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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chaim Silberstein’

From Barren Desolation To Blooming Growth

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Good news in Yerushalayim: The government is expected to grant final approval next month to the first new neighborhood in the capital’s liberated areas in 14 years.

We’re not talking about a small building project here. It is, rather, an initiative of more than 2,600 apartments – room for nearly 15,000 people – in a small area known as Givat HaMatos, or Airplane Hill. According to pro-Arab sources, the new and improved Givat HaMatos will leave the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa “enclosed: a Palestinian enclave in an overwhelmingly Israeli area.”

Givat HaMatos is, at present, a relatively small plot just off Hevron Blvd. in southern Jerusalem. It received its name after a small two-engine Israel Air Force plane crashed there on the second day of the Six-Day War; it had been hit by Jordanian anti-aircraft artillery, killing its pilot, Lt. Dan Givon. Some years afterward, some 400 caravans (mobile-type homes without wheels) were placed there to absorb the sudden arrival of thousands of new Ethiopian Jewish immigrants. Currently, however, only a few remain, and the neighborhood is generally uncared for and unsupervised; it can now be foreseen that within a few years, this forsaken and forlorn area will go the way of the rest of the Land of Israel over the past century: From barren desolation to blooming growth.

Left-wing and pro-Arab organizations strongly object to the plan. Ir Amim, for instance, has submitted objections based on the following reasoning: “[We] have reached the conclusion that the current plan is designed to destroy the existing balance in the village [sic] of Beit Tsafafa…. The plan proposes more than 2,000 housing units, and many public buildings, including synagogues and ritual baths – but no churches or mosques…. The Givat HaMatos area is the only remaining area left for expansion and development of Beit Tsafafa. Now comes along this plan, proposing to build a new neighborhood, detached and with a new [i.e., Jewish] population.”

Others who oppose keeping Jerusalem Jewish similarly object to the new neighborhood on the grounds that a strongly Jewish Givat HaMatos will “sabotage the chances of reaching a diplomatic agreement in Jerusalem that will enable territorial continuity between Arab neighborhoods…. Together with Gilo and Har Homa, it will complete the chokehold that will totally detach eastern Jerusalem [i.e., the Arab neighborhoods] from the southern West Bank.”

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, agrees, saying, “The proposed constructions in Givat HaMatos are of particular concern, as they would cut the [Arab] geographic contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

So much for the good news.

The flip side is that the 2,600 new units will not be entirely Jewish. Instead, a third of the apartments will be reserved for the growth of the afore-mentioned Beit Tsafafa neighborhood. As indicated, however, the strong objections from the left are very encouraging, and it is precisely because of the resulting increased Jewish territorial contiguity that so much of the Israeli public welcomes the new initiative.

In general, as Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat recently learned after ordering a report on the matter, more than 50,000 new housing units are planned for the Jerusalem in the coming 20 years – and the lion’s share of them are to be built in the areas that were liberated during the Six-Day War. The main reason for this is simply that there is barely any room left for massive construction in western Jerusalem.

Though a significant number of the proposed apartments are to be built in Arab neighborhoods, the trend indicates that neighborhoods such as Gilo, N’vei Yaakov, and Ramot – which some news media and others still call “settlements” – will not only remain under Israeli sovereignty under any arrangement, all but preventing the city’s partition, but will also become the locations of choice for future construction in Jerusalem.

Regards From The Past: Royal Gardens In Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Reach out and touch the kingdom of King David; transcend time and jump headlong into the biblical accounts of King Solomon and those who succeeded him as Kings of Judea.

No, this is not an Israeli Tourism Ministry brochure. It is an expression of the exhilaration one feels when considering the latest Jerusalem Municipality construction project, just below Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) and the City of David.

The city is working full steam ahead – albeit in low gear, thanks to various powers that be – to build a modern park and neighborhood in an area that thousands of years ago was part of the palaces of King David, King Solomon, and others.

The controversial plan has attracted the disapproving attention of leading world players such as the Obama administration and the United Nations. Why? Because it involves the long-threatened destruction of 22 illegally-built Arab structures, even as it “launders” and retroactively approves 66 others.

Specifically, the neighborhood in question – King’s Garden – is located just south of the Old City and a few hundred yards west of the renewed Jewish neighborhood of Maaleh Zeitim. It marks the southern mouth of the Kidron Valley, which separates, a bit further north, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. Mentioned several times in the Bible (Kings II, Jeremiah and Nehemiah), historians agree with the Jewish tradition that the King’s Garden served King David and King Solomon.

Over the centuries, it retained a special, garden-like flavor, and even the previous Ottoman-Turkish, British and Jordanian governments made sure to keep it building-free. Ironically, only during the period of Israeli rule, following the 1967 Six-Day War, was the uniqueness of the area gradually desecrated by creeping, pirate Arab construction. At present, no fewer than 88 illegal Arab residential structures fill the area – not one of them with municipal permits.

Whose fault is that? In a case of rare agreement between the Arabs and the Jewish sides, both blame City Hall. The Arabs say they were “forced” to build illegally because the Jewish city government didn’t give them permits – somewhat reminiscent of logic used by a thief: “I was ‘forced’ to steal it because the owner refused to give it to me…”

Many Jews, as well, blame the various Jerusalem municipal governments over the years for allowing the situation to develop as it did. Those on the left say the Arabs should have been allowed to build on historic Jewish land. The nationalist camp maintains, however, that 1) the Arabs should never have been allowed to build there even illegally; 2) the unlawful construction should have been razed before it passed the stage of viability; and 3) there is no justification for rewarding the builders of 66 illegal structures.

