American-Jewish investor buys Greek Orthodox Patriarchate land in Jerusalem

About 1,000 housing units and the five-star Inbal Hotel, stand on the land in the neighborhoods of Talbiyeh, Rehavia and Nayot.

View of the Knesset (foreground), were the Israeli parliament residese,the tall buildings in the back are called The Wolfson Towers and behind them are the neighborhoods of Rehavia, Shaarei Chesed and the downtown. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
View of the Knesset (foreground), were the Israeli parliament residese,the tall buildings in the back are called The Wolfson Towers and behind them are the neighborhoods of Rehavia, Shaarei Chesed and the downtown.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Gary Barnett, an American-Jewish land developer, has dived headfirst into the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate land controversy in Jerusalem by purchasing the land for NIS 750 million ($220 m.) from its current owners, Nayot Komemiyut Investments.

About 1,000 housing units, and the five-star Inbal Hotel, stand on the land in the neighborhoods of Talbiyeh, Rehavia and Nayot.

Globes reported that the Nayot Komemiyut partnership, founded in 2010 and including Noam Ben-David, reportedly bought the land for NIS 115 m, and is selling the land because of disputes between the partners.

The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) owns the lease on the land until 2052, but a court order last year enabled Nayot Komemiyut, controlled by Jerusalem’s Ben-David family, to begin collecting rent from tenants on the land.

Residents in the area fear that in 30 years, KKL’s leases will expire and the new owner can potentially demand that the tenants leave their homes.

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem is trying to help

Snow view of the old city in Jerusalem, February 18, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Snow view of the old city in Jerusalem, February 18, 2021 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Some tenants asked to pay more than NIS 1m. ($293,000) to have their apartments registered in their name. However, the deal is being seen as a potential solution to the issue of the tenants’ future status.

New owner Barnett, president and founder of Extell Development Company, who was represented by Avi Porten and Deuel Peli from the Agmon & Tulchinsky law firm, called the deal a “win-win-win-win situation for the State of Israel, for the city of Jerusalem, for Extell and for the residents.”

“We have a great reputation with complex projects in the US, including the Belnord Project on UWS [Upper West Side] NYC, which has over 200 tenants in complex situations. We are going to treat the tenants in Jerusalem with the same respect and fairness as we are doing in all of our projects. This project will strengthen Extell’s connections to the Israeli market and will boost the development of central Jerusalem.”

One official trying to help is Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who is working to advance legislation in the Knesset that will protect the tenants.

She praised the sale, telling The Jerusalem Post that it’s “a very positive development in this long and grueling story. For a few months now I have been aware of and encouraging the efforts to buy out the Ben-David family. I salute Moshe Greenberg, who has been working tirelessly and quietly to protect the residents through this whole process. The new owners have stated their commitment to come to a fair arrangement, which is what all the residents wanted to begin with.”

Peggy Cidor contributed to this report.