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Sheikh Jarrah

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Title: Sheikh Jarrah  
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Sheikh Jarrah

Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. In the background, the city center of Jerusalem.

Sheikh Jarrah (Arabic: الشيخ جراح‎, Hebrew: שייח' ג'ראח‎) is a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, 2 kilometers north of the Old City, on the road to Mount Scopus.[1][2] It received its name from the 13th-century tomb of Sheikh Jarrah, a physician of Saladin, located within its vicinity. The modern neighborhood was founded in 1865 and gradually became a residential center of Jerusalem's Muslim elite, particularly the al-Husayni family. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, it straddled the no-man's land area between Jordanian-held East Jerusalem and Israeli-held West Jerusalem until the neighborhood was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. It is currently the center of a number of property disputes between Palestinians and Israelis.


12th century–First establishment

Entrance to Sheikh Jarrah

The Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was originally a village named after Hussam al-Din al-Jarrahi, who lived in the 12th century and was an emir and the personal physician to Saladin, the military leader whose army liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Sheikh Hussam received the title jarrah (جراح), meaning "healer" or "surgeon" in Arabic.[3][4]

Sheikh Jarrah established a zawiya (literally "angle, corner", also meaning a small mosque or school), known as the Zawiya Jarrahiyya.[5] Sheikh Jarrah was buried on the grounds of the school. A tomb was built in 1201, which became a destination for worshippers and visitors. A two-story stone building incorporating a flour mill, Qasr el-Amawi, was built opposite the tomb in the 17th century.[6]

19th century–Development of Sheikh Jarrah

The neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah was established on the slopes of Mount Scopus, taking its name from the tomb of Sheikh Jarrah.[7] The initial residential construction works were commenced in 1865 by an important city notable, Rabah al-Husayni, who constructed a large manor among the olive groves near the Sheikh Jarrah tomb and outside the Damascus Gate. This action motivated many other Muslim notables from the Old City to migrate to the area and construct new homes,[8] including the Nashashibis, built homes in the upscale northern and eastern parts of the neighborhood. Sheikh Jarrah began to grow as a Muslim nucleus between the 1870s and 1890s.[6] Prayer at the Sheikh Jarrah tomb is said bring good luck, particularly for those who raise chickens and eggs.[9] It became the first Arab Muslim-majority neighborhood in Jerusalem to be built outside the walls of the Old City. In the western part, houses were smaller and more scattered.[6]

Because it was founded by Rabah al-Husayni whose home formed the nucleus of Sheikh Jarrah, the neighborhood was locally referred to as the "Husayni Neighborhood."[8] It gradually became a center for the notable [8]

Population around 1900

At the Ottoman census of 1905, the Sheikh Jarrah nahiya (sub-district) consisted of the Muslim quarters of Sheikh Jarrah, Hayy el-Husayni, Wadi el-Joz and Bab ez-Zahira, and the Jewish quarters of Shim'on Hatsadik and Nahalat Shim'on.[12] Its population was counted as 167 Muslim families (est. 1,250 people),[8] 97 Jewish families, and 6 Christian families.[12] It contained the largest concentration of Muslims outside the Old City.[12] Most of the Muslim population was born in Jerusalem, with 185 residents alone being members of the al-Husayni family.[8] A smaller number hailed from other parts of Palestine, namely Hebron, Jabal Nablus and Ramla, and from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, including Damascus, Beirut, Libya and Anatolia.[13] The Jewish population included Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Maghrebin while the Christians were mostly Protestants.[8] In 1918 the Sheikh Jarrah quarter of the Sheikh Jarrah nahiya contained about 30 houses.[6]

Jordanian and Israeli control

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, 14 April, 78 Jews, mostly doctors and nurses, were killed on their way to Hadassah Hospital when their convoy was attacked by Arab forces as it passed through Sheikh Jarrah, the main road to Mount Scopus. In the wake of these hostilities, Mount Scopus was cut off from West Jerusalem.[14] On 24 April the Haganah launched an attack on Sheikh Jarrah as part of Operation Yevusi but they were forced to retreat after action by the British Army. From 1948, Sheikh Jarrah was on the edge of a UN-patrolled no-man's land between West Jerusalem and the Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus. A wall stretched from Sheikh Jarrah to Mandelbaum Gate, dividing the city.[15] In 1956, the Jordanian government moved 28 Palestinian families into Sheikh Jarrah who were displaced from their homes in Israeli-held Jerusalem during the 1948 War.[16] As permanent ownership transfer was illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the area was placed under the jurisdiction of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.[17]

During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah. In 1972, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Yisrael Committee went to court to reclaim their property in the neighborhood. In 1982, they demanded rent for this property and the Supreme Court of Israel ruled in their favor. The tenants were allowed to remain as long as they paid rent.[17]

