Friday, May 16, 2008

Baka Lefties

Hell hath no fury like a settler criticized by the liberal Zionist.

The settler looks disdainfully at the liberal Zionist and says, “We are doing in Judea and Samaria what you guys did for a century throughout the Land of Israel.” If the Zionist leftie happens to live in a formerly Arab neighborhood, like Jerusalem's Katamon, Baka, Talbieh – or in Sheikh Munis, the Arab village where Tel-Aviv University sits today -- the settler gloatfully throws this at him: “You guys are worse than we are. At least we built settlements on land where nobody ever lived. You live in Arab houses."

At this point, the liberal Zionist generally sputters in outraged response: “There is no comparison. Where we live is internationally recognized, albeit de facto, as part of the state of Israel. Even the Palestinian national leadership has recognized Israel’s right to the lands within the pre-67 borders, or at least it doesn’t demand more than this. What was done by a Zionist movement in pursuit of independence, and during a war, cannot be compared to the actions of a sovereign state after independence and during peace time. Moreover, the actions of the settlers thwart the possibility of a two-state solution.” Some may even add that they are willing to move out of their formerly Arab neighborhoods in the case of a peace settlement, provided they get fair compensation.

Yada, yada, yada....

All this is well and good when discussing the behavior of states and their citizens. But I want to talk in this post about personal morality,. And I will start with myself.

I am a Baka Leftie. I live in that part of South Jerusalem that Gershom Gorenberg and Haim Watzman write so elegantly from and about in their South Jerusalem blog. Baka was a Palestinian middle to upper-class neighborhood before 1947; after the war it was used to house Jewish immigrants from North Africa. Some of those original immigrants still live in Baka, although many have died or moved elsewhere. The neighborhood has been undergoing “gentrification” for over two decades, with a lot of the old properties bought up, at outrageous prices, by American and French absentee owners. Local residents, less well-off, have purchased flats in the shikunim (“projects”) that are slowly being renovated, at least on the outside. These owners include a fair number of liberal American Jews who made aliyah in the seventies and the eighties. Not all the lefties are Anglos. Aging Peace-Now activists like the philosophers Avishai Margalit and Menachem Brinker live in Baka, though you won’t seem them frequenting synagogues like Yedidya, Shira Hadasha, bastions of the Anglo-orthodox left, or Kol ha-Neshama of the Anglo-reform left.

Now I don’t live inside an Arab house, but I do live on top of one; my flat was built around ten years ago on somebody’s roof. Needless to say, the Palestinian owner of the roof didn’t get a penny from the purchase. I have no idea who he or she is/was. I can console myself with the idea that I am not living inside his house. But so what -- I am living on a roof that does not belong to me, utilizing air rights that don’t belong to me.

So how do I justify this to myself morally? The answer is that I can't. It took me thirty years to realize that there is no justification. Of course, there are a lot worse things than what I am doing, but that doesn't make me feel better. Robert Fulghum said it best: One of the things we learn in kindergarten is not to take things that don’t belong to us. Living in a house which was taken from the owners is stealing. It’s that simple. True, others do it all the time. But so what?

After forty years it is time that the "Baka Lefties" get together and discuss the problem, critically and honestly. Preferably that discussion should be with Palestinian groups.

Several years ago I privately began inquiries with Palestinians to see if I could find the original owners of the house on which I live. What would I have done had I found them? Well, first of all, I would have apologized for living on top of their house. Second, I would have tried to come to a a financial understanding with them that would not prejudice any future claims they would have to state-compensation. And third, and more basically, I would ask their permission to live on top of their house.

I did all this without telling anybody, including my family, who gave me hell for not involving them. I wasn't very successful. Since then I heard that an acquaintance of mine, who lives in Talpiyot, had successfully done the same thing. I am not at the liberty to divulge his name, especially since I haven’t spoken with him about it. But when I was making my inquiries as to the owners, I was encouraged by the Palestinians with whom I was in contact (with the notable exception of the London-based Salman Abu Sitta, who told me to give up the whole project, and just support a group like Zochrot.)

I think the time has come to organize. There is now a critical mass of Baka Lefties –and not just Baka Lefties, but Israelis of all sort, who, I believe, would be willing to try to attempt some sort of encounter between settlers and refugees. Perhaps we should try to work through Zochrot; perhaps somebody has a better idea of proceeding.

