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Jewish organisation acquires strategic building in heart of Jerusalem's Arab neighbourhood

The Jewish Ateret Cohanim organisation said it has bought "a very large and strategic building" situated across from the Old City in the heart of the commercial Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem and it aims to change it into a religious school, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said today.

Ateret Cohanim is active in buying Arabic Palestinian properties in the old city of Jerusalem, as well as in East Jerusalem. It changes the properties, which were owned by Arabs, into Jewish facilities for the purpose of Judaising Jerusalem.

In a letter sent to the organisation affiliates by post, executive director Daniel Luria said: "The organisation bought more than 1,000 square meters in a big and strategic building located on front of the Old City, in the area between Al-Amoud and Al-Sahera Gates. It is the building of the central post office."

Pictures of the building were attached to the letter. Built during the Jordanian control over Jerusalem, the building served as the headquarters of the central post office in Jerusalem, as well as a police station.

Luria told the members of his organisation that the building is to be used as an educational centre for religious school students.

Another message sent via e-mail on Tuesday was entitled: "Great news from Ateret Cohanim". The letter tells the members that the organisation has bought the building of the central post office with funds from a generous donor.

The message called upon organisation members to keep the news secret until it gained control of the building during Passover, which starts on April 14.

Luria sent the message to the organisation members in the occasion of the Jewish Purim, when the Jews are called to generously give alms. The message called upon members to donate towards the building of a kitchen, bedrooms, hall and offices, as well as for furnishing the security room.

The message said: "To those who support the vision of a unified Jerusalem and to those who believe in the right of any Jew to study and live anywhere in Jerusalem, it is the time to reinforce the Jewish existence in the heart of Jerusalem."

The message said this is the biggest seizure of an Arabic building in the Old City, which is considered the heart of the commercial centre of Jerusalem. It noted that renovation works have been carried out silently.

The building is under the Israeli Land Authority which rented it to the Israeli Post Authority.

Similar to Ateret Cohanim, the Israel Elad organisation has been carrying Judaisation activities. It buys properties in central Arabic neighbourhoods and brings Jews to live in them.

Israeli non-governmental organisations, which fight settlement construction, said they did not know about this issue. Advocate Daniel Sigmund said: "A new settlement procession in East Jerusalem has been revealed. This puts peace talks at stake."

Sigmund said that this settlement effort is supported by the Israeli government and it aimed at creating a new reality in Jerusalem.

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