Why Jerusalem's Real Estate Market Is Part Of The Mideast Conflict
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The golden dome above Jerusalem's old city marks the hilltop holy to both Muslims and Jews. The battle to control it has sparked recent violence. And as NPR's Emily Harris reports, the real estate on the slopes below is also part of the fight.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Who is it?
DANIEL LURIA: Daniel Luria, Ateret Cohanim.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Daniel Luria, with the Jewish settler group Ateret Cohanim, knocks at a house in Silwan, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood below Jerusalem's old, walled city.
At Luria's knock, a grated window pops open - then, after a few moments, the door. Armed security guards and Israeli police are inside. From a small balcony decorated with the Israeli flag, Luria points right toward the golden dome on the hill where Jewish holy temples once stood.
LURIA: There's the Temple Mount, the walls of the Old City.
HARRIS: Across the valley are ruins of an even older city where the venerated Jewish King David once ruled.
LURIA: The whole of the City of David in one swoop of the eye.
HARRIS: And to the left, a site Luria says was the garden of David's son, Solomon.
LURIA: He planted every conceivable tree here. He writes about it in Song of Songs.
HARRIS: Luria says the Jewish investors who bought this place from Palestinian owners will earn an ideological, more than a financial, return. A Jewish person today can own a piece of the rock, he says.
LURIA: His grandparents could only put money in some little charity box. Maybe it would get to Israel. His great-grandparents could maybe dream about, oh, l'shana haba, next year in Jerusalem. Today, Jews around the world, you can buy back Jerusalem.
HARRIS: Several hundred Jewish Israelis already live in Silwan. But tensions flared when settler organizations turned up overnight in nine properties recently. Across the valley lives a Palestinian woman whose brother sold.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).
HARRIS: Three of the five apartments in this family home are now occupied by armed Jewish men. But Palestinian Izdihar En-Natsheh still lives in hers.
IZDIHAR EN-NATSHEH: (Foreign language spoken).
HARRIS: The middle-aged grandmother says, her brother insists he sold to a Palestinian. The brother tells us later he thought the house would be used by Muslims visiting Islam's holiest site in Jerusalem, by that golden dome on the same hill as the Jewish holy site. Still, En-Natsheh says she is furious.
EN-NATSHEH: (Through translator). The whole village is talking about us. Even they're talking about me and talking about others in the family that had nothing to do with the sale. The whole village is cursing the whole family.
HARRIS: Just as we're talking, dozens of armed guards show up outside. They are with Israel's minister of public security, who's invited Israeli media to watch him visit the now Israeli-owned apartments.
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HARRIS: En-Natsheh confronts the minister, telling him that the new Jewish occupants are raising tensions in her neighborhood.
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EN-NATSHEH: (Foreign language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED MAN#3: (Foreign language spoken).
HARRIS: The minister says, the houses were legally bought and moves on. But Palestinian activist Jawad Siyam says, this isn't a place of regular real estate deals. Siyam says, Palestinian aspirations for independence suffer when individual Palestinians sell and Jewish groups stake their claim.
JAWAD SIYAM: They don't come to live next to you to be your neighbor. They want to make Jewish majority here. So it's not about being neighbors. It's not about the right to buy wherever they want. It's - it's Jerusalem. It's about the future of Palestinian state.
HARRIS: By East Jerusalem he means the part of the city that was under Arab rule until Israel captured it in the 1967 war. Palestinians say it will be their capital someday. Israel says all Jerusalem is its capital and cannot be divided. If the holy sites on the hilltop are the fuse for recent violence in this city, the Silwan valley below is almost as incendiary, says Israeli Daniel Seidemann, a leading opponent of Jewish settlement in Silwan.
DANIEL SEIDEMANN: This is literally where the tectonic plates of Israel and Palestine, Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet.
HARRIS: Rising tensions in this neighborhood feed fears, he says, that the larger conflict is only heating up. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.