But we must stop saying that this is only a matter for the government. If we wait for the government to do something about the injustice, we will die waiting. And, frankly, as bad as I feel about living on top of somebody else’s house, without his or her knowledge, or permission, I feel a lot worse about living out my life and dying there.

Liberal guilt? You bet. But I am tired of hearing facile raitonalizations. I see no reason why I have to wait for other people in order for me to do the right thing.

Help me out here, ye gang of agin' sixties activists! Let’s do something about this thing before we are sent to Baka old-age homes -- which also belong to Arab refugees.

Shabbat Shalom

23 comments:

Jerry Haber said...

PS. Yes, I know Yehekzel Landau -- have known him since his Oz ve-Shalom days -- and I know what he and his wife Dahlia have done in their Open House in Ramle. They deserve a great yasher koah, and more. But my moral obligation begins in my home and in my neighborhood, at least with like-minded individuals. If you don't agree with me, you Baka Lefties, tell me why.

Anonymous said...

While I respect your honesty and attempt to be consistent, I don't agree that you personally, or we collectively, owe reparations to the Palestinians. THEY STARTED THE WAR. The UN voted partition in 1947 and the rejected it and went to war to prevent implementation. We don't owe them any more than do the Czechs owe the millions of Sudeten Germans, or the Poles owe the Germans from Silesia and Pomerania, or the Russians and Poles owe the Germans of East Prussia, all of whom were expelled after the Second World War. The aggressors who lose have to face the const of their aggression.

Jerry Haber said...

1) The rejection of the partition plan by the AHC was perfectly justified and completely irrelevant.

2) The Palestinians did not go to war any more than the Jews did. That is Zionist propaganda that is false. If you are correct, show me the UN, or for that matter, US. resolutions, in 1947-8, condemning the Arabs for unilaterally starting the war.

If you can't show me an international condemnation of the Arabs "unilaterially" going to war, shut up!

3) But even assuming that the Palestinians started the war, refugees are owed compensation according to international law. And the Palestinian refugee status is confirmed by numerous international resolutions. Check out http://www.badil.org/Solutions/compensation.htm and other websites. So your historical analogies are worthless, although, obviously, all the peoples you mention -- including the Sudenten Germans -- indeed have a right to compensation.

4) The idea of "spoils of war" that you are advocating is morally disgusting, placing your views with the worst regimes in history.

5) Israel has accepted, at least de facto, the principle of compensation in a final peace settlement -- so you are, in this case, on nobody's sides, except those who believe that might makes right.

6) It's always the "other side" that starts the war, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Your question about the morality of Jewish people who benefit from crimes against people of Palestine, whether by making aliyah when indigenous people are refused entry, moving into formerly Arab owned houses when former owners are shut out, or even those who take a "birthright" trip -- as though it is the "birthright" of American Jews to live in Israel, is a deep issue indeed.

I think you're very courageous for raising it.

~Judy

Joshua said...

Jerry, how many do you think would make enough of a response to merit attention? Personally I believe this to be a very original idea and the dialogue with past Palestinians would possibly help bridge more gaps between the exiles and its usurpers.

Anonymous said...

Why is my statement that the Arabs started the war "false, and Zionist propaganda"? Immediately after the 29 November 1947
UN partition decision, there were organized attacks by Arabs on Jews. I would call that "starting the war". Why did the armies of IIRC five Arab states invade Israel on 15 May 1948 on the termination of the British Mandate? I would call that "starting a war". (Yes, I know the Jordanians did not enter the Jewish zones as laid out by the partition plan, but they did try to move into the Jewish parts of Jerusalem and they contributed to the blockade of Jerusalem at Latrun).

Your demand for "international condemnation" of the Arabs is meaningless because there was no such chance of organizing such a thing because many countries supported the Arab aggression. I assume you think of the 6-Day War as Zionist aggression too, but there is no international condemnation of it, either.

Who says the Sudeten Germans are entitled to compensation? What about the Hindus driven from Pakistan? What about the Indians in the United States? (Ain l'davar sof)

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous,
1) there were attacks by Arabs on Jews before the partition resolution and afterwards. There were attacks by Jews on Arabs before the partition resolution and afterwards. War between both sides was inevitable. It all depends when you start your narrative from.
2) After the unilateral declaration of Independence -- a clear casus belli by anybody's standards (certainly by Israel's standards; Netanyahu threatened dire consequences (i.e., war) against the Palestinians if they unilaterally declared independence during the Oslo period), the Arab countries declared war. But that, too, was inevitable and took nobody by surprise, and was not condemned more than was the fighting of the Zionists.

3) Surely you agree the Arab countries decision to go to warif you justify Israel's actions in 1967. Palestinian statehood in all of Palestine was much more threatened in 1948 by the Zionist declaration of Independence then Israeli statehood by the Nasser's seizing the Straits of Tiran in 1967. Justify one and you justify both.

(4) I am surprised that you are apparently unaware that there are many people who condemn the treatment of the Sudentan Germans after World War II, and the mass population transfers that occurred then. You can check out websites.

5) Even if I agreed with you that the agressors who lose have to face the cost of their aggression, the Palestinians who lost their homes were mostly not aggressors but non-combattants. Or, to put this better -- they were aggressors by virtue of their Arab ethnicity according to the Zionists, if not now, then potentially. Their aggression was in their blood, as it were.
It was Zionism that introduced ethno-nationalism to Palestine -- if you are not a member of the tribe you are an enemy.

Finally, I must say that I expected you to dismiss international law, international resolutions, and international reactions -- except in the rare cases where they favor Israel, like the partition resolution. After all, your side must be right, whatever your side happens to be -- Jewish, Serbian, Russian, American, British -- take your pick. All nationalists sound predictably the same.

Anonymous said...

Israel's proclamation of independence was not "unilateral"...it was authorized by the UN and recognized by most of its members. Rhodesian's declaration of independence in 1956 was unilateral and it was called that: "UDI-Unilateral Declaration of Independence", and it was never recognized as such by anybody else. The Palestinians could have also proclaimed a state, if they had chosen to and it would have been recognized by everybody, including Israel. It was their decision to make war.

You are incorrect that there were "attacks by Jews on Arabs" in the period before independence, at least in any organized sense (I am referring to the period of the struggle against the British which started in 1944 by the ETZEL and was joined by the LEHI and HAGANAH).

Regarding the fact that the Arabs started the war....it was Arab League Secretary General Azzam Pasha who announced that the Arabs would massacre the Jews..."a massacre to remembered in history along with those of the Crusades and Mongols". Sounds like a declaration of war to me.

Jerry Haber said...

Dear Anonymous,

I will give $1000 to the ZOA if you can show me where the United Nations authorized the proclamation of a state. That's safe money, since the UN can't authorize the proclamation of a state. The UN voted on partition, and then there were many efforts, supported by the US state department, to postpone its implementation and to have a trusteeship. Please read any book on 1948. Even Ephraim Karsh will do here.
A declaration of war is a declaration of war. What you cited is not a declaration of war. So Arabs said that they would thrown Jews into the sea. That's not a declaration of war.

When I get back to my books, I will show you where there were hostilities between both sides and a lot of jockeying for control priot to the May 1948.

In retrospect, the Arabs made a mistake by going to war because they lost. That was not the only mistake they made. But their principle was not mistaken; Polish and Russian immigrants who were Jewish had no right to establish even a mini-state in Palestine over the wishes of the indigenous people. What's so hard to get?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the wordplay you are engaged in when you say the 1947 UN Partition Resolution did NOT authorize the Jews to proclaim a state. I challenge you to point out anyone else who claims such a thing. You ignored my Rhodesia example. Most countries in the world DID recognize Israel as a result of the proclamation of a state, so your statement that it was illegal makes no sense. I know that the US was trying to get Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership to postpone declaring a state, but that simply proves that we Jews DID have a right to proclaim a state, which we then exercised.

Your say that you are an "Orthodox Professor". You then make the following statement:
---------------------------------
But their principle was not mistaken; Polish and Russian immigrants who were Jewish had no right to establish even a mini-state in Palestine over the wishes of the indigenous people. What's so hard to get?
----------------------------------
I have never heard any other "Orthodox" person make such a statement. Rav Yosef Haim Sonnenfeld was anti-Zionist, yet he said the Jews should not agree to the British proposal made in the White Paper (forget its name-maybe Passfield?) after the 1929 riots that led to the massacre of the Jews in Hevron, Tsfat and other places in which the Jews would say that the Kotel HaMaaravi is a MUSLIM holy site that the Muslims kindly let Jews pray at in the past. Rav Sonnenfeld, along with the rest of the Jewish yishuv said it is a hillul hashem to say anypart of Eretz Israel is not ours. Anti-Zionist Haredim may say that we should not set up a state at the present time for religious reasons, but they do not say, like you do, that Eretz Israel doesn't belong to us and that we have no right to it (I know you will probably say that you are not saying that Jews don't have a right to live here, but national sovereignity, in most people eyes is part of this right...after all the Arab/Muslims residents don't want any Jews-including you and me-living here and don't want Jewish immigration, as the PLO Charter states). In other words, ALL JEWS, whereever they live in the world, are INDIGENOUS to Eretz Israel. Period. The Balfour Declaration and 1922 League of Nations Mandate recognized this fact.

