Police evicted five Palestinian families from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Monday, after the Abu Nab clan lost a lengthy legal battle over the ownership of the building to the Jewish NGO, Ateret Cohani. The group helps house Jewish families in Arab areas of the city.
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The one-story structure in which the Palestinian families had been living since 1948, had been a Yemenite synagogue built in the 19th century, on land established as a hekdesh (endowment) by the Benvenisti family.
Half of the structure was taken over by settlers two months ago, after the NGO reached an agreement with some family members to leave willingly in return for compensation. Two weeks ago the rest of the Abu Nab clan who live in the other half of the building got an eviction notice, after they refused offers of compensation to move.
Ateret Cohanim has been working for decades to bring Jews to live in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and in the Batan al-Hawa area of Silwan, where a community of Yemenite Jews lived a hundred years ago. Another Jewish family lives in what is known as Beit Dvash in that area. The NGO also owns Beit Yonatan, which was built without a permit and now houses 10 Jewish families.
Attorney Avi Segal, who represents the Benvenisti endowment, said, “After a legal process that lasted seven years, we’ve returned to the synagogue in Kfar Shiloah [Silwan] on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, after the eviction of Arab families who were squatting in the Yemenite synagogue on the endowment grounds.”
He said that although compensation had been offered to the families “who were squatting on the property, to avoid a legal proceeding, the squatters refused.”
Zuhair Rajabi, a neighborhood resident, said police blocked all the entrances to the neighborhood and ordered everyone to stay in their homes during the eviction.