A landmark shul in Yerushalayim is to be closed down, unless an appeals court comes to its rescue. The Khal Chassidim shul, located on Yoel Salomon Street in the Nachalat Shivah neighborhood – the “restaurant row” of downtown Yerushalayim – was ordered by the Yerushalayim Civil Court to vacate its premises within 60 days, after the owner of the property, which was a hekdedesh (dedicated for public use), said that the shul had not paid rent for over 40 years, and that it wished to make other use of the property.
The shul is located in a small storefront, with three internal rooms used for davening. During the summer months, with throngs of tourists in the area, the shul is known as a sure place to catch a minyan for Minchah. On its own, the space is probably too small for a commercial venture, but with the neighboring sections of the building, it is likely to fetch a high rent from a business or restaurant.
The reason the shul has not paid rent, it said in a counterclaim, is that the hekdesh that owns the property never asked for any – and in fact, turned down an offer by the congregation to pay rent in the past. Five years ago, the hekdesh said that it had begun proceedings to “reclaim” the property, after the congregation began “using part of the property in a manner that violates the original agreement for use of the property.”
Unswayed by the appeals of the congregation that it was not doing anything different now than in the past when the owners of the property, both previous and current, encouraged them to continue using the site as a shul, the court ruled that the congregation must vacate the premises within 60 days, and to pay partial back rent and court costs. The congregation has filed an appeal.