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, read the partition plan and show me the clause that authorizes the unilateral declaration of independence on the day that independence was declared. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/un/res181.htm
Look, the state was recognized by the major players, so I am not saying that the state lacked legitimacy in the eyes of those players. That was the difference between Israel and the Rhodesia case. But it was also not recognized by many states, as is true with many states in the world. The fact that states formally recognized Israel proves my point -- the question of recognition was not tied to the UN resolution. Had Israel declared independence without the partition resolution --and it would have -- it would have been recognized by many states, perhaps as many.
Anonymous, you like to recognize Israel's international legitimacy when it serves your case. What about Oom-Shmoom?
Who said that I say that Eretz Yisrael doesn't belong to us? As an orthodox Jew, I believe in the covenant between God and Israel. What does that have to do with a Jewish state? When I go to southern Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank, I will still take terumos and maaseros. But surely you can't expect the indigenous peoples of Palestine to share our religious convictions. Or do you want to go back to the crusades?

Joachim Martillo said...

Medoff's Baksheesh Diplomacy documents an offer in 1937 by the Mufti (through his brother and AHC member Izzat Tannous) to allow the Jewish immigrant population to rise to 45% as long as the Zionist leadership was willing to renounce the idea of making Palestine a Jewish state.

Guess what! If all the European Jewish DP's emigrated to Palestine (highly unlikely), the new state would have been approximately 55% native Palestinian and 45% Jewish immigrant.

It is not improbable that the Palestinian leadership would have accepted such an outcome (and were holding out for such a GA resolution -- as unfair as it might have seemed to most Palestinians).

Probably in fear of such a new resolution that eliminated partition, Ben-Gurion ordered ethnic cleansing operations to start practically immediately after the Zionist leadership officially accepted partition proposal of November 1947.

Howard Sachar in History of Israel documents violent protests of the UN resolution in Syria and Yemen probably because in November 1947 most of the Arab world including Palestinians had a wait-and-see attitude.

Anonymous said...

I don't expect the Palestinians to like us coming here any more did the ancient Canaanites. However, the TANACH tells in a quite detailed way about our military conquest of the land. Halacha does say how one is to treat the conquered population and does give them rights if they agree to live in peace AND RECOGNIZE OUR SOVEREIGNITY in Eretz Israel. However, you are quite wrong if you claim the Torah does not give us national rights in Eretz Israel. The Torah is not just about "ritual laws" like Terumot and Ma'aserot, but about national self-determination. You know that very well.

Joachim Martillo said...

From Followup (II): Origins of Modern Jewry

Note that the covenantal dispensationalist or apocalyptic narrative belongs to Christian heresy and not to any genuine Zionist intellectual current. Religious Jewish Non-Zionists or even Anti-Zionists like the Lubovitchers, who support the State of Israel and continued oppression of Palestinians, generally do so out of racist anti-Gentilism (anti-Goyism, Yiddish: antigoyizm, German: Antigojismus). While he never committed his position to writing, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook probably believed that Herzl was the Messiah (as informants, who knew him, told me). He probably justified himself on the basis of esoteric Jewish mystical texts. Because the operation of the Covenant with Israel requires that the Israelite Kingdom can never be restored, the establishment of the Persian province of Yehud and the Hasmonean Judean Kingdom was possible only with the direct intervention of God's mercy as was established by clear miracles. See Connecting Hanukkah, Christmas and `Idu-l-Adha. Theologically sound Christianity, Islam and Modern Judaism continue to take this position.

I also try to sort out issues of covenant in the following blog entries.

[I apologize that there is so much irrelevant material in these articles. I think I have to write an entry that focuses on the meaning of covenant in Christianity, Islam and Judaism.]

Islamic Marcionism in Malaysia

Connecting Hanukkah, Christmas and `Idu-l-Adha

The New Jew & Mundoweiss: Jewish Christmas Thoughts

Jewish, Christian, and Palestinian Holidays

Linguistics, Islam and the Beatitudes

Ben Bayit said...

