Dear Friends: 

Soon to mark the 50th year since Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and occupation of the West Bank, it is time to stand face-to-face with the unavoidable question: After half a century, how much longer can we sustain an occupation and settlement enterprise that has led to the dispossession, displacement, and denial of rights for millions of Palestinians – including more than 300,000 in Jerusalem - and is making a two-state solution an anachronism for a growing number of our most expert political analysts, scholars, national security experts, and negotiators? 

For the Israeli government and the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, there is no question. The firm support afforded to private settlers – financial, institutional and political – by the local and national authorities is by now public knowledge and nowhere is this collusion more blatant than in the recent decision to confer the Israel Prize – the state’s highest civilian honor – upon David Be’eri, founder and director of the Elad settler group.  Elad operates the City of David archeological site under a contract with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.  Every year, roughly half a million people from around the world (according to the Elad website) learn about the archeology of Jerusalem through the lens of a private, ideologically driven settler group with a singular Jewish nationalist agenda… in the front yard of a Palestinian community literally and narratively obscured by the tourist site walls.  We call that touristic settlement. 

For their efforts, which have included smashing windows and rappelling into Palestinian homes in Silwan in the dark of night, Education Minister Naftali Bennett described Elad leader Be’eri as “one of the great builders of Jerusalem in modern times” while our mayor called him a “loyal and leading partner in the building of Jerusalem.” The conferring of the Israel Prize to a leader in the movement to “reclaim Judea and Samaria” by taking over Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhoods is no less than the state’s unequivocal legitimization and normalization of private settlement in the hotbed of the city, around its holiest sites in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, at the geographic epicenter of the conflict. Bennet and Barkat are right: the actions of Elad and other settler groups do build up the city – but on the emptied homes of displaced Palestinians, causing inestimable human suffering while consolidating Israeli control of the Historic Basin and further complicating opening conditions for negotiating a two-state solution.  

You hear about the major settlements in East Jerusalem – Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, the not yet built Givat Hamatos – but not about this silent trend of government-backed private settlement. On the other side of Silwan in Batan al-Hawa, it’s the Ateret Cohanim settlers leading the charge.  With state-financed private security guards at their side, they are advancing the eviction of a community of 100 Palestinian families – the largest settler takeover in East Jerusalem since 1967.  The Israeli General Custodian and Registrar of Trusts have directly contributed to their efforts. 

So as we approach Jerusalem Day – Israel’s celebration of the eternal, undivided capital of Jerusalem – during this 50th year, let’s think about those who meet the criteria for the Israel Prize, those who embody true excellence in their fields and have made noteworthy contributions to Israeli culture. Our criteria? At minimum, respecting that Jerusalem is – and always will be – the home of two peoples and the future capital of both the nations of Israel and Palestine.  Certainly we should all be able to agree that Israeli culture and society can only thrive in a climate of peace – or at minimum, the genuine aspiration to attain it. 

With thanks for your commitment to forging that path, 

Betty Herschman 

Director of International Relations & Advocacy



New map release: East Jerusalem Demolitions 2016 

Ir Amim’s map documents a record high for demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. A total of 203 units were demolished in 2016, including 123 homes. This disturbing upward trend – nearly triple the 74 units demolished in 2015 – has continued unabated in 2017. To date, at least 61 units have been demolished in East Jerusalem this year, including 38 homes. 

Demolitions are a direct result of Israeli impediments to Palestinian building. Since 1967, fewer than 5,000 building permits have been awarded to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and larger-scale plans are summarily buried in the planning process.  With no ability to legally develop their communities, Palestinians are at risk of having their homes and buildings demolished.

A flashpoint for demolitions in 2016 was Silwan, a key neighborhood in the Historic Basin of the Old City, where demolitions are carried out in tandem with a large-scale settler driven campaign of evictions and house takeovers - mechanisms the Israeli authorities exploit to push Palestinians out of the hotly contested Historic Basin. 2016 was also the first year in which demolitions were carried out in the neighborhoods beyond the Separation Barrier – neighborhoods that are now home to roughly ¼ to 1/3 of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, who must enter a checkpoint to get into their own city.

A Major Inroad in Educational Access for Palestinians in East Jerusalem: Hebrew University to Recognize Tawjihi Exams 

In a dramatic turn in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s admission policy, the university announced that it would recognize the tawjihi, the Palestinian matriculation examination. Until now, Palestinian students from East Jerusalem could not be admitted directly with a tawjihi score and were required to complete a pre-university preparatory program prior to admission. 

The policy change followed research performed at the Hebrew University’s Minerva Center by two students, a Palestinian and an Israeli, with the support of Ir Amim public advocacy director, Adv. Oshrat Maimon. Their formative research found that non-recognition of the tawjihi certificate by Hebrew University was a major barrier in young Palestinians’ access to higher education in Jerusalem.

