Their community has become one with streets full of stones, cars with broken windows, and the smell of “skunk water” used by the police.
The families shared their story with the group of Christian clergy, organizational leaders, lay people, and representatives from the Jerusalem Inter-Church Center in Jerusalem and WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
After a series of appeals by settlers’ organizations to evict the families, the court gave the lawyers of both parties until 6 May to reach an agreement and, if not, the decision was supposed to be made by the court on 13 May—a decision that was postponed due to the escalation of protests and clashes in Jerusalem.
The WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (WCC-EAPPI) first accompanied this community in 2009, when the eviction of four families took place. Since 2016, WCC-EAPPI has conducted 11 meetings, 18 protective presence activities, 15 family visits, two delegation visits and 138 activities of supporting nonviolent action.
Now families face harassment nearly daily from the settlers and the Israeli security forces, with several detentions and injuries due to the use of force. These have intensified significantly over the past month.
On 14 May, the 50-person Christian delegation approached the new flying checkpoint at the entrance to the street and were barred from entering by the border patrol police. After 10 minutes, clergy eventually managed to get permission to pass through, along with WCC-EAPPI representatives.
After warm greetings from the family members, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, voiced greetings for the Fitr feast and unequivocal support.
“We are not saying that we are in solidarity with you—but to support you because, as Christians, we are not outsiders. We are not a minority in Palestine; we are part of this community!”
Bishop Dr Munib Younan, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, reflected that we are living at the moment in a very difficult time, and the whole world has closed its eyes to this racism taking place. “The case of Sheikh Jarrah is not a legal case but a political one,” he said. “It is the case of Jerusalem as a whole, the case of Palestine and every Palestinian.”
Younan added: “I have been evicted once from Be’er Sheva and will not be evicted again. And I say it to you, people of Sheikh Jarrah, you have been evicted once and you will not be evicted again. Your case is our case and we are supporting you, Eid Mubarak.”
The meeting in Sheikh Jarrah was organized by Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
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Patriarch of Jerusalem condemns violence practiced against civilians in East Jerusalem (WCC press release of 14 May 2021)
WCC laments “precious lives lost,” abhors violence affecting places of worship in Holy Land (WCC press release of 12 May 2021)
WCC expresses solidarity, concern for Muslims observing Eid al-Fitr (WCC press release of 12 May 2021)