Arab Co. to Pay Lands Activist

Court rules: 80-year-old Y. Herskovitz to be compensated for the months that the Arab Electric Co. refused to hook up his property to the grid.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:02

Yitzchak Herskovitz
Yitzchak Herskovitz
Israel news photo: HF

Court rules: 80-year-old Yitzchak Herskovitz will receive compensation for the months that the Arab Electric Company refused to hook up his property to the grid.

Herskovitz has much experience with Israel’s court system. In late 2009, the Supreme Court put an end to his 17-year effort to regain his property in southern Jerusalem by ordering the police to evict the Arab squatters. He had previously won two lower court decisions to this effect, but the squatters – the Salah clan from the Bethlehem area – appealed them, dragging the process out for  several more years.

Herskovitz has Interior Ministry papers showing that the Salah clan is in Israel illegally, and has long demanded that the police “do their job and deport them.”

One of the first things Herskovitz did when he regained his property was to make initial repairs to the building, which had been thoroughly vandalized during the four months between the Supreme Court ruling and the actual handing over of the property. He also asked the Arab-run Eastern Jerusalem Electric Company, which still handles some of the Jerusalem areas liberated from Jordanian control in 1967, to supply his property with electricity.

The request was filed in May 2010 - and nine months later, the property was hooked up – just days after Herskovitz filed suit in court against the company. The company denied there was any connection between the two events.

Both sides agreed to a rushed-up arbitration proceeding, and Judge Gad Ehrenberg ruled that the electric company must pay 2,000 shekels, to be divided between Herskovitz and his lawyer.          

Herskovitz: Pleased with the Victory
“This is a victory for justice,” a pleased Herskovitz said afterwards, "even if symbolic. The Arab Electric Company was made to see that it cannot harass Jews, or do as it pleases with customers it doesn’t like.”

Much of the delay in the hook-up was based on a demand by the company that Herskovitz produce a Tofess Arba (Form #4), municipal approval of a building for occupancy and connection to water, electric, phone and cable infrastructures.

“It’s a simple case of discrimination,” he said in response, “because I’m a Jew. The company claims that I have to have a Tofess Arba… .But this is a purposeful Catch-22 on their part – because the building was built before 1948, before the concept of Tofess Arba was instituted, and therefore cannot receive a Tofess Arba!”

To add insult to injury, Herskovitz noted, “The four Arab houses all around me also don’t have a Tofess Arba, yet they do receive electricity from the [Arab company]!  Not only that, but while I have a legitimate reason for not having a Tofess Arba – and I even submitted a form from the municipality exempting my building from a Tofess Arba - the reason they don’t have one is because their houses were built illegally!”