The head of the Construction Supervision Department in the Jerusalem Municipality admits that the city does not enforce building laws in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan because of “fears of violence.”
“For reasons of security limitations,” wrote Ophir May in response to a query on the topic, “I am not able to maintain effective law enforcement in the Silwan [Shiloach] neighborhood, and therefore many construction violations there are not dealt with.”
Silwan, consisting of hundreds of Arab homes built illegally over the last several decades, is also home to Beit Yehonatan – a Jewish-owned building that exceeds the accepted height limit in the area by one and a half stories. Outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz demanded last month that the building be razed, as did State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, however, is resisting their prodding in order to find a blanket solution for the problem of illegal construction in the entire neighborhood.
“Every patrol in the neighborhood leads to rioting, rock-throwing and disturbances,” May wrote, explaining why zoning laws are not enforced there.
Border Police in Silwan after a violent incident last year / Israel news photo: Flash 90