Israeli court finalizes Jerusalem church land sale to settler group

1 / 6
An Orthodox Jewish man is seen using a cell phone while walking past the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
2 / 6
An Israeli flag flying near the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
3 / 6
A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
4 / 6
An Orthodox Jewish man is seen walking past the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
5 / 6
An Israeli flag flying near the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
6 / 6
A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019
0

Israeli court finalizes Jerusalem church land sale to settler group

  • Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim in 2004 secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the Greek Orthodox Church
  • Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top court gave final approval Monday for the 2004 sale of properties by the Greek Orthodox Church to a Jewish pro-settlement organization in mainly Palestinian areas of annexed east Jerusalem.
In its Monday decision, the supreme court rejected the church’s appeal against a district court’s 2017 approval of the same deal.
Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim in 2004 secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the Greek Orthodox Church — the Petra hostel and the New Imperial Hotel, both located by the Jaffa Gate, and a residential building in the Muslim Quarter.
Ateret Cohanim works to “Judaise” east Jerusalem in its entirety by purchasing real estate in the city’s Palestinian areas through front companies.
The deal made Ateret Cohanim the owner of the majority of the properties between the Old City’s Jaffa Gate and Arab market.
A source close to the Greek Orthodox patriarchy of the early 2000’s told AFP in 2017 that the church was unaware of the land sale.
The sale triggered Palestinian anger and led to the 2005 dismissal of Patriarch Irineos I.
In a statement on Tuesday, Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna described the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal and illegitimate.”
“The seizure of the historic Jaffa Gate properties by extremist settler organizations is a new catastrophe to the misfortunes suffered by the Christians in this Holy City,” he said, calling for the deal to be canceled in a lawful manner.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest and wealthiest church in the Holy Land.
Its Jerusalem patriarchate commands massive wealth, largely in land portfolios in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan, with Palestinians often accusing it of selling or leasing properties to Israel.
Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It now considers the entire city its capital, citing the Jewish historical and biblical connection there.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of their future state.
Some 320,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, while the Israeli settler population there has grown to 210,000.
The Jerusalem district court had dealt with claims against the deal for nine years before approving it.
The supreme court said the earlier ruling was sound and “the appeal is rejected.”


Kuwaiti eco-activists show how to win the war on waste

Updated 10 min 31 sec ago
0

Kuwaiti eco-activists show how to win the war on waste

  • Country's first PET bottle recycling project set up by Sanaa Al-Qamlaas, Farah Shabaan and Soad Al-Fozan
  • Today Omniya is a familiar name in Kuwait and the passion is still strong

KUWAIT CITY:  Kuwait has been facing serious challenges in managing its solid waste for some time now.

The dumping of non-biodegradable materials such as plastic into landfills and the subsequent migration of leachate, causing groundwater contamination, has also been equally worrying.

Sanaa Al-Qamlaas, a witness to the unethical dumping of all kinds of waste materials into these sites, said she first felt the need for a change in the management of waste in Kuwait several years ago.

“I often visited landfills and it was hard for me not to tear up watching them,” she said. “I decided that we had to stop at least plastic from going into these landfills as it had a major negative impact on the environment.”

Al-Qamlaas got together with her best friend, Farah Shabaan, and her nephew, Soad Al-Fozan, and soon Kuwait’s first polyethylene terephthalate (PET — plastic) bottle recycling project, Omniya, was born.

Starting in August 2015, the trio initially focused on the collection and recycling of PET bottles as “there were massive quantities of these bottles in the landfills and these were ignored even by the scavengers as they were light-weight,” said Al-Qamlaas.

There were massive quantities of these bottles in the landfills that were ignored by the scavengers.

Sanaa Al-Qamlaas

With a 1,000 dinar ($3,300) budget in hand and no plan for the road ahead, Al-Qamlaas and Shabaan decided one weekend to simply send WhatsApp messages to the people on their contacts list, asking them to segregate their plastics and to drop them in cardboard containers that would be provided at their homes.

Once done, the two friends went to each home to pick up the collected plastic.

“We just sent the message to our friends, but we were in for a surprise when the former minister of social affairs, Hind Al-Sabeeh, contacted us asking us what we were up to. It was a positive indicator of how powerful social media can be,” remembers Al Qamlaas.

The ex-minister encouraged them and told them to get a certification for their initiative.

Omniya’s message was also noticed on Instagram by the chairman and director general of the Environment Public Authority (EPA), Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, who instructed his team to assist the women in their new project.

Omniya started getting calls from residents asking them for containers for their own bottles.

“We went to each home, spoke to everybody, taught them how to crush the plastic bottles, how to segregate plastic; once the bags were full, we took them back in our cars.”

Initially Al-Qamlaas and Shabaan were challenged by the rubbish that users put in with the plastic.

“Our cars stank and our homes too, but all that changed once people knew what to segregate,” said Al-Qamlaas.

They visited 4,500 homes in the first year, going back and forth picking up bottles, followed by visits to around 100 schools to spread awareness. They soon collected enough bottles to get on to the next step — recycling.

With partial financial help from the Kuwait National Fund, Omniya set up the country’s first PET recycling plant.

“We just started production a year ago; we are still hugely in debt as we have to pay our land rent and operate our machinery and do not have any air-conditioners in the factory. But we are producing hot-washed, high-class PET flakes, that we now sell to Ireland, Italy and Turkey — markets with niche specifications,” says Al-Qamlaas.

Realizing that they needed more support to run a factory, the team roped in the private sector for sponsorships and partnered with various organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry of Education as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Today, Omniya is a familiar name in Kuwait and the passion is still strong.

“We have just one aim — to stop plastic from going to these landfills,” Al-Qamlaas said. “The road is long and we are tired but we owe it to our country — to the next generation.”

 

This report is part of a series being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.