How Silwan Became an Arab Neighborhood

July 17 2019

A recent article in the New York Times complained of a “right-wing Jewish settler group” that “has moved hundreds of Jews” into the predominantly Arab eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. But, notes Luke Moon, the article says nothing about the area’s history:

Silwan’s first inhabitants were Yemenite Jews who in 1881 spent six months traveling to Jerusalem. These Jews were inspired to travel the long, arduous journey on the [expectation] that the messiah would come to Jerusalem the following year. . . . Settling on the eastern slopes of the Kidron Valley, [they] built a thriving community and established a synagogue, the same synagogue that the “right-wing Jewish settler group” is rebuilding.

Perhaps an article that mentions the 5,000 Arab inhabitants of Silwan might mention how it became a Palestinian neighborhood when it started as a Yemenite Jewish village. As the inhabitants in Jerusalem felt more confident to move out of the walled city, the original village expanded to include not just Jews but also Muslim and Christian Arabs, too. An early British Mandate-period census shows Silwan to be a mixed village of almost 2,000 people, of whom the Jews made up about 10 percent. But during the 1936–39 Arab Revolt, the village of Silwan was ethnically cleansed of all Jews, and Arab families moved into the homes of Yemenite Jews. One might wonder if the descendants of those Yemenite Jews still have the keys to their homes.

Moreover, the very name Silwan derives from the Siloam Pool, the First Temple-era water source mentioned, as Moon goes on to explain, in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and significant to Jews and Christians alike.

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Read more at Providence

More about: Jerusalem, New York Times, Siloam Tunnel, Yemenite Jewry

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy