Israel Land Fund Chief: The Battle for Jerusalem Is Fierce and Desperate (JEWISH PRESS) By: Malkah Fleisher 07/29/12)
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As Jews around the world conduct the rituals of mourning in
remembrance of the destruction of two Holy Temples in Jerusalem and
the suffering of exile from the center of Jewish life, an ambitious
plan and timeframe are afoot to rebuild Jerusalem and turn it once
again into the pulsating heart of the Jewish world.
In an interview with the Jewish Press’s Yishai Fleisher, Director and
Founder of the Israel Land Fund, Arieh King, described his
organization’s efforts to reclaim stolen properties in eastern
Jerusalem, and to expand the borders of the entire metropolis.
After Fleisher described an ambush he underwent in a narrow street in
the Arab-dominated Wadi Joz neighborhood to the north of Jerusalem’s
Old City, King warned that any area which does not have a Jewish
population could become a hotbed of terrorism.
“There’s no question that once Jews are not there, there is no
sovereignty, police are not entering there, this is the basis for
anti-Israeli organizations to put their roots …There’s no question,
if Jews were living there, things like that would not happen”.
King got his start as a security guard in the City of David in 1997.
Then most commonly known as Silwan, the area was wrought with strife
and was targeted frequently by local Arabs for attacks, despite his
position just adjacent to the most significant place in the city, the
Old City of Jeruasalem. Born on Kibbutz Alumim, King, is one of the
ten original residents of Ma’ale Zeitim (Ras-Al-Amud) where he
currently resides with his wife and children. He started the Israel
Land Fund while trying to recover property on the Mt. of Olives in
According to King, the battle for Jerusalem is fierce and “desperate”.
“The changes are daily. Unfortunately, of course, people are
attacked, and there are bad things still happening, but if we compare
it to other periods, we are [going in the] the right direction,” King
said. “ I think that our success, not just the Israel Land Fund, but
other organizations… in general, the major successes are building in
Beit Orot a neighborhood of 16 apartments, in Shimon HaTzaddik at the
Shepherd Hotel we built 76 Jewish apartments… this is something that
is making our enemies almost desperate and because of that, they are
allowing themselves to also attack us and to use a kind of weapon or
kind of language that they never used, because they saw and they see
almost daily that with all of their support that they get from the
media, from the United States leadership, even from Israeli even
politicians… they are not able to stop us. And this is making them
desperate, because they see the Jewish nation from all over the world
is much stronger than what they thought it is.”
Up until now, King’s focus has been on areas specific to eastern
Jerusalem – the Mount of Olives, Shimon HaTzaddik (the burial place
of Temple high priest Simon the Just), Beit Hanina, Beit
Tzafafa,and Jabil Mukaber, areas he said nobody was talking about 10
In those areas, King has set about not only buying up Arab
properties, but determining which properties were previously owned by
Jews but are now being squatted on by Arabs. During the interview,
King described how he worked with local Arabs in the Shimon HaTzaddik
neighborhood to determine who properties belonged to before the Jews
were evicted by the Jordanians in 1948, and what the properties were
His future plans for those areas include housing for 500 families
(thanks in part to some anonymous donors- Canadian businessmen), 120
additional apartments in an area called Nachalat Shimon (which King
says currently houses 3 large hotels), and a new complex which will
be used by Yeshivat Ohr Somayach.
Now, King and a group of experts and city planners have come together
to make plans for the rest of the city – proposals which will
revolutionize the capital in just 38 years.
Though the plans of King and his architects, civil engineers, tourism
experts, hoteliers, transportation, financial, and demographic
experts – “most of them are leftists”, says King – were initiated
before the recent government report by Edmund Levy, which said Israel
has the right to act with sovereignty across Israel, King called the
report “a big blessing”. “I hope [the report] will be a good
platform to start this movement of asserting sovereignty first of all
around Jerusalem. First.”
Called Jerusalem 5800, the plan is to expand Jerusalem to the east,
north, and south by the year 2050. As part of the plan, Gush Etzion
in southern Judea will become a suburb of Jerusalem, as will Maale
Adumim and Givat Ze’ev.
King noted that the expansion will not occur to the west, because of
issues pertaining to forestry and rainwater collection.
The plan also aims to introduce a Jerusalem International Airport
between Maale Adumim and the Dead sea in the Horkania valley,
complete with cable cars and an underground tunnel to the Old City,
to accommodate the estimated 10 million tourists the UN has predicted
Jerusalem will host in the next 10-15 years.
“It will be a disaster,” King said. “Where will all the people come?
Where will they stay? In order to make it happen, we must change
Jerusalem and to build and to dig underneath to make many tunnels to
make the Holy Basin accessible.”
The stalwart activist also told Fleisher that a key component in the
battle for Jerusalem is aliyah. “People [making aliyah] from Zionism,
from Zionist reasons…. Any person that calls himself a Zionist is a
Jerusalemist –Zion is Jerusalem. When people are making aliyah, they
are making aliyah because of Jerusalem,” King said. “And by making
aliyah, they are strengthening Jerusalem.
“I hope that each one who is making aliyah will come and live in
Jerusalem, but even if they would choose, Raanana, Netanya, or Tel
Aviv, it is strengthening Jerusalem, and we need all the time to
think about Jerusalem and how we can strengthen Jerusalem,”
For those who have not yet come home to Israel as a way of
strengthening Jerusalem, King says Jerusalem consciousness can do a
lot for the city. “We are now in the… Nine Days… this is the time
for any Jew in the world to think – what did he do for Jerusalem.
Every day,” King said. “I’m thinking about it every hour, but ok,
every hour for me and for you Yishai, we are here, we see this ugly
thing on the Temple Mount every day. So we cannot forget, it’s all
the time in our minds, but people in the Diaspora need to think once
in a day – what did they do for the sake of Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem needs help,” King said. And so does he.
“I’m working daily. For me, when I see people that personally
decided to change their way of thinking about Jerusalem, this is for
me much more strengthening myself than if we found another Jewish
property, because I think the most important things is to educate the
people that Jerusalem needs their help,” King said. “It’s not
something that a few individuals can take care of. Jerusalem is too
big for me, too big for our organization, it is too big for all the
organizations together – we need everybody to participate somehow –
make one day [of the week] Jerusalem day, pray another prayer, stay
after davening, say a perek of [Psalms] for Jerusalem. When you come
to Netanya,[also] come one day to Jerusalem.”
“People don’t understand how much it strengthens the people that are
daily in the front line, suddenly to see people who are coming from
afar and just saying hello, saying [way to go] about what you do.”
With all the progress, King wants Jews around the world to know there
is much left to be done. “Now we are in the Three Weeks, it’s
important for people to know that Jerusalem is still a ruin,” King
said. “Many ruins in Jerusalem are waiting to be built.” (© 2012
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