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Anger at Israeli plans for Jewish heritage centre in home of evicted Palestinian family

A Palestinian family watch their home being demolished in Silwan [file photo-Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2018

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A $1.2m cultural centre for Yemenite Jews is to be housed in a former synagogue in Silwan, East Jerusalem, from where a Palestinian family were evicted in 2015
Israel is set to launch a Jewish heritage centre in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, just south of the Old City, on Wednesday, to be housed in a former synagogue from which a Palestinian family was evicted in 2015.

The plans have angered many of the area's Palestinian residents who have been subjected to a decades' long campaigns by pro-settler groups to Judaise the neighbourhood and prohibit Palestinian expansion.

The launch ceremony will reportedly take place under heavy security presence due to fears of protests or arrests.

Israel is set to spend some 4.5 million shekels ($1.23 million) on the construction on the new centre, which is dedicated to remembering Yemeni Jewish immigrants to the Holy Land in the 19th century.

The centre will be housed inside an old synagogue in Silwan, where Yemenite immigrants settled at the end of the 19th century. Most left during the violence of the 1929 riots and the Arab Revolt of 1936 before the State of Israel was established.

A Palestinian family was forced out of the former synagogue building where they lived in 2015, after Israeli authorities deemed the Abu Naab family squatting on a sacred property, which they said belonged to a religious Yemenite Jewish organisation many decades before.

Israeli pro-settler organisation Elad has been pursuing a tireless two-decade-long campaign to Judaise Silwan by buying up properties in the neighbourhood with the help of the Israeli authorities.

Under Netanyahu's leadership, Israel has led a dogged campaign of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the surrounding area in the West Bank, and now plans to absorb swaths of the Palestinian territory into Israel.

As part of Netanyahu's expansion plan, many Palestinians have been evicted from East Jerusalem or their homes demolished.

The source of much anger over the cultural centre is its expedited launch and vast funding in stark contrast to the stifling restrictions on Palestinian house-building and movement in East Jerusalem.

Israel is also seen to be determinedly preventing Palestinian culture and communities from thriving.

After Jerusalem was designated the Arab Capital of Culture in 2009 for example, Israel's security minister implemented a number of injunctions.

Israel has also banned scheduled Palestinian cultural events in in Jerusalem, Nazareth and in other parts of the Palestinian Territories.


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