Ir Amim web site

Message from Yudith Oppenheimer, Executive Director of Ir Amim

Dear Friends:

Let’s talk about life for a moment, about how we can live in this city. Let us set aside for now the differences of opinion on sovereignty and eternity and talk for a moment about this moment, in which we can still steer matters to their semi-sane course, and can still safeguard with gritted teeth the fragile, imperfect, problematic reality in which we were living until a few days ago. It is difficult to believe, but we may yet miss this reality as a yearned-for island of near-normalcy that we have lost for some time.

Let us make no mistake. Even if in a week, two weeks, a month, a year, the concrete barriers are removed that are now blocking the entrances and exits of the Palestinian neighborhoods and separating them from their Jewish neighbors and from the city that is their only home – we will no longer be able to erase the stinging memory of the concrete barriers that we set up between us and them, which turned their home in the heart of the city into a series of shunned and isolated ghettoes. These walls have already built unseen fences of hatred and will continue to live in our midst as a malignant poison. And where we have built walls, we will have to build even higher and higher walls. After all, a decade ago we already built a barrier and turned eight Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem into enclosures of humiliation and poverty, and rendered their residents displaced in their own city. Now we are building a barrier between one barrier and another, and between these barriers and the barriers to come, and in the end we will know only more and more fear.

(For full text of the op-ed, published in +972, see here:


Ir Amim Updates

Settler Group Ateret Cohanim Forwarding Large-scale Takeover of Batan al-Hawa, Silwan

In the past six months, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization has been working to strengthen its grip on the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan – a major Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem located adjacent to the Old City, just meters from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. During this period, it has doubled the number of houses it has taken over in the neighborhood, with the goal of seizing 88 Palestinian homes. Two weeks ago two additional families were evicted (see red on map below) and the neighborhood was temporarily put under curfew. If the situation was not already urgent prior to the current outbreak of violence, it is all the more critical now in light of the unprecedented collective punishment – including the erection of roughly 40 checkpoints and closures – being leveled at Palestinian neighborhoods across East Jerusalem.

The activities of these and other private settler organizations are supported by the Israeli government, which allocates millions of shekels per year for private security and in this case sent police forces to execute the Batan al-Hawa evictions, thereby enabling private settlement in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and undermining the possibility of a political resolution on the city.  

Ir Amim recently posted a video clip documenting the close ties between private settler organizations and the Israeli government. Case in point: after taking office, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan chose to hold his first working tour of East Jerusalem in Batan al-Hawa, with Ateret Cohanim Chairman Matti Dan.  To view the video clip of Minister Erdan's tour with Matti Dan, escorted by security forces, click here:

For further details on the latest eviction in Batan al-Hawa, see here:

Has there been a Change in the Status Quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif?     

In the face of growing international scrutiny, Prime Minister Netanyahu recently stressed Israel's commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – which is based on the principle of separation of worship arrangements, with Muslims worshipping on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and Jews worshipping at the Western Wall. In practice, for the past several years elements within the government have provided growing support for the Temple movements -- radical Jewish groups committed to overturning the status quo, from breaking the prohibition against Jewish prayer on the Mount to building the Third Temple by the hands of man in place of the Dome of the Rock. 

These movements enjoy key political endorsements from within the right wing establishment, funding from the Ministry of Education, and police escorts for the monthly parades around the gates leading to the Mount, during which chants such as "Let the mosque be burned" are commonly heard.

During the Tishrei holidays, severe restrictions were imposed on the entry of Muslim worshippers to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif for nearly three weeks at a time. When the rights of Muslim worshippers are subordinated to ensure access to Jewish visitors during Jewish holidays, such practices evidence the prioritization of visitors over worshippers, encouraging a further erosion of Muslims' exclusive preferential status on the Haram al-Sharif. Such actions contribute to increasing anxiety that current restrictions indicate first steps toward Israel implementing a division of time/space arrangements on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Ministers Regev and Ariel have publicly promoted such policy shifts.

