Daily Israel Report

Peace Now Worried Jews May Build on Jewish-Owned Land

Thirty lots come up for sale in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud; Peace Now worries Jews may get them.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 4/3/2011, 2:25 PM / Last Update: 4/3/2011, 2:39 PM

Peace Now complains an Israeli landowner is seeking to sell lots for 30 homes in Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud neighborhood, the Associated Press reports. The neighborhood, in the eastern section of Jerusalem, is already home to 117 Jewish families.

A century ago, the property where Ras al-Amud stands today was purchased from the Ottoman government by Nissan Bak and Moshe Wittenburg, who leased the land to build Jewish seminaries there in 1928. During the British Mandate, the authorities in Jerusalem refused to issue the necessary permits to build. Instead, the land was leased to Arab farmers for the purpose of raising wheat for the production of Passover matza

During the Jordanian occupation of eastern, southern and northern  Jerusalem, the land Ras al-Amud sits on was held in trust for the Jewish owners by the Jordanian government. In 1964, an Arab tenant farmer claimed ownership of the land, but the Hashemite land registration authority rejected this claim because the title was still held by the Jewish Bak and the Wittenberg families.

In 1967, the land was transferred to the Israel Lands Administration which placed it under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality. In 1984, the municipality sold it to American millionaire Irving Moskowitz

Modern legal records aside, Ras al-Amud has an ancient Jewish heritage. An archaeological excavation in Ras al-Amud prior to the construction of a school for Arab girls by the Jerusalem Municipality found remains dating to the late First Temple period (8th-7th centuries BCE), including a jar handle inscribed with the Hebrew name "Menachem."

Peace Now spokeswoman Hagit Ofran bemoaned the fact that, although the landowner has said he will sell to the highest bidder irrespective of ethnicity, the outcome will most likely be more Jews moving into the neighborhood.  

"We know the owner...he is a settler himself," Ofran complained to the Associated Press. "If the Palestinians can put up enough money they may be taking it, but settlers want it also, so I believe that it's more likely to go to the settlers." 

Ofran did not explain how Peace Now's position accounted for the established Jewish provenance of land ownership in the neighborhood - or ancient Jewish roots therein.