The fear of escalation in east Jerusalem has led to a rare show of unity between Jewish and Arab residents of the neghborhood of Silwan.
David Be'eri, the head of the Elad association, which runs the City of David archaeological excavations in Silwan, met on Thursday with Hassan Siam, one of the village's Arab leaders (mukhtar), to discuss growing concerns over the ramifications of a scheduled march by a group of extreme rightists in the neighborhood on Sunday.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the extreme rightists who organized the march, said Wednesday, "We expect those upholders of the rule of law who have worked to seal off Beit Yonatan to march with us and demand the enforcement of the rule of law where it applies to the razing of 216 illegal Arab homes in the village."
Be'eri, who called for the march's cancellation, said during the meeting, "We've lived here for 20 years and have succeeded in sustaining a peaceful atmosphere, but lately right-wing elements, as well as leftist organizations, have been looking to ignite this sensitive neighborhood."
Be'eri and Siam meet (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Siam added, "We are all human beings living side by side, and any attempts by the Right or Left to ignite the area will be futile. I have no problem with Jewish construction on land that is owned by Jews. I call on the rightists to reconsider the decision to march. They can leave (the examination of Arab construction) to the authorized agencies or do it from afar."
Silwan resident Jawad Siam, who is related to the mukhtar, said, "He represents a small group. Most of the residents are against the quiet takeover by the Jews here.
"The difference between (the Elad organization) and (extreme rightist) Baruch Marzel is that the latter is at least honest and tells us openly, 'We don't want you here'. Elad tries to slowly purchase more and more land," he said.
Left-wing activist Raanan Alexendrovich said Elad's goal was to "Judaize" Silwan. "They purchase homes so that at the end of the process the Arabs will leave and many Jewish families will take their place," he said.
Addressing claims of illegal Arab construction in the neighborhood, Alexendrovich said, "The (Jerusalem Municipality) favors construction in west Jerusalem, so the residents here have no choice but to operate outside the law."
Ben-Gvir said of the meeting between Be'eri and Siam, 'I'm glad that because of us peace has been restored in Jerusalem. As opposed to our dear friends at Elad, we do not believe in co-existence with the enemies, who only yesterday threw a Molotov cocktail and tried to hurt Jews."
Meanwhile, Beit Yonatan resident Rabbi Yoel Danenberg demanded Thursday that Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police chief Dudi Cohen call off the rightist rally.
"The march may compromise the public's security to the point of actual bloodshed, which may even continue for many days," the rabbi said in his plea.
"This feeling is based on my close familiarity with the reality of life in the neighborhood," he said.