The Heart of Israel’s Heartland
One particularly hot flash point in Israeli-Palestinian relations is the East Jerusalem, Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Israel is planning to build an archeological park there—but before it can begin, it must demolish 88 Arab homes. Despite the fact that the homes were constructed illegally, this issue has evolved into a major talking point for America and the international community thanks largely to the blustery, misinformed, anti-Israel mainstream media.
During a visit to Jerusalem in March, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel for its park plans in Silwan, warning that the demolition of 88 homes would be “unhelpful” for the peace process. In recent months the entire Arab world, European governments, the European Union, Britain, the United Nations and the Vatican have all joined America in reprimanding Israel for its planned lawful destruction of 88 homes.
For years, Silwan has existed as a run-down, over-built, over-crowded neighborhood with narrow, trash-filled alleys. Some parts have no running water or electricity. Silwan’s Arab children have no playgrounds or sports fields, and have to play on the dirty streets. Their parents are poor and often unemployed.
For many, the message in Silwan is clear: that the Israeli government is responsible for these conditions, and now it wants to demolish 88 homes, displacing over a thousand Arabs. That innocent Palestinians are being persecuted and purged by angry and cruel Jews. That Israel is the uncompromising enemy of the Palestinians and the primary stumbling block to peace.
Reality and history tell a different story. First, Silwan is overcrowded and run down largely because of years of uncontrolled illegal Arab construction, often promoted and financed by the Palestinian Authority and its backers in Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Europe.
Second, and more fundamentally, Silwan encompasses a pocket of land that lies at the heart of Jewish history. Situated in the middle of Silwan, the City of David is the ancient site of the original city of Jerusalem, named after the legendary Jewish king responsible for transforming Jerusalem into the capital city of the ancient Israelites.
That’s why Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, wants to develop an archeological park in Silwan: to preserve this magnificent, irreplaceable history!
A look at the City of David reveals its inherent Jewishness. The famous Gihon Spring, situated in the Kidron Valley, is first referenced in Genesis 2, and was the primary water source for early Israelites settled in the City of David. In the 10th century B.C., David’s son Solomon was anointed king of Israel near the Gihon Spring. Then there’s Hezekiah’s tunnel, a 1,700-foot tunnel that tourists can walk through today, cut out of bedrock by the residents of the City of David to bring water inside the walls of Jerusalem in anticipation of an Assyrian siege (2 Chronicles 32). Even the name Silwan is derived from Siloam, the water pool discovered in 2004 in the southern part of the City of David, referred to by Christ in John 9 when He instructed a blind man to wash in the “pool of Siloam.”
Beyond these famous features, stunning archeological evidence continues to surface revealing the Jews’ glorious past in the City of David. In 2005, archaeologist Eilat Mazar uncovered a small section of what she thought might be King David’s royal palace during an excavation there. During the winter of 2006-07, Dr. Mazar’s speculation was confirmed when she uncovered a massive wall on the eastern side of the royal complex. In the same area, Mazar’s crew also discovered two clay seals (known as bullae) with names of biblical figures inscribed on them, adding further proof that the structure really is King David’s palace.
In November 2007, Dr. Mazar revealed that she had discovered Nehemiah’s wall, dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries
Many archeologists admit that these are spectacular finds. Each find is proof of the Jews’ historical connection to the City of David, as well as Judea and Samaria.
Considering Mazar’s amazing discoveries, one wonders what else lies beneath the earth in the City of David. The Old Testament says King David was buried in the City of David, more than likely somewhere within his palace (1 Kings 2:10). Might Dr. Mazar soon discover the tombs of Israeli kings? Archaeological evidence will continue to surface, proving the existence of King David’s empire, cementing the Jewish character of the City of David, and proving the Jews’ historic connection to Silwan.
America and the international community are strongly critical of Israel’s designs in Silwan. Just like on the settlement issue in Judea and Samaria, they are asking Israel to sever its connection with the city that is the essence of Jewish character!