Government rebuilds Jewish Yemenite neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem

The Jewish-owned site is in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood that in ancient times held King David’s palace.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a Wednesday ceremony attended by Israeli politicians and American donors, the cornerstone of a heritage center for Yemenite immigrant culture was laid in the heart of what is now the Arab neighborhood of Silwan but originally was a village built in the 1880s for poor Yemenite Jews called Kfar HaShiloach.

The center will be constructed at the destroyed site of what was once the community’s synagogue, called Ohel Shlomo, which was abandoned when the Jewish population was forced to evacuate the area during Arab riots before the establishment of the state of Israel.

Arab families then illegally moved into the Jewish properties, some of which have returned to Jewish hands after long legal battles – including the synagogue complex.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev spoke of the historic Jewish ties to the area, which she contrasted with the ties to the land fabricated by the Palestinian Authority.

“Look around,” she said. “We are surrounded by Jewish heritage. The archaeologists won’t find a single Palestinian coin here!”

“This region knew many occupiers and rulers, but no one has succeeded in cutting off the deep roots of the Jewish people,” she added. “It’s always exciting to walk these streets, where Jews walked 3000 years ago.”

Seeking ‘historical justice’

Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and of Environmental Protection – and the Likud candidate for Jerusalem mayor in the upcoming municipal elections – also referenced history.

“We were on this hill 3,000 years ago. We have buried our dead near here [on the Mount of Olives] for thousands of years. It’s exactly 80 years since the Yemenite Jews were driven out of here,” Elkin said. “We are creating historical justice by coming back here, renovating the synagogue and creating a heritage center that thousands of Jews can visit.”

Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee also attended the event,  but did not speak.

Daniel Luria, executive director and spokesman for Ateret Cohanim, the organization which raised the funds needed to repossess and develop the buildings, was overjoyed.

“Huge thanks to ministers Elkin and Regev for having Jerusalem run in their veins and for ensuring that their ministries will jointly commit just over $1 million towards this project,” he said. “There are politicians who talk and give speeches, and there are politicians who do and act. Both of you ministers are ‘doers’!”

“The Israeli Government has recognized this [synagogue] complex as a heritage site. And the Israeli Government will be helping fund part of this unique project in the heart of Jerusalem. That’s sovereignty. That’s beautiful and it’s so, so welcome,” Luria added.

The Culture Ministry is to provide NIS 3 million  and the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry will add another NIS 1.5 million to help fund the $3 million project. Other major donors include a Florida synagogue and the Moskowitz family, American philanthropists who have donated millions of dollars to the establishment of Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and especially eastern Jerusalem.