Arabs want to stop Six Day War memorial for fallen paratroopers

Residents of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem object to the expansion of a memorial site in their neighborhood for Israeli paratroopers.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Residents of an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem are opposing the renovation and expansion of a memorial to IDF paratroopers who fell in the battle for the city in the 1967 Six Day War, Channel 11 reported Sunday.

Located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood between the city center and the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, the initial memorial was set up after the war with a plaque to commemorate the 11 members of the 71st Paratroopers Regiment who were killed in battles in the area as the troops fought to liberate the Old City.

A larger memorial wall was inaugurated in 1985 next to the original monument that expanded the list to add the names of all 183 of the battalion’s fallen since 1946.

Two weeks ago the Jerusalem Municipality approved a plan to rehabilitate and expand the monument funded by the Paratroopers’ Veterans Association that will see an amphitheater with several hundred seats.

Residents of the neighborhood object to the move in what they call a step towards turning Sheikh Jarrah into a Jewish neighborhood, while for the battalion’s veterans, there can be no other place, the report said.

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Former platoon commander Yoram Zamush described how Jordanian army snipers firing from a local mosque killed one of his soldiers on the spot right in front of the memorial.

“Since then we have established a portion of privately owned land in Jerusalem to the memory of our comrades,” Zamush said. “This land, in our point of view, is holy ground.”

Local resident Saleh Diab told Zamush it was fine for a memorial to the Israeli soldiers, but said “I can walk [here] and make a symbol for all of our martyrs.”

“I was born here and played right here,” Diab said, motioning at the site of the memorial. “All this wasn’t here.”

Ori Klanner, head of the 71st Regiment veterans, said the memorial should be beyond politics.

“As paratroopers who remember what happened here and want future generations …to remember what went on here, there should be here a nice and respectable place… this is what happened here, this is history, and we want to honor it,” Klanner said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned against the plan, saying there was no need for such a large memorial site because the Ammunition Hill memorial park dedicated to the entire paratrooper brigade is only 700 meters (half a mile) away.

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“I don’t want to live with the dead all my life,” said former deputy mayor Pappa Allo of the left-wing Meretz Party. “Let’s think of how to live together.”

Zamush and Klanner were not moved by the arguments of Diab and Allo, with Zamush maintaining that “we are committed to the heritage of our friends the fighters.”

Sheikh Jarrah has a notorious connotation for many Israelis. During the 1948 War of Independence Arab forces attacked a convoy that was on its way through the neighborhood to Hadassah Hospital on nearby Mt. Scopus.

Known as the Hadassah medical convoy massacre, 78 Jews, mostly doctors and nurses, were killed and many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.