Court Orders Eviction of 22-Member Family in Batan al-Hawa while Yeshiva Plan in Sheikh Jarrah Slated for Approval in District Committee

January 20, 2020
The Jerusalem Magistrate Court Rules to Evict 22 Palestinians in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan
On January 19, the Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled on behalf of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization who filed a lawsuit to evict 22 Palestinians of several households of the Rajabi family from a three and a half story home (number 1 in yellow) in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan. The court ordered the families to vacate their home by July 1. The Rajabi family will appeal the decision in the Jerusalem District Court.
The Ateret Cohanim settler organization is waging one of the most comprehensive settler takeover campaigns in East Jerusalem through initiating mass eviction proceedings against Palestinian families in Batan al-Hawa.  Seventeen families have already been evicted with over 80 other households facing eviction demands, placing some 600-700 individuals of one community at risk of displacement.  See Ir Amim’s and Peace Now’s joint report, “Broken Trust” for further details and analysis.
Yesterday’s court ruling marks the first time since 2015 that such a decision was handed down concerning an eviction demand in Batan al-Hawa. In his decision, the judge rejected two principle claims made by the Rajabi family, which are shared by the additional families under threat of eviction in the neighborhood. The dismissal of these claims may have far-reaching negative implications on the remaining cases:
  • According to one claim, when Jews settled in Batan al-Hawa and created the Benvenisti Trust (see below for details), the land in the area was designated as Miri land under the Ottoman Land Code - the ownership of which belonged to the Sultan (or today, the state). Hence, as is the case in other residential areas built on land designated as Miri, the trust only held title to the homes built for the Jewish community and not the land upon which they were built. Since these homes were abandoned and ceased to exist decades ago, the Trust therefore cannot lay claim to any property in the neighborhood.
The judge rejected this line of reasoning, stating that in the 1950’s, the Jordanian government amended the status of the land in Batan al-Hawa to Mulk land, which can be privately owned.
  • The second claim is based on Israeli land law which stipulates that in certain cases residents of respective properties are granted precedence over the legal owners of the land upon which the properties were built. This is conditioned on whether or not the residents were aware that someone else holds title to the land and based on the difference between land value and the value of the constructed property.
The judge likewise rejected this claim, asserting that the conditions stipulated in Israeli land law are not applicable in this case.
As noted above, the recent court decision not only affects the 22 members of the Rajabi family, but is liable to impact the pending eviction demands issued against the 80 other families in Batan al-Hawa. Via its management of the Benvenisti Trust - a Jewish trust which held title to properties in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the area - Ateret Cohanim is advancing evictions of Palestinians in Batan al-Hawa based on exploitation of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970.  The law, also a primary displacement mechanism in Sheikh Jarrah, enables Jews to reclaim assets lost during the war of 1948 via the Israel General Custodian, while no parallel legal provision exists for Palestinians who lost assets in West Jerusalem.  
If Ateret Cohanim is successful, Batan al-Hawa (number 25 on map) is anticipated to become the largest settlement compound in a Palestinian neighborhood in the Old City Basin, with the outcome of significantly tightening the emerging ring of state-sponsored settlement activity around the Old City and severely undermining the possibility of a future two state solution in Jerusalem.
The District Planning Committee is Slated to Approve the Yeshiva Plan in Sheikh Jarrah
On the opposite side of the Old City Basin, the Ohr Somayach Yeshiva plan (TPS 68858) designated for a plot of land (marked number 1 on map) at the entrance of Sheikh Jarrah will advance at the District Committee for its final discussions on January 28. The committee is projected to approve the plan.
As previously reported, the plan calls for the construction of an eleven-story building with eight levels above ground and three below, including a dormitory for hundreds of students and faculty. In the master plan for Sheikh Jarrah, this land was originally designated for public buildings to serve neighborhood residentsIn complete disregard of the original master plan, the yeshiva plan was submitted by the Ohr Somayach Institutions, to which the Israel Land Authority has already allotted land without a transparent tender process, and approved for deposit by the District Planning and Building Committee in July 2017.
Also known as the “Glassman Yeshiva,” this plan should be seen as a further alarm bell in the context of Israel’s ramped up efforts to deepen its circle of control around the Old City Basin as it reinforces Israeli settlement in specifically Sheikh Jarrah, another site of concerted settler takeovers of Palestinian homes, and effectively creates a key link on the northern perimeter of the settlement ring.

Map of Settlement Ring