Right-wing activists sealed off one room in the Hamdallah family home in the
east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud on Sunday, the first step in an
attempt to force the family out of their home in order to build an expansion to
the Jewish compound of Ma’aleh Hazeitim.
There was no violence on Sunday
as the three people who lived in the room – Ahmed Hamdallah, his wife and
two-year-old son – had previously relocated to a rented apartment in Silwan
ahead of the eviction. On Sunday morning, right-wing activists, guarded by a
private security detail, nailed metal sheeting over the doorway and used barbed
wire to prevent anyone from entering the room where they had lived. Seventeen
members of the Hamdallah family live in rest of the house.
was the legal result of a 17-year-long court battle between the Hamdallah family
and American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who has purchased hundreds of dunams
of Jewish apartments in east Jerusalem and the Old City for development. Ten
dunans equals 1 hectare.
The land containing the Ma’aleh Hazeitim
compound and the Hamdallah family home originally belonged to the Chabad Kollel,
who purchased it in 1886 from the Ottomans for use as a cemetery.
1948, the kollel lost the land when Jordan controlled east Jerusalem. Jordanians
gave the land to the local mukhtar (community leader), who sold it to the
Hamdallah family. The Hamdallah family built a home there and moved in
Following the 1967 Six Day War, the kollel mounted a successful
legal campaign to reclaim the land. The courts agreed with its claim and the
ownership reverted back to the Chabad Kollel.
In 1992, the kollel sold the land to Moskowitz, who developed the Ma’aleh Hazeitim complex with the support of the Ateret Cohanim Foundation.
Ateret Cohanim has cooperated with Moskowitz on a number of different Jewish housing projects, and supports Jews living in the Old City's Muslim Quarter as well as Silwan.
Ma’aleh Hazeitim is
one of the largest Jewish compounds in predominantly Arab neighborhoods, with
110 apartment units, including penthouses that sell for more than NIS 7
Starting in 1995, Moskowitz mounted a number of legal attempts
to evacuate the entire Hamdallah family from their home. The case went all the
way to the High Court of Justice, and on July 21, 2005, Judge Yitzhak Shimoni
accepted the Hamdallah family’s claim that they had purchased the land and ruled
they could stay in the original building. However, he ruled that the family
could be evicted from any additions made to the building, including one room in
the main house and two sheds in the corners of the property.
ruling, Moskowitz launched another legal campaign in order to evict the family
from this room and the courtyard of the property, claiming these were additions
to the original building. Three weeks ago, the Jerusalem District Court ruled
that Moskowitz could evict the family in that room after September 1.
current plan is to build a fence through the Hamdallah’s courtyard that leads to
the one room, and possibly have a Jewish family move into it.
is not just the eviction, it is another step in harassing the family so they
won’t want to stay there,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim, a
left-wing activist group. Tatarsky explained that hounding the family is
Moskowitz’s only option as the legal procedures have failed. “At any moment,
this could blow up,” he said.
“It’s a very sensitive area where they’re
doing things, and they could end with violence.”
resident Aryeh King, who is involved in other Jewish residential projects in
east Jerusalem with his organization Israel Land Fund, expressed optimism on
Sunday that his apartment compound will eventually expand into the Hamdallah’s
property. The plan is to build dozens of additional units for Jewish
“We are not going to give up on what belongs to us,” he said.
He highlighted the fact that the courts have clearly awarded ownership of the
land to Moskowitz, even though the home has special legal status, as proof that
the Jewish ownership will eventually prevail.
Members of the Hamdallah
family watched calmly on Sunday as right-wing activists cleared out debris from
the room and brought bales of barbed wire to prevent entry.
right-wing activists cannot build a fence through the courtyard until they
receive the proper permit from the municipality, after the Ir Amim organization
filed a complaint with the city’s building code enforcement department on Sunday
Members of the family said the action was not a surprise and
they had been informed a few weeks ago. Khaled Hamdallah, Ahmed’s brother and
the patriarch of the family, said they did not resist because their lawyer for
more than a decade, Shlomo Lecker, told them there was “nothing they could
Hamdallah said his brother already moved out all of his belongings
and did not even show up the morning of the eviction to avoid a
A small group of leftwing activists opposed to the
eviction was on the scene but did not halt the work to seal off the
“For decades they’ve been coming slowly,” said Malik Jaber, 20, a
cousin of the Hamdallah family. “We have no doubt that in 20 years they’re going
to take this entire area.”