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Let us understand why sad divisions and conflict exist between people in the West Bank. To do so, we must first delve into history. Next, we will analyse the present. Last, we will find a better way forward.

It is important to read this to the very end as it is about the “NOW”. The history is important to understand but the present community is even more important. Read it because it will inform you what the West Bank conflict is about. The relevant part of this history is the 1948 war. This is because Jordan expelled Jews from the West Bank after occupying it. As a result, Jewish families are now claiming the homes back in court.

Here is the history. (Skip to “SOLUTIONS” if history does not interest you.)

JUDEA HISTORY

According to the Talmud, when Alexander the Great marched through Land of Israel in the year 332 BCE, he met Simeon the Just. Josephus relates that as soon as Alexander saw him, he descended from his chariot and bowed respectfully before him. When Alexander’s courtiers criticized this act, he replied it had been intentional. He had seen the High Priest in a vision, who had predicted his victory. Alexander demanded that the priests must place a statue of himself in the Temple, but the High Priest explained that this was impossible. He promised instead that the priests will name all their sons born in that year “Alexander”.

According to Sirach, Simeon the Righteous aka Simeon the Just rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. He also repaired the damage done to the Temple in Jerusalem, raising the foundation and enlarging the cistern into a pool.

Rabbi Jacob, the messenger of Jehiel of Paris, wrote in 1238–1244: “the cave of Simeon the Just and his disciples is near Jerusalem”.

Jews visit the Tomb of Simeon the Just in 1927 (West Bank)

Jews visit the Tomb of Simeon the Just in 1927

Obadiah da Bertinoro wrote in 1490: “The sepulchre of the seventy Elders, which lies about 2,000 cubits from Jerusalem, is splendid, especially that of Simeon the Just.”

The sepulchre is in East Jerusalem, in a suburb now known as Sheikh Jarrah. Jews visit the tomb regularly.  It is a major tourist attraction benefitting the suburb.

OTTOMAN HISTORY

In 1865 Rabah al-Husayni named Sheikh Jarrah after Hussam al-Din al-JarrahiSheik Hussam was the personal physician to Saladin who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders. He received the title jarrah (جراح), meaning “healer” or “surgeon” in Arabic. He was also an Emir.

The Jewish community purchased the site and surrounding land for 15,000 francs in 1876. Jerusalem’s chief rabbi Shmuel Salant began housing construction in the area around the tomb in 1891.

Twenty Jewish families were living in the neighborhood by 1948. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jordan annexed the property. The UN determined it to be on the Jordanian side of the Green Line. After this conquest, Palestinian families moved into the houses.

The court system is currently hearing a property dispute between the displaced Jewish families and the current occupants. A lower court found that the property belongs to the Jewish families whom Jordan displaced in 1948. It further ordered the eviction of the Palestinian families who moved into the houses after the war. The Palestinian families appealed to the Supreme Court.

CIVIC SOLUTIONS

CMOSA calls for calm and unity. A REPRESENTATIVE LOCAL COMMUNITY COMMISSION must handle property disputes under lekgotla rules. This means that everyone speaks one at a time without interruption until they reach consensus. Every community member must consider the plight of the Palestinians families. Through no fault of their own, they have now made a home in the beautiful suburb of Sheikh Jarrah. They have lived there – legally or otherwise – for 73 years now.

Street View of Homes opposite the tomb of Simeon the Just

We want to see the COMMUNITY of SHEIK JARRAH resolve these issues at community level in a Civic way. We are to support the local community of Sheikh Jarrah – whether Muslim, Jew, Christian or any other religion. We’re not to support divisions between people. People deserve to live alongside each other in Peace and Harmony. Interest groups, activists, commentators and the residents themselves must not allow Political Parties to interfere.

Let us allow the residents of Sheikh Jarrah to find love, happiness and peace by meeting each other.

If you agree local solutions are the way of the future – join us. (Click on this link to become a CMOSA Someone).