We all crammed into the entrance area of Wadi Hilweh Information Center. There are photos along the walls of children playing music and doing arts and crafts, and a mosaic that reads “I love you Silwan” in English and Arabic. It looks like one of those permanent sukkahs at camp, the ones with the canvas roofs and benches all along the walls. They always provided a much needed respite from the heat and the dust and the walking, and this did much the same. We had just finished a walking tour of East Jerusalem and visited multiple homes of Palestinians who had either already been displaced or were entangled in the process. At the information center, we sat in a semi-circle around Jawad, the Palestinian man who runs the center, and sipped coffee. For a brief moment everything felt calm and safe. That was when we found out that there was a demolition order for the center.
The Wadi Hilweh Information Center lies in the heart of Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is walking distance from the Old City. To get to Silwan and the center, we walked through one of the main roads to enter the Old City and visit the Western Wall. The road is filled with tourists and lined with archaeological sites or billboards advertising tours of these sites.When I visited Israel with my family at age 12, and then again with my Jewish high school at age 15, I visited these archaeological sites with pride and fascination. Not until today did I realize that many of these tours were across the green line, that these sites were not in Israel but were actually in the occupied territories, that some of them were in Silwan and on top of Palestinian homes.
One of these sites is the City of David. It’s a popular site because it’s said to be where King David once lived. I remember visiting this site as a tween and loving it because what pubescent Jewish boy doesn’t love King David? It turns out that the City of David literally neighbors the Wadi Hilweh Information Center and is one of the main threats to its existence and the rest of the Silwan neighborhood. Currently, there are two Palestinian homes inside the City of David. Elad, the organization that helps run and fund the City of David, is doing its best to kick out those families in the name of preserving Jewish history.
Settlers use the history of King David to justify displacing Palestinians and systematically making their lives a daily nightmare. Because the area is considered an archaeological site, it’s extremely difficult to get the necessary permits to build anything. Because it is a busy tourist area, police and private security guards heavily regulate the area by regularly arresting children and taking away any available parking spots (it has gotten to the point where Jawad has had no choice but to rack up 7,000 shekels in parking tickets). Because there’s a possibility to discover more archaeological sites, there are excavations underneath Palestinians homes that compromise the stability of those structures. Because of a nostalgia for ancient Jewish history, Palestinian lives are not only ignored, they are pushed aside.
Unfortunately, this method of displacement through archaeology is only becoming more popular. And for good reason: it appeals to us, American Jews who tour Jerusalem for a chance to see our history. However, just one house down from the City of David, you can see the true price of seeing and touching an ancient history: Palestinian life and happiness. This is not a price I’m willing to pay.
#AntiOccupationDelegation Day 1: Digging Out Palestinians was originally published in The INNside on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.