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Silwan - The Story Behind the Tourist Site

Silwan - The Story Behind the Tourist Site

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Published by aynoneemouse
The history of Silwan -- Israeli ethnic cleansing, house demolition, political archaeology, apartheid, settler supremacy and abuse of the native inhabitants.
The history of Silwan -- Israeli ethnic cleansing, house demolition, political archaeology, apartheid, settler supremacy and abuse of the native inhabitants.

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Published by: aynoneemouse on Feb 26, 2012
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02/26/2012

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 Wadi Hilwah Inormation Center
The Story Behindthe Tourist Site
 
in the heart o Wadi Hilwah neighborhood as ancient Jerusa-lem, and called it “City o David”.Ever since, many archaeologists o dierent nationalities haveconducted excavations in the area. The locals never initiatedthe excavations, but they were always conducted with respect or them, and the residents enjoyed the visits o tourists. In the 70s Israeli archaeologists began to excavate in Wadi Hilwah,led by the renowned Pro. Yigal Shilo.
Wadi Hilwah 1967 - 1987
Soon ater the 1967 War, Israel ormally annexed East Jerusaleminto the municipal borders o Jerusalem. Silwan grew rapidlyand welcomed many Palestinian reugees rom the ‘48 and ‘67wars. However, development in Palestinian neighborhoods inEast Jerusalem was little compared to in other parts o the city.
Wadi Hilwah in the 70s, looking from Shiloah/Silwan Pool 
Once upon a time, where you’re standingright now, there was a small valley called Wadi Hilwah, part o the large Silwan village.
Hilwah was the wie o the
mukhtar 
Siyam.She was killed during armed clashes in thevalley. Beore her death, the valley wascalled
Wadi Al-Nabah
, Valley o Wails. They say that at nightsone could hear among the hedges o cactuses the wails o theinnocent girl who was viciously murdered by her brother.The Muslim village o Silwan started to develop in the 16thcentury. The village was amous or its quality agricultural pro-duce, and served as a resting point on the way to the old city.Today the village counts 55,000 people. 5,500 live in WadiHilwah neighborhood, which lies on the Old City’s southernslopes. Here, evidently, is where ancient Jerusalem was estab-lished. The Gihon Spring (Ein Silwan) is the reason why peo-ple settled on the spur more than 5000 years ago and built thecity which became holy to the three monotheistic religions.Many cultures let their mark on the spur’s slopes and valleysthat set the boundaries o Wadi Hilwah: the Canaanites, whoestablished the city and built the impressive underground wa-ter system; the Judeans, who expanded the city; the Assyrians,who besieged it; the Babylonians, who destroyed it and ban-ished its people; the Persians; the Greeks, the heralds o Hel-lenism; the Romans; the Byzantines; and nally the Muslims,who ruled the city or 1300 years.In the 20th century, the villagers lived under our dierent rules: Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and, since 1967, Israeli, un-der which the Palestinian residents have no citizenship – a vul-nerable and dangerous status.
Archaeology
Archaeological excavations in Wadi Hilwahstarted during the late Ottoman rule. Charles Warren discovered the underground watersystem at the close o the 19th century (a siteknown as Warren’s Shat), identied the site
Silwan Village - Wadi Hilwah neighborhood is seen on the slopes of  the Old City
 
In the 80s, the young residents’ rustration, ear and resentment caused by the state o Israel translated into their participation inthe frst Intiada, in which Silwan became known or its stronginvolvement. This marked the end o the age o innocence.
The Israeli Settlement in Silwan
In the beginning o the 90s, a private organization called Elad(
El Ir-David 
, To City o David) started to operate in the village.In Elad’s mission statement it is written that its mission is to“strengthen the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and this in themeans o tours, guidance, populating, and publishing mate-rial.” In practice, Elad everishly worked to gain ownership o houses and lands in the village and particularly in Wadi Hilwahneighborhood.
Guard booth above a settlement house, in the heart of Wadi Hilwahneighborhood 
Nevertheless, the 70s and the beginning o the 80s were also aperiod o hope or the village, and especially or the residents o  Wadi Hilwah neighborhood, which was the closest to the oldcity walls. The village was teeming with visitors. The archae-ology attracted many tourists, who the residents welcomedheartily: with them came somewhat nancial stability.In Haj Musa Hamada Siyam’s Coeehouse (today, only the en-trance sign is let...) one could oten nd local Palestinian resi-dents, Israeli archaeologists and tourists sitting together. Also,at that time several young Israelis lived in the village and hadgood neighborly relationships with the Palestinians.
The entrance sign of Haj Musa Hamada Siyam’s coffeehouse
Building is Not Permitted!
During the 80s, the residents started to realize that their statusas non-citizens was problematic. The municipality did not in-vest in the development o East Jerusalem, in the improvement o the education system, or in the municipal planning o East  Jerusalem. Silwan was neglected. Most o the young residentshad to take low-paying jobs. The once pastoral village sunkinto poverty and neglect. Concerning construction, since 1967,not a single building plan has been approved in Wadi Hilwah.This means that the residents cannot build or expand theirhomes. As amilies grew, the residents were compelled to buildwithout permits. Hundreds o amilies ound themselves in animpossible situation. In addition to poverty, a decient edu-cation system and poor physical inrastructure, the state alsoturned the residents into criminals who had to pay hundredso thousands o Shekels in nes, and issued demolition ordersto many homes.
     a     c       t       i     v     e     s       t       i       l       l     s .     o     r     g     a     c       t       i     v     e     s       t       i       l       l     s .     o     r     g
 A recently demolished house in Silwan

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