Notes from East Jerusalem’s weekly protest (AKA Sheikh Jarrah), which was temporarily moved to nearby Issawiya
Issawiya, East Jerusalem – The weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah moved to Issawiya this Friday, where hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians convened to call for an end to the continued siege on the neighborhood. Issawiya is literally down the road from the commanding Hebrew University “student village” compound, just east of the Green Line, with a population of about 17,000 people. Most Israelis are not familiar with the neighborhood, but if they have heard of it, it is likely due to incidents of rock throwing by children that make it into the Israeli press.
Issawiya has not had any Jewish settlers move in, but like most Palestinians neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, it is neglected by the municipality, portions of its land have been annexed at different times to build up Jewish neighborhoods, roads and “green areas,” and it suffers consistent harassment by the police. In the last month, Israeli authorities have increased the number of house demolitions, set up barricades and roadblocks and repeatedly entered the area to patrol and issue fines for minor vehicular defects, such as a broken side mirror.
There is only one main entrance now open to traffic going in and out of the village, the rest having been sealed off by the authorities with concrete barricades. Israelis joined the residents in solidarity and walked through the neighborhood, ending the procession at its other end, where a narrow opening in the concrete barricades is wide enough to allow only one or two people to pass at a time.
It felt like the whole neighborhood (or more correctly, the men and boys) was out in the streets, protesting peacefully, with the children being carefully directed and guided. The Palestinian representative, who spoke on behalf of the neighborhood in both Arabic and Hebrew, shared the grief and angst experienced by the residents and the need for more playgrounds and services for its children. He stressed the desire to be treated like any other tax-paying resident of the city and invited all the Israelis there to feel welcome in the neighborhood and come back to visit.
In a neighborhood known for its volatility and rock throwing, today was a lesson in genuine civil resistance and partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. However it is a process. Once the protest ended, Israeli border police did in fact enter the neighborhood and fired tear gas grenades, and a few children could be seen throwing rocks. What came first is unclear.