Four Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan face eviction from their home next week. The families, four brothers of the Abu Nab clan, have been resident in the house since 1948. The eviction notice they received on Wednesday is the first stage in a move to evict dozens of Palestinian families from the neighborhood and replace them with Jewish families.
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The notice followed court rulings that recognized the Jewish ownership of the land on which the Abu Nab house was built. The far-right settler group Ateret Cohanim, which represents the owners, told the courts the plot had been bought more than 100 years ago by the Hekdesh Benvenisti organization for the purpose of building a Jewish neighborhood there.
The extended Abu Nab family lives in Batn al-Hawa, a neighborhood in the heart of Silwan, adjacent to the contentious Jewish settlement of Beit Yonatan. The families have been living there since they were expelled from their home in Sultan’s Pool due to the War of Independence in 1948.
They rented the house from another Palestinian family that claims ownership. However, some 15 years ago, Jerusalem District Court recognized Hekdesh Benvenisti’s ownership of the land.
Hekdesh Benvenisti inherited the land at the end of the 19th century for building a neighborhood for immigrants from Yemen. The immigrants lived there until the beginning of the 20th century, and the Abu Nab house apparently served as the neighborhood’s synagogue.
The law enables Jewish heirs to reclaim property they left on the eastern side of the Green Line due to the war, but does not enable Palestinian owners to reclaim their property in West Jerusalem.
Since the court ruling, Ateret Cohanim has been trying to evict the Abu Nabs from their home. In 2010, the families were supposed to be evacuated, together with the Jewish families who were expelled from Beit Yonatan – which was built and inhabited illegally and is pending demolition.
However, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was under pressure at the time from the attorney general, state prosecution and the city’s legal adviser to evacuate and seal Beit Yonatan, ruled that neither site would be evacuated.
In 2010, Barkat issued a statement saying that Beit Yonatan would only be evacuated if the Abu Nab house was. “We won’t discriminate against or for Jews,” Barkat said then.
Despite the apparent deal, the settlers continued to push for the evacuation of the Abu Nab clan. Some two months ago, they made a financial deal with one of the family heads, who evacuated his own home and apparently fled from Jerusalem for fear of being accused of collaborating with the settlers. The remaining brothers refuse to evacuate their homes.
Earlier this week, the families received an evacuation order from the Bailiff’s Office. On the same day, court officials raided the families’ store in the Old City and confiscated all its merchandise, due to debts the families have accumulated to Hekdesh Benvenisti.
“I was born in this house, and so was my father,” says Jawad Abu Nab, 40. “We received a letter that we’re going to be evicted from the house but we’re staying, we have nowhere else to go. They’re pressuring us to leave – they took everything we had in the store. But we’re not leaving,” he said.
The Abu Nabs’ expulsion appears to be the first stage in an extensive Jewish takeover of the neighborhood. According to the court ruling, Hekdesh Benvenisti owns a 5.5-dunam (1.35 acre) area on which hundreds of Palestinians live.
Hagit Ofran, from Peace Now’s settlement watch division, said some 80 Palestinian families live in the area. Furthermore, the families are protected tenants who have been living there for many decades. In recent months, two more extended families – consisting altogether of 12 families – have been ordered to leave the area.
The evacuation of the Abu Nab clan will enable the number of Jewish families living in the neighborhood to double, the settlers say.
Jewish settlers are protected by Housing Ministry security guards and are subjected to stones and firebombs thrown at their homes and cars. They enter and leave the neighborhood in convoys accompanied by guards and bulletproof cars.
Attorney Avi Segal, who represents Hekdesh Benvenisti, said his client owns a lot of real estate “in the Yemenite village. Hekdesh operates in keeping with the law and the District and Supreme Courts’ verdicts, which repeatedly ruled it is the rightful owner. Anyone who invades its real estate illegally must be evacuated. We expect the invaders to respect the various court rulings as well.”