The neighborhood of Sheikh Sa’ad has long been engaged in a legal and public dispute about its future, and the continuing the residents’ connection to Jerusalem. This dispute raises many issues about Israel’s policy in the area.
Out of an approximate 1500 people who reside in the neighborhood, half are "Jerusalem Residents," holders of the blue ID card, and half carry the green West Bank ID. While the neighborhood is located beyond Jerusalem's municipal boundary, many consider it to part of Jerusalem, and in reality, without a physical border, Sheikh Sa’ad has functioned as a subdivision of nearby Jabel Mukaber, a Jerusalem neighborhood.
The High Court was petitioned to determine the route of the Separation Barrier in the vicinity of Sheikh Sa’ad. The State requested that the barrier be built along the municipal boundary of the city, in a manner which would cut through the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, leaving Sheikh Sa’ad outside of Jerusalem. According to the State, the residents of Sheikh Sa’ad who have "Jerusalem Residency" status would have to enter Jerusalem through the Sawahara checkpoint, thus significantly lengthening their commute. The residents of Sheikh Sa’ad entreated the Court to rule that the route of the barrier pass east of their neighborhood, on West Bank land, allowing Sheikh Sa’ad to remain connected to Jerusalem.
The public arena has not been silent about this issue. Actions have included a letter signed by 1,000 Jewish residents of nearby neighborhoods to the Ministry of Defense, petitioning that Sheikh Sa’ad not be severed from the rest of Jerusalem, as it will lead to the separation of families, denial of access to crucial services, and obstruction of the residents' freedom of movement and their ability to earn a living.
On March 15, 2010, the High Court ruled that the Separation Barrier will, in fact, place the neighborhood outside of the wall, but that a special gate should be built for the residents, allowing them access to Jerusalem at all hours of the day. Judge Beinish, wrote in the decision that, "There can be no doubt that the determined route for the barrier will hurt the residents of Sheikh Sa’ad. According to the findings of the Appeals Committee, the neighborhood of Sheikh Sa’ad has strong ties to Jabel Mukaber and to Jerusalem: the residents receive many services, including those related to education and health, from Jabel Mukaber. They belong to families that live there, and their familial and social affiliations are linked to the neighborhood."
Notwithstanding, the High Court approved the Separation Barrier in this area, and Judge Beinish stated that the proposed solution will minimize the impact on the residents of Sheikh Sa’ad. "The construction of a gate in the Security Barrier, at the entrance to the Sheikh Sa’ad neighborhood, will allow 24-hour access into Jerusalem. This will substantially lessen the inconvenience for the residents, even at some expense of maintaining security."
Despite Judge Beinish's claims regarding the solution’s proportions, Ir Amim is deeply concerned about the future of Sheikh Sa’ad. Caught between a rock and a hard place, disconnected from Jerusalem but lacking any infrastructure that links them to the West Bank, it is difficult to imagine Sheikh Sa’ad maintaining a vital existence.