"Globes" has learned that 5,000 dunam (1,250 acres) on the Golan Heights are owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). This is in addition to 53,000 dunam (13,500 acres) deep inside Syria, which are also owned by the JNF. The Bnei Yehuda Civil Center lands and the Kedmat Zvi village are situated on the 5,000 dunam, among others. The lands were purchased 110 years ago by the well-known philanthropist Baron Edmond De Rothschild. They were later transferred to the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, and then to the JNF in 1957-1982.
The "Globes" correspondent points out that the Golan Heights area totals 100,000 dunam (25,000 acres). Therefore, the area under Jewish ownership constitutes 60% of the region.
"Globes" has further learned that the documentation proving JNF ownership of 53,000 dunams on the Golan Heights deep inside Syria were submitted to Prime Minister Ehud Barak for presentation at the negotiations with Syria.
JNF chairman Shlomo Gravitz today confirmed that JNF owns 5,000 on the Golan Heights, and another 53,000 dunam deep inside Syria. He said, "It's important that the public be aware that there are lands on the Golan Heights and in Syria that belong to the Jewish nation, not to Syria. We transferred the material to the Prime Minister for use during the negotiations."
"Globes" first published the affair four and a half years ago, in a report dated June 19, 1995, and an article on June 21. At the time, it was estimated that the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association had transferred the ownership documentation to the State. Following the report, and after the matter was raised in the Knesset, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials searched for the documents in the State Archives, but were unsuccessful. It now becomes clear that ownership was transferred to the JNF. The documents were recently retrieved from the JNF archives, and handed to the Prime Minister.
JNF executives said Israel should demand full ownership of the 5,000 dunam on the Golan Heights. Israel should also demand ownership of the 53,000 dunam in Syria and propose exchanging these lands for other land on the Golan Heights. JNF will be willing to transfer ownership to the State of these lands. It should be noted that since 1961, the JNF and the State have managed their lands through the Israel Land Administration.
Published by Israel's Business Arena on January 6, 2000