Tensions rose in the normally quiet Beit Hanina neighborhood of east Jerusalem
after an Arab family was evicted from its home on Wednesday morning, and a half
dozen young activists from the Israel Land Fund moved into the house immediately
Khaled Natche, his wife, Lubna, and their nine children were
evicted after an eight-year legal battle found that the land was legally
purchased by Jews.
The eviction of the Natche family is the first step
toward creating a Jewish complex of 50 apartments in the predominantly Arab
neighborhood, according to Israel Land Fund director Aryeh King. King said a
Jewish man purchased two buildings in the neighborhood 35 years ago. The
properties also belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948, he
Natche’s brother, who lives in the adjacent building, heeded the
court decision and left a number of weeks ago. The court ordered the families to
pay NIS 250,000 to the Israel Land Fund for damages resulting from the court
case, but King promised to waive the debt if the families moved out
Natche refused to leave, and told The Jerusalem Post two
weeks ago that he would never give up the keys to his home.
police arrived at his home at 9 a.m. and detained him for questioning at the
Neveh Ya’acov police station for two hours.
While he was being
questioned, officers removed the family members from the house and put their
belongings in a truck. The eviction was completed without violence.
noon, Natche sat in his car outside of his former home with his wife and four of
his youngest children, and said he did not know where he would sleep that
“What can I do?” he asked. “I can’t do anything. These
are the results of an occupying government, this is a mafia.”
lawyer, Khalid Masalha, petitioned the Jerusalem District Court for a temporary
injunction to stop the Jewish activists from moving into the home, but the petition was denied
around 3 p.m.
“We’re 35 years late, but better late than never,” King
said just before the activists moved into the home. “I hope it will continue
The two buildings sit on approximately six-tenths of a hectare
of land (1.5 acres) in the Hashakrir neighborhood of Beit Hanina, which is
located 400 meters from the capital’s light rail line.
The Israel Land
Fund head hopes to build a Jewish neighborhood called “Nof Shmuel,” or View of
Samuel, with 50 apartments. The name refers to the tomb of the Prophet Samuel
north of Ramot, which is visible from the neighborhood.
A local taxi
driver, who requested anonymity, said the residents were aware that some of the
land now belongs to Jews, and they worried that their neighborhood would turn
into the next Silwan, with children throwing stones at private security guards
and frequent patrols by border police to guard the Jewish residents. Beit Hanina
is a quiet, leafy neighborhood and one of the wealthiest areas of east
Jerusalem, and generally not involved in violent clashes.
King said he had already received approval from the municipality and the
Interior Ministry for the project and was awaiting a construction permit from
the city, the last step in the approval process. Construction could begin within
a year, he said.
In 2009, a similar controversy arose over the Shimon
Hatzadik homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where the courts awarded
contested ownership to Jewish owners. The eviction of three Arab families there
prompted nearly two years of weekly protests and the founding of the Sheikh
Jarrah Solidarity Movement.