Nof Zion residents express relief over Rami Levy takeover

Levy, along with an Australian Jewish partner will develop a Jewish complex in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Nof Zion 521 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Nof Zion 521
(photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Rami Levy, the man who transformed a convenience store near Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda Market into one of Israel’s largest and most successful supermarket chains, is embarking on a new endeavor: developing a Jewish complex in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem.
Just a few weeks ago, the Nof Zion complex, which is located in the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, found itself in an interesting predicament, when a Palestinian- American made an offer to buy the struggling contracting company, Digal Investments, and build 75 percent of the planned apartments for Arab families.
At a bondholder’s meeting on Sunday, Levy, along with an Australian Jewish partner, Kevin Bermeister, made a surprise offer to buy the land where the rest of the apartments are to be built.
Their offer was lower than the offer from Bashar al- Masri, according to Israel Zeira, the CEO of Bemunah, a national-religious real estate company that had also launched an initiative to raise capital to make a counteroffer.
“I’m happy we succeeded and the land will stay in Jewish hands,” said Zeira.
Bemunah was not in contact with the Levy-Bermeister partnership prior to the meeting.
In a series of newspaper ads, the national-religious community had threatened to boycott Bank Leumi, which holds Digal’s debt, if the offer from Masri was accepted. It was reported that 76.81% of the bondholders supported Levy’s bid and that 94.31% rejected Masri’s bid.
“We feel very much relieved, we were very stressed in the past month,” said Nof Zion resident Shai Cooperman, who moved to the complex a year and a half ago.
Along with dozens of other residents, Cooperman bought bonds in Digal, after the initial news broke last month of the pending sale to Masri. He estimated that there were 25 residents and supporters of Nof Zion at the final bondholder’s meeting on Sunday who had bought bonds in the past week.
“All this surprised us a month ago, we thought, ‘this thing can’t happen,’” he said. “It was very close to happening.
“[It was stopped] only because good Jewish people saw that Nof Zion is important for the nation of Israel, not only for Nof Zion, but for the future of the nation of Israel.”
Digal Investments is more than NIS 100 million in debt to Bank Leumi and the company’s bondholders. The bondholders had originally accepted an offer to buy the debt that was submitted by a client represented by attorney Dov Weisglass, the director of Ariel Sharon’s bureau when Sharon was prime minister.
It was later revealed that Weisglass was representing the Palestinian-American businessman, who is also building Rawabi, a planned Palestinian city north of Ramallah.
The move to sell the debt to Masri outraged those residents who had already moved into the first stage of apartments, which were completed in 2008.
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 national-religious community as luxury apartments.