As Defense Minister Ehud Barak prepares the army and other security forces for their mission to destroy all Jewish construction built in Judea and Samaria during the government-ordered freeze, a woman and her 10 (minor) children is suing the government for damages it caused them during the demolition of their home in Kiryat Arba a year ago.
The woman is Elisheva Federman, wife of Noam, whose home and farm were destroyed in a 1:30 a.m. raid in October 2008. Noam was not there at the time, because he had been thrown into a police van just minutes before and taken to the Gush Etzion police station; he was not permitted to return home until nearly 24 hours later.
The midnight destruction happened as follows, as described by Hevron spokesman David Wilder:
"The troops broke the home's windows and climbed in through them. They quickly made their way to the children's bedrooms where they shook awake the kids, dragged them from their beds, beating some of them, and forcefully expelling them from their home, still in pajamas. Some of the kids went via the door; others out the window... Once everyone was out, the bulldozer started plowing down the houses and other structures on the property. It didn't take too much time, as the families were not allowed to remove any of their belongings. Down came the houses, on top of everything that was inside."
In addition, some 40 yeshiva students in the Givati Brigade took part in one of the “outer circles” of the military operation to destroy the Federman farm and home – after senior security commanders deceived them and told them they were participating in a mission to help catch a terrorist.
A month afterwards, Judge Moshe Drori of the Jerusalem District Court castigated the State and police for the destruction. The police had asked that Federman be banned from the area – a request that Judge Drori rejected out of hand, saying it was totally unjustified and in violation of international conventions.
Elisheva Federman is suing the IDF, police and Border Guard for damages, both material and psychological, to her and her children. The requested amount of damages: 432,339 shekels ($113,773). Michael Pollack, whose car was on the site at the time and was damaged, is also a plaintiff in the suit.
The complaint explains that the security forces injured the family members physically and psychologically, destroyed their property, and stole jewelry and money – totally without proportion to the objective for which they had arrived. It was similarly noted that the demolition order against the house had been issued ten years earlier, and that they were given five minutes’ warning, in the middle of the night, to get out.
Excerpts from the lawsuit, which was filed in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court.
“With no sensitivity or humanity, the police began to take the children out of the home, using force even against small children. Some of them were taken out in their pajamas and were left alone, until one of their older brothers helped them and took them to their grandparents’ home in Kiryat Arba. Others were arrested and taken to Gush Etzion… Mrs. Federman demanded to be allowed to take out expensive possessions, and was told by the police commander Eyal Attiah that the police would collect them and that they would be taken out together with her. A large army blanket was brought and everything that Elisheva was able to remember at that moment – such as precious jewelry and an envelope with 97,000 shekels - was thrown into it. As could be expected, because of the pressure and tension, she was not able to remember many of them… She told Atiyah that she did not like how the items were being packed and that she would not leave until they were packed better. She was then dragged out of the house, her baby daughter taken away from her, and taken to Gush Etzion… At some point, the policemen apparently got tired of packing; they left the house and an army bulldozer destroyed the home, with everything in it.”
Where's the Blanket?
In any event, Federman later told Israel National News, “even the blanket with the money and the jewelry never reached us. The police first demanded that we pay 20,000 shekels, because that’s what they had to pay the professional moving company. When we later showed them videos that the ‘professional movers’ were actually soldiers, they withdrew their demand. But we still never got the blanket back. We complained about Attiah, but the Police Department closed the file for ‘lack of public interest.’ We hope that the current suit will solve these matters…”
Among the destroyed items were a refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, computers, dishwasher, ping-pong table, furniture and more. The bulldozer also destroyed a goat pen, stable, and other animal structures – against some of which demolition orders were never served - leading to the loss of chickens, goats, and rabbits; two horses survived.
Children Suffering from Trauma
In the months following the destruction, Mrs. Federman saw that the children were still suffering, and a child psychiatrist in fact diagnosed them as suffering, nearly a year after the incident, from debilitating trauma.
“There can be no reasonable explanation as to why the security forces acted out wildly and hurt small children,” the complaint concludes. “The entire incident was an unnecessary trampling of the most basic human rights far and beyond what was necessary for the mission.”
Video: Demolition of Federman's Farm