The Very Eye of the Storm
By Akiva Eldar
Jawad Siam pulled out a brochure issued by the Jerusalem municipality heralding development plans for his place of residence, the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem. He pointed to the map in the brochure, where the neighborhood’s streets were marked. “You see this, Hashiloah Road?” he asked. “All these years, it was called Ein Silwan Street. ‘Ma’alot Ir David’ Street? That was Wadi Helwa Street. The street next to it, ‘Malkitzedek,’ used to be Al-Mistar Street.”
From two small rooms, not far from the Old City walls, Siam and his colleagues in Silwan’s Ein Helwa neighborhood committee, as well as a small group of Jewish friends, are waging a tenacious struggle on one of the world’s most volatile battlefields. As he sees it, the “conversion” of the street names, the settling of Jews there with the encouragement of rightist organizations, and the municipality’s intention to demolish dozens of buildings in the neighborhood, are merely a prelude to an eventual transfer plan. The real goal, he believes, is the expulsion of Ein Helwa’s 5,000 residents, part of a goal of reducing the Palestinian presence in the area.