May 27, 2022

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The controversy surrounding ownership of the homes in a neighborhood has gained international notoriety. But the question of who owns the property – Jews or Arabs appears to have been resolved from an unexpected source – The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan who ruled the area before Israel liberated it.

The backdrop

Much media attention has been focused on the evictins of Palestinians from home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and like most media reports on Israel, they are biased and wrong in almost every respect.

What the media commonly call Sheikh Jarrah is a neighborhood in Jerusalem that has been Jewish in nature since Shimon HaTzaddik, a High Priest from the Second Temple period, was buried there. 

The name ‘Sheikh Jarrah’ was applied to the area 13 centuries later, taken from the 13th-century tomb of a physician of Saladin, located within its vicinity.

The Shimon HaTzadik tomb and its surroundings, with an area of 17 dunams, was purchased by the Sephardi Community Council and Knesset Yisrael in 1875. Later, another adjacent neighborhood was purchased by Jewish investors. Hundreds of Jews lived in those areas until the Arab riots in 1936. Soon after the violence ended in 1939, the Jews returned.  During the 1947 War of Independence, the local Arabs murdered Jews and in 1948, the British ordered the Jews to evacuate. 

On 13 April 1948, 78 members of Hadassah Medical Center staff, patients, members of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and fighters near the evacuated neighborhoods were murdered in the Hadassah medical convoy massacre as the British prevented Jewish forces from arriving at the scene. After the war, the area was illegally occupied by Jordan and ethnically cleansed of Jews.

In September 1972, the Israeli administrator General released ownership of the land to its owners, the Sephardic Community Committee in Jerusalem and the Knesset of Israel. In 1982, the two committees filed a lawsuit to realize their ownership of 17 apartments built in the area. As a result of the legal proceedings, the Arabs living in the Jewish owned properties recognized the Jewish ownership and agreed to pay rent. In 1993, the committees filed a lawsuit to evict the residents from the apartments, claiming that they had not paid rent. In 1998 Israeli police evacuated some of the Arab tenants from the neighborhood and Jewish tenants entered.

The Arabs claim that the Israeli courts do not have jurisdiction in the area which they inaccurately refer to as “occupied territory”. The area was legally owned by Jews during the Ottoman rule, ceded to the Jewish state by the UN partition plan, illegally occupied by Jordan, conquered by Israel during the defensive 1967 war, and annexed by Israel in the 1980 Jerusalem Law. 

Partial and periodic evictions have been carried out since 2002. 

An article in the Jewish Press published last week revealed an English-language leasing contract for housing units from Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates proving that the properties of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are Jewish-owned. The document was turned over by Jordan in 2019, ironically at the behest of the Palestinians. 

The document was preserved in the UNRWA Archive on April 14, 2021, and stamped by the Jordanian government on April 20, 2021. It shows the project was undertaken to provide housing for twenty-eight families in Jerusalem.’

Under the description of the project, the contract acknowledges that the property was owned by Jews.

“Two single and thirteen twin housing units will be constructed in the Sheikh Jarrah Quarter of Jerusalem on formerly Jewish property leased by the Custodian of Enemy Property to the Ministry of Development, for the purpose of this project,” the contract stated.

And while the world rages at Israel for evicting Arab squatters, there is a resounding silence concerning Hamas evictions in Gaza. Al-Monitor reported earlier this month that the Hamas government evicted 23 families from their homes, expropriating ​​55 dunums (13.6 acres) east of Rafah. The evicted owners claimed they had owned the land before Hamas was founded in 1987.