An organization which works to protect Jewish property rights in Jerusalem and to redeem Jewish real estate in and around the Old City scored a legal victory Sunday, when a Jerusalem court accepted the group’s demand that property in eastern Jerusalem be returned to its Jewish owners.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ruled in favor of a petition filed by the Ateret Cohanim organization, which had sued for the return of Jewish-owned property in the Silwan (Shiloah) neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem and the removal of nearly two dozen Arab squatters.
The property in question was part of the ‘Kfar Hashiloah’ neighborhood: a Jewish community established in the area in the 19th century which was destroyed during Arab riots prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. During Jordan’s occupation of the area beginning in 1948, the property was seized by local Arabs, becoming part of the Silwan neighborhood.
The land had been purchased on behalf of Jewish immigrants from Yemen in the 19th century with funds secured from abroad, and was considered “hekdesh”, or “consecrated” property which is communally-owned.
In his decision Sunday, Judge Mordechai Burstyn ruled that a home built illegally in the Silwan neighborhood sits on Jewish-owned “hekdesh” land, which is now under the authority of Ateret Cohanim, Haaretz reported.
The illegal building is home to 22 Arab squatters, whom the Ateret Cohanim petition has called to evict.
The court rejected the residents’ arguments against eviction and handed down an eviction order, set for July 1st. The residents are expected to appeal the order.
According to a report by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, an organization which works to shield Arab squatters from eviction in eastern Jerusalem, the illegal building in question is home to the Nasser al-Rajabi family in the Batn al-Hawa quarter of Silwan.
The three-story building houses 16 people, Wadi Hilweh claimed, disputing the Haaretz report which claimed 22 squatters resided at the property.
Ateret Cohanim is expected to pursue similar legal efforts to reclaim additional tracts of Jewish-owned ‘hekdesh’ land in Silwan. A total of 35 buildings, housing some 700 people, have been identified in Silwan which were built on ‘hekdesh’ land.