On 7th December, 2022 we learned that the Elad Settler movement is claiming ownership of two large parcels of land that are/have been owned by the Greek Orthodox Church adjacent to the Pool of Siloam in Silwan. Together, the plots (no. 46 and 47) are almost half a Dunam in size (500 sq. m).
Apparently, the purported purchase of the properties was part and parcel of the disrupted and highly suspect transaction between the settlers and the Greek Orthodox Church regarding the two hotels at Jaffa Gate, the Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel. The alleged purchase is vehemently disputed by the Greek Orthodox Church. The Israeli Courts have awarded ownership of these hotels to the settlers and no further legal recourse is possible. However, these disputed hotels have been the source of a serious rift between the Jerusalem Churches in general and the Greek Orthodox Church in particular. This is a crisis that is still very much in play.
There are a number of open questions to which we don’t have answers:
- If this was part of the 2004 hotel transaction, why are we discovering it only today?
- The 2004 transaction was the subject of protracted legal proceedings. Why was there no mention of the Silwan plots?
- To date, we have known of purported transactions between the Ateret Cohanim settlers and the Greek Orthodox Church. How did the Elad settlers of Silwan become party to the agreement?
- Why did the Elad settlers wait 18 years prior to showing their hand and attempting to take possession?
This is no routine matter. This is a large tract of land, immediately adjacent to the Siloam Pool, which is of great historical significance to both Jews and Christians. For the former, it is a clear manifestation of Biblical Jerusalem. For the latter, it is the site where Jesus according to the New Testament (John 9 1-12) Jesus healed a blind man who had been blind from birth.
This in no isolated development and is part of the acceleration of biblically-motivated settlements and settlement-related projects encircling the Old City of Jerusalem. It is reminiscent of another site of importance to the Churches – the sacred sites on the Mount of Olives, which are to be subjected to the growing settler predominance in the public domain, by means of the establishment of an Israeli National Park on the Mount of Olives. The pattern is clear and poses stark challenges to the Christian presence in the city.
It is not at present possible to assess the validity of the legal claims of the settlers, and whether the court judgments pertaining to the hotels have any impact on them. With so much concealed and more to be revealed, we will track developments and shed light on the issue as we learn more.