August 2, 2013
The Fight for Jerusalem’s Past, and Futurehttp://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/08/the-fight-for-jerusalems-past-and-future.html
This week, with subdued, if earnest, cheer, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the restart of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Washington. The reaction was about as cynical as coverage of Liz Taylor’s seventh wedding—we’ve been invited to this affair before.
There are valid reasons for that attitude. The question of dividing or even sharing Jerusalem was one of the tripwires that took down peace negotiations in the past. It has never been resolved, and is now more complicated than ever. The history of the city—and its holiness—has always been the sticking point, but in recent years that history has evolved. Parcels of Jerusalem slated for return to Palestinians have become essential to the historical mythology of the city. Archeology is another weapon in the fight over territory.
That phenomenon is seen most clearly in East Jerusalem’s contested neighborhood of Silwan and a slightly smaller section of it known as Ir David, or City of David, which sits in the shadow of the Old City, across the road from the Dung Gate, the entrance to the Old City closest to the Temple Mount.
This was the Biblical core of Jerusalem, a Canaanite town later ruled by Judean kings. But the modern neighbors, above ground, are Palestinian. “Silwan is where Jerusalem was established,” says Yonathan Mizrachi, an archeologist with an organization called Emek Shaveh that protests the politicization of archeology. “What is Jerusalem without the beginning of Jerusalem?” That’s true enough, but in the intervening thousands of years the area has seen settlement by a half-dozen other peoples as well. And though Israelis point to a small group of Yemenite Jews who settled there at the end of the nineteenth century—and were protected by their Arab neighbors during riots in 1929—Silwan remained on the Jordanian side of the Green Line that divided Jerusalem in 1949.
That border meant Silwan was to be returned to the Palestinians under the peace plan negotiated by Bill Clinton at the end of his Presidency. The problem is that below and abutting the Palestinian residences is a massive archeological dig, also called the City of David....READ MORE
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