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Protecting Jerusalem: New app gives Waqf a helping hand

Jerusalem24 – Land and property are a crucial element in the existential struggle Jerusalemites face within their own city.

These lands have been subjected to a large-scale process of appropriation and transferred to Jewish control since the Nakba and the establishment of Israel in 1948 onwards through different methods and laws – most significantly through Israel’s use of the “Absentees’ Property Law” of 1950.

Rami Nasrelden, Director General of the Palestinian Vision organization, tells Jerusalem24 that it is essential to “get people to register their land as Waqf protects it against Israeli attempts to put their hands on it.”

Waqf (Endowment) properties in the old city of Jerusalem are estimated at 86%.

Waqf (Arabic for endowment) is a special kind of philanthropic deed in perpetuity. It involves donating a fixed asset which can produce a financial return or provide a benefit. The revenue or benefit generated then serves specific categories of beneficiaries. Muslims giving waqf typically donate a building, land or cash with no intention of reclaiming the value gained from them.

Palvision in partnership with Passia and ACT have launched the Nasiha (“Advice”) app to inform people of their rights under the current Israeli legal system.

The app’s overall goal is to support and develop the Palestinian East Jerusalem community and civil society’s role in safeguarding their Islamic and Christian cultural heritage, which is an integral part of the city’s Palestinian identity.

Nasrelden says, “People do not have the knowledge and awareness about their rights, and their endowment in the old city, that’s why we started the campaign of spreading awareness about their property rights. The campaign aims at educating people on how turning their lands and properties over to the Waqf actually saves it.”

The Islamic and Christian Waqf properties therefore play a particularly important role and are in urgent need of protection due to Israel’s ongoing attempts to monopolize Jerusalem’s history and culture with its own ethnoreligious legacy.

“We developed the Nasiha application to answer people’s questions and provide a hotline they can call to get legal advice and counseling,” Nasrelden says. “Lawyers will work with the people who come to us and help them understand the legal perspective and find a solution.”

Nasrelden explains that in the old city of Jerusalem, there are hundreds of complicated issues related to the endowment. “On one hand, we have the Jordanians responsible for the endowment but on the other hand, some people go to Israeli courts […] which ends up with the Israelis taking advantage of the issues and utilizing all the information to cooperate with all the Israeli organizations that work on putting their hands on Palestinian properties for different reasons.”

Nasrelden says that people do not trust the endowment ministry – which is why Palvision’s campaign includes visiting schools and universities to educate about the Nasiha app, conducting Q and A sessions, and publishing animation awareness videos. “We target these age groups because we believe that they will be responsible and have the knowledge to face problems in the future.”

Nasrelden adds, “We thought that people would not cooperate with us at first, but on the contrary, people were very cooperative, trying as much as they can to get more information.”

The Israeli government’s non-recognition of the Islamic Shari’a Court had many effects on endowment properties in East Jerusalem. For example, cases brought before the Shari’a Court in East Jerusalem in cases of rent disputes cannot be enforced because enforcement must be carried out by the civil courts – which in this case are Israeli and not recognized by the Shari’a Court in East Jerusalem.

This creates a huge void of legal sovereignty in Jerusalem.

“We’re [dealing] with three different laws: the occupation’s law, the Jordanian law, and the PA law from time to time. Each one of them have their different [legal] procedures, which complicates [work for us]… We have more than 700 properties in East Jerusalem that are not registered and with no papers and documentation [to support ownership], which means that the Israeli authorities can put their hands on them through the absentee law.”

Nasrelden’s family has been living in the old city of Jerusalem for more than 100 years, renting their house from four different families. However they don’t have a contract in their possession, and the people they rent from don’t have a contract either.

“So we’re afraid that the Israelis will utilize it against us. [But] through our work we’re going to visit the people of the old city and people who are facing the same issue, and work with them to register their properties and lands as public Waqf based on a contract between the owners and the Islamic Waqf.”

Registration incurs a fee of 10 Jordanian Dinars per year.

Naserlden concludes by saying that Palvision’s goal with the Nasiha app is to preserve the lands and properties of Palestinian Jerusalemites.

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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