Consulates and diplomatic missions

In the 1960s, many [19]

Tony Blair, envoy of the Diplomatic Quartet, stays at the American Colony Hotel when visiting the region.[20]


The neighbourhood's main street, Nablus Road, was previously part of route 60. In the 1990s a new dual carriageway with 2 lanes in each direction and a separate bus lane was built west of the neighborhood. Tracks were laid in the busway which since 2010 form the Red Line of the Jerusalem Light Rail.[21]

Property disputes

Tomb of Simon the Just, 1900

Jewish groups have sought to gain property in Sheikh Jarrah that they say were once owned by Jews, including the Shepherd Hotel compound, the Mufti's Vineyard, the building of the el-Ma'amuniya school, the Simeon the Just/Shimon HaTzadik compound, and the Nahlat Shimon neighborhood.

In 2001, Israeli settlers moved into a sealed section of the al-Kurd family's house and refused to leave, claiming the property was owned by Jews.[22] In 2008, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Shimon Hatzadik property belonged to the Sephardi Community Committee. The Arab families had protected tenant status as long as they paid rent but several families refused to pay, ending in their eviction. The al-Kurds were evicted in November 2008. Muhammad al-Kurd, the head of the family, died eleven days later. The court ruling was based on an Ottoman-era bill of sale whose authenticity was challenged in 2009 on the grounds that the building had only been rented to the Sephardi group.[23] Fawzieh al-Kurd continued to protest the eviction, moving into an encampment in East Jerusalem.[22][24]

Lawyers for the Jewish families argued that documents from the Ottoman Empire originally used to prove that a Jewish Sephardic organization had purchased the land in question in the 19th century are indeed valid, while Palestinian lawyers brought with them documents from Istanbul's Ottoman archives indicating that the Jewish organization that claims to own the land only rented it, and as such was not the rightful owner, the Kurd family claims that when they pressed the court to look at the new evidence, they were told "it's too late".[25] Moreover, the Palestinian families and their supporters maintained that Ottoman documents that Israel's Supreme Court had validated were in fact forgeries, and that the original ruling and therefore evictions relating to that ruling should be reversed.[26][27] The lawyer for the Israeli families emphasized that the land deeds were authentic, according to many Israeli courts[25] The Israeli court decision (resulting in the aforementioned evictions) stated that the document presented by the Palestinian families was a forgery, while the document of Jewish ownership was authentic.[28]

In August 2009, the court evicted the al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi families from two homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Jewish families moved in based on a Supreme Court ruling that the property was owned by Jews. The United Nations coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry condemned the decision: "These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace."[29] The US State Department called it a violation of Israel's obligations under the Road map for peace.[30] Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said "Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep."[29] Yakir Segev of the Jerusalem municipal council responded: "This is a matter of the court. It is a civil dispute between Palestinian families and those of Israeli settlers, regarding who is the rightful owner of this property... Israeli law is the only law we are obliged to obey."[31]

Sheikh Jarrah demonstration against eviction of Palestinians families, August 2010


Shrines and tombs

Tomb of the Kings

The Jewish presence in Sheikh Jarrah centered around the Tomb of the Kings.

St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital

The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital is an institution of The Order of St John that provides eye care in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Patients receive care regardless of race, religion or ability to pay.[33] The hospital first opened in 1882 on Hebron Road opposite Mount Zion.[34] The building in Sheikh Jarrah opened in 1960 on Nashashibi Street.

St. Joseph's French Hospital

The St. Joseph's French Hospital is situated across the street from St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital and is run by a French Catholic charity. It is a 73-bed hospital with three main operating theaters, coronary care unit, X-ray, laboratory facilities, and outpatient clinic. Facilities in internal medicine, surgery, neurosurgery, E.N.T., pediatric surgery and orthopedics.[35]

Shepherd Hotel

Aerial view of Shepherd Hotel, 1933
Demolition of Shepherd Hotel, January 2011

The Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah was originally a villa built for the Evelyn Barker. In 1947, the Jewish underground Irgun blew up a house nearby. Antonius left the house, and a regiment of Scottish Highlanders was stationed there.[36] After the 1948 war, it was taken over by the Jordanian authorities and turned into a pilgrim hotel. In 1985, it was bought by the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz and continued to operate as a hotel, renamed the Shefer Hotel. The Israeli border police used it as base for several years.[36] In 2007, when Moskowitz initiated plans to build 122 apartments on the site of the hotel, the work was condemned by the British government.[37] In 2009 the plan was modified, but was still condemned by the U.S. and U.K. governments,[38] Permission to build 20 apartments near the hotel was given in 2009, and formal approval was announced by the Jerusalem municipality on March 23, 2010, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama.[39] The Haaretz reported that, "an existing structure in the area will be torn down to make room for the housing units, while the historic Shepherd Hotel will remain intact. A three-story parking structure and an access road will also be constructed on site."[40] The hotel was finally demolished on January 9, 2011.[41]


Sheikh Jarrah is the subject of the 2012 documentary My Neighbourhood, co-directed by Julia Bacha and Rebekah Wingert-Jabi and co-produced by Just Vision and Al Jazeerah.

