Jews have seen Jerusalem as their rightful home for millenniums, and the City of David – believed to be the stomping grounds of the biblical King David – is at the heart of this longing for home. Nestled in the shadow of the Old City walls, the area includes an archaeological tourist site, additional excavation projects under way, a number of heavily guarded Israeli Jewish homes, and 40,000 Palestinians who refer to the larger neighborhood as Silwan.
Silwan is also home to a controversial building occupied by Israeli Jews and known as Beit Yohonatan, or House of Jonathan, a seven-story structure that was built illegally and is slated for demolition.
Under a broader plan to broaden Jerusalem’s appeal to tourists – currently it receives only a tiny fraction of the visitors who go to Paris or New York every year – the city’s mayor has advanced plans to build an archaeological park in Silwan known as King’s Garden. Mayor Nir Barkat has billed the project as a way to increase the prosperity of local Palestinians and improve the neighborhood, where public services such as sewage and roads have long been neglected.
But it has drawn the ire of locals because it involves the demolition of 22 illegally built homes and is seen as driving a wedge between the Old City and the West Bank, complicating plans for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and cutting off Palestinians from sites sacred to them as Muslims and Christians.