In August 2013, the occupation forces carried out one of their regular demolition raids on the historic Jerusalem village of Silwan. During the raid they demolished Khalid Zueer’s house and the neighbouring house of his brother. Underneath their house was a small cave and left with no other way to keep his family together the cave became their new home. As autumn turned to winter water seeped through the rocks onto the family. The young children soon became sick and Khalid sought help from family members, eventually moving his wife and 6 children into the house of his wife’s parents. Khalid stayed in the cave, as close as he could possibly be to the rubble that used to house his family. As winter set in and snow hit Silwan, Khalid built a small wall to cover the entrance to his cave and fitted wooden boards inside to block off of the dampest areas. This act was considered ‘illegal construction’ by the occupation authorities; Khalid was issued with a demolition order on his cave.
Khalid Zueer’s story is just one of many in Silwan. According to the statistics of Jerusalem Municipality, Silwan is home to 55,000 Palestinian residents although local people believe the figure to be closer to 65,000 given the amount of people who moved into the area during the construction of the Apartheid Wall. In fear of losing their Jerusalem residency permits, many people left areas of East Jerusalem that would be located east of the Wall and moved closer to the city. With Silwan being one of the cheapest areas in East Jerusalem many of these people chose the village.
In this cramped area which houses between 55-65,000 Palestinians, approximately 90 per cent of all Palestinian buildings constructed since 1967 have demotion orders according to Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh Information Center. This amounts to about 64 per cent of all buildings in Silwan. These figures include huge numbers of residential structures but also shops, small businesses, cultural centres and even mosques. Following demolitions, owners are fined and made to pay for the demolition of their own properties. A fine for the demolition of a house can be as much as 62,000 shekels (more than £10,700).
The Israeli plan is clear – empty the area of its Palestinian residents and replace them with Jewish settlers. This process has been underway for many years and is part of the wider Zionist settler-colonial project that is being implemented across all areas of historic Palestine against the indigenous population. Silwan’s residents remain steadfast within their struggle, ‘They demolish, we rebuild…”
MEMO Photographer: Rich Wiles