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Once upon a time, where you’re standing right now, there was a small valley called Wadi Hilwah, part of the large Silwan village.

Hilwah was the wife of the mukhtar Siyam. She was killed during armed clashes in the valley. Before her death, the valley was called Wadi Al-Nabah, Valley of Wails. They say that at nights one could hear among the hedges of cactuses the wails of the innocent girl who was viciously murdered by her brother.

The Muslim village of Silwan started to develop in the 16th century. The village was famous for its quality agricultural produce, and served as a resting point on the way to the old city.

Today the village counts 55,000 people. 5,500 live in Wadi Hilwah neighborhood, which lies on the Old City’s southern slopes. Here, evidently, is where ancient Jerusalem was established. The Gihon Spring (Ein Silwan) is the reason why people settled on the spur more than 5000 years ago and built the city which became holy to the three monotheistic religions.

Many cultures left their mark on the spur’s slopes and valleys that set the boundaries of Wadi Hilwah: the Canaanites, who established the city and built the impressive underground water system; the Judeans, who expanded the city; the Assyrians, who besieged it; the Babylonians, who destroyed it and banished its people; the Persians; the Greeks, the heralds of Hellenism; the Romans; the Byzantines; and finally the Muslims, who ruled the city for 1300 years.

Silwan Village. Wadi Hilwah neighborhood is seen on the slopes of the Old City.

In the 20th century, the villagers lived under four different rules: Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and, since 1967, Israeli, under which the Palestinian residents have no citizenship – a vulnerable and dangerous status.

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