Some 20,000 people took part in the commemorations of the yahrtzeit of Shimon hatzaddik in the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood of Yerushalayim last night. Despite the tensions in the area between Jewish and Arab residents, a record number of people showed up to take part.
The kever of Shimon Hatzaddik and nearby plots in Yerushalayim was purchased in 1876 by the Jewish community, and by 1948, 20 Jewish families were living there.
After the War of Independence, however, in 1948, the area fell into Jordanian hands; the holy site was used as a stable, and Jordanian Arabs moved into the Jewish-owned homes.
Over a decade ago, former Tourism Minister Benny Elon and others began a push to reclaim the land, and in a two-front effort – by re-purchasing the homes and via the courts – many of the properties have been returned to Jewish hands. The site of the nearby Shepherd Hotel has also been bought, and a complex of 20 apartments for Jewish families is planned. The Arabs in the area have responded by throwing rocks and other forms of violence, with the passive encouragement of leftist and anarchist Jewish elements, and the neighborhood has become one of the symbols of Jewish-Arab tensions.
The organizers praised the police and municipal services for providing security and meeting other needs, though the Egged bus company was not among them; the number of buses was not nearly enough to meet the need, and thousands of people were left waiting for a long time at various bus stops along Rechov Shmuel Hanovi.
Today, upsherins are held at kever Shimon Hatzaddik, with ongoing musical accompaniment. Local residents are providing tours of the neighborhood, explaining the area’s Jewish origins and roots.
Read more at Arutz Shevah.