Stretched over two hills in southwest Jerusalem, Sharafat's name literally means "balconies" as it sits at an altitude of over 750 metres above sea level, overlooking the beautiful Karm al-Wali valley and Beit Safafa.1 A small agricultural community dating back to the Mamluk, the village now attracts Palestinian Jerusalemites hoping to escape the confines of the nearby Annexation Wall. Today, the community’s lands are being confiscated for colonial expansion and the village has been subject to settler attacks.
Sharafat was built at the end of the Crusader invasion and was developed by a family of Awliyaa (Sufi saints) during the Mamluk period. Toward the end of the 13th century, Badr Edin Muhammad al-Husseini, believed to be a descendant of Imam Hussein, moved to the village which had been owned by the al-Badriyah family during the Mamluk period after it was declared a waqf, or a Muslim trust. There remain tombs belonging to the al-Badriyah family, many of which date back to the Mamluk era, that testify to the family’s historic presence in the village. The village is also home to the al-Badriyah shrine, a holy pilgrimage site venerated by locals and regarded as a symbol of Sharafat's long Sufi tradition.2
On 7 February 1951, Israeli occupation soldiers crossed the armistice line into the village, which was then under Jordanian rule, and blew up the houses of the village's Mukhtar and his neighbours. The blast killed 12-14 civilians including two elders, three women and five children.3 The village was occupied and illegally annexed by Israel following the 1967 war and much of its land was confiscated in the 1970s and 1980s to build the Jewish colony of Gilo and other colonial structures. 4 5
In 1945, Sharafat's population reached 210 residents, but that number went down to 128 in 1961 when some fled following the Nakba and the 1951 massacre. Before its occupation in 1967, most of Sharafat's land was cultivated for olives and grains. In the 1970s, the village's population hardly exceeded 100 residents but numbers significantly increased during the 1980s due to internal migration and, like neighbouring Beit Safafa, because it was a village of choice for many Palestinians with Israeli IDs.6 An additional number of Palestinian Jerusalemites relocated there following the construction of the Annexation Wall in order to maintain their residency status in Jerusalem.7
Sharafat is home to a prominent sporting club, The Sharafat Club, which specialises in martial arts and has received several local honours and awards. The club also holds activities for children and cultural activities during religious occasions and celebrations. Sharafat’s Women’s Centre is active in helping women create small projects and assert their economic independence while also working to develop tourism in the village.
Following its occupation in 1967, large portions of Sharafat's lands were confiscated by the Israeli occupation to build the Gilo colony which rapidly developed into one of the largest colonial projects in Jerusalem. Historically connected to Beit Safafa, the two villages were separated after Zionist militias occupied Beit Safafa during the Nakba. They were again physically separated in the 1970s when Israel established the Dov Yosef road, beneath which passes a tunnel that allows for the movement of pedestrians and vehicles.8 Such land confiscation has significantly altered the village. While its residents relied heavily on agriculture before 1967, today most of the green space has been expropriated.
In 2013, the occupation authorities began the construction of the southern section of Road 4, a six-lane highway connecting Road 60 in the south which leads to Gush Etzion colony block in the West Bank to Road 443 in the north which runs beyond and parallel to the Green Line toward the coastal plain. The Sharafat section of the road will split the village in two and severely damage the life of its residents by completely separating the village from Beit Safafa which provides Sharafat with services. Children from Sharafat will no longer be able to make it to school in Beit Safafa through their village’s streets and roads but instead will have to travel all the way to Gilo and then back to Beit Safafa.9
Sharafat has recently been a target of several terrorist attacks carried out by Israeli settlers under the watchful eyes of the Israeli occupation. In February 2014, dozens of cars belonging to Sharafat residents were vandalized and the words "Arabs = Thieves” and “No Coexistence" were spray-painted on a wall.10