Ma'ale ha-Zeitim (Hebrew: מעלה הזיתים. lit. Olive Heights) is a small Jewish settlement on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, inside the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. In 2010 its inhabitants numbered some 250 people belonging to 50 families. In 2011 it was projected to house 110 families and eventually merge with the new settlement of Ma'aleh David, designed to replace an old police station across the street from Ma'ale ha-Zeitim, which would make them become the largest Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. By 2013 Ma'ale ha-Zeitim was housing about 90 families and the adjacent project, now called Maalot David, had 20 housing units.
In 2003, a group of eight Jews moved to a compound of three dilapidated homes surrounded by graves in the Sephardi section of the Mount of Olives cemetery. According to the General Burial Society of Jerusalem, which legally owned the site, drug users had taken over the compound, which had become a dumping site for construction debris and a chop shop for stolen cars. Other Jewish property in the area was a gas station a few hundred meters from Ma'aleh Hazeitim and several other buildings.
The burial society plot had been acquired in the mid-19th century by philanthropists Moshe Wittenberg and Nissan Bak, trustees for kollels affiliated with the Chabad and Wollin hassidim. Land on the outskirts of the Mount of Olives was designated as part of the existing Jewish cemetery, but the Turks did not permit the Jews to bury their dead in areas south of the Jerusalem-Jericho road. Meanwhile, the kollels leased the land to an Arab farmer who grew the wheat for a special Passover matza. In 1923, when the British changed the land ownership laws, the land was formally transferred to the Wollin and Chabad kollels. Irving Moskowitz, an American businessman and philanthropist, purchased the land in 1990.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the adjacent plot owned by the Bukharan community was confiscated for security reasons and used by the Arab Legion; while the plot bought by Wittenberg and Bak was administered by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property, an organization established to handle property owned by Jews in the Jordanian controlled West Bank.
In September 1997, plans for the construction of new Jewish homes on the land were approved. This provoked an international outcry. Despite American pressure to halt building in the area, the plan was backed by Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert.
The first Jewish settler families moved in in 2003.
Conflict after 2003 establishment
In May 2011, two demonstrations were held by the Solidarity movement, to protest Jewish housing activity in Ras el-Amud. The first took place during a dedication ceremony for Ma'ale HaZeitim, which came 8 years after the actual establishment of the settlement. The ceremony was attended by numerous officials, including members of Knesset including its then-Speaker and current President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, government ministers, and the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. At the second demonstration police arrested six protesters after fighting broke out between protesters and security guards. Protesters claimed that the guards had attacked them and the police had broken a protester's hand. The police claimed that the protestors attempted to break into homes belonging to Jewish residents.
Aryeh King is one of the founders of the initial Ma'aleh Hazeitim compound and a member of the Jerusalem City Council, who has been removed in 2014 from his position as head of the emergency and security resort by the city mayor Nir Barkat for his push towards stronger Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. His house was attacked on 21 June, 2015 with Molotov cocktails and stones and he declared that since the Israeli police has abandoned him and his Jewish neighbours, they will immediately set up their own private security team and start patrolling the area by themselves.
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