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      Letter Proves Building Freeze in Jerusalem Neighborhood

      A letter by a senior official says political considerations prevent Jewish construction in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood.
      By Annie Lubin
      First Publish: 1/30/2013, 9:20 AM

      Letter sent by Yaniv Benita
      Letter sent by Yaniv Benita
      Original document

      Rumors, leaks and hearsay have been replaced by an official document by a senior official admitting that political considerations have and will prevent Jewish construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shimon HaTzaddik, located north of the Old City.

      Plans for additional housing for Jews in the now majority-Arab neighborhood (known in Arabic as Sheikh Jarrah) have become stalled, and a letter written by Yaniv Benita, Assistant to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, inadvertently explains why.

      In the letter, Beinta claimed that construction in the neighborhood would not be carried out due to what he termed political prevention.

      For a long time now, residents of the neighborhood have tried to attain permits to construct Jewish homes and buildings while at the same time Arabs in the neighborhood were given permits for their own construction.

      Aryeh King, Director of the Israel Land Fund and a long-time activist in the effort to redeem land previously owned by Jews in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, claimed recently that someone in the Prime Minister's Office was preventing the Jewish applications for building permits from seeking approval based on political considerations.

      This was all speculative, until the letter proved him right.

      In the letter, Benita wrote that he received plans for construction in the neighborhood, yet, "Unfortunately, based on political reasons, we are prevented from discussing this.  When you receive relevant approvals, these plans will be raised by the District Committee for Planning and Construction."

      King, who ran for the 19th Knesset with Otzma LeYisrael, is hoping the letter will cause the next government to change its stance on construction in such neighborhoods which have been deemed frozen by the administration.

      During the elections, King criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, alleging that reports of approval of construction in Jerusalem were nothing but election-season spin.

      "Netanyahu is running a campaign that places Jerusalem at the center of public discourse," King explained to Arutz Sheva. "Bibi is trying to lie to the public and present a false picture in which he is building and widening the city, but in actuality, the facts are opposite."

      The Jewish-owned part of Shimon Hatzaddik which includes the tomb of the Second Temple sage, was purchased in 1886,  and was reclaimed in 1998 by Jewish families who held deeds to the homes their families had been forced to leave decades earlier and in which Arab families had squatted. .

      In 1947, there were about 100 Jewish houses in the neighborhood. However, as a result of increasing Arab violence, the British ordered the residents to evacuate their homes in 1948.

      The Israeli courts ruled in favor of the claims of Jewish owners, some of whom had asked for rent which the Arabs also refused to pay, but leftist and anarchist demonstrations against the Jews reclaiming their legally owned homes went on for months every week.

      The grave of Shimon Hatzaddik, located in the neighborhood, is frequented by many devout Jews and a memorial (termed hiloula) on the date of his death is a yearly event attended by rabbis and MK's..