Abe Selig
The Jerusalem Post
September 29, 2009 - 12:00am

A brochure recently released by the Ateret Cohanim organization and obtained this week by The Jerusalem Post features a number of high-value properties the group has apparently put up for sale inside the Christian and Muslim quarters of Jerusalem's Old City, along with the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, Ras el-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah.

East Jerusalem properties are being marketed to Jews for upward of $1 million in an Ateret Cohanim brochure.

Many of the properties outside the Old City are located in the nearby "Yemenite Village," a pre-state community of some 150 Jews who arrived in Israel in 1882 and who were subsequently expelled during Arab disturbances there in the 1920s and '30s. It is now part of Silwan.

Other properties include a home in Sheikh Jarrah, near the disputed Shepherd Hotel building - which is also under the stewardship of Ateret Cohanim - and plans for a future 10,000-15,000-square-meter housing development called Kidmat Zion in Ras el-Amud.

"At a time when the United Nations and countries around the world are plotting to finally wrest Jerusalem and the holy places from Jewish hands, a strong Old City with a stable Jewish population becomes vital to our ability, as a nation, to maintain control over our spiritual center," the brochure states. "Ateret Cohanim and you will make that happen."

The brochure goes on to list the properties, with Hebrew names like Beit Sha'ar Haprahim (House of the Gate of the Flowers, near Herod's Gate), Beit Boteah (House of the Believer) and Beit Sha'ar Hahadash (House of the New Gate).

All of the properties, except for one in Silwan and another in Sheikh Jarrah, are listed at between $1 million and $3m.

Located near the Damascus Gate, the Beit Sha'ar Haprahim property, which is listed at $1.7m., is being advertised for "three-four Jewish families," and according to the brochure, is in the heart of the "future neighborhood of Sha'ar HaPrahim, [which] when built will house 21 families, a synagogue, kindergarten, a mikve and a recreation area."

The Post obtained the brochure, which also features pictures of the properties, from Jerusalem City Council member Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz). Margalit told the Post on Tuesday that the kinds of plans it featured could potentially "speed up the next big explosion [of Arab-Jewish tensions] in Jerusalem."

"In principle, I don't have a problem with Jews living in east Jerusalem," Margalit said during an interview in his office at City Hall. "But I do have a problem with these specific Jews, who are going into east Jerusalem with a political agenda, and a messianic one at that."

Ateret Cohanim is "trying to push back against the UN, and make 'facts on the ground' that they think will be irreversible. But it doesn't matter to the UN how many homes they have over there - they can be pulled out," said Margalit, who has scheduled a meeting with representatives of the European Union and the US Consulate in Jerusalem to discuss the issue.

"I didn't think such things were possible before the [2005] Gaza disengagement, but if we can take thousands of Jews out of Gaza, then we can certainly take a few hundred out of east Jerusalem," said Margalit, who founded one of the former Gaza Strip Jewish communities during his military service in the early 1970s, before being wounded in the Yom Kippur War.

"In the meantime, I don't think [Ateret Cohanim] understands the kind of tension they're stoking," he added. "They don't understand how much this issue offends the Arabs' honor, and that in the Arab world, once they've lost their honor, that's when the violence begins, because they feel they have nothing left to lose."

But Ateret Cohanim spokesman Daniel Luria blasted Margalit's assertions, telling the Post on Tuesday that his dissemination of the material was "dangerously short-sighted and unprofessional."

"We understand the workings of the Arab world quite well," Luria said. "And by handing this information out to anyone who asks for it, Margalit has put the lives of [the Arabs who are selling the homes to Jews] at risk. There are fatwas that endorse the killing of Muslims who sell their property to Jews."

Then, hinting that the brochure may have been circulated by Ateret Cohanim as a decoy list to thwart such dangers, Luria said, "The safety of those who have decided to sell their homes is at stake here, and we go out of our way to protect the Arabs who make that decision, even if it means printing publications that aren't necessarily real, and I won't elaborate on that any more."

Luria added that Margalit's actions were part of a "concerted effort to discredit groups like ours with regards to our funding," and that he had obtained the brochure through "questionable means."

"But there's nothing wrong with Jews purchasing property in the Old City of Jerusalem, or in east Jerusalem, for that matter," Luria asserted.

"Ateret Cohanim has for years been reestablishing Jewish roots in Jerusalem, and has been doing so through an educational framework - i.e., our yeshivot, kollels and the housing that accompanies them."


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