Days after capturing Jerusalem’s Old City in a 1967 war, Israel razed the Moroccan Quarter, a ramshackle neighborhood of Palestinian homes in front of the Western Wall, aiming to create an open space for Jews to pray at one of their holiest sites.
The 50th anniversary of that conflict has rekindled memories of the event, when the flattened district’s 650 Palestinians residents, mostly poor migrants, were pushed out of the city.
But some stayed and a half-century later are determined to retain their presence in the Old City.
“Israel brought buses to Damascus Gate and said people can take free rides if they wanted to quit Jerusalem,” recalls Mohammad Assawaf, now 90, who was running a bakery in the neighborhood when the Six-Day War broke out on June 5, 1967.
“All those who left regretted it.”
Mohammad Ali, 77, grew up in the Jewish Quarter when it was empty of Jewish residents. But in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, he decided to leave, thinking life would improve.
“I left my heart and my life in the Old City,” he said.