Representatives of the Ateret Cohanim Association in the Old City of Jerusalem expressed shock that a top United Nations envoy would accept a false account of the Jewish takeover of a building in what is now the Moslem Quarter.
The incident occurred late last week. A group of Jews, with police protection, entered a Jewish-owned building near Flowers Gate in the Old City, and moved in. The building was purchased by a Jewish group around 1987, but the Arabs living there enjoyed protected status – which has now all but expired.
Two previous court attempts to remove the Arab tenants so that the purchaser could house tenants of his own choice failed over the years. “Protected status” lasts for a generation or two, and not longer, and therefore, with the recent death of the last survivor of the previous generation of tenants, the owner’s right was able to be exercised – and the Jews were able to move in.
One room in one of the several apartments in the building still remains in dispute, however, and the issue is to be resolved in court.
The Jewish presence in the Old City continues to grow. Between 950 and 1,000 Jews now live in the Old Jewish Quarter of the Old City – areas that today are known as the Christian Quarter and the Moslem Quarter. The acquisition will enable another 3-4 families to move in.
“It is an old Jewish building, which was owned in the 1800’s by the famous Yaakov Volero – a very well-off man who established the first private bank in the Holy Land back in 1848," Daniel Lurie told Israel National News. "He had three different residences in the Old City, and this building was his main one, in which he lived from 1866 until 1920, when the increasing violence and the like forced him to sell to an Arab family."
"Around 1987," Lurie continued, "a Jewish concern purchased the building back from that Arab family; this fact is not in dispute. The tenants had a certain unclear status, which has been clarified over the years, after court suits were filed and agreements were made, and we have now moved in.”
The large, two-floor building is located near Flowers Gate--also known as Herod’s Gate--at the eastern end of the northern wall of the Old City. Two Jewish families live right next door, in a building known as Beit Volero because of its proximity to the latest acquisition. Some ten other Jewish families live nearby as well: Two in Beit HaPrachim, four in Beit Warsaw, two in Beit HaEmet, and two in Beit Duran. Apparently, the Old Jewish Quarter will – if Ateret Cohanim has its way – soon once again become a full-fledged Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of the Temple Mount.
The UN Position
UN envoy Robert Serry said in a statement that he deplored the “unacceptable action by armed Israeli settlers who forcibly took over a building, which is home to nine Palestinian families." He called the action "provocative," and called on Israel “to remove the settlers from the property and restore the status quo ante.”
“It is very brazen of the UN envoy to accept the Arab version without even checking the facts,” said Lurie. “We did not physically throw them out, as hardly anyone was home when we arrived. And the fact that the building is owned by Jews is not subject to dispute; the Arabs agree that it is ours.”
The Associated Press reported that the Ateret Cohanim Organization functions as a settlement organization and a yeshiva, working to increase the number of Jewish settlers in the Old City and claiming that "the presence of tens of Jewish families and yeshiva students, each displaying enormous self-sacrifice and spiritual strength on a daily basis, prevented the development of terror cells and drug dealers.”