As city councilman Yair Gabbai said, “There can be no sovereignty without law enforcement.” Meaning, of course, that Israel belies its own claims to ownership over all of Jerusalem by neglecting to enforce the law in the eastern half of the city.

In any event, the municipality, headed by Mayor Nir Barkat, is now trying to enforce the law in King’s Garden by promoting the new project. Gabbai, the Jerusalem municipality’s representative on the Regional Zoning Committee, is optimistic that when the international community sees how it will enhance the quality of life of Jerusalem’s Arabs, it will actively seek to be a part of its implementation.

The plan was approved last year by the local zoning committee, and Barkat has been pressing for the next step: District Committee approval. In fact, by law, the District Committee must consider, within 60 days, all plans approved by local planning committees.

Reclaiming The Land

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Editor’s Note: This installment of Keeping Jerusalem was written by Hillel Fendel, who interviewed Chaim Silberstein, the usual co-author of the column.

What are the best ways to manifest the Jewish people’s return to the Land of Israel and the Holy City after 1,900 years? At the top of the list is undoubtedly the reclamation of land once owned by Jews and now occupied by others (usually Arabs), or by settling land in strategic areas, thus making sure they are Jewish.

Chaim Silberstein, founder and president of the Keep Jerusalem/Im Eshkachech organization, has had great success in Shimon HaTzaddik, Nachalat Shimon and other neighborhoods.

Fendel: Why is the land-reclamation front so important at this time?

Silverstein: Without building viable Jewish neighborhoods in all parts of eastern Jerusalem, and especially in and around the Old City, our claim of ownership and sovereignty rings hollow. In order to secure Jerusalem for the Jewish people forever, we need to work on three planes simultaneously and with an integrated approach – the physical, political, and educational planes. Together with our activities on the educational and political planes, these efforts must be supplemented and buttressed with physical facts on the ground. ”

Isn’t that the job of the government?

Many times we find ourselves doing the work that the government is supposed to be doing. Take hasbara, for instance. Unfortunately, it’s commonly known that Israel’s efforts in presenting its positions to the international public do not meet the needs. Similarly, when was the last time the government initiated a new neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem? We are proud to say our efforts have led to the creation of the Jewish neighborhoods of Shimon HaTzaddik, Nachalat Shimon, and more – and groups such as Elad, JRP, and the Israel Land Fund have also had significant accomplishments.

What role does all this play in terms of making sure Yerushalayim remains Israeli?

The Clinton/Barak formula for Jerusalem, originating in the Camp David talks of July 2000, was as follows: “Jewish neighborhoods for the Jews, Arab neighborhoods for the Arabs.” It is therefore clear that in any negotiations over Jerusalem, the Old City and the areas surrounding it must be saturated with Jewish neighborhoods, rendering them non-negotiable and not transferable. Redeeming lands is the charge of the hour.

When I say “redeeming lands,” I mean: locating Arab sellers, working out the sale, and following up on actualizing the sale and making arrangements for the current tenants. This occurs mostly in politically, historically, and demographically strategic areas such as the City of David, the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, and along the seam between eastern and western Jerusalem.

Have the police and courts generally been helpful to you?

My personal experience is that when it comes to evicting Arab squatters from Jewish property, the courts are inclined to employ a policy of reverse discrimination; some would call it simply “anti-Jewish.” For example, just this week, in a case we’ve been pursuing for six years regarding Arab squatters on Jewish land, a ruling was handed down that was so transparently against the Jewish owners that it left us no option but to appeal to the Jerusalem District Court. The case concerns a property in Nachalat Shimon, adjacent to Shimon HaTzaddik, where the Arabs say they are protected tenants and cannot be evicted. The court, though it rejected all the Arab testimony, accepted documents that were tenuous at best and upheld their right to live there.

What do you mean by “tenuous”?

The Arab occupants had to prove they lived on the property since 1968 – and the best they could come up with was the mother’s marriage certificate showing that she got married in the neighborhood in 1964. The certificate was (a) not an original, (b) was not submitted by a party to the certificate, and (c) does not prove they lived in the property in contention. Not to mention that we brought proof that the property was not even built up at that time. Yet the court accepted the marriage certificate as proof.

On the positive side, by the way, concurrent to the legal process, we recently submitted plans for a zoning plan for the property – and Jerusalem City Hall has approved them.

Regarding the police, I can say they bend over backward to preserve peace; they barely enforce the law in many Arab-populated neighborhoods, because their overall goal is to avoid violence or disturbances.

Do you find that Arab owners are generally willing to cooperate, as long as the deal remains secret?

There are three possible ways of buying from an Arab. One: when he knows the buyers are Jewish and he agrees to sell directly anyway. Two: when he knows Jews are behind the purchase and insists on selling to an Arab front man. Three: when the seller is unaware Jews are behind the sale and the Jews have to work anonymously through an Arab front man.

What projects do you have on the burner at present?

The Jerusalem Capital Development Fund, our land redemption organization, is focusing on purchasing properties north of the Old City and adjacent to the east-west seam. At the moment, we have ten deals on the cooker, and we’re looking for investors.

 

For more information on how to participate in keeping Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to tours@keepjerusalem.org or visit Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech’s website at www.keepjerusalem.org.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/keeping-jerusalem/reclaiming-the-land-2/2011/10/16/

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