National Union MKs at Beit Yehonatan 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In a show of solidarity with the Jewish residents of Beit Yehonatan in the heart
of east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, the four National Union MKs gave a
press conference in one of the apartments there on Monday
“Before you come and discuss what to do with this building,
you have to implement the court orders against all of the other buildings and to
destroy the houses that were built illegally on green areas in Gan Hamelech,”
said National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz, referring to the numerous illegal
buildings in Silwan and elsewhere in east Jerusalem.
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“It’s a shame and a
disgrace that we have to travel in bulletproof vehicles inside of Jerusalem, the
holy city, because of a few auto mechanics who are throwing rocks,” he added,
speaking from the living room of Eldad and Nira Rabinovitz on Beit Yehonatan’s
“People are against the rabbis’ letter that says not to rent
apartments to Arabs in Jewish neighborhoods, but they’re also fighting so that
Jews can’t live in a neighborhood where Arabs live, and that’s part of the same
hypocrisy that’s at the roots of enforcing the law selectively,” MK Arye Eldad
Eldad and Katz were joined by MKs Uri Ariel and Michael Ben-Ari.
All the lawmakers praised Mayor Nir Barkat’s decision to hold off on evacuating
Beit Yehonatan for the time being.
On Sunday, the municipality said it
had a numbered list of evacuations and house demolitions planned for Silwan, and
Beit Yehonatan does not fall within the top 15.
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The press conference came
the day after Ateret Cohanim tried to evacuate Arab five families from the Old
Yemenite Synagogue, which is located just 100 meters down the street from Beit
The Old Yemenite Synagogue was part of a collection of
buildings that belonged to Yemenite Jews from 1882- 1938. The Abu Naeb family
has been living in the building for 72 years.
Ateret Cohanim and the
Hekdesh, a 127-year-old council of representatives that acts as custodians for
the property, filed a civil case against the Abu Naeb family, which it won in
January 2010. According to the court order, police must evacuate the building no
later than January 3, 2011.
On Sunday morning, Ateret Cohanim arrived at
the synagogue with 60 engineers, contractors, and security guards to evacuate
the families. According to informal estimates, 1,000-2,000 policemen came
to provide security.
In response to the impending eviction, Barkat sent a
terse letter to Ateret Cohanim and the Hekdesh insisting that any attempt to
evacuate the Arab families from the Old Yemenite Synagogue would mean the
evacuation of the Jewish families in Beit Yehonatan “the very same day, with the
full cooperation of the police.”
An court order to evacuate and seal Beit
Yehonatan was issued in 2007, though it has yet to be implemented. Barkat
has previously said he wants to retroactively legalize many of the illegal
structures in Silwan before taking action against Beit Yehonatan.
the two sides came to an agreement on Sunday afternoon that neither building
would be evacuated, most of the police left the area. Left-wing activists
who were staging a sit-in at the Abu Naeb residence left around midnight on
Ateret Cohanim head Matti Dan said it was unfortunate that
the mayor “couldn’t stand up to the pressure,” and had to force the organization
to halt the eviction of the Abu Naeb family.
Dan said that it caused
“great financial damage” to the organization, though he declined to say how much
it had spent on the 60 professionals to help with the eviction.
concerned that they will evacuate this building,” Dan told The Jerusalem Post
“When Barkat deals with the Arab [illegal construction], he will deal with us
City councillor and opposition head Pepe Alalu (Meretz) filed a
police complaint on Monday, claiming that Barkat is obstructing justice by not
carrying out the court’s order to evacuate and seal Beit
“We’re not a banana republic, and this is not the Third
World,” Alalu told the Post
. “If the government can’t interfere with
building in east Jerusalem and parks in Jerusalem and sanitary services in the
city, then Barkat can’t interfere with the law.”
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