The Hekdesh Benvenisti submitted this week eviction suits against nine Arab families in the Kfar HaShiloah (Silwan) neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. To date, the association has sued 72 Arab families it wants evicted, based on the fact that the entire neighborhood belongs to Yemenite residents who settled there in the early 1920s.
Kfar HaShiloah is located on the eastern slope of the Kidron Valley, above the outlet of the Gihon Spring opposite the City of David.
The Hekdesh Benvenisti is an association established in 1899 for the purpose of building the Yemenite neighborhood. According to Daniel Luria, the executive director of Ateret Cohanim-Israel, the Ateret Cohanim NGO assists the Hekdesh facilitate acquisitions in the area, which has been conducting a legal campaign against the Arab squatters who took over the Jewish-owned homes following the 1949 armistice, when the Jordanian Legion governed eastern Jerusalem. The bulk of these Arab families took over the properties in the 1950s and 60s, and today there are some 80 Arab families there.
The Hekdesh went to court after the squatters refused the offer of money to vacate the Jewish properties.
Currently there are more than 50 Jewish families living in the area, some in homes purchased from Arabs, some in Beit Yonatan, an apartment building in the neighborhood, owned by Ateret Cohanim. Last year an Arab family was evicted from what used to be the century-old Yemenite synagogue, and the building has undergone renovations, complete with a glow-at-night star of David on the rooftop. Two additional apartment buildings have been redeemed over the past year, and are also being renovated to accept future Jewish families.
The Jewish residents of the area are often attacked by the Arabs, in many cases requiring intervention by police and Jewish security personnel. The process of removing the Arab squatters promises to be lengthy, but the association expects big rewards in terms of establishing a major, thriving Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.
In 2014, White House spokesman Josh Earnest described the new, legal occupants of Kfar HaShiloah as “individuals who are associated with an organization whose agenda, by definition, stokes tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.” Prime minister Netanyahu was “baffled” by the criticism, deeming it “un-American.”
Attorney Avraham Moshe Segal, noted that “various courts, led by the Supreme Court, have determined that the Hekdesh is the exclusive owner of these lands, and we expect that the courts’ rulings be honored precisely.”JNi.Media