The lands on which the Jerusalem Municipality intends to
build the Jewish neighborhood of Abu-Dis -- with the massive
backing of the rightists -- were acquired seventy years ago
by 210 Yerushalmi Jews who purchased 598 dunams of land
through the Jerusalem Neighbors Association. (A dunam is
1,000 square meters or about 10,000 square feet.)
The purpose of this association, which functioned during the
years 5680-90 (1920-30), was to acquire a large parcel of
land outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on which
to found a neighborhood with a high standard of living. Each
family was to have a large plot of land. A memorandum sent by
members of the association in 5688 (1928) reads: "It is four
years since the Neighbors Federation in Jerusalem has been
handling the establishment of a large neighborhood in the
eastern part of the city, near the village of Abu-Dis on the
way to Jericho, four kilometers from the central post office.
210 members of the Association -- who are of Ashkenazi,
Sephardic, Persian and Yemenite origin -- live there on an
area of 600 dunams. They differ in their ways of life: some
are from the old yishuv, others from the new. They
include teachers, clerks, laborers and tradesmen."
Donors throughout the world were asked to contribute towards
purchase of the land. "We hope that you value our efforts and
attempts to fill the needs of the Jews of Jerusalem and the
importance of creating a Jewish setting in the eastern part
of the city, where no claim has been made until now, since
the Jewish settlement has tended to be more in the western
part of the city."
Although the lands were acquired seventy years ago, they were
not built on at the time. Various Arab brokers tried to lay
claim to the site and to purchase land in the area in order
to prevent the Jews from occupying it. That was the situation
until 5708 (1948). Arab rioting also made people unwilling to
live in that area.
After the 1948 war the lands came under Jordanian rule and
were administered by the Jordanian Commissioner of Enemy
Assets. After the Six Day War, the State-appointed General
Custodian administered the land and succeeded in locating
some of the landowners and their heirs.
Most of the Abu-Dis village was recently transformed into
Area B, which is in under civil control of the Palestinian
Authority, and not any more in Israel's possession. The
Jerusalem Municipality, whose border abuts Abu-Dis, controls
part of the area; the Palestinians the remainder. Area
residents (Arabs) fear the transfer of the village to
Palestinian hands, noting, "It will prevent easy travel to
Jerusalem." Right now, most of them work in Jerusalem, and it
will be more difficult for them if control changes.