Background: A hotel with a convoluted history

Grand mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who had strong ties with Hitler and the Nazis, started construction on the building in the mid- 1930s.

January 11, 2011 02:02
2 minute read.
Demolition underway at e. J'lem Shepherd Hotel

Shepherd Hotel demolition 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The Shepherd Hotel, a boxy building with a sweeping view of Hebrew University and the Mount of Olives ridge, has a complicated history involving many countries and incarnations.

Grand mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who had strong ties with Hitler and the Nazis, started construction on the building in the mid- 1930s, though he never lived in it. When he was deported from Jerusalem in 1937 by the British, he rented the partiallyfinished building to George Antonius, who finished the construction and rented it for 10 years.

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In 1948, the house became a Jordanian army outpost until Israel took control of the property in 1967 under the Absentee Property Law.

From 1967 to 1982, it was owned by two separate Arab Christian families, the Faruwaji and the Marum families, who were considered protected tenants and ran the property as a pilgrims’ hotel.

After the Marum family went bankrupt in the early ’80s, the land was sold by the state custodian to Irving Moskowitz, a California businessman who provides the financial backing for other Jewish buildings in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Neighborhood activists in Sheikh Jarrah claim that the deal that transferred the ownership to Moskowitz was a shady business transaction done with a Swiss tourism business called C&M Properties Partnership acting as a front for Ateret Cohanim.

“If there was some problem with the ownership, it would have been clarified in court well before the actual construction permit, but we’re already so far past that,” said Ateret Cohanim spokesman Daniel Luria.

Starting in 1987, the Border Police used the hotel as an east Jerusalem headquarters for 15 years, until a new headquarters was built in the early 2000s less than half a kilometer away. The building has been empty since the Border Police left.

In November 2008, Moskowitz submitted a plan to replace the hotel with over 100 apartment units for Jewish families. The plans were later scaled down to 20 units to avoid a lengthy approval process, since the area was previously zoned for 20 residential units. Ateret Cohanim said a possible name for the new complex is “Nahmanedes Courtyard,” though the project has yet to engage a contractor.

According to the building permit issued by the city, the area is zoned for 20 apartments in two four-story buildings, and underground parking. The entire complex is about 8.5 dunams.

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