This was probably one of your most hypocritical posts to-date. You don't HAVE to libe in Baka. You and all the progressive religious zionists at Yedidya and Co. can sell their absentee landlord flats in Baka and the German Colony and Old Katamon, donate the real difference between what you paid for them and what you sold them for to a proper Arab organization that supports Arab refugees and then use your original funds to buy privately owned Tabu land somewhere. I'll even make it easier - the ILA is expected to start implementing its decision to privatize urban land. Leaseholders will become owners. It's staring with multi0unit dwellings but will extend to all state owned land in urban centers. So most apartments in israel will soon be privately owned and not on state land.
Can you do that? ah, you baka folks won't be able to afford a decent flat if you give the difference back to the Arabs, you say. well, Leah Shakdiel will welcome you with open arms in Yerucham where you can afford flats - what gives you the right to profit from stolen land?

Deborah Greniman said...

I've actually thought about this subject, ever since I found out that the first apartment we bought in Jerusalem, in a modern prefab, was built on the site of three destroyed Arab houses. And we had intentionally avoided buying what was then known as "rekhush natush." I haven't checked the status of the plot on which our current apartment is sited, though I have the feeling it was not formerly Arab property, since we own it outright (that is, it doesn't belong to the JNF).

I have three basic responses on this issue. One is that I don't necessarily sense a personal responsibility to compensate individual Palestinians. Practically everyone on the planet lives somewhere that was once taken from someone else. My parents on both sides, and my spouse's parents on both sides, went through the experience of being refugees. They have recovered and prospered, and that is what I wish for the Palestinians. The solution, therefore, is not individual guilt or (insignificant) efforts to make amends, but for all of us to work for a just resolution.

The second response is that this should save us from a little Baka-leftie-self-righteousness. I happen to have arrived in the country when you could still buy a decent apartment in central Jerusalem for (gasp!) under $50,000. I happen to think the settlements are a bad idea in the absence of a formal agreement, but I can't sit in judgement on my friends who live there, and point my finger at them as evil, thieving, benighted folk. I, too, live on contested land.

As I said, I think the current settlement policy is a bad idea. Keeping the territories means keeping millions of people in a lawless territory without rights. On the other hand, I have no doubt that organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah seek our demise and are willing to work long and hard (centuries if need be) and spill lots of blood -- their own and ours -- to achieve it.

The third basic response is that we need to keep seeking significant ways of moving towards a just way of living on the land.

A first step in this regard would be to raise our voices for a sensible zoning policy in East Jerusalem that would allow hundreds or even thousands of Palestinian families (not just the few whose former homes are now occupied by Baka lefties) to own legally built homes. If this issue is really on your mind, I can tell you where to get a tour of Silwan to see how the El-Ad settlers are encroaching upon the local residents and trying to drive them out, not 60 years ago, but right now.

Ben Bayit said...

Rubbish, utter rubbish. Most of Silwan in on Jewish owned land - land that had a kushan under the Turkish land registry. The Arabs there are mostly squatters. But El-Ad and otehr organizations nonetheless pay money for land that was once owned by Jews who were driven off the land.

My comment was actually geared towards the specifics of Jerry Haber's general themes. The War of Independence was illegal b/c the declaration of the STate was illegal. Thus all conquests were illegal. He claims to be religious - under the Halacha only legitimate wars can transfer ownership of property that is conquered. Therefore halachically he MUST leave go of his Baka flat. Furthermore, morally he has no right to profit from stolen property if he is not willing to accept the legality of the war, as the whole concept of takanat shuk requires some sort of accpetance of the system - he doesn't accept the system and thus has no rights to a clear title on his flat. period.

Joachim Martillo said...

"I have three basic responses on this issue. One is that I don't necessarily sense a personal responsibility to compensate individual Palestinians. Practically everyone on the planet lives somewhere that was once taken from someone else. My parents on both sides, and my spouse's parents on both sides, went through the experience of being refugees."

The comment is so hypocritical it boggles the mind.

Jews try to recover property seized since the 30s all the time while simultaneously the State of Israel acting on behalf of all Jews steals property from Palestinians right before our eyes.

Greniman's point is the old thief's slogan: "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine."

Jews have to get over this ridiculous and completely false myth that they were weak and powerless victims yet able to prosper.

