Palestine-Israel: Sheikh Jarrah, Disputed Territory Prone To Conflicts – Samira Dajani and Adel Budeiri’s garden feels like an oasis – a peaceful place filled with bougainvillea, lavender and shady trees. This beautiful place seems far from land disputes that trigger disputes.
In fact, the one-story house belonging to the husband and wife is one of 14 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah area that are in dispute. They are in danger of being evicted from their homes to make new space for some Jewish settlers, in a case now being handled by Israel’s Supreme Court.
The eviction process was suspended following a violent incident in Jerusalem, just before fighting between Israel and the Hamas group in the Gaza Strip. But this threat has not disappeared completely. While Samira was plucking the withered flowers, Adel showed me a black and white photo from the 1950s-1960s, before they met and got married.
Palestine-Israel: Sheikh Jarrah, Disputed Territory Prone To Conflicts
“It’s very difficult,” said Adel. “We feel that the happiest time of our lives in this house is coming to an end. We think we will be refugees for the second time.” Their extended family was expelled from West Jerusalem during Israel’s war of independence in 1948. The Dajanis and Budeiris homes are only a few kilometers away from their current homes, but Israeli law says they will no longer be able to own them.
In the 1950s, the United Nations funded a Jordanian project in Sheikh Jarrah to build housing for Palestinian refugees. But some of the land there had been controlled by two Jewish foundations before the state of Israel was formed.
After Israel annexed East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, the two foundations took legal action to take control of the land. The disputed land adjacent to the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, a Jewish high priest in the past, has been claimed by Jewish groups who argue that Palestinians are squatters.
It should be added here that almost everything about this tortuous storyline – both the land and its ownership – is the subject of fierce contention. Outside, the street was very quiet. There are traces of clashes between Israel and Hamas during Ramadan.
Police barricades at the end of the road are still installed. Jews can roam freely, but if you’re a Palestinian, and you don’t live here, you won’t be able to enter the area. A mural in the area shows a map of Palestine before 1948 wrapped in a head turban motif, reading: “Welcome to the rugged neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.”
On the wall on the opposite side, the names of 28 families in danger of being evicted are written. Nearby, there is a house that has been taken over by Jewish residents more than 10 years ago. The house is affixed with the Israeli flag, the symbol of a lit Star of David, and numerous surveillance cameras.
Israeli authorities say Sheikh Jarrah’s problem is nothing more than a “home ownership dispute” and settlers are strongly backed by law. In 2003, two Jewish foundations sold their property rights to Nahalat Shimon Ltd, one of a number of US-based organizations supporting efforts to relocate Jewish settlers to the Palestinian territories of Jerusalem.
“The families will be evicted for not paying rent,” said one of Jerusalem’s deputy mayors, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. He was referring to a controversial court ruling in 1987. The ruling recognized Jewish associations as property owners, while Palestinians were categorized as protected tenants.
“So, we had a property dispute that developed into a political dispute to create a provocation. “I don’t understand why East Jerusalem became Judenrein,” he said. Judenrein is a term coined by the Nazis to describe Europe as forbidden to Jews.
Recently, chaos insued in Sheikh Jarrah during the month of Ramadan. Decades of fighting have erupted into violence that spilled over to the al-Aqsa Mosque. The Hamas group, which felt it had an opportunity to strengthen its position among Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip, joined the action.
The group then fired rockets directly into the heart of the city. As the ceasefire was announced after 11 days of fighting, Palestinians in Jerusalem celebrated what some saw as Hamas’ victory.