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From the field

Eyes Wide Open | Photo Blog

Photo blog: Restrictions suffocate neighborhood of Bab al-Majles in Jerusalem’s Old City

February 2016

The neighborhood of Bab al-Majles al-Islami, also known as Bab a-Nazer, is located in the very heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. It lies immediately to the east of al-Wad St., the main street which leads from Damascus Gate to the entrance to the Western Wall. Perpendicular to al-Wad St., a street about 100 meters long runs east across the neighborhood, connecting al-Wad St. to the al-Aqsa Mosque. It is a historical area where, until recently, Old City residents led rich community and cultural lives. The photos below were taken by Yoav Gross, Director of B’Tselem’s Video Department, when he and Mus’ab ‘Abbas, our field researcher in East Jerusalem, visited the neighborhood.

The neighborhood of Bab al-Majles is home to about 350 residents. It is also where the Islamic Waqf offices are located. It is a small neighborhood, comprising two private homes and five apartment complexes, known as “huash”, each built around an inner courtyard. Read more about the neighborhood

To the left and right: Entrances to two of the “huash” apartment complexes, home to 300 members of the African community.
Passageway leading to one of the “huashes”. The community’s families came to Jerusalem from Chad, Senegal and Sudan about 100 years ago.
One of the African community’s apartment complexes which was renovated a few years ago.
In the summer of 2014, the police put up a checkpoint at the entrance to the neighborhood. Ever since, all residents have been suffering from severe movement restrictions that interfere with their lives and harm their livelihoods.
There is another police checkpoint at the other end of the neighborhood, at the entrance to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Since 2013, Israel has imposed ever greater restrictions on Muslim worshippers’ access to the compound.
A once vibrant neighborhood is now silent. Stores have closed, shopkeepers have lost their livelihoods.
In the afternoons, neighborhood children used to go to the African Community Association’s offices in the neighborhood. <a href="/jerusalem/20160228_bab_al_majles#testimony1">There, they got help with homework</a> , emotional support and participated in leisure activities. Access restrictions have resulted in the cessation of the association’s programs in December 2015, and the children now have nowhere to go.
Neighborhood resident, Sheikh Musa, has recently volunteered to try and revive the African Community Association’s programs, after they were stopped.
The sewing workshop run by the African Association has been shut down because it is difficult for the women to get there. <a href="/jerusalem/20160228_bab_al_majles#testimony1">Manar Idris</a>: , who until recently served as the association’s director, said: “Three years ago we managed to launch a sewing workshop. The women sewed clothing according to supplier demand by the merchants, and sold them, which gave them a source of income. Fifteen women participated in the program”
Jibril Balaleh, 14-year-old student, standing next to his family’s stall. There is no point taking out the stock, because hardly anyone comes to shop, and <a href="/jerusalem/20160228_bab_al_majles#testimony2">his father has had to look for other work.</a
>Rihab Kafr’ani, 54, who lives in the neighborhood and has a stall on the main street, waiting in vain for the customers she and <a href="/jerusalem/20160228_bab_al_majles#testimony14">her sister Mithal</a> relied on for their and their children’s income.
The entrance to the al-Aqsa compound, normally a bustling spot, is now deserted. Marwan al-Bashiti, who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life <a href="/jerusalem/20160228_bab_al_majles#testimony3">told B’Tselem</a>: “Children in the Old City have no sports fields or playgrounds, the al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard was where they would get together and play. I, and the rest of the Old City residents, spent our childhood there. Now, the police won’t allow the children to go in the yard and play”

Eyes Wide Open Photo Blog by B’Tselem is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to use the photos in the blog. However, any public use of photos must include copyright credit to the photographer and B’Tselem.