RAMALLAH Feb 18 (JMCC) - Step by step, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem neighborhoods are watching their landscape change.
The latest alteration is the conversion of a two plots of land into parking lots. The land is owned by Palestinians, and the parking lots will serve Israeli Jewish holy sites.
The project is intended to encourage tourism, municipal council member Yair Gabai told Israel Radio. Four and a half dunams in Sheikh Jarrah will be confiscated as part of a long-standing plan to increase parking for the nearby Shimon HaTzadik tomb.
Kemal Obeidat, owner of most of the property, has yet to receive any written notice of the confiscation. Still, he has sought advice from a lawyer and promises to fight the confiscation.
This is another step towards the Israelization of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, says Jerusalem council member Meir Margalit. He notes that the area is only overcrowded on the annual observation of the Jewish holiday connected with this Jewish figure, and thus has no need for further parking.
In Silwan, where some 200 homes are threatened with demolition to make way for an archeological park, the plot of land threatened with confiscation is only one dunam.
But the overall impact is to provide services for a growing Jewish presence in predominantly Arab areas.
These new steps strengthen Jewish settlement in two sensitive areas, warns the Center for Jerusalem Economic and Social Rights.
Both Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah are included in larger plans to develop what is called the holy basin, or areas of religious interest just outside the Jerusalem walls. These will be connected to each other with a large city park extending around the Old City, and linked from western Jerusalem to eastern Jerusalem and its Jewish settlements.