Arabs living in Synagogue since 1948 evicted & illegally-built mosque to be demolished


Arabs families who have been occupying land in Jerusalem, purchased 100 years ago for Jews from Yemen, were evicted earlier this month, including a family living in an East Jerusalem Synagogue.



Former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz councilman, Dr. Meir Margalit, said on Sunday that if the municipality carry’s out reported demolition orders for an illegally-built east Jerusalem mosque, it will set off a conflagration of violence throughout the capital.

According to Majdi al-Abbasi, of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan, the demolition orders were delivered by municipal officials on Friday for the three-year-old al-Qaaqaa Mosque, located in the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan.

Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel’s security fence in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of A-tur. – Photo: REUTERS

The mosque, built in the Ein al-Luza area of the community, occupies 110 square meters of space for some 5,000 worshipers, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

An illegally-built studio apartment inside the mosque – as well as another residence in the neighborhood, purportedly inhabited by a family of six – have also been ordered to be razed, Ma’an reported.
Details regarding the second home remain unclear.

“I hope that the municipality understands that this would be seen as a red line, and they should not cross it,” Margalit said of the mosque’s reported demolition orders on Sunday.

“I hope it’s clear that if they cross this red line it will result in disaster in the city – especially in a place like Silwan where tensions are so high, and during this time when violence in the city is also high.”

Moreover, Margalit said the order will likely not be carried out due to international intervention, and therefore only serves as a profound provocation.

“My experience is that they will not do it, so the question is why they are sending a demolition order when they know it won’t be carried out,” he said.

“Over the last 10 years, the government has stopped the municipality from demolishing mosques because of pressure from the US and European Consulates in order to try to decrease the religious tension in this conflict,” he continued. “This is just foolishness.”

Indeed, tensions in Silwan, where a number of Jewish settlers live, have been high as of late.

Following a protracted legal battle, four Palestinian families who have been living in the neighborhood for decades, were evicted from their homes earlier this month.

The eviction orders came less than two weeks after a Jerusalem court ruled that the land 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 stipulating that they must vacate the properties within one week

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Jews from Yemen in Jerusalem, circa 1892 – Photo: Elkan N. Adler

The right-wing NGO Ateret Cohanim – an organization that purchases properties for Jews in Arab neighborhoods – had successfully filed the 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 lived in the residences since they were displaced from their homes in Sultan’s Pool during the War of Independence.

Since the beginning of 2015, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 370 illegal Palestinian structures have been ordered razed by the government in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, displacing 432 families.

The municipality did not return a request for comment regarding the Silwan mosque by deadline.


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