Right-wing Israeli Leaders Join Jewish Torah Ceremony in East Jerusalem

Event in Silwan sees cabinet minister and lawmaker join leading rabbi to place new Torah scroll in synagogue run by right-wing Ateret Cohanim group

Right wing Israelis march in East Jerusalem in honor of new Torah scroll being placed in a synagogue in Silwan. August 24, 2017
Olivier Fitoussi

Some 300 people, including an Israeli cabinet minister, a lawmaker and city councilmen, attended a ceremony in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood in honor of a new Torah book placed in a synagogue built in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood.

The event, attended by Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel, was organized by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organization that works to settle Jews in East Jerusalem and in Jerusalem's Old City.

Palestinian residents of the neighborhood described heavy police presence during the event, saying that snipers were placed on the roofs of buildings and police officers entered houses along the procession's route, which ended in the Batan al-Hawa neighborhood.

The synagogue is located in a building which used to house the synagogue of Jerusalem's old Yemenite community, active from the end of the 19th century until roughly 1929. During the past two years, the structure was home to the Abu Nab family, Palestinians who evicted after Ateret Cohanim successfully proved that the structure was previously under Jewish ownership.

Right wing Israelis march in East Jerusalem in honor of new Torah scroll being placed in a synagogue in Silwan. August 24, 2017
Olivier Fitoussi
Right wing Israelis march in East Jerusalem in honor of new Torah scroll being placed in a synagogue in Silwan. August 24, 2017
Olivier Fitoussi

Speaking at the event, lawmaker Moti Yogev of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, said "even the original Arabas know very well that there Jews here and that cooperation will lead to better services and security" for them.

Head of the Ateret Cohanim seminary and one of the leading rabbis in Israel's so-called Religious Zionist community, Shlomo Aviner, said that "God has decided that the summer has ended, from the desert a garden of Eden will bloom. He has decided we will return to Jerusalem, return to this place, and no one will prevent His decision from being done."

In 2015, an Haaretz investigation revealed how the organization works to evict Palestinians from their houses through lengthy legal battles.