Former Tourism Minister Benny Elon, the driving force behind the reclamation of the Shimon HaTzaddik/Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, says yet more Jewish families are scheduled to move in.
“What is happening in Shimon HaTzaddik is a microcosm of the entire story of Jerusalem,” Elon told Arutz-7’s Benny Toker on Wednesday. Earlier this week, another home in the neighborhood was “inherited” by a Jewish presence; the Arab squatters living there left, in accordance with the eviction orders, except for one family that defiantly remains.
“These properties were purchased over 100 years ago,” Elon said, “by Reb Shmuel Salant and the Rishon LeTzion [Chief Sephardic Rabbi] at the time. They redeemed the area – and now along come Arabs who say it’s theirs. Their claim has been found to be totally groundless; all the courts that dealt with this case came to the same conclusion: These are Jewish homes, owned jointly by the Sephardic Congregation and the Ashkenazi Council of Jerusalem.”
The neighborhood now features about 15 Jewish families, an active "Kollel" (yeshiva for married men), and the Shepherd Hotel – purchased by an American Jewish businessman who plans to build 20 apartments on the site.
Elon, who served as Dean of the Beit Orot Yeshivat Hesder on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem until he entered politics, said, “The Arabs continually tried to block the execution of the court orders and submitted appeal after appeal, but in the end, though the wheels of justice turn slowly, the eviction orders were finally served.”
“Most unfortunately, there is barely any police presence in the neighborhood,” Elon lamented. “This is a holy site – the 2,000-year-old gravesite of Simon the Just – and an area where people come to pray at all hours of the night; Arabs often throw rocks there, yet the police are not there. This is something that should be publicized.”
“This most recent case of Jews moving into the area made headlines because of the elderly woman who remained there,” Elon said. “She is the aunt of Rashid Al-Kawad, through whom all Yasser Arafat’s money was channeled to Arafat’s wife; he’s a man with many connections, and they tried to make a lot of noise and bring out the international media – but it didn’t work, because the courts ruled that the homes must return to Jewish hands.”
“Our government, even the previous Kadima government, is handling this correctly,” Elon acknowledged. “It’s not making this into a political issue; it’s a legal issue that has been decided by the courts. The international media is enlisted to the Arab cause, and they set up tents there for them – but I’m happy that at least in this matter, the Israeli media understands the real story.”