By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Earlier this year, 5781 (2021), Gazan Arabs used a property-rights dispute in the Shimon HaTzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhool of (east) Yerushalayim as a pretext to initiate a battle in the ongoing war that Gazan-Arabs have been waging, and which they continue to wage, against Israel. For 15 days in during May, Gazan-Arabs fired rockets and launched incindary balloons from Gaza into the Israeli-controlled areas of Israel. The Israeli military (IDF) responded with air strikes, but did not use ground troops to invade Gaza.
This pretextual property-rights dispute centers around homes in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood of Yerushalayim which were Jewish-owned prior to the 1948 war of independence (1948 war). Jordan captured the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood during the 1948 war and then gave the homes to Arabs.
During the Six-Day war in 1967, Israel recaptured the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood and restored ownership of the Shimon HaTzaddik homes to their rightful Jewish owners. The Israeli government then exceeded its legitimate authority by making an agreement with the Arab residents of Shimon HaTzaddik which would allow them to remain in their former homes if they paid rent to the Jewish owners of the homes.
The Arabs, however, have never paid any rent. The Jewish owners responded by doing the only thing that they could under the circumstances: they instituted eviction proceedings in an attempt to regain possession of their homes.
In an apparant last-ditch effort to avoid what should be an easy decision for any court to make, the Arabs residents of Shimon HaTzaddik are seeking to introduce “newly discovered” Jordanian documents which, the Arabs claim, will provide additional support for their claim for possession of the homes.
The legal insufficiency that the Shimon HaTzaddik Arabs seem to have overlooked, or, more likely, which they would like the court to overlook, is that Israel recaptured and liberated the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood of Yerushalayim during the 1967 war, an act which legally extinguished any and all Jordanian sovereignty – which specifically includes, but which is not limited to, land deeds – over real property located in Shimon HaTzaddik.
Thus, any Jordanian documents which predate Israel’s 1967 military victory and liberation of the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood are irrelevant to the resolution of this property dispute.
Despite clear and overwhelming evidence that the Jewish owners of the Shimon HaTzaddik properties are legally entitiled to orders of eviction, it appears that the Israel Supreme Court, rather than simply performing its judicial duty, is, likely for political rather than judicial reasons, attempting to force a settlement.
Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American lawyer who resides in Jerusalem, Israel. Rabbi Sasson received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Haim Ovadia, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah VeAhava. Rabbi Ovadia, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, was ordained by Hakham Mordechai Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983 – 1993), and is a descendent of the renowned kabbalist Hakham Yehuda Fetaya Z”L.