(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Residents of Beit Yehonatan on Sunday petitioned the High Court of Justice for a new hearing to decide the status of the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure that was built without the proper permits in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan some seven years ago.
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Citing “new evidence” they say proves the existence of “blatant discrimination” against Jews with regards to the implementation of zoning laws in the capital’s eastern neighborhoods, residents of the towering structure on Sunday said that they now believe the court will have “no choice” but to reverse its decision to evacuate and seal the building.
In 2007, nearly four years after the construction of Beit Yehonatan –
which was built with funding from the Ateret Cohanim organization and
named for imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard – the Jerusalem
District Court declared the building illegal and ordered the eviction of
the seven Jewish families who live there.
But that court order has yet to be carried out, with the police balking
at repeated demands to enforce the evacuation and the city’s legal
adviser, Yossi Havilio, locking horns with Mayor Nir Barkat over the
enforcement of zoning laws in east Jerusalem in general, and the
implementation of the court order for Beit Yehonatan in particular.
While Havilio has pushed for the immediate implementation of the order,
Barkat has tried to find alternative methods of dealing with both Beit
Yehonatan and hundreds of Arab-owned homes in the area that also lack
the proper building permits and are thus also illegal.
Throughout the long ordeal, Beit Yehonatan’s residents have also decried
what they say is Havilio’s “obsession” with implementing the court
order against their building, while neglecting the violations posed by
the Arab-owned homes in the area.
In late June, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the latest in a
series of appeals filed by Beit Yehonatan residents that would have
retroactively legalized at least a portion of the building, although the
court did allow the residents a 30-day reprieve before the court order
could be carried out.
Residents vowed to use the delay to muster up further legal support of
their fight for the fate of the building.
On Sunday, Danny Luria, a spokesman for Ateret Cohanim, told The
Jerusalem Post that he believed those efforts were paying off, pointing
specifically to three Knesset ministerial committees – the Interior
Committee, the State Control Committee and the Children’s Rights
Committee – which announced on Sunday that they would take up the matter
of Beit Yehonatan in upcoming hearings.
“More and more people are coming out in support of the mayor and against
Havilio,” Luria said.
“There’s no question whether there’s been discrimination,” he added. “No
one’s denying that nothing has been done for years in the area with
regards to illegal Arab construction or pending demolition orders.
But there are certain people who are going out of their way to make sure
[Beit Yehonatan] gets done.”