Beit Yonatan Tess Scheflan
Beit Yonatan (top center, draped in an Israeli flag) in the E. Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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It is considered likely that the police will this week carry out the eviction order against Beit Yonatan, an apartment building that was constructed illegally in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

The evacuation of the building's Jewish residents has been held up for several years due to pressure from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and right-wing groups. The issue came to a head after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the city and the police to carry out the eviction order and seal the premises without further delay.

It now appears that at the same time that Jewish occupants are evicted from Beit Yonatan, police intend also to evict dozens of Palestinians from a nearby building so that it can be turned over to Jews. It is thought that such a move could spark violence in the neighborhood.

This second building was constructed in the 19th century. It once housed the Ohel Shlomo synagogue, which served a small congregation of Yemenite Jews who lived in Silwan until the neighborhood came under Jordanian control in the 1948 War of Independence. For the past 50 years, it has been home to members of the extended Abu Nab family. They enlarged the structure, which now contains six apartments.

Individuals associated with Ateret Cohanim, which encourages a Jewish presence in and around Jerusalem's Old City, found that it had been registered in the name of a Jewish charitable organization from before 1948.

The Custodian General began legal proceedings in 2001 to return the property to the charity. Individuals associated with Ateret Cohanim were appointed to run the charity, making it likely that Jews would move in if the current occupants are evicted. Ahmed Abu Nab, who lives in the complex, said he thought the building was now home to 60 of his relatives. He vowed yesterday not to leave the building.

In a statement issued yesterday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Ateret Cohanim had been pushing for the eviction of the house where the Abu Nab family currently lives and that the municipality had asked the police to carry out the eviction at Beit Yonatan concurrently. The municipality said the law was being uniformly enforced against Arabs and Jews and if Ateret Cohanim was insisting on the eviction of the Abu Nab family, the eviction of Jews would be carried out at Beit Yonatan on the same day.

In the past, Barkat opposes the eviction of residents of Beit Yonatan, saying it is contrary to plans to renovate the neighborhood, which would enable current residents to remain on at least the lower floors of the building.