullan and Max Gwiazda, Jerusalem's 'City of David': The Politicisation of Urban Heritage Archived 2017-08-09 at the Wayback Machine, Divided Cities/Contested States Working Paper No. 6, 2008, p.12: "The 'City of David' is formally treated as a settlement; making homes for Jewish people is seen as an integral part of El-Ad's heritage stewardship"
  2. ^ The Independent, "Israeli foreign ministry cadets to defend 'legality' of West Bank settlements", 1 November 2015, "Among the new sessions to be added to the cadet's course are a lecture on the legality of the settlements based on the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory, according to The Times of Israel. It also includes a tour of the “City of David” settlement in the Palestinian Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, to be led by settler leader David Be'eri, who seeks its transformation, based on biblical claims, into a Jewish area."
  3. ^ Sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan: Report by the Secretary-General, A/69/348, 25 August 2014: "Archaeological excavations and parks are also used as a way to control land for settlements, mainly through the funding, participation and endorsement by the Government of Israel of archaeological projects led by settler organizations. Observer organizations report that several archaeological projects in the Old City of Jerusalem are being used as a means to consolidate the presence of settlements and settlers in the area. On 3 April 2014, despite several objections presented by Palestinian residents of the Silwan neighbourhood, a Palestinian community with a population of 45,000, located around the southern Old City wall in East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved a project known as the Kedem Compound.36 The Kedem Compound includes a museum, a visitors centre, and a parking lot covering around 16,000 square metres. The plan was presented by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation, also known as Elad, which works to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, notably the Silwan area. The Kedem Compound would constitute a gateway to the City of David National Park, a touristic archaeological site controlled by the same organization."
  4. ^ Galor 2017, p. 120.
  5. ^ Galor 2017, p. 119.
  6. ^ Yemin Moshe: The Story of a Jerusalem Neighborhood, Eliezer David Jaffe, Praeger, 1988, p. 51
  7. ^ a b Meron Rapoport, 2009, Ir Amin: "At the beginning of the 20th century, Baron de Rothschild acquired land on the eastern slopes of the Wadi Hilweh hill with the intention of dedicating it to archaeological excavations... As far as we know, during this period, only a single Jewish family lived in Wadi Hilweh itself, in a house known today as the "Meyuhas house," and left during the 1930s."
  8. ^ a b Greenberg 2014, pp. 29.
  9. ^ Housing Minister Uri Ariel May Move to City of David, 25 October 2014.
  10. ^ Excavations on the South of the Temple Mount. The Ophel of Biblical Jerusalem, Qedem. Monographs of the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, No. 29, 1989 ISSN 0333-5844
  11. ^ "National parks as tool for constraining Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem". 16 September 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  12. ^ Wendy Pullan; Maximilian Sternberg; Lefkos Kyriacou; Craig Larkin; Michael Dumper (20 November 2013). "David's City in Palestinian Silwan". The Struggle for Jerusalem's Holy Places. Routledge. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-1-317-97556-4..
  13. ^ "Reignited Plan For "King's Garden" Park Threatens To Displace Over 1000 Palestinians From Al Bustan, Silwan". 25 March 2021. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Settler group loses control over Jerusalem archaeological park". Haaretz.
  15. ^ "First court victory for opponents of Jerusalem cable car project - Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East". www.al-monitor.com.
  16. ^ "Settlement & Annexation Report: February 25, 2021". Foundation for Middle East Peace.
  17. ^ Sixty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan: Report by the Secretary-General, A/69/348, 25 August 2014: "On 3 April 2014, despite several objections presented by Palestinian residents of the Silwan neighbourhood, a Palestinian community with a population of 45,000, located around the southern Old City wall in East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved a project known as the Kedem Compound. The Kedem Compound includes a museum, a visitors centre, and a parking lot covering around 16,000 square metres. The plan was presented by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation, also known as Elad, which works to strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, notably the Silwan area. The Kedem Compound would constitute a gateway to the City of David National Park, a touristic archaeological site controlled by the same organization. Furthermore, Elad presented plans, covering an estimated area of 1,200 square metres for the construction of another tourist compound above a site known as the spring house in Silwan, an ancient structure built above the main spring. Palestinians in the area have been prevented from accessing one of their main sources of water, since Elad has blocked the entrance to the spring by walls and fences. According to the Ir Amim archaeological organization, the plan was submitted for objections in February 2014. According to Emek Shaveh, an organization of archaeologists, an examination of the placement of the excavations and the planned tourist centres (the Kedem Compound, the City of David Visitors Centre, and the Spring House tourist centre) shows that a contiguous line of Israeli settler presence along the entire northern boundary of the Silwan area is being created."
  18. ^ 200 EX/PX/DR.25.2 Rev. PARIS, 12 October 2016: "The Executive Board... Deplores the Israeli decision to approve... the construction of the so-called “Kedem Center”, a visitor centre near the southern wall of the Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif... and urges Israel, the occupying Power, to renounce the above-mentioned projects and to stop the construction works in conformity with its obligations under the relevant UNESCO conventions, resolutions and decisions"

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Coordinates: 31°46′25″N 35°14′08″E / 31.77361°N 35.23556°E / 31.77361; 35.23556