Notable residents


  1. ^ Zirulnick, Ariel. Bryant, Christa Case. Five controversial Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem Christian Science Monitor. 10 January 2011
  2. ^ Medding, Shira. Khadder, Kareem. Jerusalem committee OKs controversial construction plan CNN 07 February 2011
  3. ^ The Sheikh Jarrah Affair: The Strategic Implications of Jewish Settlement in an Arab Neighborhood in East Jerusalem, JIIS Studies Series no. 404, 2010. Yitzhak Reiter and Lior Lehrs, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. On [1]
  4. ^ Marim Shahin (2005). Palestine: A Guide. Interlink Books. pp. 328–329.  
  5. ^ Hawari, Mahmoud (2007). Ayyubid Jerusalem (1187-1250): an architectural and archaeological study (Illustrated ed.). Archaeopress.  
  6. ^ a b c d Ruth Kark and Shimon Landman, The establishment of Muslim neighbourhoods outside the Old City during the late Ottoman period, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, vol 112, 1980, pp 113–135.
  7. ^ Oesterreicher, John M.; Sinai, Anne (1974). Jerusalem (Illustrated ed.). John Day. p. 22.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Bussow, 2011, pp. 160-161.
  9. ^ a b Winter, Dave (1999). Israel handbook: with the Palestinian Authority areas (2nd, illustrated ed.). Footprint Travel Guides. p. 189.  
  10. ^ Bussow, 2011, p. 163.
  11. ^ Ma'oz, Moshe;  
  12. ^ a b c Adar Arnon, The quarters of Jerusalem in the Ottoman period, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 28, 1992, pp 1–65.
  13. ^ Bussow, 2011, p. 162.
  14. ^ Shragai, Nadav (2009-07-27). "The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood".  
  15. ^ Kai Bird's 'Gate': One Foot In Israel, One In Palestine
  16. ^ Lidman, Melanie; Izenberg, Dan (29 September 2010). "Sheikh Jarrah Palestinians fear new evictions".  
  17. ^ a b Phillips, Melanie (2009-08-04). "'"The British decide that Israeli law is 'unacceptable.  
  18. ^ United Kingdom - Consulate General in Jerusalem - Our offices in Jerusalem, retrieved 2011-01-23 
  19. ^ List of embassies and consulates in Israel, retrieved 2009-11-07 
  20. ^ The Englishwoman who ran an oasis in the heart of the conflict - Haaretz - Israel News
  21. ^ "The Jerusalem Light Rail Map", Citypass, retrieved 2009-11-08 
  22. ^ a b Elder, Akiva (2008-07-27). "U.S. protests eviction of Arab family from East Jerusalem home".  
  23. ^ Levy, Gideon (2008-12-27). "Twilight Zone / Non-Jews need not apply".  
  24. ^ Hasson, Nir (2009-03-19). "Turkish documents prove Arabs own E. Jerusalem building".  
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b Palestinians evicted in Jerusalem BBC News. 2009-08-02.
  30. ^ 50 Palestinians evicted from Jerusalem homes Israeli police then allowed Jewish settlers to move into the houses MSNBC. 2009-08-02.
  31. ^ East Jerusalem evictions condemned Al-Jazeera English. Al-Jazeera and Agencies. 2009-08-02.
  32. ^ Jerusalem Issue Briefs
  33. ^ "St John Eye Hospital – Improving Sight, Changing Lives". Retrieved January 23, 2011. 
  34. ^  
  35. ^ BioJerusalem - Hospital database
  36. ^ a b c File of old letters and photos shows Shepherd Hotel is no stranger to scandal
  37. ^ Britain protests to Olmert about illegal settlement Donald Macintyre, The Independent, May 5, 2007
  38. ^ Israel's evictions upset even its friends, Ian Black, The Guardian, August 4, 2009
  39. ^ New East Jerusalem homes approved hours before Netanyahu-Obama meet, Nir Hasson, Haaretz, March 23, 2010.
  40. ^ Israel to U.S.: Latest East Jerusalem building okayed last year, Nir Hasson, Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies, Haaretz, March 24, 2010
  41. ^ Matthew Lee (Jan 9, 2010). "Clinton slams Israeli demolition of historic hotel".  


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