Jewish residents of a luxury apartment complex in the middle of the east
Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber were shocked when it was announced
last week that the company building the project, Digal Ltd., was in so much
financial trouble that its’ bondholders agreed to sell the firm’s NIS 55 million
debt to a company owned by a Palestinian-American businessman.
company also owes NIS 70m. or more to Bank Leumi.RELATED:Additional Jewish construction on the way for e. Jerusalem21% drop in number of finished settlement homes
Digal’s main project,
Nof Zion, is slated to have almost 400 apartments, plus a synagogue, hotel,
shopping center, country club and nursery school. The first phase, with 91
apartments, has already been completed and residents moved in two years
Many of them moved to the neighborhood to make a political statement
about Jewish sovereignty, and are now faced with the discomforting idea that a
Palestinian businessman might start selling the rest of the units to Arab
families. The project has already received the necessary approvals from the
Interior Ministry, although it is waiting for the final construction permit,
which is largely a technicality, from the municipality.
opposite of what they promised, and it’s a breach of our contract,” said
resident Motti Mintzer, who is leading the residents in an effort to buy the
land from Digal.
“They said we’re buying our residence unit in a Jewish
community with a big synagogue, 24/7 guards, and now we may find ourselves in
the middle of a Palestinian community, cut off from main
Digal Ltd. fell into hard times after failing to sell as many
apartments as they had hoped. Part of the problem, critics say, is that the
company tried too hard to market the apartments to overseas Jews rather than the
local national religious community. The luxury apartments were not affordable
for Israelis, leading Digal to significantly lower the prices.
wanted ideological people, but ideological people don’t always have money,” said
Hagit Ofran, from Peace Now.
The hostile takeover was negotiated by Dov
Weisglass, who was director of Ariel Sharon’s bureau when Sharon was prime
minister, who represented a Cypriot company, Techsal Trading
Techsal, owned by a Palestinian businessman who also has an American
passport, wanted to buy Digal’s NIS 55m. debt at the price of 60 agarot on the
shekel. Bondholders accepted the offer on December 7 and are now entering into
Bemunah Ltd., a company that builds national religious
housing projects, immediately launched an appeal to Jewish investors around the
world to invest in a company that would buy the land for the second stage of the
Nof Zion project for NIS 48m. Buying the remaining land will enable the project
to move forward without any input from Techsal.
A week later, Bemunah has
already raised half of the NIS 48m., with investments from NIS 320,000 to NIS
“It was clear to us that on one side there’s a nationalistic mission,
and on the other side, it’s a profitable endeavor that people would buy it,”
said Bemunah’s Ronen Weil, who is heading the Nof Zion acquisition
After Bemunah raises the capital, it will enter into
negotiations with Digal to buy the land. Digal did not return repeated phone
calls requesting comment.