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Israel opens synagogue in confiscated Palestinian property

posted on: Sep 2, 2017

By: Nasouh Nazzal

Source: Gulf News Palestine

Ramallah: Residents of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem have appealed to the Israeli Higher Court of Justice against the establishment of a new Jewish synagogue in this Palestinian neighbourhood of the holy city.

Israeli colonists opened their new synagogue last Saturday in a five-storey building seized from the Abu Nab family. Under tight security including a curfew on Jerusalemites, Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and hundreds of colonists took part in the opening ceremony, which featured Jewish and Talmudic rituals.

The Israeli colonists took over the Abu Nab building in 2015 with fake claims that a colonist company had bought the property from one of its owners. The building includes five apartments that had been home to members of the Abu Nab family but colonists, backed by the Israeli occupation forces, evicted them and took over the site.

Far-right Jewish groups and companies, including the Ateret Cohanim settlers’ organisation, claim the property was built in the 19th century as a synagogue for Yemeni Jews and that it is the right of the Israeli colonists to take it over and restore it to its original function.

Jawad Siyam, a member of the local committee in defence of occupied east Jerusalem, said this was the first Jewish synagogue in Silwan and it had been established for political rather than religious reasons.

There had been no need for the Israeli colonists to open a synagogue in Silwan because Jews already worshipped at Al Buraq Wall of Al Aqsa Mosque, which is only tens of meters from Silwan and currently under full Israeli control.

Zuhair Al Rajabi, who heads the local committee in defence of Silwan, said Israeli organisations planned to take over 5,200 square meters of land surrounding the Abu Nab building to expand the synagogue and provide new facilities for Jewish visitors.

He said the Palestinian owners of the land had already been told to move out immediately or face eviction by force. He said the Israelis knew they would have to use force to oust the Palestinians, who would never voluntarily quit their properties or accept money in return for moving out.

Properties on the Israeli hit list in Silwan and other parts of the holy city are officially registered in the names of their original owners. They or their heirs have undisputed ownership documents issued by Jordanian or Turkish authorities before the Israeli occupation of the holy city in 1967. Silwan, which is adjacent to the Al Haram Al Sharif compound, is a key Israeli target, and the colonists plan to take over the entire strategic area

Over the past few years, the occupation municipality of Jerusalem has put the homes of more than 1,500 Jerusalemites in jeopardy by issuing 88 demolition orders for houses in Silwan, under the pretext that construction was carried out without a building licence.

Since the Israeli occupation of the eastern part of Jerusalem, the occupation forces have been denying Jerusalemites the right to build new facilities, regardless of the expansion of the Palestinian population of the holy city, which has now passed the 300,000 mark.

The occupation municipality refuses to issue Jerusalemites with any building licences, although the construction plans meet the stringent regulations imposed by the authority. This leaves Jerusalemites with one option: to construct buildings without the necessary permits.

The municipality then orders the demolition of these properties, and owners who do not comply face punitive measures including hefty penalties. Many Jerusalemites make the painful decision to demolish their buildings with their own hands, to spare themselves the penalties and fees of Israeli demolitions.

Israeli occupation forces have been implementing systematic strategies to take over Al Haram Al Sharif — the third holiest place in Islam — and all Palestinian neighbourhoods that surround it.