Ir Amim’s Oshrat Maimon said: “We hope that the University’s recognition of the tawjihi – which is recognized by top universities around the world – will lead to an improvement in education and employment opportunities for Palestinian Jerusalemite students.”

E1 Area: Worrying Developments on the Ground 

Ir Amim’s field researchers have documented multiple developments which together strongly indicate plans to advance construction in E1, otherwise known as the “nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.” These developments include wholesale issuance of demolition orders to dozens of Bedouin families in the Khan al-Ahmar village in the West Bank, along with advancement of several infrastructure and national park projects in East Jerusalem.

E1 has long been a red line for the international community, given its development would irreparably damage territorial contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, breaking the West Bank into disconnected cantons, and thereby destroying prospects for the establishment of a Palestinian state and two-state solution.

Along with the demolition orders that stand to displace an entire Bedouin community – necessary for development of the area – several key road and tunnel projects being advanced would facilitate settlement construction in E1, traffic flow of settlers from the West Bank to Jerusalem, and routing of Palestinians from the north of the West Bank to the south while inhibiting their access to Jerusalem.

Ir Amim will continue to advocate both locally and internationally to expose and challenge these extremely hazardous developments.

Ir Amim Executive Director Yudith Oppenheimer: Jerusalem Will Always be the Home of Two Nations  

Bringing the significance of Jerusalem to the forefront of discussion at the recent J Street conference in Washington DC, Yudith Oppenheimer voiced a vision for the city: 

In my dreams, Jerusalem is given back to its residents, and the solution for Jerusalem is worked out from the grassroots by the people of Jerusalem, in which all issues are open for discussion and need a resolution, including the holy places… this is a city of three world religions and any solution for the city, for the time being and for the future, has to acknowledge that.”

Ir Amim was joined by colleagues at the Palestine-Israel Journal, with whom Ir Amim has been conducting ongoing work to enhance the leadership capacity of young Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders and activists, each in their respective communities, in developing bridging frameworks toward a political resolution on the city. 

Citing Ir Amim’s recommendations for addressing the city’s political and socio-economic disparities between east and west Jerusalem in the present, while working toward a political resolution of the conflict, Oppenheimer added: “Jerusalem has always been and will always be a home of two nations, and this is the key to looking at Jerusalem.”

To learn more about the issues currently on the agenda in Jerusalem, or to receive educational materials that can serve as a basis for discussion about the city, contact us at  



Ir Amim’s Aviv Tatarsky: “Knowing how Israel prevents most East Jerusalemites from obtaining building permits exposes the heartless cruelty of the sharp increase in home demolitions, which last year rendered 123 East Jerusalem families homeless.”

Jerusalem Post, February 28

Ir Amim Executive Director Yudith Oppenheimer: “We felt this sense of urgency earlier. It is not as if everything here was so wonderful until Trump was elected. We could feel the distress before that too. What is different now is that it is clear that the rules of the game have changed. What worries me most is the lack of inhibitions shared by the US administration and us [the Israeli government].”

Al-Monitor, February 10


Ir Amim’s Oren Haber: “The policies that encourage migration of Palestinian residents beyond the Barrier do not constitute a kind of preferential treatment but rather the opposite; these policies constitute abandonment of the residents without services and proper infrastructure, creating extreme crowding and unregulated, unstable construction that would likely endanger the residents in case of a natural disaster.”

Maariv, March 5



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 the future of the city. The tours provide an incisive and candid look at Jerusalem and how developments – from settlement building to revocations of Palestinians’ permanent residency status – impact our ability to negotiate a resolution to the Conflict.

Participation requires registration in advance and a small contribution towards the cost of the tour. 

The next tours:  

Friday, April 28, 2017 - 9:00 AM: Study Tour of East Jerusalem in English (register here)



Ir Amim works to inspire an informed public discourse on political issues related to Jerusalem, and to promote conditions for a more equitable Jerusalem today and towards a future, agreed-upon political resolution. In addition to our internationally recognized monitoring and advocacy, we help raise the level of discourse on Jerusalem by reaching out to the general public in Israel and to our friends abroad through tours, lectures, press reports, social media activity, media campaigns and more. 

We are pleased to report that this month, after a marked decline in violence in the city, has shown a sharp increase in the number of study tours run by Ir Amim, with over 30 tours scheduled in March – more than twice the monthly average.The support of our friends and donors is crucial to our ability to sustain this major component of Ir Amim’s work, which informs Israelis from all walks of life and visitors from abroad about the East Jerusalem reality.

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, please click here. 

Follow us on Twitter: @IrAmimAlerts and Facebook ( keep current on Ir Amim’s positions on unfolding events in Jerusalem and be the first to access our latest resources. Stay tuned for updates on Ir Amim’s growing English language social media presence. For more in-depth information, check out the Ir Amim website.


With thanks for your continued interest and support,

The Ir Amim team


Ir Amim on the Web