It took 30 years before Russians began to react to Jewish violence, radicalism, and nihilism in the Czarist Empire.

When Jews began leaving Czarist Russia after the reaction started in the 1880s, there was a well developed network of Jewish immigrant aid organizations in the USA to greet them.

Yet, Greniman insouciantly claims, "We were refugees and prospered."

It makes me want to vomit.

Take a look at Haskalah, the Russian Draft and Odessa.

I am mostly following the analysis of Columbia Professor Michael Stanislawski.

Anonymous said...

Quels sont les textes RECENTS de l'ONU qui reconnaissent qu'Israël avait le """"droit"""",

en 1947-48-49

- de tuer
- de voler
- de violer
- de spolier
- d'exproprier
- d'expulser

des Palestiniens ?

Et le """droit""" ensuite de profiter de ses "bien mal" acquis ?

Merci

Salutations perplexes

Jean-Marie GLÄNTZLEN, 65 ans
02410 SAINT-GOBAIN
palestinophile02@nordnet.fr

Mike said...

good post

JES said...

Jerry,

First, I am really at a loss as to why you haven't been able to find the previous owners by simply doing a title search at the Tabu office. This would have pointed you to the relevant current owner (either the JNF or ILA) who would probably be able to give you all the information you need. The Baka neighborhood is not that old, so I doubt that there was more than one owner before 1948.


But beyond this, I'd like to ask you a question. What if you had located the owners or their descendents and they had not accepted your apologies, nor agreed to any form of financial settlement and simply not given you permission to live atop their house. What then? And what of the person who currently lives in the house (presumably also during the time that you are living in the US)?

Jerry Haber said...

"First, I am really at a loss as to why you haven't been able to find the previous owners by simply doing a title search at the Tabu office. This would have pointed you to the relevant current owner (either the JNF or ILA) who would probably be able to give you all the information you need. The Baka neighborhood is not that old, so I doubt that there was more than one owner before 1948."

Actually, I don't think it was either JNF or ILA. But what makes you think that they had any interest to keep the names of the original owners. I believe that the Palestinian records of Palestinian ownership of property which the PA had kept in Orient House in Jerusalem was seized by the authorities.

Still, I have my nesah from Tabu, so I can look, but I doubt I will get anywhere.

But I don't know how to answer your second question. Because every Palestinian I talked to thought it was a good idea, and nobody seemed to think it odd. But if somebody said, "Go to hell; you didn't have to buy there; live with it, baby", I guess I would have to think then what to do.

Look, I stopped looking. Maybe I will start up again. Since I posted that post not a single Baka
Leftie responded saying, "Good idea; I'm with you." It would be much easier for me if there were a few of us. A minyan would be great. If you know of anybody interested,let me know.

By the way, I think I wrote in the post that I heard of somebody who contacted the original Palestinian owner in Talpiyot. Apparently, I was mistaken; the original owner was not Palestinian, but was of another nationality

But beyond this, I'd like to ask you a question. What if you had located the owners or their descendents and they had not accepted your apologies, nor agreed to any form of financial settlement and simply not given you permission to live atop their house. What then? And what of the person who currently lives in the house (presumably also during the time that you are living in the US)?

JES said...

If you've still got our nesah, that's a good start, and I'd suggest that you also pull a nesah for the current leaseholder of the house on whose roof your apartment is built.

The current owner can only be the JNF or ILA, unless you're on freehold land, which means that the the owner was compensated for that property before 1947.

The records for Palestinian property in West Jerusalem (where Baka is) were kept by the Tabu (Lands Registration Office, Israel Ministry of Justice), and the ILA (minhal) and JNF were also pretty scrupulous about keeping records of land appropriated under the Absenty Property Law. I know that my ex-inlaws, prior to purchasing an apartment in Abu Tor, were able to determine that the building has constructed in 1938 by a man from Jericho for himself and his two sons.

But I question your seriousness in this effort. It's terribly convenient for you not to be able to find the previous owner - as indicated by your response to the second part of my question. You simply haven't thought about the possibility of him not accepting your apologies and a few dollars. And then, you've always got a place to live Stateside.

Don't get me wrong. I admire your effort - half-serious as it is. But, I don't think that you are right in questioning the "lefties of Baka" for not sharing your enthusiasm for the project.

BTW, I don't have your problem. I live in the Sharon on property that was formerly classified as "wasteland" and purchased 20 years before the establishment of the State from the legal owners.