The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the appeals of Arab families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem who are facing eviction from their homes. The families petitioned for permission to appeal the district court’s decision ordering their removal. If the petition is rejected and the Arab residents are unable to appeal, their eviction will get the green light to go ahead.
The Arab residents of the neighborhood, along with activists from the Peace Now movement, demonstrated outside the Supreme Court.
The Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood, a.k.a. Sheikh Jarrah, is located in north Jerusalem, near the Shimon Hatzadik Cave and the Nahalat Shimon neighborhood. The neighborhood was established by Jewish settlers in 1890, and its Jewish residents were forced out by the British mandatory government during the War of Independence. In the early 2000s, after a long legal battle, Jewish residents started to come back to Shimon Hatzadik.
In the 1950s and ’60s, King Hussein of Jordan plied the Arabs of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem under his rule with real estate to maintain their loyalty to the crown. Among those properties were those vacated Jewish homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
In 1967, Israel liberated the eastern part of Jerusalem. Israeli law is very clear regarding allowing the owners to ask for and receive homes they had been kicked out of in what was briefly known as the “west bank.”
Right-wing Jewish organizations have been engaged for several decades in the effort to retrieve Jewish property that had been captured by Jordan in 1948. These groups either represent the Jewish owners or purchase from their heirs the rights to those properties. Several Jewish families have been able to take back their properties in Sheikh Jarrah, as well as two Jewish trusts that have owned real estate there since the beginning of the neighborhood.
In 2003, those trusts appealed to the rabbinical court to remove the rule that they are banned from selling the land, the court accepted their appeal, and shortly thereafter their land was bought by a company called Nahalat Shimon, a subsidiary of Nahalat Shimon International, which is registered in Delaware.
Nahalat Shimon launched a legal battle to evict the descendants of the squatters that Jordan had moved to the homes vacated by their Jewish owners. The same company reportedly produced a plan to demolish its portion of the neighborhood and build 200 housing units there.
So far, the company has managed to evict four families, while 13 others, numbering about 300 squatters, now face evacuation after losing their legal battle. This past Jerusalem Day, celebrating the 54th anniversary of the liberation of the eternal city, the three Supreme Court justices heard these families’ appeal of the eviction orders issued to them.
At today’s hearing, the panel of justices suggested that a compromise be reached and the current residents be given protected tenant status and pay a low rental fee to the owners for as long they live there. The only problem with that suggestion, is that is was previously offered, and the squatters refused the deal.
There will be another hearing next week.