Court: Disputed Gush Etzion Land Belongs to JNF

An orchard covered in snow in Gush Etzion. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90, File)

After years of hearings, the High Court has finally ruled that hundreds of dunams of land in Gush Etzion belong to the Jewish National Fund. The decision will allow for the substantial expansion of Jewish settlement in the region, Yisrael Hayom reported.

The story began in 1944, when Himnouta, a corporation own by the JNF, purchased 522 dunams of land in Gush Etzion from an Arab Christian family that migrated to South America. The land was the original location of Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, which was abandoned after the Jordanian occupation of Yehudah and Shomron in the 1948 War of Independence. The kibbutz was rebuilt on the site after Israel liberated the area in the 1967 Six Day War.

In 1996 Himnouta sought to register the land with the Israel Lands Authority, but was prevented from doing so by Arabs from a nearby village, who claimed ownership. The Arabs produced documents attesting to their claimed ownership, but in 2016 the Yerushalayim District Court ruled that the documents were forged, and gave the JNF permission to register the land under its name. The Arabs challenged the decision in the High Court, which turned down the appeal, establishing the ownership of the land by the JNF after a 22-year legal struggle.

JNF Chairman Danny Atar said that the decision was “a significant achievement after a difficult struggle. This is a historic event, the result of the joint efforts of the JNF and the Gush Etzion Regional Council. The aims of the JNF have not changed, and its mission of ensuring Jewish sovereignty in Israel is alive and well.”