For Second Time in a Week, Jerusalem Court Orders Eviction of Palestinian Family

Ruling follows transfer of trusteeship to the site, which had been settled by Yemenite Jews in the 19th century, to settler group

The Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, December 2019.
Ohad Zwigenberg

An Israeli court on Sunday ordered the eviction of 26 members of a Palestinian family from a home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

The order was issued in response to an eviction action filed by Ateret Cohanim, a group seeing to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem and the eviction of roughly 700 Palestinians from the eastern part of the city. This is the second time within a week that the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court has granted an eviction order in favor of the organization, following the eviction of another Palestinian family the Rajbis, from Silwan earlier this month.

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In her order Sunday, Magistrate's Judge Orna Sandler-Eytan rejected all of the claims put forward by the Dweik family, which has lived in a four-story building in Silwan’s Batan al-Hawa section since 1964. Ateret Cohanim based its case on the fact that the family had built its home on land that was owned by Jews before Israel's establishment in 1948.

There was a Jewish neighborhood on the site until 1938. It had been built for immigrants to the country from Yemen in the 19th century with funds raised by the  Ezrat Nidahim philanthropic orgnizatiion, The homes were owned by an Ottoman-era trust that was registered in the name of Rabbi Moshe Benvenisti.

The immigrants left the neighborhood in 1938 at the request of  British Mandatory authorities as a resuilt of the deteriorating security situation during the Arab revolt of 1936-1939. Their homes were demolished and a new neighborhood was later built there.

In 2001, more than a century after the land trust had been established, the Jerusalem District Court approved the request by three members of Ateret Cohanim to become trustees of the land, which put the hundreds of Palestinians living in Silwan at risk of eviction.

Baten al-Hawa.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez denied a petition filed by Palestinians against the Jewish trust. She did, however, accept some of the Palestinians' assertions that the government had mishandled the situation, incluiding its failure to give them notice that Ateret Cohanim members had been granted the trusteeship. The justice noted that the final legal status of the land had not been fully clarified before the General Administrator made his decision, but she ruled that what had been done could not be undone and that the issue did not have to be settled by the Supreme Court.

That paved the way for the eviction action to proceed. It has also led to the filing by Ateret Cohanim of a wave of eviction cases against hundreds of Palestinian residents living in the neighborhood.

In her ruling on Sunday, Magistrate's Court Judge Sandler-Eytan rejected Palestinians' claims regarding the statute of limitations and ordered the residents to evacuate the building by August 2. But she rejected Ateret Cohanim’s request that the residents be ordered to pay court costs and legal expenses in the case “given the harsh implications of this ruling on the defendants and their family.”