American Friends of Ateret Cohanim
See our correspondence with Ateret Cohanim leaders
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Beginnings: Founded in 1984

Ideology: "Reclaiming the Old City on behalf of the Jewish people," according to its website.

Noted For: A history of inciting violence and destroying Palestinian neighborhoods.

Key Leaders: Joseph D. Frager, Jack Friedler, D. Bernard Hoenig, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner (head of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva)

Money from Moskowitz's Bingo: $5,625,250 between 1987 and 2001. Moskowitz's donation of $340,000 in 1994 made up more than half of Ateret Cohanim's budget; his $350,000 contribution in 2001 accounted for nearly half of the group's total funding that year.

More Information:

Ateret Cohanim runs a religious school and purchases properties for settlements in Jerusalem. According to American journalist Robert I. Friedman's book "Zealots for Zion," Ateret Cohanim was founded in 1984 to "publish and distribute material concerning the priesthood (and) functions of the Temple and to acquire IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER and especially by grant, gift lease or purchase-land, rooms, or houses (in Arab East Jerusalem.)" Click here to see a photo from Ian S. Lustick's book, "For The Land and The Lord" showing the old city, minus the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa mosques.

Ateret Cohanim is focused on replacing the current religious shrines - two mosques - the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa - with the re-built third temple. The center of the Yeshiva's unusual curriculum includes preparing people to resume animal sacrifices suspended almost 2000 years ago. In addition to the "tunnel" museum [see below] Ateret Cohanim trains a para-military gang that is reported to act as its own private police and security force.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, wrote a column in the Jerusalem Report titled "Our great nation must burn the Road Map!" in which he pleads: "This land was given to us by the Master-of-the-Universe, all of it, to the fullest extent of its borders, forever and ever. It is forbidden to hand over part of it to a foreign nation, and every step in that direction is null and void."

Aviner has also said that the Israeli army should consider the death penalty for people who refuse military service for ideological reasons. "According to the rabbi, such people could dangerously influence the nation, so the nation should get rid of them with the most radical measures," Pravda Online printed in 2002.

On December 12, 1991, armed yeshiva students allied with Ateret Cohanim forcibly occupied six Arab homes in Silwan, pushing the occupants into the pounding rain in the dead of night, clutching copies of their leases and bundles of clothing. According to some reports, the organization moved 600 settlers into at least 40 buildings in Jerusalem, which heightened tensions in Arab neighborhoods.

According to a 1995 CBS 60 Minutes report, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim also is closely linked to the Kotel Heritage Foundation, the group in charge of the 1996 opening of the tunnel at the Temple Mount, an act which resulted in rioting and at least 70 deaths. The midnight tunnel opening event was stealthily carried out with Irving Moskowitz was one of the select few in attendance.

A 1998 article in The Jewish Advocate stated Ateret Cohanim's close relationship with Moskowitz "brought relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat to a point of crisis."

Read articles about Ateret Cohanim:
Ateret Cohanim rabbi: 'Gaza is part of the Land of Israel'
Taking Jerusalem by stealth
Organization aiming to make Jerusalem Jewish again not settling for status quo
Jewish settler group stakes claims to Arab Jerusalem

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2003 design by elbop for the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem