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5 Things to Know About Sheikh Jarrah

  1. The Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinian families living there have to pay rent or move. The Supreme Court ruled that the houses in question legally belong to the Jewish organization, Nahalat Shimon, so the Palestinian families have to pay rent or they can be evicted. However, it has tried to broker various compromises, such as having the Palestinian families be protected tenants for 15 years, meaning that their rent would come with a measure of security in knowing they can stay there long-term.
  2. The families chose not to pay rent. All of the Supreme Court compromises mandated that the Palestinian families recognize Jewish ownership of the houses -and they refuse to do so. They see themselves as the rightful owners. So they chose not to pay rent, because doing so would require recognizing the legal ownership of the Jewish trust claiming the land, which they reject.
  3. The reason that land is owned by Jews is a very specific law that creates a double-standard between how the government treats property that was owned by Palestinians and property that was owned by Jews before 1967. Under the law, Jews can reclaim ownership of land that they owned in East Jerusalem in 1948, when it was taken over by Jordan, which held East Jerusalem until Israel captured it in the Six Day War in 1967. No such option exists for Palestinians. Additionally, for various reasons, Palestinians often have trouble claiming property ownership in Israeli courts.
  4. The Jews moving there now are doing so with a very clear political purpose. The land is not being claimed by the original Jewish families trying to move back to their homes. It is being claimed by a Jewish trust whose goal is to turn Sheikh Jarrah, currently a Palestinian neighborhood, into a Jewish neighborhood. They are making a conscious effort to move Jews in, and often the Jews who move in have a very clear political purpose as well. If Sheikh Jarrah becomes Jewish, it could mean the dispossession of more Palestinian families. That’s why many Palestinian activists see this case as a larger personal and political threat to Palestinian residents of the city.
  5. The violence there is happening on both sides. On a very basic level, each side wants the other out of the neighborhood. This has led to brawls and physical violence between residents of both sides. The violence has been exacerbated by the extreme Jewish right-wing factions associated with the racist Kahane movement bringing in activists to stoke the flames. These activists sometimes engage in violence and try to provoke reactions from the other side.
About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.
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