Nahalat Shimon, better known today as the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood, was named after the talmudic sage buried nearby. The neighborhood was founded in 1891 and was home to hundreds of Jewish families. In 1948, due to a decline in security, its Jewish residents were evacuated to the Israeli side of Jerusalem. The Jordanians took control of the neighborhood and settled Palestinian refugees there. Since 1967, Jewish groups have begun to return to live there through property and land acquisitions and by legal means. Today, there are 28 Jewish families living in three housing compounds in the neighborhood, the newest one located on the lower slope of the Sheikh Jarrah hill, close to the American Colony Hotel.

After 1967, the control over Jewish-owned property in Shimon Hatzadik was transferred from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property. In 1972 the Israeli Custodian released the land back to its owners (the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel). In 1988 the High Court of Justice ruled that the 28 Arab families living on the premises would be granted the status of “protected residents” but that ownership of the land belonged to the two Jewish organizations.

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Ten years later, in 1998, Jews moved into two deserted houses in the neighborhood. At the same time, a process of evicting Arab families began, their refusal to pay rent to the two Jewish organizations being cited as the reason. The Jewish groups had the support of former MK Yehezkel Zakai (Labor) and the heads of the Sephardic Committee, permitting them to remain on the site and to rebuild it. Zakai explained to the High Court that the Arabs there had treated the premises as if they were their own private property, building without authorization, entering houses that were not theirs, and had even tried to destroy the abandoned synagogue located in the middle of the
 neighborhood. Ehud Olmert, then mayor of Jerusalem, and members of Shas also supported the Jewish activity. A son of Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef began giving lessons at the small newly built yeshiva (in which Rabbi Ovadia himself had read his Torah portion on his bar mitzva) in the refurbished synagogue. Over the years, more Jewish families gradually moved into the neighborhood.

Last year, four Arab families were evicted from the neighborhood and were replaced by seven Jewish families.

Over the past month, left-wing activists and representatives of social and human rights associations have begun to demonstrate every Friday afternoon against the Jewish residents living in the neighborhood.
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