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Gold dawnby josh • October 22 2008
News, Municipal news
In Soviet Jerusalem, wall prays to you!
The building sits on one of the best locations in all of Jerusalem, in spitting distance of the Old City, Ben Yehuda Street, Mea Shearim and (Gaydamak-owned) Bikur Cholim hospital. It has long been home to a number of tenants who live there under an archaic ‚Äúkey money‚ÄĚ system, as well as the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
The idea of Russia, which has often been at odds with Israel‚Äôs interests (Nuclear Iran, anyone?) reigning supreme over a piece of Jerusalem has caused many to worry, including this Jewish Press columnist who fears it will become a Church of the Nativity-like safe haven for terrorists.
Given Russia's close association with Iran and Syria, the prospect of its establishing an enclave in the heart of the Jewish capital is daunting indeed. It conjures up images of Arab terrorists fleeing into the compound and Israeli security personnel unable to pursue them without precipitating an international crisis. In many respects it would be tantamount to inviting a Russian spy ship to permanently dock right in the middle of an Israeli naval base. The Russian Compound's commanding position made it the perfect staging ground for numerous conquests of Jerusalem from the Assyrians to Titus's Roman legions.
The Russians, for their part, though, say there is nothing to worry about and that they will be good custodians of the property, which will be converted into a home for Orthodox priests (but not that kind), or a cultural center, depending on who you believe.
A Russian official denied accusations it seeks greater influence in the Middle East through the acquisition of Sergei's Courtyard, calling its desire to own the place a matter of historical significance.
Because Russians and Russian Orthodox priests have such a large presence in Israel, having actual Russia in Israel won‚Äôt be quite as incongruous as the Yakov Smirnoff Theater in fabulous Branson, Missouri. Still, losing one of the city‚Äôs most historic and beautiful buildings to a foreign power doesn‚Äôt bode well for a city already showing signs of strain at the seams. We can only hope that we won‚Äôt find Berlin laying claim to Emek Refaim or Armenia asking for its quarter back in the near future.
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