Israel inaugurates Jewish heritage center in hotly contested East Jerusalem neighborhood

Source: Washington Post

Erin Cunningham

More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including scores who live in Silwan. The settler group Ateret Cohanim has spearheaded efforts to settle Jews in Palestinian areas, including the Batan al-Hawa quarter of Silwan, where the heritage center was opened, according to human rights groups and reports in Israeli media.

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“They returned to the land that they had left 2,000 years ago, and established a strong and vibrant community,” Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev said of the Yemenite Jews, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

The neighborhood’s significance lies in its proximity to Jerusalem’s Old City, rights groups say. And its high population density and low economic status make it “one of the sensitive and volatile areas of Jerusalem,” according to Ir Amim, an Israeli nonprofit group.

“We know that this was a well-orchestrated plan to force us to leave,” said Yakoub al-Rajabi, a Palestinian resident of Batan al-Hawa. “And if we stay, it will paralyze us and isolate us in our homes.” He said the presence of Jewish settlers has resulted in increasing patrols by Israeli security forces in the area, making life difficult for Palestinian residents.

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