Meretz MKs to police: Stop escorting Beit Yehonatan tours

There is an outstanding court order to evacuate and seal the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure in the predominately Arab neighborhood of Silwan.

beit yehonatan 311 (photo credit: AP)
beit yehonatan 311
(photo credit: AP)
Meretz lawmakers on Wednesday sent letters to Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Jerusalem Police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco imploring them to end the police escorts for tours to the Beit Yehonatan building in the capital’s southeast Silwan neighborhood.
There is an outstanding court order to evacuate and seal the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure in the predominately Arab neighborhood, as it was built without the proper permits.
The building is home to eight Jewish families, and it has been at the center of a struggle between Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and State Attorney Moshe Lador. In late January, Lador demanded that the mayor implement the order to evacuate and seal the building. Barkat refused.
After increased pressure, the mayor announced in February that he would evacuate and seal the building, and then begin implementing outstanding demolition orders for more than 200 illegally built Arab homes in the neighborhood. In the meantime, implementation of the court order for Beit Yehonatan has continued to be delayed.
Residents of the building announced last week that they would offer tours throughout the intermediate days of Pessah, which provide free transport to and from Beit Yehonatan, along with an historical overview of the Yemenite Village – a pre-state Jewish community that existed in Silwan at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Meretz MKs’ letter, which was also sent to to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, portrayed the tours in a negative light and demanded that police stop providing escorts for them.
“It is completely unacceptable that the police are providing protection for the tours to Beit Yehonatan,” the letter read.
“It is well known that the residents of the house are using these tours to garner public support for their battle against the court order that was issued against the property. Therefore, we are asking that all support, including the assistance of police or any other
private security firm paid for by the state, is stopped immediately.”
The letter also made clear the legislators’ intention to take the matter to court if the police failed to respond.
Meretz chairman Haim Oron told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday thatthe letter was part of his party’s effort to make sure the court orderagainst the building was implemented.
“It’s unbelievable that the court order has not been carried out yet,” Oron said.
“And until it is carried out, we will continue our efforts to see that it is.”
On Sunday, Meretz MKs Oron, Ilan Gilon and Nitzan Horowitz, togetherwith former Meretz MK Ron Cohen filed a petition with the High Court ofJustice that called on Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the Jerusalempolice and the municipality to implement the court order against BeitYehonatan immediately.