nof zion 311.
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Once again, the economically struggling Nof Zion housing complex in east
Jerusalem may be purchased by Palestinian- American businessman Bashar al-Masri,
who wants to change the ideologically-driven Jewish apartments into a
development for Arab families.
Residents of Nof Zion, in the east
Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber, thought that their fight to prevent
Masri from buying the remainder of the housing complex’s land was over in
mid-January, when supermarket mogul Rami Levy made a surprise offer to buy the
The future of Nof Zion, the main project of the
struggling Digal Company, came under fire after Masri, the businessman behind
the planned Palestinian city of Rawabi, put forth the highest offer to rescue
the company from its NIS 100 million debt. The company owes most of the debt,
some NIS 80m., to Bank Leumi.
However, Bank Leumi informed Digal on
Sunday that its debt repayment plan, using money from the Levy deal, would not
be sufficient. The company has until Wednesday to come up with additional funds,
or it may be forced to accept the highest offer – Masri’s.
Sunday, Masri reportedly offered to buy Digal owner Meir Shamir’s stake in the
Shamir holds 35 percent of the company’s bonds.
spokesman for Bank Leumi, Aviram Cohen, declined to discuss details of the case,
citing client privacy.
“We were expecting that there was a nice offer and
that Bank Leumi was going to somehow make this work, but at the last minute Bank
Leumi said we’re back to stage one and maybe worse,” said Nof Zion resident Shai
Cooperman, who has lived in the neighborhood for a year and a half. Like dozens
of other residents, Cooperman bought a small number of bonds in Digal in order
to attend the bondholders’ meetings.
“It really gave us a surprise, we
thought it was fine and almost sold,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “We
were thinking that Bank Leumi really wants this also to happen [not to sell to
Masri], but maybe we’re mistaken.”
The national religious community is
planning protests on Tuesday at a number of Bank Leumi branches in Jerusalem, as
well as at the company’s offices in Tel Aviv.
“Bank Leumi is a national
bank for Israel, not for Palestine,” said right-wing activist Aryeh King, head
of the Israel Land Fund, which is providing assistance to the Nof Zion
“They’re choosing to stand with a former terrorist instead of
with the nation of Israel.
We’re just asking the bank to behave like it
should,” he told the Post. King threatened that “tens of millions” of shekels
would be withdrawn from the banks if the complex were sold to Masri.
statement signed by rabbis – including Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Kiryat
Arba’s Rabbi Dov Lior, Beit El’s Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of
the Elon Moreh yeshiva, and Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira of the Ramat Gan hesder
yeshiva – also appeals to the bank management to take the Jewish proposal and
not that of Masri, “who is not hiding his intention to establish an Arab
stronghold in Jerusalem’s Nof Zion.”
The letter was initially sent to the
bank over a month ago, after Masri’s identity was revealed. On Monday, the
letter was made public.
In January, company bondholders voted to accept a
bid from Levy and his Australian Jewish partner, Kevin Bermeister, the inventor
of Kazaa music downloads, even though the bid was significantly lower than
The bondholders had originally accepted an offer from a client
represented by attorney Dov Weisglass, who served as former prime minister Ariel
Sharon’s bureau chief, to buy the debt. It was later revealed that Weisglass was
representing Masri. The move to sell the debt to Masri outraged those residents
who had already moved into the first 91 apartments, which were completed in
The complex is eventually meant to contain close to 400 apartments,
plus a shopping center, nurseries, synagogues and hotels. The development was
marketed to the nationalreligious community as luxury apartments.
Mandel contributed to this report.
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