Jerusalem City Hall Okays Land Grab From Palestinian Neighborhood for Synagogue

Ground being taken is near Jewish settlement of Nof Zion in East Jerusalem, surrounded by houses from Palestinian village of Jabal Mukkaber.

The settlement of Nof Zion in East Jerusalem.
Eyal Toueg

Jerusalem’s planning committee on Wednesday approved the expropriation of 1.2 dunams (0.3 acres) from a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, in order to construct religious institutions for the small Jewish settlement there.

The ground being seized is near the Jewish neighborhood of Nof Zion, a private, well-to-do settlement for 90 families. The settlement overlooks the Old City, and is surrounded by homes from the Palestinian village of Jabal Mukkaber.

According to Councilwoman Laura Wharton (Meretz), the land being taken is to build a synagogue and mikveh (Jewish ritual purification bath). The land seized is private land, though the identity of the owners isn’t clear.

The settlement is built on land that was purchased by Jewish investors some 50 years ago.

In a statement, the Jerusalem municipality said, “The area in question is part of the Nof Zion neighborhood, intended for public buildings and a synagogue. The land is located in the center of the neighborhood surrounded by Jewish homes and isn’t at the expense of Jabal Mukkaber.

“The city is working to find solutions for all its residents and to erect public buildings for the residents of both Nof Zion and Jabal Mukkaber,” the statement added.

The city previously earmarked 11 million shekels ($2.9 million) for the construction of a luxurious mikveh in another East Jerusalem settlement, Ma’aleh Zeitim, a year ago. That settlement is inside the A-Tur Palestinian neighborhood.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians living near Nof Zion are short of classrooms, kindergartens, public parks, community centers and basic services. The city adds to its sins by advancing construction plans for new residents while failing to permit construction for the Palestinians,” said Wharton.

“All Israeli citizens are paying for the expropriation of land for a small number of settlers, who move into Palestinian areas which none of the world recognizes as Israeli territory,” she added.