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A Beacon amidst the Darkness

The Story of a Besieged City

By H.E. Fadi Al-Hidmi,
Minister of Jerusalem Affairs

In the tumultuous days of 1967, East Jerusalem became an occupied city, forever altering the contours of the Palestinian territories. Over time, Jerusalem’s transformation has been marked not by advancement but by a troubling regression. The city we knew and cherished has been eroding away before our eyes, and every year is more challenging than the previous one. The past few years, in particular, have seen the greatest hardships for the city’s people, structures, and flora.For over half a century, Israel, as the occupying power, has relentlessly pushed towards a future where East Jerusalem becomes a homogenous Jewish city, erasing the rich tapestry of its diverse past. At best, the Palestinian neighborhoods risk becoming isolated islands in a sea of burgeoning settlements. We see the stark reality of apartheid casting its ominous shadow over a city globally revered as the Holy Land.Israel’s actions in Jerusalem encompass a broad spectrum of violations, including land seizure, settlement construction, home demolitions, forced evictions favoring settlers, and more. The misuse of power extends to suppressive arrests during protests, tax prosecutions, targeted disruptions of cultural, economic, social, and sports activities, institutional closures, and discriminatory laws to impede family reunification. These actions also impinge on religious freedoms and threaten the historical status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christian holy sites.In light of these transgressions, the Israeli government continues to threaten residents with more aggressive policies, which, if executed, could potentially constitute war crimes. Around 150 families currently face the imminent threat of forcible eviction, while more than 20,000 apartments are under threat of demolition. Meanwhile, Israeli settlements continue to proliferate on confiscated land.The unjust policies that Israel has enacted since 1967 have resulted in a significant increase in the density of Palestinian neighborhoods, with only 13 percent of the city’s area being allocated for Palestinian construction. The settlements have insidiously infiltrated our residential spaces in Al-Sawana, Jabal al-Mukaber, Ras al-Amud, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, the Old City, and others.
The hustle and bustle in the streets of Al-Quds. Photo by Ahed Izhiman.

Israel’s policies have, in effect, forced many Palestinians to relocate to neighborhoods isolated from the city center by the apartheid wall and Israeli checkpoints. The city’s youth, despite constituting a significant portion of the Palestinian population, are increasingly unable to sustain their lives in Jerusalem due to escalating housing costs and scarcity of land, coupled with the prohibitive cost and difficulties in obtaining building permits.

This is not mere rhetoric but a stark portrayal of the reality endured by Jerusalemites, substantiated by the numbers. Approximately 375,000 Palestinians reside in occupied East Jerusalem, with over 120,000 living in neighborhoods isolated by the apartheid wall. The occupying power has revoked the residency of more than 1,408 Palestinians since 1967. Seventy-five percent of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line, with 86 percent of Palestinian children falling into the same category.

In the midst of this darkness, we seek to ignite a beacon of hope. With a resilient team and consultation from local, regional, and international institutions, various sectors, and personalities in Jerusalem, we at the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs have crafted an ambitious development plan. This includes a catalog of immediately implementable projects in sectors such as health, education, housing, tourism, culture, youth, and women.

Our aim through this unprecedented plan is to effect tangible changes, improving the daily lives of Jerusalemites. We strive to fortify the resolve of Jerusalemites by bolstering youth, women’s, cultural, economic, and social institutions. At the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, we firmly believe in human development as an essential facet of preserving the city and its identity. This includes investing in human potential and revitalizing sectors such as women and youth.

Taking a nap under the walls of Al-Quds. Photo by Ahed Izhiman.

We are committed to creating opportunities for sustainable development within the city. This involves nurturing cultural, social, health, and educational incubators and honing their skills and professionalism to preserve the Palestinian Arab identity.

The Jerusalem Conference back in February at the League of Arab States in Cairo shaped and reiterated the development and political needs in Jerusalem. In recent times, and following up on the Cairo conference, I have had the opportunity to visit Doha, the Qatari capital, to discuss the implementation of these projects. The preliminary responses have been positive, and I assure you that I will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of financing and investment for these projects.

Inhumane conditions at checkpoints. Photo by Ahed Izhiman.

However, we are under no illusions. We do not claim to possess a magic solution to alter the current circumstances. The ultimate solution lies in bringing an end to the Israeli occupation that began 56 years ago.

  • Born in Jerusalem in 1977, Fadi Al-Hidmi is a Palestinian politician and economist with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the American University in Cairo and a master’s degree in management and the implementation of development projects from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology in the United Kingdom. Since 2019, he has held the position of Minister of Jerusalem Affairs within the government of Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh. He has previously served as Director-General of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is an active member of many social and voluntary committees in Jerusalem.

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