Octogenarian Jerusalem Landowner Sues Police

Yitzchak Herskovitz, after 23 years trying to regain his J'lem home from Arab squatters, is suing the police for their role in the ongoing delay.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 15:20

Yitzchak Herskovitz
Yitzchak Herskovitz
Israel news photo: HF

80-year-old Yitzchak Herskovitz, who has spent 23 years trying to regain his Jerusalem property from Arab squatters and render it inhabitable, is suing the police for their role in the continuing delay.

Herskovitz originally purchased the land, just off Hevron Blvd. between Givat HaMatos and Beit Tsafafa in southern Jerusalem, in 1988. He was aware of the presence of Arab squatters, but did not expect them to falsely claim – and produce false documents to this effect – that they owned the property.

The court battles to remove the squatters – whom Herskovitz later found were actually illegal aliens in Israel altogether – began in 1993, and ended only in mid-2010. By then, the case had reached the Supreme Court, which confirmed two lower court rulings handed down in his favor.

Herskovitz often attempted to secure police cooperation in executing court orders to evict the squatters. However, some delay, technical glitch and the like arose each time (except for the last one), and the orders were not executed. Herskovitz has filed a lawsuit in Jerusalem against the police for their lack of cooperation – and even for their actual alleged collaboration with the squatters, on one occasion, in warning them in advance of an impending eviction.

The long-time Arab squatters agreed to leave only after 17 years of court battles, of which they lost three out of three. Even then, they did not abandon the property before totally destroying every vestige of modern amenities at the site. They cut and uprooted electric wires, stole the electric meter, broke water pipes, removed light switches and outlets from the walls, destroyed and blocked up doors and windows with concrete, and smashed or removed toilets.

Anat Ben-Dror of Jerusalem, Herskovitz's long-time attorney who helped secure the property for its rightful owner, told INN's Ben Bresky last year that she viewed the matter as a "simple land dispute" and not a "political issue." Others, however, see much more to this story. In fact, if not for Herskovitz's unflagging perseverance, it is highly likely that illegal alien squatters would have remained there, and the property would have been lost to the Jewish People.

Among the points and accusations Herkskovitz raises in his suit – filed by his attorney Baruch Ben-Yosef – are the following (quoted or paraphrased from the lawsuit):

  • The Arab squatters managed to drag out their eviction for 17 years, receiving help from unexpected quarters – the police.
  • The police proved to be unwilling to enforce the law against the infiltrators and/or to help execute the eviction orders – and even interfered with their execution and harassed the plaintiff [Herskovitz] in his efforts to execute them. He informed the police of the criminal actions of the illegal aliens in the State, but they did nothing to enforce the law against them.
  • The police closed all the plaintiff's complaints against the trespassers, and even went to court on its own volition to stop execution of orders against them.
  • For example, in August '07, the police were informed in advance of an attempt by Herskovitz and friends to enforce to the orders to remove the squatters' sheep – but in the event, the police turned against Herskovitz, arresting some of those who came with him and ordering the sheep returned to the squatters! 
  • On another occasion, an unidentified policeman was seen, just before the orders were to be executed, speaking with the Arabs, immediately after which they removed the sheep to "safer" quarters.
  • In August '08, the police "continued to act disgracefully," actually asking the government office responsible for evictions to push off the scheduled date for "a long time. "
  • Only in mid-2010 did the infiltrators leave, but even then, instead of being deported, they erected temporary structures adjacent to the property, and took advantage of the police impotence by causing tremendous damage to the plaintiff's property and rendering it uninhabitable.

The suit sums up by accusing the police of having "violated legal orders and abused their office in not enforcing law and order upon the infiltrators – not deporting them, ignoring fraudulent documents they produced, not reacting to their violence and destruction, and thwarting confiscation of property, including giving them advance warning… The police acted with gross negligence… leaving the plaintiff at the mercies of the infiltrators."

"Why did the police not deport them," Herskovitz asked rhetorically when speaking with Arutz-7, "or prosecute them for having brought forged and fraudulent documents into court, or both?!"

For damage caused, loss of rent, and various expenses, Herskovitz claims a half-million shekels. It remains a matter of debate whether such a sum can compensate for Herskovitz’s years of tribulation.