A recent ruling ending the challenge by Leftwing anti-Jewish organization Ir Amim to the return of Jewish properties in Kfar Shiloach (Silwan) in Eastern Jerusalem appears to be precedent setting.
While the Hekdesh in Kfar Shiloach was one of the largest in Jerusalem, this same concept of properties belonging to organizations in perpetuity was a common way of buying and securing property in Jerusalem during the Ottoman period.
Israel recognizes these Hekdeshot or sanctified trusts.
While this ruling was on a property just outside fo the Old City, many Hekdeshot exist throughout the Old City as well.
When one walks in today’s “Muslim Quarter” it becomes obvious that before the pogroms of the 1920s and and 1930s that most of this area belonged to Jews and in many instances through the use of sanctified trusts.
Given the results of this ruling, more and more Arab squatters that took up residency in Jewish properties after the pogroms will opt for selling instead of fighting in court ultimately making it easier for organizations like Ateret Cohanim to continue to help Jews return to neighborhoods they were pushed out of.
Daniel Luria, Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim explained the ruling and the background over the Hekdeshot by saying the following:
“In a similar vein to when one used to allocate and sanctify a particular object for the Holy Temple and thus being forbidden to use or sell for other purposes- so too were sanctified trusts(Hekdesh) set your by owners of buildings and compounds.
“Such properties and or buildings that became sanctified trusts couldn’t be sold to any person and forever remained as a specific trust.
Such was the case for example with the Wittenberg complex in the old city .
The Arab squatters never became formal owners and were not even able to try and register the apartments in their name. Moshe Wittenberg who had no children set up a sanctified trust for the huge complex.”
“And so whether it be Ariel Sharon or anyone else- although such people may have helped redeem an apartment and although it is seen in the public eye, that they “own” the apartment- the title still remains as Wittenberg sanctified trust.”
“And so too with Kfar Shiloach (Silwan), where hundreds of illegal Arab squatters are living in old Yemenite sanctified trust properties.”