Hundreds of Yerushalayim Jews live in buildings on land that was leased almost a century ago from the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches for only a hundred years, Haaretz reports. The leases are running out and hundreds of people face being thrown out of homes inhabited by their parents and grandparents.
In 1936, the Do’ar Hayom paper publicized that a building lot that linked the new Rechaviah neighborhood to the rest of the city had just been leased from a Yerushalayim monastery for ninety-nine years. The lease of the Rosh Rechaviah building is due to expire in eighteen years’ time. When that day arrives, unless new legislation alters the law, the building’s residents will lose their rights to the land and its building and have to rent or leave.
Just over the road, the Gan Rechaviah building will be in similar straits when its lease expires in nineteen years. The leases of dozens of additional buildings in Rechaviah, Telbiah, Nayot and other older Yerushalayim neighborhoods are due to expire in about 2050.
Reluctant to sully their hands with the affair, the churches that own the land are offloading the properties to private businessmen who will have the unpleasant task of ejecting the residents at zero hour with no compensation, or charging them rent.
Chareidi businessman Moshe Idan bought the lease of the Rosh Rechaviah building from the church for another two hundred years. The thirty-two families living in the apartment had the same opportunity to buy the lease but some felt they could not afford to pay their share of the $1.2 million the church demanded for the property. Now, any family that wishes to stay in eighteen years’ time will need to pay Idan $400,000 or pay him rent.
“In the worst scenario they will become tenants,” Idan told Haaretz. “True, this was a business deal, but there’s a line we won’t cross. We are Jews; we won’t throw anyone from their homes. I am not exploiting anyone. I am asking for normal sums.”
Another group of investors leased extensive properties from the Greek Orthodox Church in West Yerushalayim and an anonymous group leased 2.5 acres of church property in the Givat Oranim neighborhood. The threat hanging over the buildings has decreased their value, leading a Rosh Rechaviah resident to bring chareidim into the picture.
“This process will lead to an ethnic cleansing of the secular residents,” he complained. “Once people of a certain age feel insecure they leave. They’ll be replaced by chareidim. Rechaviah is the city center’s humanist and cultural front line and this will influence the whole of Yerushalayim.”
David Steger – Matzav.com Israel