Thursday, 13 May 2021

Sheikh Jarrah is Shimon HatZadik. Historic Facts. Not White House and Media Fallacies.

First. The weeks of violence in Jerusalem between Arabs and Jews were initiated in Jaffa where Arab youths brutally attacked a rabbi. They filmed it on Tik Tok and videoed another attack beating up two teenage Torah students. Their videos went viral and attacks were copied by other Arab gangs in Hebron and Jerusalem who reveled in beating up isolated Jews even to the incidents of Jews being rescued from lynching by alert police officers.

The Palestinian leadership both in Ramallah and in Gaza were quick to exploit these anti-Semitic attacks by linking them to the outcome of yet another failed attempt to hold Palestinian elections.

Mahmoud Abbas understood that the results of this election would result in embarrassment for him and his party, so he cancelled them, blaming Israel for the cancellation.

He and Hamas separately began to incite the Palestinian street to attack the Jews for the failure of a non- election. This occurred at the critically sensitive period of Ramadan which, in the past, has been exploited for political purposes.

And so Arab violence against Jews escalated. Every issue, large and small, was exploited by a divided Palestinian leadership to bring the Arab street to boiling point.

Added to the tinderbox was a court case in which the Jerusalem courts had ordered the eviction of certain Arab families from the homes they had been illegally occupying for years. These homes were located in what is called the Sheikh Jarrah area of Jerusalem. It is today, a predominantly, though not exclusively, Arab area in which the majority of the Arabs see themselves as Palestinians rather than Israeli. They reject Israeli citizenship while enjoying Jerusalem residency status.

The issue of the pending eviction has wrongly been interpreted by the foreign media, and even by the Biden White House, as a case of Israeli aggressive occupation policy.  This is untrue, and we need to dig into the originals to understand that justice and law is on the side of the Jews.

Long ago, there was a revered Jewish sage by the name of Shimon. His learned reputation earned him the title of Shimon HatZadik – Shimon the Righteous.  

Shimon was the High Priest during the Hellenic period of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He is mentioned in the Talmud as a person of high position who welcomed Alexander the Great on his arrival into the Land of Israel in the 4th Century BCE.

On this death, Shimon was buried and his burial place became a place of pilgrimage for Jews. The grave area was further revered when it became the burial ground for the Sanhedrin, the religious judges of the Temple period.

Arabs, during the Ottoman period, called this place “Al Yahudiyyah,” the place of the Jews.

In 1876, the Sephardi Jewish Council and the Ashkenazi General Council came together and, for 16,000 francs, jointly purchased the site of the holy tombs as well as an additional 17.5 dunams, and the purchase was registered with the Ottoman authorities under the names of Rabbi Avraham Ashkenazi who, despite his name, was born in Turkey. Other signatories were representatives of both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish communities.

In 1890, a cornerstone was laid for the start of construction of the residential neighborhood of Shimon HatZadik and, in 1891, more Jewish construction began to the west of the Nablus road and the tomb of Shimon the Righteous. This neighborhood was called Nahalat Shimon and the area became populated with an initial 260 residents and four synagogues by 1916.

Two years later, in 1918, the Zionist delegation headed by Chaim Weizmann, who was to become the first President of the State of Israel, funded the development of the compound surrounding the tomb as well as the new residential area.

The developing area attracted the attention of non-Jews and many prominent Arabs purchased land to build their houses. Among those Arabs was Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and, infamously, the greatest anti-Semite in the Middle East and a close ally of Adolph Hitler under whom he planned the final solution of the Jewish People in the Middle East.

When the Jordanians joined with four other Arab armies to execute the annihilation of the newly formed Jewish State, they attacked Israel from across the River Jordan, reeling back the weak and nascent Jewish army.

They captured and occupied Jerusalem including the Old City and the area of Shimon HatZadik. They and the local Arabs drove out the Jewish residents under pain of death, and Arabs occupied their homes under Jordanian protection.

Until the arrival of the Jordanians, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority, but the Jordanians marched all the Jews out of the Old City and destroyed all the synagogues and the yeshivas within the Old City.

They ripped up the Jewish gravestone on the Mount of Olives and used them as paving stones. The passageway by the Wailing Wall, now called the Western Wall, the retention wall that supports the Temple Mount, was used as a urinal.

No Jews were allowed to visit the Jewish holy sites within the Old City, not even on the important Jewish days of prayer and pilgrimage.

The area of Shimon HatZadik became known as Sheikh Jarrah. No Jews were allowed to come and worship at the tomb. Arabs occupied Jewish owned properties until the Jordanians foolishly decided to join with Egypt and Syria in a second war of annihilation against what was left of the State of Israel in 1967.

It must be noted that, between 1948 and 1967, the Jordanians, occupying all the territory from the River Jordan to Jerusalem, failed to hand this territory to the Palestinians for statehood. They could have, but it was never their intention, just as Egypt failed to hand territory they had wrestled from Israel in 1948 to the local Arabs. The same with Syria. They all captured and occupied territory for themselves. The Palestinians were never an entity or an issue until three Arab nations were dealt a decisive defeat by Israel in the war imposed on the Jewish State by other Arab states.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Palestinians became a national entity.

Now, after 1967 and the return of the Jews to a liberated Jerusalem, the houses illegally occupied by Arabs, but owned by Jews, became an issue.

It took until 1982 for two Jewish trusts, who legally owned the properties now occupied by Arabs, to demand the removal of twenty-three families who had lived in houses not purchased by them and in which they had paid no rent.

The lawyers for the families argued that they be allowed to live there as protected tenants claiming that their clients had long term rights born out of their occupation despite the fact they had paid no rent to the Jewish owners.

The trusts filed claims with the Jerusalem Magistrate Court that these people were living in a place not theirs and had refused to pay rent, not that the trusts wanted them to pay rent. The trusts wanted their properties back for their own purposes. The court found in favor of the trusts.

The legal battle raged on for decades. In 1999, the Court was given hard evidence of Jewish ownership and ordered the eviction of an Arab family who was living illegally within the compound of Shimon HatZadik in what was now called Sheikh Jarrah.  

This legal battle is going on today, twenty-two years later, and anti-Israel antagonists, including too many people in the diplomatic community who should know better, continue to tout the lie that this is evidence of a cruel Israel “occupation policy.”

Nothing is further from the truth, and we need to demand that the historic and legitimate rights of Jews and of Israel have precedent over the illegal behavior of the Arabs of Sheikh Jarrah, originally known as Shimon HatZadik. 

Barry Shaw, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. Author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS, and Anti-Semitism.’


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