Al-Haleddeyi St. may seem like an unlikely location for the next stage of Jewish growth in Jerusalem, but this small street that descends from the Christian quarter to Ha Gai Street into what most consider the Muslim quarter, is experiencing an influx of Jewish residents.
Once considered the main street in the Jewish quarter, Al-Haleddeyi St. known first as Hevron Street, because of the high percentage of Jewish residents, saw its Jewish residents driven out in waves between 1929 and 1937. Many of the Old City Rabbis lived on it, including Rav Diskin. At its peak it had 1,299 Jewish residents and was a bustling center of Jewish life in the late 1800 and early 1900’s.
Now, with organizations like Ateret Cohanim as well as private individuals, cases amounting to squatting are getting reexamined by the courts. One by one, properties that belonged to Jewish communal boards are being returned to their former Jewish owners or caretaker committees.
“We aren’t a banana republic and so if our very respected legal system and courts rule that the Arabs don’t have rights in the complex or that they have to vacate the premises, then so be it,” says Daniel Luria, executive director of Ateret Cohanim. “The same court system that backed the government and gave its stamp of approval to expel and relocate 10,000 Jewish residents and citizens from Gush Katif, should also be respected and adhered in these cases inside the Old City of Jerusalem. Behind the court case is really a story of Jews being driven from the area in the 1920s and 1930s by Arabs and their return to the area in these times. “
This past week I had the opportunity to see first hand one of the newest acquisitions on Al-Haleddeyi St. As I walked onto Al-Haleddeyi St,. Sam Goodman, a local activist and I turned left and then a quick right. Arabs paid no attention to us as we veered into a small courtyard belonging to an unassuming building. “This is resting on the Hekdesh [Jewish Communal Property],” Sam says to me as we walk straight ahead into the bottom of the building. “Above us are still Arabs, with one Jewish family on top as well. We all get along.”
The apartment is dark and in need of renovations. The former occupants left most of their belongings behind before they left. Unlike typical acquisitions that involve a buyer, seller, and often a few middlemen, apartments that change hands due to a court decision can be far more chaotic in terms of entry.
The apartment Sam and I were standing in went back to the courts several times, but like most of the houses on Al-Haleddeyi St. the evidence of land theft and squatting on the part of the Arab population was incontrovertible.
Up and down Al-Haleddeyi St. more and more Jews are moving in. Israeli flags can be seen out the windows and on the rooftops. The bustling of Jews is beginning to return. In many ways the quarter system, enacted by the British is being busted apart. Each new acquisition and court case that goes in favor of the Jews returns the city back to its original state, where a decolonization of Western backed Arab land theft is undone
For now Sam lives in the apartment, standing guard until renovations are complete. “Once there is a family that wants to move in, I’ll move out. My job is complete.” In fact since I saw it, the apartment already has a waiting list and more court cases are pending. Jewish life is returning to Al- Haleddeyi St. Perhaps in a not too distant future it will be renamed Hevron St. as it once was known.