Jewish National Fund Helps Settlers Plant Roots in Silwan
The Jewish National Fund in Israel (KKL-JNF) is best known for planting trees in Israel. The organization was set up in 1901 to purchase land in the Land of Israel on behalf of the Jewish People. It is now Israel’s national forestry service and continues to fulfill an environmental mission.
T'ruah is proud of much of KKL-JNF’s work in growing and developing the modern State of Israel. Unfortunately, KKL-JNF has also been linked to the evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem (and Bedouin from their homes in the Negev). These actions violate basic human rights, and threaten the security and moral fiber of the State of Israel.
Behind the scenes of KKL-JNF, a subsidiary known as Himnuta has played a large role in unscrupulous land dealings on behalf of the organization. Established in the 1930s "mainly to circumvent legal restrictions" on the KKL-JNF's land dealings, Himnuta has been active over the past few decades in obtaining Palestinian land over the Green Line. Himnuta is not mentioned on KKL-JNF’s website, but its offices are located within KKL-JNF's Jerusalem headquarters. All of Himnuta’s 30,000,000 company shares are owned by the KKL-JNF, and the head of Himnuta is David Lazarus, who also serves as KKL-JNF's Chief Financial Officer.
Himnuta has received several properties from the Custodian of Absentee Properties and then waged court battles to remove the Palestinian residents from these homes. For example, in late 2011, KKL-JNF’s Himnuta planned to evict the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan and intended to turn the property over to Elad. Due to intense public pressure from T'ruah and others, KKL-JNF postponed their eviction. KKL-JNF announced an intention to negotiate with the family; in the meantime, the court has stayed the evictions until the judge issues a final ruling on the Sumarin family's request to cancel the eviction.
Despite that small victory, KKL-JNF was back in the courts in early 2012 contesting the ownership of the Ruweidi family's home in Silwan. On May 7, 2012, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Ruweidi family's claim that their house was not "absentee property" as the KKL-JNF had argued. T'ruah congratulates the Ruweidi family on this victory, but we are aware that the struggle is not over, as the KKL-JNF may decide to appeal this decision again.