More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in cities across Israel on Friday (6 August) for a day of solidarity marking the one-year anniversary of the eviction and settler take over of the Ghawi and Hanoun family homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.Around 700 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv, 100 in Haifa, 60 in Beersheva, 100 in Wadi Ara, 100 in Taibe, 100 in Kfar Yassif and around two-dozen in Ra’anana. Another 50 gathered in the unrecognized Arab village of Dahmash on the outskirts of Ramle, where at least 13 homes are slated for demolition, according to the Jerusalem Post. Demonstrators from around the country then boarded buses for Jerusalem and attended the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah.
A 2008 Jerusalem District Court ruling paved the way for the August 2009 evictions by stating that the Palestinian neighborhood is in fact part of the former Jewish neighborhood “Shimon Hatzadik” and belonged to the Sephardi Community Committee.
Since the home evictions of the Ghawi and Hanoun families, Sheikh Jarrah has become home to protests every Friday, attended by Palestinian, Israeli and international supporters and activists, calling for the return of the families to their homes.
The neighborhood has also come to symbolize the battle over the future status of East Jerusalem, as Palestinian communities fight discriminatory policies and decisions from the Jerusalem municipality.
Knesset Member Dov Khenin from the Hadash party attended the anniversary demonstration, noting that ‘struggle is intensifying, because people understand we are fighting here not just against the injustice suffered by the Palestinians in the neighborhood, but also for ourselves, for our future in this country. Because with a settlement in the heart of Arab east Jerusalem, we won’t be able to reach an arrangement of two states for two people. It’s a critical battle and more and more people are realizing that.’
Protestors marched through Sheikh Jarrah on Friday carrying signs reading, ‘Democracy stops in Sheik Jarrah.”
‘The problem is not just Sheikh Jarrah,’ said Sara Benninga, one of the demonstration’s organizers. ‘It repeats itself in other places across the country and stems from discrimination, inequality and racism, which are the foundation of these moves. I feel that compared to last year, we have made a great leap in the awareness of the injustice taking place here, and we have a lot of PR work to do in order to reach people. It’s a feeling of a beginning of something wonderful and brave.’
David Grossman, an award winning Israeli author, was one of the many known faces present at Friday’s protest. He described Israeli society as “stuck in a situation it created on its own, and is the victim of anxieties and lack of faith in change. It’s insulting to see how little we are capable of doing to help ourselves.”
‘The people, assuming there is such a thing, are apathetic and looking for an excuse not to do something,” he told the Israeli news daily Ynet. “In the face of this complete indifference, it’s refreshing and encouraging to see the amount of people willing to come here every Friday afternoon to protest, whether in the heat or in the rain.’