Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem (known also as the quarter of Shimon the Just) has been the scene of orchestrated protests for several weeks now against Jews moving into ‘Arab’ homes. But last week, three original Jewish owners themselves turned up. Ynet News reports:
Three Jewish people on Thursday arrived at the east Jerusalem neighborhood and claimed they were the original owners of houses inhabited by Palestinian families, demanding their property be returned to them.
“My grandfather built this house and the synagogue that was burned down by Arabs in 1948,” said 76-year-old Elisha Ben-Tzur. “I demand to get my property back. The Arabs took control over the entire Eretz Yisrael, so they should at least leave us with what’s rightfully ours,” he asserted. Ben-Tzur recalled that at the end of the War of Independence, and after Sheikh Jarrah was left under Jordanian jurisdiction, his family moved to the neighborhood of Romema. “Before Sheikh Jarrah, we lived in Silwan – but were expelled out of there as well,” he said, while harshly criticizing the protest against Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. “Some Arabs purchase apartments at the French Hill and Gilo neighborhood, and I don’t see anyone fussing about it,” he added. Malka Versano, 70, also spent her childhood years, before the War of Independence, in the neighborhood of Shiekh Jarrah. “I will never forget the day we left,” she recalled, “I remember how the Arabs inflamed the place and divided the girls between them – deciding amongst themselves who’s going to rape who. “My father dug a pit in advance and told us that if the Arabs manage to enter our house, he will throw us in there so that we are not abused,” she said. Versano, like Ben-Tzur, is also demanding to retrieve the assets owned by her family. “These are houses that belong to my father and my grandfather, and today Arabs live there. It is a house that is registered under my name, and I can’t even collect the rent,” she said. Versano and Ben-Tzur were joined by a third elderly man – 75-year-old Moshe Arusi – who also claims ownership over neighborhood assets. The three accompanied director and founder of Israel Land Fund Arieh King, who has been active in promoting legal action to return Sheikh Jarrah assets to their Jewish owners. “We are not purchasing Arab homes, but rather asking that the original owners of the assets from before the establishment of the State – who are Jewish – be allowed to return to the places from which they were expelled,” King said.