Jerusalem Councilman Arieh King is the founder and director of the Israel Land Fund, which he started while trying to recover land onHar Hazeitim. Born on Kibbutz Alumim, he was one of the ten original residents of Ma'ale Zeitim (on Har Hazeitim), where he lives with his wife and six children.
The Jewish Press: Describe for us the goals of the Israel Land Fund.
King: The Israel Land Fund was founded in 2007 in reaction to Muslim efforts to buy land in Israel using foreign funds and upon the realization that the established Zionist organizations we thought we could depend on were not approachable on this matter. So after working since 1997 with individuals claiming and buying land from Arabs and churches in Jerusalem, I decided to establish the Israel Land Fund in order to protect Jewish property.
Some of these properties were purchased seventy to a hundred years ago during the Turkish and British times. Arabs are invading, squatting, and building on these Jewish properties and no one is defending those properties, either because the police are afraid to go into these areas or because the owners don't even know they own the land. Some owners have lost their documents from so many years ago.
We see pictures of mosques, monuments for terrorists, illegal schools, and hundreds of apartments being built on Jewish land without repercussions. We are losing Jewish property, so it is up to us to protect it.
Is the Israel Land Fund government-funded or under government auspices?
No. We are a non-profit organization. Our goal is to connect Jews to their land. We want Jewish families to be involved. Our goal is to be property managers. We buy land in Acco, Jaffa, the Galilee, in Judea and Samaria. Wherever there are Arabs, we are there also. But we are focusing on Jerusalem because it's much more important and much more attractive to buyers. After all, Jerusalem is Jerusalem.
Are you better able to enact policies you promote through your position as a city councilman?
Yes. At the Israel Land Fund we also concentrate on educating people about the reality of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in a deep trouble because of the media and because of the Israeli government – even politicians on the right. Many of them don't really care about Jerusalem and as a result we are losing it, which is why I decided a year ago to run for the city council.
I was approached by two political parties to join their parties for the upcoming elections, but I declined because a city councilman in Jerusalem influences the future of Jerusalem more than any Knesset member. And this is my mission.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently removed you from your position on the municipal coalition because of your outspokenness on Arab building plans. You also believe Barkat and others tried to play down the renewed violence in Jerusalem until it was impossible to continue ignoring it.
Barkat did not want the media to report that Jerusalem was being attacked because he is focused on making Jerusalem into an international cultural center. He told me and others not to talk about it but I didn't listen because I care about the people.
Wake up. Riots happen because people understand that you can't play with Jerusalem. This is the future for every Jew who prays three times facing Jerusalem and citing Jerusalem. If we really believe in what we say we need to act according to our beliefs.
Many in the Diaspora have become increasingly alarmed at the dangers and vandalism at Har Hazeitim. Do you think enough is being done to address the situation?
As someone who lives there I can tell you we don't need more policemen and more cameras. We need to fence it in and put gates at the entrance of the cemetery. Har Hazeitim is the most important, holiest, and biggest cemetery in Israel and it is the only one that is not gated.
We see weekly attacks, tombstones being demolished, and the gates are still open. Arabs are going in and out. Cameras record what's taking place but they don't prevent anything. This is something I am pushing for in the municipality and I hope that in 2015 we will see some improvement.