Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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19 Iyar 5760 - May 24, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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How Jews Purchased Land in Abu-Dis

by B. Kahn

The lands on which the Jerusalem Municipality intends to build the Jewish neighborhood of Abu-Dis -- with the massive backing of the rightists -- were acquired seventy years ago by 210 Yerushalmi Jews who purchased 598 dunams of land through the Jerusalem Neighbors Association. (A dunam is 1,000 square meters or about 10,000 square feet.)

The purpose of this association, which functioned during the years 5680-90 (1920-30), was to acquire a large parcel of land outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on which to found a neighborhood with a high standard of living. Each family was to have a large plot of land. A memorandum sent by members of the association in 5688 (1928) reads: "It is four years since the Neighbors Federation in Jerusalem has been handling the establishment of a large neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, near the village of Abu-Dis on the way to Jericho, four kilometers from the central post office. 210 members of the Association -- who are of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Persian and Yemenite origin -- live there on an area of 600 dunams. They differ in their ways of life: some are from the old yishuv, others from the new. They include teachers, clerks, laborers and tradesmen."

Donors throughout the world were asked to contribute towards purchase of the land. "We hope that you value our efforts and attempts to fill the needs of the Jews of Jerusalem and the importance of creating a Jewish setting in the eastern part of the city, where no claim has been made until now, since the Jewish settlement has tended to be more in the western part of the city."

Although the lands were acquired seventy years ago, they were not built on at the time. Various Arab brokers tried to lay claim to the site and to purchase land in the area in order to prevent the Jews from occupying it. That was the situation until 5708 (1948). Arab rioting also made people unwilling to live in that area.

After the 1948 war the lands came under Jordanian rule and were administered by the Jordanian Commissioner of Enemy Assets. After the Six Day War, the State-appointed General Custodian administered the land and succeeded in locating some of the landowners and their heirs.

Most of the Abu-Dis village was recently transformed into Area B, which is in under civil control of the Palestinian Authority, and not any more in Israel's possession. The Jerusalem Municipality, whose border abuts Abu-Dis, controls part of the area; the Palestinians the remainder. Area residents (Arabs) fear the transfer of the village to Palestinian hands, noting, "It will prevent easy travel to Jerusalem." Right now, most of them work in Jerusalem, and it will be more difficult for them if control changes.

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