JERUSALEM (Apr. 18)
Jewish settlers who stirred religious strife when they moved into a building in the Old City’s Christian Quarter last week have no plans to leave, despite an eviction order issued Tuesday by Jerusalem District Court Judge Ruth Orr.
The settlers, 150 Orthodox Jews, have appealed to the High Court of Justice and hope it will decide in their favor.
But they promised Wednesday to obey the eviction order if the High Court upholds it.
However, they intend to ignore the order during hearings to establish their tenancy rights in the building, which is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Police practice is to let civilian authorities implement eviction orders. According to the settlers’ attorney, that means they have 21 days to comply voluntarily.
They moved into the building, known as St. John’s Hospice, on April 11, during the holy days preceding Easter.
That triggered a protest demonstration by Christians and was criticized by many Israelis and Jews abroad as ill-timed and deliberately provocative.
The settlers claim they are “guests” of a Panamanian corporation they say leased the building for 10 years for $3.5 million.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said the lessor, Armenian businessman Mardiros Matosian, had no legal standing, as he is himself a tenant.
The settlers admit they have an agenda to expand the Jewish presence in the Old City, including a building they claim was owned by Jews who were forced to flee Arab riots in the 1930s.
But they will abide by the law if their appeal to the High Court fails.
“Under no circumstances will you see here sights of policemen dragging people out,” said David Ben-Ami, one of the settlers’ leaders.
“I hope there will be no eviction, but the law of the State of Israel is the law of us all, and there is no logic in us acting against ourselves,” he said.