Yitzchak Herskovitz celebrated his long-awaited entry to his property in the Land of Israel on Lag BaOmer (Sunday) with friends and supporters. His joyous “Shecheyanu” ("Who has granted us life to see this day") and “Likvoa Mezuzah” (recited when affixing the Biblically-mandated mezuzah to the doorpost) blessings were accompanied by singing, dancing and a mini-barbecue.
The previous tenants – long-time Arab squatters who agreed to leave only after 17 years of court battles and a police threat to forcefully evict them – abandoned the property only after totally destroying every vestige of modern amenities at the site. Electric wires were cut, water pipes were broken, light switches and outlets were removed from the walls, doors and windows (some) were blocked up with concrete, and toilets were smashed or removed.
(pictured: bathroom left by the Arab squatters)
Though Herskovitz’s property is clearly demarcated in the city registry, the Arab squatters blocked off, with concrete and barbed wire, areas behind and to the side of the existing house. Herskovitz says they’re already planning to claim the blocked-off yards as their own. “I might be in for another legal battle,” he says.
He originally purchased the land in 1988, but the Arabs did not leave, claiming instead that they owned it. The court battles to remove them began in 1993; Herskovitz apparently did not expect that they would last 17 years and that he would get to enter his property only in mid-2010.
The land is located between Beit Tzafafa and Givat HaMatos, just off the well-traveled Hevron Blvd. in southern Jerusalem.
Anat Ben-Dror of Jerusalem, Herskovitz's long-time attorney who helped secure the property for its rightful owner, told Ben Bresky of Israel National News, "This should not be viewed as a political issue, but rather as a simple land dispute, at the end of which, justice was served."
Others, however, see much more to this story. In fact, if not for Herskovitz's unflagging perserverance, it is hightly likely that the property would have been lost to the Jewish People. He is also pursuing the issue of the squatters' legality in Israel.
Central Jerusalem, as viewed from Herskovitz's property:
above: Herskovitz with long-time friend and Hevron artist Baruch Nachshon
photos by בניה פנדל and Ben Bresky