Russia to Possess Historic Building in Heart of Jerusalem (JEWISH PRESS) By: Malkah Fleisher 06/25/12)
JEWISH PRESS Articles-Index-Top
The transfer of one of Jerusalem’s most prime pieces of real estate
to Russia will be finalized when the Society for the Protection of
Nature in Israel (SPNI) vacates its offices, following the completion
of talks between Israel and Russia on Sunday.
In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Sergei building and
its 9-acre courtyard with gardens and fishponds in the Russian
Compound as a gift to the Russian government. He made the gesture
during a visit to Moscow to persuade President Dimitry Medvedev not
to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran. The
decision to transfer the property was made by the prime minister,
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.
Last year, the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for Preservation
of Israel Heritage Sites evacuated their offices in the compound.
SPNI issued a request to continue working in the offices, but was
denied by the Russian government.
Israel gained control of approximately 90 percent of the Russian
compound in 1964, paying the Russian government $3.5 million in
citrus fruits for the property due to lack of hard currency – hence
the dubbing of the agreement the “Orange Deal”.
The Sergei building, not included in the sale, was completed in 1890,
and served as a hotel for Russian aristocrats, royalty, and
dignitaries on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was named for brother of
Tzar Alexander III, Grand Duke Sergei, then President of the Imperial
Russian Orthodox Palestine Society. The property had been purchased
by Tzar Alexander II in 1860 from the Ottoman Empire.
When the plan to give possession of the property to Russia was
announced in 2008, opponents protested the giving over of Jerusalem
heritage sites to foreign entities, and warned that Russia was not a
strong enough ally to trust with the property. Then-candidate for
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also disapproved of the plan, calling it
a “dangerous precedent, giving property in the heart of Jerusalem to
Russia has vowed to keep the area open to the public, and says it
will restore the yard and buildings for use by Russian pilgrims
visiting Jerusalem today.
The SPNI announcement comes just a day before Russian Premier
Vladimir Putin’s Monday arrivalin Israel on an official state visit.
The leader is expected to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss
Iran’s nuclear progress. He will also dedicate a monument in Netanya
to the valor of the Red Army in World War II. The large stone
monument consisting of a pair of white wings, an unprecedented joint-
state venturebetween Israel and Russia, will also honor the more than
half a million Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in the war. (©
2012 JewishPress. 06/25/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY