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Exclusive: Squatters Ordered Off Stolen Jewish Land in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court has ordered Arab squatters off of land owned by a Jewish man after a 15-year legal battle. Monday is the showdown.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 6/28/2007, 5:49 PM / Last Update: 6/29/2007, 5:49 PM

A Jewish man has won a fifteen-year battle against Arab squatters who seized his land in southern Jerusalem. The police are supposed to restore the property to him Monday, by force if necessary.

Yitzchak Herskovitz fought in court against Arab squatters from Bethlehem for 15 years over his property. An initial victory was followed by an appeal, during which the squatters promised to pay him rent and later refused.

Police have now told Herskowitz he has one day to pay for police protection in order to remove the squatters and take control of his land, which is located on Jerusalem’s Derech Hevron Street, just past the Sonol station on the right, before the turn to Givat HaMatos and then to Gilo.

That day is this coming Monday, July 2.

The land was purchased from the estate of an Armenian Christian in 1972 by a Jewish man who lived in Los Angeles and bought it while visiting Israel. He sold it to Herskovitz, who researched the ownership and deeds extensively before buying the property in 1992.

An Arab from Bethlehem’s infamous Tamra clan invaded the property, which was unoccupied at the time by the owner, and moved into the area with his three sons. The squatters then refused to budge, claiming that the original owner had defaulted on a loan from him. Herskovitz brought in handwriting and document experts who proved that the loan document was a fraud – that the date had been tampered with and that the writer of the document was the same as the one who had signed it.

Police refused to evict the occupants without court order. “I spent over 15 years in the court battle to obtain a judgment and order of eviction,” Herskovitz says. “But now that I’ve won, the Arabs are attempting to turn this into an emotional and political battle.”

Herskovitz said he was warned by an officer of the court that since the Arabs are attempting to use the media and leftist groups to turn the issue into a political one, the only way for him to ensure the recovery of his property is to have a large number of supporters at the site to fight the battle in the public arena.

“I need at least one busload of people as a display of solidarity and justice,” Herzkovitz told Arutz-7. “They (the Tamra clan) fought this in court for 15 years and lost. A battle that took years and thousands of shekels, patience and fortitude to fight and they now want to use political means to prevent justice from being served.”

Herskovitz is particularly angered that after the lengthy court battle, the police are still not implementing the court order automatically. “The police are using it to get money into their slush fund. They want to have two people do the job with 30 policemen watching them. I have to pay the 30 policeman to do their job. All the police have to do is handcuff them and kick them out. They don’t even have Israeli citizenship, but are residing in Israel illegally.

Attorney Tamar Rubin, who represented Herskovitz in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, confirms that police are charging money to implement the court order. She said that earlier this month, an attempt to confiscate property at the site, also on a court order, to cover the debts owed by the squatters was thwarted when other Arabs removed the property and fled the scene while police argued with the squatters.

Rubin says she doubts whether the squatters will receive much assistance from the adjacent Israeli-Arab town of Beit Safafa, due to their being from a clan based near Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion. But she does not rule out the use of violence by the squatters, who she says do not take the eviction order seriously, believing the threat of violence will cause the police to back down. Police, in the past have cited threats of violence from Jerusalem's Arabs in order to postpone implementation of a court order.

Both the Magistrates Court and Police spokesmen said the other should be the one to explain the reasoning behind requiring Herskovitz to pay for the implementation of the court order.

Various activist groups are planning to accompany Herskovitz when he goes to recover his property to ensure that police do not back down from implementing the court order. Groups will meet at 8 AM at the nearby Sonol gas station, next to the National Diamond Center (with the large menorah on its roof).

For more information, contact Herskovitz at 02 996 1120 or 050 852 6096