By Layali Eid
JERUSALEM, Tuesday, February 8, 2022 (WAFA) - For more than 30 years, Nayef Kiswani has owned an electrical appliances shop in the industrial area of Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
Yesterday, Kiswani, along with dozens of other Palestinian shop owners in Wadi al-Joz, was surprised when he came in the morning to open his shop for business, as he has been doing for decades, to see an eviction notice from the Israeli occupation authorities glued on the door of his shop.
About 100 businesses have received eviction and demolition notices in the industrial zone in Wadi al-Joz in the center of occupied Jerusalem, which is considered the economic hub of East Jerusalem. Dozens of car repair and parts shops, stores for selling building material, restaurants, groceries, bakeries, and all sorts of shops and offices are located along the industrial zone street in the neighborhood.
"I have owned the electrical appliances shop in the industrial area of Wadi al-Joz for more than 30 years,” Kiswani told WAFA. “I was surprised yesterday to see an eviction notice from the Israeli municipality hung on the door of my store, and the same on the doors of 100 stores in the area. These orders pave the way for the establishment of settlement projects in our neighborhood and the abolition of the Palestinian presence in the occupied future capital of Palestine.”
The orders to evacuate and demolish the businesses are the beginning of plans to implement what has been referred to as “Silicon Valley”, or in Arabic Wadi al-Silicon, project on the ruins of these stores that have existed for decades. The project was put forward by the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem in mid-2020 as part of a 5-year government initiative worth 2.1 billion Israeli shekels (around $66 million), over 200,000 square meters of land for high-tech companies, hotels and various commercial spaces, according to the scheme announced at the time.
Khalil Tafakji, director of the maps department at the Arab Studies Society, told WAFA that the Israeli occupation "is trying to convey a message to the whole world that Jerusalem is indivisible and is the capital of the state of Israel. Linking East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem intends to reach the strategic goal that Jerusalem is indivisible, rather it is completely under the Israeli authority, while the Palestinian presence in it is reduced to the minimum."
The neighborhood faces a number of challenges, most notably the "masterplan for Jerusalem" approved by the Building and Planning Committee in the Israeli municipality in June 2009, which aims to expand the settlements in occupied Jerusalem at the expense of the Palestinian presence there.
Among the items of this plan are the elimination of the vegetable market located in the neighborhood, seizure of lands, and the construction of a hotel on the ruins of the Palestinian property.
In the middle of last year, the "Silicon Valley" project was proposed to intensify the Israeli presence in occupied East Jerusalem and to integrate the Jerusalem labor force into the Israeli work system so that the area would be transformed in the name from Wadi al-Joz, with Palestinian landmarks, to Wadi al-Silicon, with Israeli colonial landmarks, which is clearly ethnic cleansing at all levels.
On November 2, 2020, the Building and Planning Committee in the municipality approved a masterplan entitled “Development of Wadi al-Joz,” which includes the demolition of 200 Palestinian facilities, the appropriation of 200,000 square meters of land, and the transfer of tenants and shop owners to other areas such as Isawiyya and Umm Tuba on the outskirts of the city while transforming the area into an Israeli industrial, touristic and commercial area with a new transportation system that focuses on tracks for bicycles and pedestrians, a light rail, and a park.
Wadi al-Joz neighborhood is located to the north of the northeastern corner of the Old City of Jerusalem and next to Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where ethnic cleansing plans are also underway there in favor of settlement groups. Some say it Wadi al-Joz got its name because of the walnut (joz in Arabic) trees that grow there, some of which still exist today. Palestinian historian Aref al-Arif mentioned in one of his books that the name goes back to the presence of the tomb of Sheikh Mohammad bin Abi al-Joz in the neighborhood. In 1870, the Hidmi family moved out of the old city and built their homes in Wadi al-Joz, which was the start of the currently vibrant neighborhood.