Against the background of the deteriorating security in Jerusalem, Arab families living in the synagogue in Kfar Shiloah (Silwan neighborhood) east of the city were evacuated Monday morning, NRG reported. The decision to evacuate the building was reached only after a petition by representatives of the Ateret Cohanim NGO had been accepted by the District Court.
Last May, members of Ateret Cohanim, a Jewish Israeli organization that also runs a yeshiva located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, entered the ancient Ohel Shlomo synagogue, built by Yemenites in the 19th century, and located about a hundred yards from Beit Yonatan, an apartment building named after Jonathan Pollard and owned by Ateret Cohanim. Beit Yonatan has been sealed back in 2011, on the orders of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, despite Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s objections.
At the time, Mayor Barkat conditioned the sealing of Beit Yonatan on the evacuation of the Abu Nab family, who lived in the synagogue—in the context of the City’s uniform enforcement of demolition orders that does not discriminate between sectors.
In recent years, the Abu Nabs fought a legal battle against the Synagogue Sanctuary over their home ownership, until, earlier this year, the District Court in Jerusalem ruled that the Abu Nabs had to vacate the building.
According to a knowledgeable source in Ateret Cohanim speaking to NRG, the buyers plan to renew the synagogue as an active house of prayer that will serve the Jewish residents of the neighborhood. “This is a historic synagogue in the village of Silwan, Yemenite Jews who immigrated to Israel [in 1882] built it. … A Jewish foot has not set here since 1938.”
Until the 1938 Arab riots, the Silwan neighborhood was primarily Jewish, known as Harat al-Yaman. After the riots forced the Jewish population to leave, no Jews lived there for many years. Ateret Cohanim, the building’s owner, has taken on the mission of returning Jewish life to areas of east Jerusalem, especially those previously included in the City of David, like Silwan.
“We’re going to renovate it and pray in it,” the Ateret Cohanim official told NRG. “It is the main synagogue of Silwan. It was built by the grandfather of [former Shin Bet chief] Carmi Gillon, Israel Dov Frumkin, the first journalist who went into politics.”
A pioneer of Hebrew journalism, author, and builder of Jerusalem, Israel Dov Frumkin organized the society Ezrat Niddaḥim, in honor of the Montefiores, to counteract the influence of the missionaries. Ezrat Niddaḥim was active in support and education of Yemeni Jews and in building the Silwan village for them.
Much of that history is lost on pro-Palestinian organizations, such as Peace Now, which protested on Monday the fact that over the past year settlers have doubled their presence in Silwan, with an August overnight takeover expanding the community from 10 to 35 Jewish families.