A few months ago I had the privilege of visiting a newly reacquired Jewish property in what is today the Muslim quarter in order to witness Jews returning to a former Jewish home.
Although I usually focus myself on sticking with teaching Jewish mystical thought to a wide variety of students across the world, I have a soft spot for present day urban pioneering in ancient Jewish neighborhoods now settled by Arab squatters.
It is a little known fact that most of today’s Muslim quarter was actually Jewish until the Arab riots and pogroms of the 1920s and 1930s pushed the indigenous Jews out and into the present Jewish quarter. In 1948 the Jewish quarter was wiped out by the Jordanian Legions.
It wasn’t until 1967, when Israel liberated its ancient capital that all of these pieces of property were opened up for resettling. The challenge was that Israel did not have the means to figure who was a squatter and who was a legitimate owner.
To deal with the confusion it made a rule – residents have 3 generations and if they are in a property that was not theirs – the 4th generation must leave.
Now, with help of research, dedicated lawyers, and grassroots activists we are seeing Jews returning to these houses and properties.
The results have been miraculous. Large swaths of area in the “Muslim Quarter” are now Jewish as they were 70 to 90 years ago. These areas are renovated for the benefit of all the residents, Jews and Arabs alike.
One such area, the Northern Jewish Quarter was the home of Rav Eliyashuv, and Rav Diskin among others and was the heart of the Jewish presence in the Old City. After decades of being occupied, it is now bustling with Jewish activity boasting a direct view of the Temple Mount.
In a sense, the city, which never had delineated quarters until the British is returning back to its pre British situation, where all are free to live in peace.