Jerusalem court orders 4 Palestinian families to vacate longtime Silwan homes

Right-wing NGO proves land homes built on was purchased in 19th century for Yemenite immigrants * Jewish families expected to move into contested properties.

A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Following a protracted legal battle, four Palestinian families who have been living in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for decades face imminent eviction next week.
The news comes after a Jerusalem court enforced its ruling that the land the homes were built on is legally owned by a Jewish organization.
Members of the Abu Nab family, who have rented the homes located adjacent to the Old City since 1948, said they received eviction notices on Wednesday stipulating that they must vacate the properties no later than next week.
The right-wing NGO Ateret Cohanim – an organization that purchases properties for Jews in Arab neighborhoods – had successfully filed a lawsuit 15 years ago proving that the land the homes were built on was purchased over 100 years ago by the Jewish group Hekdesh Benvenisti.
Hekdesh Benvenisti bought the plot at the end of the 19th century to build a neighborhood for Jews from Yemen, records state. One of the Abu Nab residences is located inside a building that once served as the neighborhood’s synagogue, Ateret Cohanim proved.
According to the Abu Nab family, they have been living in homes they believed were owned by another Palestinian family since 1948. The family say that they have been living there since they were displaced from their homes in Sultan’s Pool during the War of Independence.
Prior to Wednesday’s court order to vacate the homes, Ateret Cohanim had spent several years trying unsuccessfully to enforce the eviction, which has become a politically heated issue.
The court has also ruled that Hekdesh Benvenisti legally owns an additional 5.5 dunams (0.55 hectares) of land in Silwan, where dozens of other Palestinian families have lived for decades, and will now likely face eviction.
In a statement, Avi Segal, who represents Hekdesh Benvenisti, said that the organization unequivocally proved that it is the rightful owner of the property and that the Arab families must respect the court’s ruling.
The eviction comes less than three months after three illegally built shops and a house under construction in Silwan were demolished by the state.
Ateret Cohanim has acquired numerous apartments in the neighborhood over the years for Jewish families, including a number of units inside a former Yemenite synagogue in May.