Beit Yehonatan residents take fight to High Court

Residents petition High Court of Justice for new hearing to decide status of seven-story, Jewish-owned structure built without proper permits in Silwan.

311_Silwan houses (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
311_Silwan houses
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Residents of Beit Yehonatan on Sunday petitioned the High Court of Justice for a new hearing to decide the status of the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure that was built without the proper permits in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan some seven years ago.
Citing “new evidence” they say proves the existence of “blatant discrimination” against Jews with regards to the implementation of zoning laws in the capital’s eastern neighborhoods, residents of the towering structure on Sunday said that they now believe the court will have “no choice” but to reverse its decision to evacuate and seal the building.
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In 2007, nearly four years after the construction of Beit Yehonatan – which was built with funding from the Ateret Cohanim organization and named for imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard – the Jerusalem District Court declared the building illegal and ordered the eviction of the seven Jewish families who live there.
But that court order has yet to be carried out, with the police balking at repeated demands to enforce the evacuation and the city’s legal adviser, Yossi Havilio, locking horns with Mayor Nir Barkat over the enforcement of zoning laws in east Jerusalem in general, and the implementation of the court order for Beit Yehonatan in particular.
While Havilio has pushed for the immediate implementation of the order, Barkat has tried to find alternative methods of dealing with both Beit Yehonatan and hundreds of Arab-owned homes in the area that also lack the proper building permits and are thus also illegal.
Throughout the long ordeal, Beit Yehonatan’s residents have also decried what they say is Havilio’s “obsession” with implementing the court order against their building, while neglecting the violations posed by the Arab-owned homes in the area.
In late June, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the latest in a series of appeals filed by Beit Yehonatan residents that would have retroactively legalized at least a portion of the building, although the court did allow the residents a 30-day reprieve before the court order could be carried out.
Residents vowed to use the delay to muster up further legal support of their fight for the fate of the building.
On Sunday, Danny Luria, a spokesman for Ateret Cohanim, told The Jerusalem Post that he believed those efforts were paying off, pointing specifically to three Knesset ministerial committees – the Interior Committee, the State Control Committee and the Children’s Rights Committee – which announced on Sunday that they would take up the matter of Beit Yehonatan in upcoming hearings.
“More and more people are coming out in support of the mayor and against Havilio,” Luria said.
“There’s no question whether there’s been discrimination,” he added. “No one’s denying that nothing has been done for years in the area with regards to illegal Arab construction or pending demolition orders.
But there are certain people who are going out of their way to make sure [Beit Yehonatan] gets done.”