Silwan Residents Unimpressed by 'King Who Walked Around 3,000 Years Ago'

Hardly a day passes in Silwan without stones being thrown at vehicles carrying settlers, tourists and even journalists.

But Monday's approval by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee of a plan for a tourist park in the East Jerusalem neighborhood could lead its beleaguered residents into even deeper frustration. "With this decision, the mayor and committee placed this final nail in the coffin of coexistence," said Fahri Abu Diab, head of the residents committee in the Al-Bustan neighborhood where the park is slated to be built. "They're pushing us into the abyss."

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his staff have said the demolition of 22 neighborhood homes included in the plan will benefit area residents, as it allows 66 other homes built without permits to slip under the radar. The plan stipulates that all homes west of the neighborhood's narrow main drag will be demolished, and all those east of it spared.

The odds of the plan being realized look exceedingly slim at the moment, given the sharp international criticism it has engendered. "If they change their minds it will be because of international pressure and no other reason. That's when we'll know that the municipality is our enemy," Abu Diab said.

No one in the neighborhood denies that the homes were build illegally, but say they had no choice given that the city refused to grant them building permits. "They say we captured this land and took control of it, but it's clear to the entire world just who did the conquering and who was conquered. I didn't capture anything or take control over anyone. My home is supposed to protect me and my children from the sun and the cold," said resident Murad Shafa.

Shafa said he has nothing against Barkat, the prime minister or Jews in general. "But I do have something against the man who wants to destroy me and my home, to steal my land and create a park here for a king who walked around here 3,000 years ago," he said. "Our home isn't just stones, it's our dreams, memories, the place where my kids live - where they play, where they learn. What good will a garden do me? I don't want anything, just a home I can sit in peacefully and teach my children in."