Is the Tipping Point Upon Us? Jews Nearly Finished Renovating Home Near Lions Gate Jerusalem

A few months ago I had the opportunity to follow Rabbi Ben Packer of the Heritage House into an area of the Old City even the most adventurous activists would think twice before entering.  That did not deter Rabbi Packer and I from making the left at Lions Gate and up stairs and walkway into an all Arab neighborhood.  The neighborhood is known to Jew and Arab alike as a vipers nest, but this area, void of Jews since the 1930’s contains an old Jewish property.  When I walked there a few months ago, this Jewish property had only recently been handed back to Jews. The Arabs were violent and threatening.

The property was broken down.  To make matters more uncomfortable the property shared a courtyard with a divorced Arab woman and her children and some grandchildren.

Today I returned and found a transformed place.  As we make a left down the small street, a kid, once antagonistic now gives us a high five.  The shop owner says hello warmly. In my experience where Jews move and stay, the Arab population eventually learns to live with it.

As we enter the courtyward we see the old Arab woman.  She shows us some rocks the neighbors had thrown down on her due to her stubborn refusal to harm the Jews sharing the courtyard with her. After greeting us she disappears into her home.

The rocks that had been thrown at the woman

“Other than the rocks, her life has gotten a lot better since we moved in here,” Rabbi Packer says as we enter into a room under renovation. “This is real peace.”

A hit piece was recently written in the Electronic Intifada about Rabbi Ben Packer, claiming he has ties to white supremacists.  His concern for the older Arab neighbor and his protection extended to her dispels that myth.

The work has progressed a lot since the last time I had been there.  One room is completely re-tiled, waiting for yeshiva students to move in.  The adjacent room will become an apartment for a young family.

Before leaving I look up at the recently tiled apartment. Etched into the stone above the doorway are two Hebrew letters, still visible from over 8o years ago. In an undying proof of the Jewish people’s claim to their homeland, the letters stand as a marker that we will never disappear and just like the return to this apartment, the Jewish people will return to every house that was stolen from us.

Our return is part of a larger movement.  We are coming home and yes proudly pushing Israel towards the Tipping Point, when the idea of the two state solution will no longer be an option.

Entryway with Old Hebrew Letters etched into the Stone
Work progressing on the floor in one of the rooms
Rabbi Ben Packer speaks to students about the significance of the site

ON THE FRONTLINES: After 70 Years, Jews Have Returned to the Old City Shuk

In what is considered the “Arab” Shuk, which runs from the Jaffa Gate down to the Western Wall, a new Jewish store has opened.  In most cities this would go unnoticed, but in Jerusalem where thousands of Jews were expelled in 1948 by the Jordanian Legions, reclaiming stolen Jewish property especially in areas perceived to be Arab is extremely important.

The new store is owned by a Texas man who bought it from the Moriah School by way of City Council Member Arieh King. The school had reclaimed the store along with it’s current location, but without a use for the students it decided to sell. Despite the purchase, the owner couldn’t find a dedicated manager, willing to sit in the middle of thousands of hostile Arabs.  That changed after Rabbi Ben Packer of the Heritage House introduced the owner to Shaul Gheblikian an Armenian Jew.

“The store is located on the way to the Western Wall.  Where is it more important to strengthen than the Jewish presence on the way to the Western Wall,” Rabbi Packer says.

Shaul Gheblikian has spent the last month cleaning up the small store front and making a presence there on a daily basis while he awaits proper permits to sell food.  Asked if the neighbors have been antagonistic he responds on the affirmative. “Most repeated phrase in the Torah is do not be afraid.” The animosity has not deterred Shaul.  He is fearless and stands guard over the property.  Very often tourists and Yeshiva students join him to learn and schmooze.

In the near future the store will be used to attract tourists in hopes they will  buy Israeli food products like wine, honey, and cold pressed juice.  For now Shaul and others are making sure the Arab squatters in the area do not vandalize and harm the store or those managing it.

Shaul Gheblikian standing in the newly reclaimed store
Shaul Gheblikian standing in the newly reclaimed store
Shaul will spend hours learning Torah with visitors
Shaul will spend hours learning Torah at this table with visitors
New Mezuzah covering the same spot where it was once fastened
New Mezuzah covering the same spot where it was once fastened