A project for construction of 20 housing units at the Shepherd Hotel compound in eastern Jerusalem received the final bureaucratic approvals Tuesday and construction could begin at any time. The project involves restoration of the British and Jordanian-era building in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem, next to Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood which has also seen a renewed Jewish presence and recent controversy.
The Shepherd Hotel was originally built as the home of Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the leader of Jerusalem's Muslims who became an ally of the Nazis.
The Shepherd Hotel project also includes the paving of a new access road to the compound and a multi-level parking lot. It will be undertaken by Florida-based financier and philanthropist Irving Moskowitz.
The Obama administration created a loud diplomatic flap with Israel two weeks ago over another construction project in Jerusalem, accusing Israel of purposely announcing the approval of 1,600 housing units at Ramat Shlomo in order to embarrass visiting Vice President Joe Biden. It remains to be seen whether the announcement regarding the Shepherd Hotel will lead to similar indignation by the US.
No less likely to protest is the British government, which is particularly sensitive about the project because it is located next to the British consulate.
The Israel Foreign Ministry website wrote about the Shepherd Hotel:
The building was built in the 1930s for the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-[Husseini], who was a leader of the Arab Palestinian movement in the 1920s and 1930s and of three waves of riots during this period.
When the British Mandate government deported him, the building was confiscated and turned into a military outpost for the British Army. At the end of the period of the British Mandate, the building was transferred to the ownership of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which expanded the original structure without affecting it, and the building served as the Shepherd Hotel.
Following the Six Day War, the hotel became the property of the Government of Israel. It was used by the Ministry of Justice and as a district courthouse.
On November 5 1985, C and M properties purchased the building and surrounding land from the Government of Israel. With the beginning of the first Intifada in 1987, the Border Police leased the building and stayed there for about 15 years before moving to their new building alongside Highway One.
Since then, and up to the present, the property has been abandoned.
Former diplomat Lenny Ben-David wrote of the project:
Soon the piece of real estate will house the descendants of those who Haj Amin al-Husseini tried to kill in Palestine or the grandchildren of those European Jews who escaped Husseini’s ally, Adolf Hitler. Maybe, just maybe, there are consequences for aggression.