“God is not going to come down from heaven with all the mosques and churches around the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem,” insisted Daniel Luria, Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim (Crown of the Priests), an organization dedicated to reclaiming all of Jerusalem for the Jewish people.
One of Luria’s goals is to “surround God’s House with God’s people.” Ateret Cohanim, also known as the “Crown of Jerusalem,” is an Israeli Jewish organization that works to create a Jewish majority in the Old City, particularly in the Muslim Quarter, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem by buying properties from willing Arab homeowners.
The group runs a yeshiva located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to serve the growing Jewish population that has purchased homes in the area. About 1,000 Jews now live in the Muslim Quarter. “Jews are the true owners of this land and have every right to come back and live in the heart of Jerusalem,” Luria said in a recent interview on Israel National Radio. “We, the original owners, are buying back properties that ultimately belong to the Jewish people,” he explained.
Ateret Cohanim’s program has come under widespread criticism because of its politically-incorrect stand that all of Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people, and because they are doing something practical on the ground to make Jewish control a reality. The nearly-universal condemnation of their activities, including from Israel’s own Supreme Court in some cases, doesn’t seem to intimidate the God-fearing Luria. “If you don’t have God behind you, the government will eventually compromise (on Jerusalem) for pragmatic reasons. More compromises and being scared of the world is not helping the Jewish people. That has to stop,” he said.
The right-wing religious group believes it is God’s will for Israel to annex all of Judea and Samaria. “Our people are afraid of losing US support if Israel annexes,” Luria pointed out. “But America has their own problems and we are going to outlast America anyway. The Jewish people have outlasted empires for centuries. Don’t expect the world to be our savior.”
Luria is confident that God’s hand is on the work of Ateret Cohanim to bring more Jews into the Muslim Quarter and East Jerusalem. He also understands that the Jews themselves must be willing to fight for what they believe. “We don’t know what to do with Jerusalem because we don’t know where we come from,” he cautioned. “We must go back to our Jewish Roots, learning Torah and the fact that God has given us this land. Then we can stand up and confidently take back what already belongs to us.”