An ongoing battle in Jerusalem..The murals of “Sheikh Jarrah” set a record in painting, distortion and restoration
“The occupation found that its battle was lost in the neighborhood with the formation of public opinion and a global rally around the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and their cause, and the settlers thought that by distorting the murals they would conquer us.”
Occupied Jerusalem- After the end of the last aggression on the Gaza Strip last May, the supporters of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem decided to decorate it with murals indicating steadfastness and rejection of the policy of forced displacement.
At that time, the solidarity activists drew a map of Palestine and wrote around it, “Welcome to the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah Al-Samed,” and wrote the names of the 28 families who live in the al-Jaouni vineyard inside the cactus plant that was painted on one of the neighborhood’s walls, in addition to the phrase “Here we are staying.”
These murals angered the settlers living in the neighborhood since they took over the homes of the Palestinians there by force. With the help of the municipality crews, these murals were obliterated, but their obliteration did not last long after the solidarity activists decided to replace them with banners that carried the same content, and installed them on the walls of the neighborhood.
Later, the solidarity activists painted additional murals in the neighborhood, a large part of which is located inside the courtyard of the al-Kurd family, who is threatened with displacement, and whose settlers have taken over half of their house, and they deformed these murals 4 times in the last week only.
Solidarity Jerusalemite Ramzi al-Abbasi spoke to Al Jazeera Net about his relationship with this neighborhood and its murals, and his insistence on being in it despite the harassment and persecution.
He said that since the launch of the global electronic campaign to save the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, he began organizing guided tours to introduce Jerusalemites to the neighborhood and the stories of its residents, and this resulted in contributing to the organization of various activities such as painting murals, cleaning and decorating the orchards of homes, and organizing legal seminars to introduce visitors to the legal status of the residents, and other events .
Emotional affiliation with the place
With constant hesitation, Ramzy felt that he belonged to this place emotionally, which prompted him to participate in all its activities, including painting murals, and rushing to restore them every time extremists deface them.
He says, “When the murals were obliterated for the first time, we installed banners that were ready within 4 hours. We resumed painting them secretly so that they would not be obliterated again. Later, the murals were expanded to include the walls of the Kurdish family yard.”
He asserts that the targeting of the new murals began in particular after the speech delivered by Muhammad al-Kurd before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, as “the occupation found that its battle was lost in the neighborhood with the formation of public opinion and a global rally around the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and their cause, and the settlers thought that by distorting the murals they would conquer us.”
When asked about his insistence on participating in the restoration work of the murals every time, Ramzy replied, “We have reached certain achievements that must be preserved, and we will not allow the other party to achieve any victory over us. The murals were the action and distorted the reaction, and restoring them is a duty to preserve our position as creative and forerunners for a while. Achieving the greatest goal, which is to preserve the neighborhood’s homes and residents from forced displacement.”
The messages of the murals terrify them
The young Jerusalemite Shaden Qos, 19, is studying law at Bir Zeit University, but she practices free drawing as a hobby. She was one of the first to draw on the walls of the neighborhoods of Silwan, which are threatened with displacement, and Sheikh Jarrah.
Concerning the content of the murals, she said, “Everything we painted was by a spontaneous collective agreement. We go to the neighborhood and discuss and then decorate the walls with our arms and hearts that believe in the justice of Sheikh Jarrah’s cause.”
Shaden painted a mural, “No to a new catastrophe in the units of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan”, and placed inside it the number of Jerusalemites who are threatened with displacement, amounting to 7850. Despite the extremists’ distortion of the murals, which continued for hours, this did not push this young woman to despair, but rather to insist on restoring the drawings.
She says, “Art is a tool of resistance, and the murals carried clear messages that we will not allow a new catastrophe in the neighborhood, and the settlers are naturally bothered by these messages. They will continue to target them and we will continue to deliver them.”
Elderly Nabil El-Kurd and his family documented the deformation of the murals in the yard of their house, and submitted videos documenting the identity of the aggressors on the murals, but the Israeli police were not held accountable or summoned any of them.
He says sarcastically, “The surveillance cameras are false, and our phones are as well.”
As for what the solidarity donation to restore the murals means to him after hours of distorting them, the Kurds affirmed that solidarity with them relieves them of the pressure and tension they are experiencing in the neighborhood, and reassures him that the people are able to rise from under the rubble every time the homeland calls them and its fateful issues in it.
Saleh Diab, who also lives in the neighborhood, participated in the drawing and restoration of murals with the solidarity activists. He said that what pleased the Palestinians from outside the neighborhood to take pictures with the phrases “Here we will stay”, “We will not leave”, and “No to a new catastrophe.”
Diab confirmed – in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – that these murals have become an integral part of the struggle of the people of the neighborhood against attempts to forcibly displace them from a strategic and sensitive location in Jerusalem.