Jewish activists move into building in Arab Jerusalem neighborhood

Structure in Silwan was once the synagogue of a village built there for Yemenite immigrants in the 1880s, NGO claims

View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan near Jerusalem's Old City, on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan near Jerusalem's Old City, on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Members of Ateret Kohanim, a right-wing group that settles Jews in Arab areas of East Jerusalem, entered a building in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Local residents threw rocks at the group when they entered the building, and Border Police arrived at the scene.

The building, which Ateret Kohanim said was once the synagogue of Kfar Hashiloah, a village built for poor Yemenite immigrants on the slope of the Mount of Olives in the early 1880s, is owned by the Kfar Hashiloah hekdesh, or community trust. A long legal battle in the Jerusalem District Court between trust officials and members of the Abu Naab family, who had moved into the building, ended with the family being ordered to leave.

Jews lived in Kfar Hashiloah from the 1880s until 1938, at the height of the 1936-39 Arab riots, when the British removed them.

The entry of members of Ateret Kohanim into the old synagogue building is part of an ongoing effort by that group and others to restore Jewish presence to Silwan. Members of the Elad organization entered about 25 apartments there in September, and have entered several more buildings since then. Haaretz reported that roughly 500 Jews live in Silwan.

“Jews have the right to live wherever they wish in the world, and certainly in Jerusalem,” a municipality spokesman said in a statement. “To the best of our knowledge, this is a case in which Jewish residents are exercising their right to enter a building that is under their ownership and that was vacant. The Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Police are not involved in the process, nor was any order enacted against the Arab residents. This is purely a civil matter that has nothing to do with the authorities.”

“The state, in the form of the public trustee, is the one who decided to transfer the property (the Abu Naab house) to Ateret Kohanim even though a Palestinian family lives there,” the left-wing NGO Ir Amim said in a statement. “Now the Jerusalem municipality, the police and the other authorities of the state are taking the position of ‘observers on the sidelines,’ as if this matter were not in their purview. In reality, the state supports Ateret Kohanim and the other settler NGOs, to which it privatizes the takeover of outposts in Palestinian neighborhoods in the city.”

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