The Jewish History of the Neighborhood at the Center of Recent Violence in Israel

May 10, 2021 | Micha Danzig
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While rioting and acts of terror have been ongoing in the Jewish capital for some weeks, the latest pretext has been a district court’s decision to allow the eviction of the residents of four homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a mostly-Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. The Supreme Court has postponed the hearings on the issue, which were originally scheduled for today. Micha Danzig explains the historical background:

Sheikh Jarrah is an Arab neighborhood that was established in 1865. And before 1949, there was a separate Jewish neighborhood within it, . . . known by the name “Shimon HaTzadik” (Simon the Righteous), named after the famous sage whose tomb is located there.

Because of the tomb and its significance to the Jewish people, the Sephardi Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel purchased the tomb and its surrounding land (about 4.5 acres) in 1875. Shortly thereafter, it, along with the neighborhood of Kfar Hashiloaḥ in the Silwan area of Jerusalem, became home to many, mostly Yemenite, Jews who had migrated to Jerusalem back in 1881. Notably, by 1844, Jews were the largest ethnic population in Jerusalem.

Between 1936 and 1938, and then again in 1948, the British empire assisted Arabs . . . in ripping Jews from their homes in Shimon HaTzadik (and in Kfar Hashiloaḥ). The Yemenite Jewish community was also expelled from Silwan, for “their own safety,” by the British Office of Social Welfare. Essentially, the British preferred to force Jews out of their own homes rather than expend the resources to protect Jewish families and their property rights in Jerusalem.

Then, in 1949, [the Jordanian army] either killed or ethnically cleansed every last Jew [in the area]. After Israel gained control of all of Jerusalem from the Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel passed a law that allows Jews whose families had been forced out of their homes by the Jordanians or the British to regain control of their family homes if they could provide proof of ownership and the current residents could not provide proof of a valid purchase or transfer of title.

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