MA'ALEH HAR HAZEITIM OR RAS EL-AMUD: THE TRUE STORY
by Yedidya Atlas
Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio
July 21, 1999 / Av 8, 5759
In This Article:
1. The Curtain Opens
3. Proof of Jewish Ownership
4. The See-Saw
6. Preventing Palestinian Contiguity
THE CURTAIN OPENS
Imagine the following: A Jewish businessman buys a parcel of land in an
American city, pays for it with his own funds, and then applies to the
local municipality for a permit to build a residential neighborhood of
middle class apartments for young Jewish families. To make life easier for
his prospective clients, he plans to build a synagogue, a mikveh (ritual
bath), a kindergarten and a day-care center, as well as a few small shops.
He then meets all legal, zoning, environmental and even archeological
requirements established by city, state and federal agencies. Armed with
every license and permit known to man, he is openly vilified in the press,
and politicians try by executive fiat to block this Jewish businessman from
building these homes on his own private property simply because he is a Jew
building for Jews.
Imagine. In America it would be called racism, anti-Semitism. In Israel
its called Ras el-Amud.
In our true story, the businessman is Dr. Irving Moskowitz, a well-known
philanthropist who lives in Florida, although he also has a home in
Jerusalem. The liberal-left press doesn't like him, perhaps because most
recipients of his largesse are not sufficiently politically-correct, or
approved by the proponents of left-wing advocacy journalism.
But, you ask, what and where is Ras el-Amud, and why can't Dr. Moskowitz
build on his own land after meeting all legal and technical requirements?
Our story begins in the latter half of the previous century.
Some 130 years ago, two of Jerusalem's leading philanthropists, Moshe
Wittenberg and Nissan Bak, acting on behalf of the Chabad and Wollin
Hassidim Kollels (community groups), purchased a 15-dunam plot (almost four
acres) on the southern lower slope of Mt. of Olives (Har HaZeitim) facing
Jerusalem's Old City walls. In 1928, Wittenberg and Bak formally
transferred ownership of the land to the Kollels.
The Kollels then leased the parcel to an Arab farmer. The Kollel community
gabbai (sexton), as the representative of the duly registered owners of the
land, paid the property taxes levied by the authorities. This point
subsequently became crucial when decades later the Arab leaseholder
illegally transferred title deed to his own name.
PROOF OF JEWISH OWNERSHIP
When the Trans-Jordanian Legion captured the eastern side of Jerusalem in
1948, all Jewish property was transferred to the Jordanian Custodian of
Enemy Property Office. In 1951, the Arab leaseholder went to have the
Jordanian Land Registration Office change the name on the title deed over
to his own name, while concealing the fact that the land really belonged to
Jewish owners. A meticulous Jordanian clerk then discovered the
aforementioned tax records paid by the Jews, and the Jordanian Custodian
Office attempted to block the leaseholder's being listed as the owner.
They did not meet with full success, however, as the tax records alone were
ruled insufficient to prove other ownership.
Subsequently, the Jordanian Custodian Office discovered the original title
deed of the Land Registry proving Jewish ownership, and applied to the
Jordanian Court to invalidate the false registration of the dishonest Arab
leaseholder. This was shortly before the 1967 Six-Day War and the Jordanian
Court had not yet issued its ruling when the war broke out.
Following the war, with much of the area already densely built, the two
Kollel community groups then pursued the case in Israeli courts. The
District Court ruled in their favor, but the Arab leaseholder appealed to
the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the true
Jewish owners, validating their claim in 1984. Then, in 1990, the Kollel
communities sold their land to Dr. Irving Moskowitz.
Moskowitz developed a plan for a 132-dwelling Jewish neighborhood on the
privately-owned property. Here began a see-saw. The Jerusalem Municipal
Planning Commission, with the agreement of then-Mayor Teddy Kollek,
approved the plans. At that point, however, then-Interior Minister Chaim
Ramon froze further discussion of the plans. Then came along his
successor, Ehud Barak, who cancelled the freeze and deposited the Jerusalem
Municipality's approved plans into the State of Israel's Jerusalem District
Zoning Commission (which is comprised of representatives of various
interested government ministries such as Defense, Interior, Housing, and
other public figures) for approval. The District Commission issued final
approval on Dec. 10, 1996.
One of the big misnomers promoted by the Palestinian Arabs, Israel's
radical Left, and their fellow travelers in the media, is that the new
Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim neighborhood is located in "the midst of a Palestinian
Arab area whose true name is Ras el-Amud." This is nothing more than a
deliberate attempt to mislead the general public. "Ras el-Amud" itself is
simply one Arab populated neighborhood on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. The
new Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim project is not part of the Ras el-Amud
neighborhood proper, but is simply adjacent to it.
To the west, across the road, adjoining the Old City's Jewish Quarter, is
"Ir David" (City of David), a developing Jewish neighborhood above the
Shiloah wellspring. The property's eastern boundary is 160 meters from the
Mount of Olives Israeli Police Station (itself located on Jewish-owned
property), and past that, another 160 meters northwards, is one of the
largest and oldest Jewish cemeteries atop the Mount of Olives, in use from
Biblical times until today.
Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim (Mt. of Olives), the so-called "Ras el-Amud" project,
is not isolated in an exclusively Arab area. It is a only a mile from
Jerusalem's City Hall, just over a mile to the King David Hotel and the new
Jerusalem Hilton. The Western Wall in the Old City is less than half a
mile away, and the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus, a mile and a
half. Hardy an isolated neighborhood.
Even though Dr. Moskowitz bought the land and obtained all the proper
building permits, there are those who shout, "How dare he! It's a
provocation!" Imagine that. For a Jew to build homes for other Jews on
privately-owned Jewish land in the Holy City of Jerusalem is considered an
PREVENTING PALESTINIAN CONTIGUITY
The primary motive behind the objections of the Palestinian Authority and
its radical-Left Israeli supporters to the establishment of another Jewish
neighborhood in this part of Jerusalem is simply because it prevents -- by
its very existence at this location -- the de-facto division of Jerusalem.
With Jews living on this side of the Mount of Olives, Arafat and his
cohorts will fail to achieve an Arab-dominated area from
Palestinian-occupied Jericho to the Temple Mount.
Those who decry the accusations that certain political elements in Israel's
Jewish body politic would divide Jerusalem, have only to examine their
position vis-a-vis the new Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim neighborhood. It is
inconceivable, to this writer at least, that the only Jews who may be
permitted on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives are those who are already dead -
those who are buried in the cemetery there. Surely in Jerusalem, in the
capital of the Jewish State, Jews, of all people, should be able to live
wherever they like.
Yedidya Atlas is a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz-7 Israel
National Radio. His articles have appeared worldwide in such publications
as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine,
Midstream, The Jerusalem Post, Makor Rishon and Nativ.
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