What’s the Story with Sheikh Jarrah?

What is Sheikh Jarrah and why did confrontations there help trigger the recent escalation? Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann breaks down the history of this neighborhood where settlers seek to dispossess Palestinian families.


In the wadi in back of me is the Shimon HaTzadik area of Sheikh Jarrah which became notorious as the detonator of convulsive violence between Israelis and Palestinians as the displacement of 28 Palestinian families who live here loomed on the horizon.

Hidden from sight in the bed of this wadi is an ancient burial grotto, the tomb of Simon the Righteous.

In the 1800s, two Jewish religious associations purchased the tomb and the land around the tomb. They built a small cluster of houses, but much of the land that they bought remained empty.

In the war in 1948 about 20 to 30 thousand Palestinians in Jerusalem alone were displaced. This whole area fell under Jordanian rule and in the 1950s the government of Jordan and the United Nations built 28 homes for Palestinian refugees.

After the war in 1967 Israel enacted legislation that allows Jews to recover properties that were lost in the 1948 war, including the properties in back of us. However it does not allow for Palestinians to recover properties that they lost in the war.

That is the original sin of Sheikh Jarrah.

The only people who have ever lived in these 28 homes are the Palestinian families who are living there now. No Jews ever lived there before.

So the real question of Sheikh Jarrah is not a question of landlord / tenant, it’s a question as to whether it is legal and appropriate for Israel to harness all of its power to take properties away from Palestinians who have lived there all their lives and to turn them over to biblically motivated settlers.

That’s what this is about.

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