Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Mount of Olives

The green area above is some of the last open land in the old city. It was acquired by Ateret Cohanim recently and is slated to become a large apartment complex after archaeological salvage operatons are completed.

The relations between Jews and their Arab neighbors are complicated. Every Jew living here is aware of what happened in the times of Haj Amin al Husseini. And memorials mark the sites of recent attacks. There are over two hundred surveillance cameras throughout the Muslim quarter, a private security service, and guardposts at strategic locations. The entrances to Jewish homes are protected with special security doors, designed to be able to hold back five men with a battering ram for at least ten minutes.
“Thank God,” Daniel tells me, “we’ve only had to use them once.”
Over two hundred security cameras, peering down alleyways and peeking over rooftops, all feed into a central control room where security personnel monitor and record all activity. If a pregnant mother or elderly person has their hands full and doesn’t feel capable of defending themselves, an armed guard can be dispatched to escort them through the streets.

Security cameras are everywhere.

But on the street level, Daniel, himself a Jewish resident of the Muslim Quarter, is met with smiles and waves. One man even comes up and shakes his hand.
“I send plenty of his business to his store.”
“Do you carry protection?” I ask him.
“My protection is God in heaven. But I also carry a gun. Living in the Muslim Quarter is a different type of settlement. In Shechem (Elon Moreh,) they built a town on a hilltop outside of the actual city itself. In Hebron, they carved out a Jewish enclave within the city and control who comes in and out. Here in the old city, we live side by side with the Arabs. Despite what others say about peace and coexistence in Tel Aviv, we are the only Jews in Israel who shop in Arab stores, meet our Arab neighbors, and know them by their first names.”
And the building continues further afield as well.

Racing through Arab East Jerusalem, outside of the Old City. Whereas East Jerusalem Arabs are free to stroll through Jewish West Jerusalem, Jews driving through East Jerusalem (outside of the Old City) are occasionally stoned, and nobody gets out of the car.

Deep in East Jerusalem, adjascent to the Mount of Olives, Ateret Cohanim has reclaimed a few urban acres, once a Jewish-owned wheat field a century ago, and constructed skyrise apartment blocks. Adjascent the new development, the Israeli Police Station, itself being relocated to the controversial E-1 region, is being sold to the group to be used for further housing.

A map, obtained from Palestinian Authority advocacy groups, showing the locations of the new neighborhoods, and properties acquired. Forgive the anti-Israel lingo; anti-Israel groups always do a better job of recording the locations of each and every new building than the settlers themselves.
The Jewish cemetary on the mount of olives. It is considered the holiest place in Judaism to be buried. Today, it is surrounded by Arab neighborhoods and it is considered dangerous to visit the gravesites on one's own.
Daniel points in the direction of the cemetary on the Mount of Olives, which is across the street. The empty lot behind him has, at long last, crossed the last legal obstacles and is now cleared for new construction. The buildings to the left are existing Jewish homes, built during "phase A" of the operation.

A photo of the existing Jewish building (that's the blast-proof garage door to the right) and the rest of Arab Ras Al Amud.

To be continued…

1 comment:

Leah said...

Last summer I staffed a trip to Israel. For our tzedakah project, we cleaned up graves in the Mt. Olives cemetery. I did not make the arrangements for this project, but my understanding is that they welcome any volunteers to pull weeds, clean of graves and repaint the names.

Hodesh tov.