Today concluding this story from RIA about the Russia Day festivities and how the Russian diplomatic staff posted in Israel held the event this year in a Russian-owned property in Jerusalem called the Sergiev Courtyard.
Where we left off, and with an ever-thickening plot, we learned about the colorful history of this property, as well as other Russian and Soviet assets (including some prime real estate) owned in Palestine, what was later to be incorporated into the state of Israel in 1948.
We learned about the so-called “Orange Deal” concluded in 1951 between the Soviet Union and the new state of Israel, whereby Israel was able to buy back, pretty much for a song, most of the Russian properties. Except for the Sergiev Courtyard, which Stalin clung to, like Blanche Dubois to her finest silverware. But apparently, in the course of this long-running Chekhov play, legal disputes over the title continued. The Israelis claimed that the Courtyard belonged to THEM. Well, got to keep the lawyers busy. And, during the many years in which the dispute continued, the Israelis posted guards and kept actual control over the building. You know what they say: Possession is 90% of the law!
We come to learn that during the Soviet period the Israelis actually kept the Soviets, physically, out of their own building. Wouldn’t even let them come in to use the library, even though they had valid library cards. And once again, I have to just shake my head and mutter something like “There’s gratitude for you!” keeping in mind that the Soviet Union saved Europe’s Jews from total extermination at the hands of Hitler!
According to the Courtyard’s wiki page, negotiations between Israel and the Soviet Union/Russia continued for many years, from 1967 through 2008. The complex backdrop to all of this were the constantly-mutating relationships. For example, the USSR used to be Israel’s best friend, and then started liking the Arabs more. But the Israelis can’t claim the high ground here; realistically, it was the 6-day war that changed everything. I found this wiki page which gives a not-bad summary of the Soviet-Israeli relationship over the years. Which reads like a soap opera, or a new episode of Riverdale. I urge my readers to apply themselves on their own to this backstory, I don’t actually have time to delve into it right now. Other than to say: Never were wiser words spoken than the man who said that Russia only has two real friends in the world — namely her army and fleet!
There is a happy ending to this story, though. In 2005 Russian President Vladimir Putin (who, recall, has his degree in Law) rode into Israel on his white horse, armed with a packet of legal documents, and a proposed deal to rebuild and restore the Courtyard. In conjunction with this, the ИППО organization sprang back into being. Which should actually alarm people who realize that the first letter in this acronym stands for “Imperial”. And the second letter stands for “Orthodox”. We know already that the Putin government has a cozy relationship with the Church. Should we be worried that Putin plans to restore the monarchy, maybe even with himself as Tsar, inquiring minds want to know?
We learn that in 2007 a man named Sergei Vadimovich Stepashin was appointed Chairman of ИППО. According to his wiki, Stepashin was born in 1952, just one year after the Orange Deal. In 1994-95 he was a Russian spy, serving in counter-intelligence. In 1997 he began a series of other government posts. The year 1996 leaves an empty hole in his resume. Astute readers will recall, that 1996 is the year that Abraham’s Oak Tree (once part of the packet of properties owned by the Russian government in the Holy Land) keeled over and died, thus heralding the appearance of the Anti-Christ.
Is Stepashin the Anti-Christ? Probably, but we can never know for sure. He is most certainly a genius and poly-math: A high-ranking military guy, a Lieutenant-General (Russian “General-Colonel”). He is also a Professor, a Lawyer, an Auditor, and the head of ИППО. Oh wait! According to the Sergiev Courtyard wiki page, which I am still trudging through, Stepashin dissolved ИППО, negated all of its claims and rights, and signed the Courtyard over fully and completely to the Russian government – yay!
Let us recap: The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society appointed a Russian government official and former spy to be its Chairman. This guy then dissolved the Society and signed over all rights to its property to the Russian government. All sounds completely legal and above-board to me! And hence, since 2008 the Russian Federation is the sole and legal proprietor of the Sergiev Courtyard in Jerusalem – yay! All that remained was to get Israel to accept this fait accompli. Which finally happened on 5 October 2008 – yay!
So now everybody is in agreement … but wait! There were still some noodges out there in Israel who attempted to dispute the legality of the deal. But the Supreme Court of Israel ruled against them on 12 October, 2008 — just 7 days after the deal was concluded. One wishes that the American Supreme Court could be so quick in hearing cases!
The saga concludes with the Sergiev Courtyard turned over finally and fully to Russia by the end of 2008. And ever since then, the Russians have been busy as bees (or maybe beavers), fixing up and restoring this jewel of Palestine.
Which brings us full circle to the events of last week: On 14 June 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the spruced-up Courtyard for the Russia Day reception.
Receiving criticism for holding the gala in Jerusalem, the Russian Consulate hastened to comment, that the decision over this particular location had nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Jerusalem’s status. A Russian diplomat was quoted as saying: “The Sergiev Courtyard, returned to Russia in 2008, occupies a unique place in the history of the Russian presence in the Holy Land. The decision to hold the state reception here was not taken by accident. The Courtyard embodies our culture, our traditions, and is a genuine Russian allotment in Israel and in the Middle East.”
The Consulate went on to point out, that the Courtyard is located in West Jerusalem, about whose ownership there is no legal dispute: this part of the city belongs to Israel and has been recognized by Russia as the de facto capital of Israel since 2017! Then hastening to add, that Russia still regards East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State.