Hundreds of acres of land in strategically crucial areas of the capital are legally owned by Jews overseas who by and large have no idea the properties exist, says Jerusalem City Councilman and director of the Israel Land Fund (ILF) Aryeh King.

King spoke with Arutz Sheva recently about the ILF’s ongoing efforts to locate Jewish absentee owners of property in Jerusalem, the vast majority of whom live overseas, and may be unaware of their own rights to the properties in question.

“In east Jerusalem there are several areas where we found hundreds of plots that are registered under Jewish names. The Jews who purchased these properties live in England, Canada, the United States, some of them from Australia, and a few of them Israel.”

“They all bought the land before the state was established, before 1948…between the years 1922 to 1938. These properties are in strategic areas – very strategic areas today for the future of Jerusalem.”

The lands were purchased, King continued, in areas which today are within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but which were at the time considered to be outside of the city.

King said the properties were located in areas including Beit Safafa, on the southeastern edge of the city, Jabal Mukhaber, near Atarot, near Bethlehem, and even near the present Israeli-Jewish neighborhood of Gilo.

“These lands today are under a big threat because Arabs are faking the documents of these properties and selling them to other Arabs and even getting building permits on the land that, in the Land Registry, is under a Jewish name.”

“We are seeking the Jews who purchased this land,” King explained, “but it’s very difficult because we are already talking about the third generation of the people who purchased the land. Most of them don’t even know that they inherited these properties.”

King said he’s planning a trip to North America to promote his organization’s bid to locate the owners.

“If we won’t find these Jewish people…Arabs will invade the land, build illegally without a permit on the Jewish land, and we will have more and more Jewish land just disappearing and without any Jewish presence.”

King noted that the project had had “some successes” but added that “it’s not enough.”

“We didn’t even get to five percent of the Jews that own the land. And I’m talking about all together hundreds of dunams [a quarter acre], hundreds of apartments that exist, and Arabs are using them.”

“If you heard from your father or your grandmother any story that they purchased land in Jerusalem or in Israel... please contact us. If won’t save your family property, every generation we pass it will become more difficult to find the owners of the land.”