08 May '17..
[The British High Commissioner] grabbed the most fantastic place in the world … built a palace there, and every morning when he wakes up and opens his eyes … can see from the palace windows the loftiest and most holy view in the world, as if it were his.
– Yehuda Haezrahi, City of Stone and Sky, quoted by Nadav Shragai
After the First World War, the British became the last in a line of foreign powers ruling over Judea, including Jerusalem. Like any conqueror, the British built monumental palaces for its administrators. From 1920 to 1927, the High Commissioner’s residence and offices were located in the Augusta Victoria Church and hospital compound on the Mount of Olives. A beautiful place, but after it was damaged in an earthquake, the Empire decided to build a new and even more glorious seat of power at a spot with an even better view, the Hill of Evil Council (not “Counsel”) – so called by the Byzantine Christians because it was said to be where Temple priests met to discuss betraying Jesus.
The grand building was constructed between 1928 and 1933, and its first resident was High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, who seems to have been one of the better ones. It is a stunningly beautiful building (the UN renovated it in 2012) in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I can’t imagine how much the property is worth (maybe Donald Trump could). In Hebrew, it’s called Armon Hanatizv (the commissioner’s palace), and that also became the name of the neighborhood around it.
In 1948 when Britain was forced to retreat from Palestine by yet another indigenous revolt in its rapidly fragmenting Empire, it transferred control of the property to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which gave it to the UN. It was part of the Demilitarized Zone which existed until 1967, when it came under Israeli control. The UN demanded it back, and after an abortive struggle, Israel knuckled under. Nadav Shragai explains the historical details and legal issues here.
The UN has since made modifications to the building, appropriated land adjoining the main structure and put up additional buildings, all – needless to say – without obtaining permits from the municipal authorities. The UN did not purchase the site, and never paid rent or municipal taxes on it. The most recent official reason for the UN presence there was to house the observers responsible for monitoring the truce in effect after 1967. This has long since become irrelevant; as Shragai notes “Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, and in Syria everyone is fighting everyone.”
(Continue to Full Post)
Updates throughout the day at http://calevbenyefuneh.blog
spot.com. If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.Twitter updates at LoveoftheLand as well as our Love of the Land page at Facebook which has additional pieces of interest besides that which is posted on the blog. Also check-out This Ongoing War by Frimet and Arnold Roth. An excellent blog, very important work.