Jewish residents of Shiloach (file)
Jewish residents of Shiloach (file) Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Jewish residents of Jerusalem scored a significant victory Wednesday, reclaiming a building formerly owned by Jews before being ethnically-cleansed by Arab armies in 1948.

The Jewish residents entered the structure before dawn Wednesday, with the assistance of Ateret Kohanim, an NGO dedicated to the creation of a Jewish majority in the Old City and eastern Jerusalem.

The structure once served as a synagogue in the old Yemenite Village and is owned by Jews. It is located adjacent to Beit Yehonatan – a six-story structure purchased and constructed by a private benefactor with the help of Ateret Kohanim several years ago.

The Jews entered the structure after a three-year-long court battle, between the Abu Naab family that resided in it and the Kfar Shiloach Hekdesh, which owns sacred property in the Shiloach (Silwan) neighborhood.

The proceedings culminated with the issuing of an eviction order against the Abu Naabs.

The Jews affiliated with Ateret Kohanim who entered the structure overnight did so independently and did not require police escort.

"Silwan" is in fact an Arabic name for a vast swathe of territory in eastern Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, which encompasses the ancient City of David and the old Jewish neighborhood of Kfar HaShiloach - where a thriving Jewish community was ethnically-cleansed by Arab forces in the early twentieth century.

Aerial view of "Silwan", including Kfar HaShiloach, the Old City and Mount of Olives
Aerial view of "Silwan", including Kfar HaShiloach, the Old City and Mount of Olives Ateret Cohanim

It is believed to have been the site of the ancient Israelite capital, and as such returning to the area is a priority for Zionist idealists in their struggle to reclaim their national Jewish heritage. That's reflected in demographic nature of those who live there, who identify as religious-Zionists. 

But the Jewish communities there are not contiguous. The community in the City of David (Ir David in Hebrew) is relatively large - more than 50 families already live there and over two dozen more are set to join them.

By contrast, the Kfar HaShiloach neighborhood is far smaller. Only nine families currently live there, along with 11 kollel (full time Torah-learning) students. Last year, the purchase of two apartment blocks, with a total of ten apartments in all, effectively doubled the size of the tiny community.