Who would have imagined, even a few months ago, that three Jewish families moving near one of the great Jewish holy spots in Jerusalem, into homes that have been owned by Jews since 1902, would spark riots and media coverage, the world over.
There once was a time in America, when some people were not allowed to buy and live in houses in certain areas because of their race, color or creed.
In Germany the right to own property was taken from minorities and political opponents of the the Third Reich in 1935.
The Ras Al Amud property was originally sold to two Jews, Mr. Nissan Bak and Mr. Moshe Wittenburg, by the Turkish government about 100 years ago. They then leased the land to build Jewish seminaries there in 1928.
However, the ruling British colonial authority in Jerusalem at the time would not allow the Bak and Wittenberg families to build these schools
Instead, Ras El Amud was leased to Arab farmers for the purpose of raising wheat for the production of special “Matzot Shamurot”, the unleavened bread, for the Passover meal. During the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem the land was held in trust for Jewish owners by the Jordanian Government.
In 1964, when an Arab farmer who worked the land at Ras El Amud claimed it for himself, the Jordanian Hashemite court of land registration rejected the claim of the tenant farmer, because the title was still owned by the Bak and the Wittenberg families.
In 1967, Ras El Amud was transferred to the Israel Land Trust and placed under the administration of the Jerusalem Municipality.
In 1984, the Jerusalem Municipality sold Ras El Amud to a housing development corporation owned by Mr. Irving Moskowitz, an American Jew from Miami.
Ras El Amud and The Mount of Olives are located on the slope that leads to the Golden Gate to the Old City in Jerusalem.
The Golden Gate was sealed by Moslem clerics in the Middle Ages, so as to prevent the Jews buried on the Mount of Olives who “might be brought back to life during messianic times” from approaching the Temple Mount to rebuild the Jews’ Holy Temple and destroy their Al Aksa mosque.
The Mount of Olives cemetery was transformed into a military camp by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1949, and it continues to be vandalized.
Meanwhile, the new Palestinian Authority has declared that selling land to a Jew is an offense punishable by death.
It is not only the Palestine Authority that has made an issue of Jews moving into new lands.
Since 1967, Jews buying land or establishing new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem has been the subject of an international outcry, at times led by the United States.
In 1970, while the Jerusalem municipality debated building a new neighborhood on the the slopes that lie directly north of the city, near the grave of Samuel The Prophet, the US State Department spokesman Robert McClosky declared that such an action would be a violation of international law and an act of war. On the day following McClosky’s denunciation, the Jerusalem city council decided in a unanimous vote to build the Ramot neighborhood there. Ramot now counts 45,000 Jewish residents.
In 1974, the US state department objected to Israel building a suburb to Jerusalem on its eastern slopes. That suburb, Maaleh Edumim, now houses 23,000 Jewish residents.
Ironically, some of the Israelis who protested the Ras El Amud initiative now live in Ramot and Maaleh Edumim.
On June 5, 1997, on the thirtieth anniversary of the six day war which resulted in the conquest and subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem, Yassir Arafat sent a personal spokesman, Walid, to appear at a press forum, together with former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and current Jerusalem deputy mayor David Cassuto. Speaking on behalf, Awad declared that the minimal requirement for peace would be the evacuation of Jews from any new Jewish neighborhood that was established after the 1967 war. Another Arafat intimate, Sayid Kenan of Nablus, declared that Palestinian Arab refugees who left their homes in 1948 would be brought to live in the Israeli settlements, – wherever they are – in Jerusalem, the west bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights.
It would seem that the prerequisite that no Jew can live among Palestinian Arabs may be a condition of the peace process that Israel may not be able to live with.