Ateret Cohanim moves more families into Muslim Quarter

“To have Torah learning and yeshiva students on the outskirts of the Temple Mount shows that the centuries-old Zionist dream is ongoing, as is the process of redemption,” spokesman says.

By ABE SELIG
February 25, 2010 22:31
3 minute read.
Jerusalem old city 88

Jerusalem old city 88. (photo credit: )

 
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The Ateret Cohanim organization, which sponsors numerous initiatives to purchase, or “reclaim,” properties in east Jerusalem for Jewish residency, announced this week that a number of Jewish families had begun moving into a home inside the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, which had been at the center of a years-long legal dispute.

According to Ateret Cohanim, the home – a five-room structure near the Temple Mount – was built between 1860 and 1875 by the Schechter and Kantor families in what was then known as the “Hebron Quarter” of the Old City. The two families, the group added, had ties to the Maharal of Prague (1520-1609) and the Vilna Gaon.

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“The family lived in the house until the Arab riots of 1921, when it evacuated the property for the first time out of fear of the rioters,” a statement from the group read.

The family returned a year later, but fled again during the War of Independence, after which, Ateret Cohanim said, their Arab neighbors had begun living in the house.

Several years ago, an American investor in Monsey, New York, began assisting Ateret Cohanim with the process of “reclaiming” the home, which included taking on legal fees and various payments to both the Arab residents of the property and the Schechter family estate.

After years of legal battles between the Jewish claimants and the Arab residents, the Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of the claimants, and a number of yeshiva students who study in the area began residing in the home with their families in recent weeks – although certain rooms that are still subject to ongoing legal proceedings have not been utilized.

“There are many other houses in the immediate vicinity where today there are yeshivas, many rabbis and students, and about 20 Jewish families,” the Ateret Cohanim statement continued.“They are part of a community of close to 900 Jewish residents, primarily yeshiva and kollel students, rabbis and their families, together with over 120 young children, who are living in the Old Jewish Quarter of the Old City, thanks to the efforts of Ateret Cohanim.”



The statement noted that “in the period predating the Arab riots of 1921 and 1929, the Old City had a Jewish majority.”

“The Jewish population numbered about 20,000 people, who were living in all parts of the Old City,” it said. “In fact, the Muslim Quarter of today was the hub of Jewish activity, with 21 synagogues and six yeshivas. These people were forced to leave their homes with the outbreak of the bloody events surrounding the Arab riots.”

Nonetheless, the move drew criticism from Ir Amim, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization that works toward stabilizing relationships between Israelis and Palestinians in the capital.

“As far as we are concerned, any such initiative, especially when it’s ideologically inspired, makes a future conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more complicated,” Orly Noy, an Ir Amim spokeswoman, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“Additionally, such moves are usually supported by the Israeli authorities, which is very problematic in that the government is encouraging right-wing settlement in Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, even though the official government stance is still dedicated to the peace process,” she continued.

But Ateret Cohanim spokesman Daniel Luria responded to those sentiments, saying, “To have Torah learning and yeshiva students on the outskirts of the Temple Mount shows that the centuries-old Zionist dream is ongoing, as is the process of redemption.”

Some 4,000 Jews currently live in the Old City, making up 12 percent of the area’s total population. While most of them live inside the Jewish Quarter, some 70 families and hundreds of yeshiva students live in other parts of the Old City.

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