Know More About Palestine
Wednesday Feb. 17, 2010 2:19 PM (EST+7)

Silwan is a Palestinian neighborhood of some 55,000 residents, situated to the south of the Old City of Jerusalem and stretching alongside the south-eastern slopes of Jabal al-Mukaber.

Some evidence suggests that ancient Jerusalem was established 5,000 years ago on the site where Silwan now lies, near Ein Silwan, or the Gihon Spring.

Israeli government and settler organizations label Silwan as the "City of David" and are working in parallel to establish greater Israeli control over this part of the "Holy Basin." Controversy surrounds the governmentzzz*zs permitting of Israeli settlers near-complete control over the archeological dig that has been expanded at the site.

Settler group Ateret Cohanim provoked further controversy in 2003 when a seven-story building called Beit Yonatan (after the convicted American-Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard) was build without permit. In 2007, the Israeli high court ordered the eviction of Jewish residents from this illegal building. In October 2007, however, the West Jerusalem municipality approved the construction retroactively.

In February 2010 Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat announced his plans to seal Beit Yonatan but also to demolish 200 Arab homes in Silwanzzz*zs Garden of the King neighborhood. Overcrowding and the lack of building permits has forced Palestinians in Silwan to build without the proper permits.

In the 1948 war, the neighborhood of Silwan - like the rest of East Jerusalem - was annexed by Jordan. After the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, controlling and administering the neighborhood ever since.

The Arab residents of Silwan are holders of Jerusalem identity cards, however, they are not considered full Israeli citizens and thus have no right to vote in Knesset elections. Residency rights for Arabs living in occupied East Jerusalem are tightly controlled, and the Israeli Interior Ministry is able to strip them of Jerusalem residency status in case of noncompliance.

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