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Irving Moskowitz - The Real Story

MA'ALEH HAR HAZEITIM OR RAS EL-AMUD: THE TRUE STORY

by Yedidya Atlas

Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio
July 21, 1999 / Av 8, 5759

In This Article:

1. The Curtain Opens
2. Flashback
3. Proof of Jewish Ownership
4. The See-Saw
5. Dis-Information
6. Preventing Palestinian Contiguity

THE CURTAIN OPENS

Imagine the following: A Jewish businessman buys a parcel of land in an American city, pays for it with his own funds, and then applies to the local municipality for a permit to build a residential neighborhood of middle class apartments for young Jewish families. To make life easier for his prospective clients, he plans to build a synagogue, a mikveh (ritual bath), a kindergarten and a day-care center, as well as a few small shops. He then meets all legal, zoning, environmental and even archeological requirements established by city, state and federal agencies. Armed with every license and permit known to man, he is openly vilified in the press, and politicians try by executive fiat to block this Jewish businessman from building these homes on his own private property simply because he is a Jew building for Jews.

Imagine. In America it would be called racism, anti-Semitism. In Israel its called Ras el-Amud.

In our true story, the businessman is Dr. Irving Moskowitz, a well-known philanthropist who lives in Florida, although he also has a home in Jerusalem. The liberal-left press doesn't like him, perhaps because most recipients of his largesse are not sufficiently politically-correct, or approved by the proponents of left-wing advocacy journalism.

But, you ask, what and where is Ras el-Amud, and why can't Dr. Moskowitz build on his own land after meeting all legal and technical requirements?

FLASHBACK

Our story begins in the latter half of the previous century.

Some 130 years ago, two of Jerusalem's leading philanthropists, Moshe Wittenberg and Nissan Bak, acting on behalf of the Chabad and Wollin Hassidim Kollels (community groups), purchased a 15-dunam plot (almost four acres) on the southern lower slope of Mt. of Olives (Har HaZeitim) facing Jerusalem's Old City walls. In 1928, Wittenberg and Bak formally transferred ownership of the land to the Kollels.

The Kollels then leased the parcel to an Arab farmer. The Kollel community gabbai (sexton), as the representative of the duly registered owners of the land, paid the property taxes levied by the authorities. This point subsequently became crucial when decades later the Arab leaseholder illegally transferred title deed to his own name.

PROOF OF JEWISH OWNERSHIP

When the Trans-Jordanian Legion captured the eastern side of Jerusalem in 1948, all Jewish property was transferred to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property Office. In 1951, the Arab leaseholder went to have the Jordanian Land Registration Office change the name on the title deed over to his own name, while concealing the fact that the land really belonged to Jewish owners. A meticulous Jordanian clerk then discovered the aforementioned tax records paid by the Jews, and the Jordanian Custodian Office attempted to block the leaseholder's being listed as the owner. They did not meet with full success, however, as the tax records alone were ruled insufficient to prove other ownership.

Subsequently, the Jordanian Custodian Office discovered the original title deed of the Land Registry proving Jewish ownership, and applied to the Jordanian Court to invalidate the false registration of the dishonest Arab leaseholder. This was shortly before the 1967 Six-Day War and the Jordanian Court had not yet issued its ruling when the war broke out.

Following the war, with much of the area already densely built, the two Kollel community groups then pursued the case in Israeli courts. The District Court ruled in their favor, but the Arab leaseholder appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the true Jewish owners, validating their claim in 1984. Then, in 1990, the Kollel communities sold their land to Dr. Irving Moskowitz.

THE SEE-SAW

Moskowitz developed a plan for a 132-dwelling Jewish neighborhood on the privately-owned property. Here began a see-saw. The Jerusalem Municipal Planning Commission, with the agreement of then-Mayor Teddy Kollek, approved the plans. At that point, however, then-Interior Minister Chaim Ramon froze further discussion of the plans. Then came along his successor, Ehud Barak, who cancelled the freeze and deposited the Jerusalem Municipality's approved plans into the State of Israel's Jerusalem District Zoning Commission (which is comprised of representatives of various interested government ministries such as Defense, Interior, Housing, and other public figures) for approval. The District Commission issued final approval on Dec. 10, 1996.

DIS-INFORMATION

One of the big misnomers promoted by the Palestinian Arabs, Israel's radical Left, and their fellow travelers in the media, is that the new Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim neighborhood is located in "the midst of a Palestinian Arab area whose true name is Ras el-Amud." This is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to mislead the general public. "Ras el-Amud" itself is simply one Arab populated neighborhood on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. The new Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim project is not part of the Ras el-Amud neighborhood proper, but is simply adjacent to it.

To the west, across the road, adjoining the Old City's Jewish Quarter, is "Ir David" (City of David), a developing Jewish neighborhood above the Shiloah wellspring. The property's eastern boundary is 160 meters from the Mount of Olives Israeli Police Station (itself located on Jewish-owned property), and past that, another 160 meters northwards, is one of the largest and oldest Jewish cemeteries atop the Mount of Olives, in use from Biblical times until today.

Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim (Mt. of Olives), the so-called "Ras el-Amud" project, is not isolated in an exclusively Arab area. It is a only a mile from Jerusalem's City Hall, just over a mile to the King David Hotel and the new Jerusalem Hilton. The Western Wall in the Old City is less than half a mile away, and the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus, a mile and a half. Hardy an isolated neighborhood.

Even though Dr. Moskowitz bought the land and obtained all the proper building permits, there are those who shout, "How dare he! It's a provocation!" Imagine that. For a Jew to build homes for other Jews on privately-owned Jewish land in the Holy City of Jerusalem is considered an international chutzpah!

PREVENTING PALESTINIAN CONTIGUITY

The primary motive behind the objections of the Palestinian Authority and its radical-Left Israeli supporters to the establishment of another Jewish neighborhood in this part of Jerusalem is simply because it prevents -- by its very existence at this location -- the de-facto division of Jerusalem. With Jews living on this side of the Mount of Olives, Arafat and his cohorts will fail to achieve an Arab-dominated area from Palestinian-occupied Jericho to the Temple Mount.

Those who decry the accusations that certain political elements in Israel's Jewish body politic would divide Jerusalem, have only to examine their position vis-a-vis the new Ma'aleh Har HaZeitim neighborhood. It is inconceivable, to this writer at least, that the only Jews who may be permitted on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives are those who are already dead - those who are buried in the cemetery there. Surely in Jerusalem, in the capital of the Jewish State, Jews, of all people, should be able to live wherever they like.

 

Yedidya Atlas is a senior correspondent and commentator for Arutz-7 Israel National Radio. His articles have appeared worldwide in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Insight Magazine, Midstream, The Jerusalem Post, Makor Rishon and Nativ.

Article originally from: Israel Report

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