Jerusalem municipality inspectors arrived at Beit Yehonatan Tuesday and carried out measurements in preparation for sealing the building's entrances and evicting its residents. The inspectors were accompanied by police and Yassam special police forces.
Beit Yehonatan is situated in the neighborhood of Shiloach (Silwan), which is mostly Arab. The area was populated by Yemenite Jews who had to abandon the neighborhood from 1936-39 when the British insisted that they leave during a period of countrywide Arab rioting.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who objects to the idea of sealing Beit Yehonatan without taking similar action against Arab residents' building infractions, is currently abroad. Some of Beit Yehonatan's residents have speculated that the person behind the inspectors' visit is Municipality Legal Adviser Yossi Havilio, who is opposed to Barkat's policy and wants Beit Yehonatan sealed. Havilio, they estimated, used Barkat's absence to take another step toward sealing the building.
The building's Jewish residents protested vocally to the inspectors about their actions but were rebuffed. One of the inspectors refused to identify himself, ignoring his obligation as a public servant to identify himself when asked to.
The residents noted that there are several legal proceedings underway with regard to the property, including one involving an offer by the residents to voluntarily seal the top story in the building, in accordance with Mayor Barkat's rezoning plan for Shiloach.
On Sunday, a group of nationalist Jews marched in Shiloach under police protection, to protest what they said was a biased approach by the authorities regarding illegal construction, favoring the Arabs.
MK Levin protests
Knesset Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin said Tuesday that the attempt to seal Beit Yehonatan “is angering, worthy of censure and must be blocked immediately.”
"The attempt to seal [the building] is a realization of the discriminatory ruling in which Arab illegal construction is ignored and only Jews are told to leave the premises. Jerusalem, including all of its parts, is the united capital of Israel and it is the place where every Jew can make his home,” MK Levin said.