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PA Man Claims Ownership of Hurva

Just days after Hurva is rededicated, a PA Arab man claims the land the synagogue was built on land that belongs to him.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/18/2010, 10:45 PM / Last Update: 3/19/2010, 7:19 AM

The Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem was rededicated Monday in a joyful ceremony. The synagogue was rebuilt after being destroyed twice – once in the 18th century, when the Jewish owners defaulted on a debt, and once in 1948, when the Jordanian army went through historic Jerusalem demolishing Jewish holy places. (click here for fascinating history of the synagogue)

Just days later, a Palestinian Authority Arab is putting in a bid to destroy the synagogue for a third time. The man, Soubhi Shweib el-Bashiti, claims that the land on which the synagogue was built belongs to his family.

El-Bashiti spoke to Hamas media on Thursday and said he would fight a legal battle to win control of the land. Bashiti tried to take control of the property in 2004 as well.

Bashiti claims that his grandfather, Hassan Bashiti, bought the land on which the synagogue was built in 1880. His family has sent letters to Jordan's King Hussein, to former PA head Yasser Arafat, and to the International Court in the Hague asking for assistance in retrieving the property, he said.

Bashiti said he now plans to ask for help from a variety of organizations, including the PA, the Jordanian government, the Arab League, and the Quartet. He told Hamas that he will insist that Israel hand over other properties in the Old City as well, including land in the Jewish Quarter that he claims belongs to other Arab families.

Muslim and PA leaders were outraged by the rededication of the Hurva, which they claimed on their own initiative was the prelude to a Jewish takeover of the Temple Mount. The rumors of a planned Jewish assault on the Temple Mount led to days of violent riots in and around Jerusalem.