Hevron’s Beit Ezra Faces New Challenge
The Supreme Court has given the government two months to explain why Jewish residents were not forced from their homes in Beit Ezra in Hevron. Previously a lower court issued a verdict highly favorable to the Jewish families.
The far-left Peace Now organization recently filed an appeal calling on the Supreme Court to evict the families.
The Beit Ezra saga began in 1947, when the Ezra family left Hevron. The family was the last to leave after the 1929 Hevron massacre, in which local Arabs murdered 67 Jews in the city.
Like all Jewish property in Hevron, Beit Ezra was confiscated by Jordan following the War of Independence and declared “enemy property.” It was rented out to Arab storeowners. When Israel regained the land in 1967, Israeli authorities continued to rent the property to Arab storeowners.
The Second Intifada (also known as the Oslo War) hit the Jewish community of Hevron hard. Ceaseless terror attacks led the army to close the Arab stores in Beit Ezra and elsewhere in Jewish neighborhoods for security reasons.
The Jewish community proposed that in the storekeepers’ absence, Jews be allowed to live in Jewish-owned properties in the area, an idea supported by the property’s owner Yosef Ezra. When their request was ignored, several families decided to move into the properties on their own.
In 2008, Peace Now attempted to obtain an eviction order for Beit Ezra. Instead, a military appeals court issued a verdict favoring the Jewish community and criticizing the Lands Custodian. The custodian “left the property empty, desolate and neglected for years… The custodian did not consider the good of the property, and did not consider the wishes of the original owner, Mr. Yosef Ezra,” the court ruled. Judges noted that “the Jewish families’ residence in the property significantly improved the condition of the property.”
The Arab storeowners have no rights to the property, judges said, and at most could ask for compensation over the termination of their rent agreement.
The court strongly suggested that the property remain in Jewish hands, and delayed eviction for two months to allow the Jewish community to appeal for use of the building, which it did immediately. However, the appeal was ignored and to this date has not been answered.
Peace Now is now asking that the Supreme Court enforce the original eviction order. In its suit the group did not note the military court’s recommendation that the Jewish families not be evicted, and also did not mention Yosef Ezra.
Hevron Jewish community spokespeople said, “As the state wrote in its response to the Supreme Court, the verdict handed down by the military appeals court states that the state is obligated to rent the apartments in Beit Ezra to the Jewish community of Hevron. We call on the government to finally act in accordance with this decision, and to reject all attempts by Peace Now to evict Jews from Jewish homes in Hevron.”