To understand more about the threats posed by the Temple movements and the imperative of maintaining the status quo, link here for Ir Amim's comprehensive report, Dangerous Liaisons, which chronicles the  rise of the Temple Mount movements and how they have successfully coopted the language of religious rights to gain favor with the mainstream  Israeli public

For a summary of Ir Amim's policy recommendations on the latest outbreak of violence, referencing the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, see here:

Launching "37% - East Jerusalem Stories" English site

The recent period has seen an escalation in tension and violence in Jerusalem, with a spate of violent attacks on Israelis and the subsequent imposition of collective punishment on the whole of East Jerusalem via checkpoints, road closures, barriers and evictions. In these tense and violent times, it is all the more important to put a human face on the “other” and facilitate greater understanding of the complexity of life in East Jerusalem and the everyday impact of the conflict on its residents.

There could not be a more important time to launch Ir Amim’s “37% – East Jerusalem Stories.” This stunning online photo documentary project, born in the wake of the violent summer of 2014, is designed to create a space—within the constraints of the current reality of the city—that recognizes the lives of Palestinians in Jerusalem, 37% of the city’s population.

These stories of men and women of diverse ages, occupations, backgrounds and neighborhoods combine to form a portrait—partial but vital—of East Jerusalem and its people.  People who by bravely sharing a portal into their lives are helping Ir Amim to spur much-needed dialogue on Jerusalem: 150 people attended the photo exhibition at Jerusalem’s Barbur Gallery that launched the project; more than 20,000 have visited the project website, and the project has generated extensive media coverage, including a feature in the Haaretz photo blog.

Please make sure to open the 37% website, as well as the links below, in a viewer that allows you to see these inspiring photos. Following are two sample stories of East Jerusalem residents:

"After I was released, I walked around like a drunken man" / Abdullah Nimr

When we were young, Mom used to let us play outside for an hour after school and then we had to go home. My brothers and I were famous in the neighborhood for our marble collection. Sometimes we used to go Pisgat Ze’ev, the settlement opposite our home, and play with the children there. But when we grew up, that stopped. My father used to take us to Gaza – once you could go in and out freely. We’d ride the big wheel, go down to the beach and eat fish. They treated people from Jerusalem as if we were rich tourists from America.

For full story click here


"Treat the other as human" / Hanan Abu Dalu

I was born in Beit Safafa, but when I was a young girl my family moved to Kuwait. I have a Jordanian passport and my husband has a Jerusalem identity card. When we married in 1982, I also got a Jerusalem identity card. In 1998 the government decided that anyone who cannot prove they have lived in Jerusalem for seven consecutive years loses their residency status. After 16 years in Jordan, with three children, we decided to come back here. That was the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life.

For full story click here

Contact Betty Herschman, Director of International Relations & Advocacy, if you are interested in hosting an exhibition of 37%: 


Ir Amim in the Media  

Yudith Oppenheimer quoted in the Independent as decrying PM Netanyahu's idea of revoking residency from East Jerusalem Palestinians:

Yudith Oppenheimer, Executive Director of Ir Amim, was interviewed by the New Israel Fund about the ongoing tensions in Jerusalem:

Aviv Tatarsky, researcher at Ir Amim, writes about the decision to impose a closure on East Jerusalem neighborhoods (originally published in Hebrew on Walla! NEWS):

Upcoming Study Tours         

Ir Amim invites you to join one of our public tours – an opportunity to learn about the political, economic and social issues associated with Jerusalem’s role as the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to engage in dialogue about our shared future. The tours provide an incisive and candid look at Jerusalem and how developments – from settlement building to revocations of Palestinians’ permanent residency status – impact East Jerusalem as well as Israeli democracy, security and prospects for peace.

Given the current situation, at present the tours do not enter Palestinian neighborhoods. Participation requires registration in advance and is free of charge.

The next tour:

Friday, November 27, 2015 - 9:30 AM: Study Tour of East Jerusalem in English (register here)


Support Ir Amim

Ir Amim works to inspire an informed public discourse on political issues related to Jerusalem, to prevent ongoing harm to the residents of the city, and to create conditions for an agreed-upon political resolution. We reach out to the general public in Israel and to our friends abroad by means of tours, lectures, press reports, social media activity, media campaigns and more.

Please consider making a contribution to Ir Amim as we work to monitor all of the current developments in our city, and conduct legal and policy advocacy to fight developments that undermine hope for a political resolution on the city. To donate, click here.

Follow us on Twitter: @IrAmimAlerts. Our English-language Facebook page will be launched soon – we will continue to update as our social media presence expands.


With best wishes,

The Ir Amim team