Jerusalem Land-Owner Sues Police

Four-year legal battle continues as Yitzchak Herskovitz tries to force police to follow court orders; cops say not enough manpower for job

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 3:42 PM

Herskovitz in one of many court appearances
Herskovitz in one of many court appearances

A lawyer for
"...How can the police lawyer promise that they will do the eviction before Rosh HaShanah, when the days before Rosh HaShanah are still in the month of Ramadan?! How can I believe them?"
Yitzchak Herskovitz, a septuagenarian resident of Kiryat Arba and owner of property in Jerusalem, said Sunday his client will sue Jerusalem police for failing to execute court orders to evict Arab squtters from his property.

Herskovitz had hoped to have his Jerusalem property freed of Arab squatters by last week, as the court ordered, but the police said they don't have the men for the job.

Baruch Ben-Yosef said his client's motion to sue is a desperate step to force the police to fulfil their legal obligations to execute court orders.

"The police have systematically denied my client of his rights," he told IsraelNationalNews. "The court has repeatedly ordered them to evict the illegal squatters from his home, but they have always come up with some excuse not to fulfil that order. Maybe being forced to pay a large sum of money will get them to move."

Fearful of Riots
Herskovitz, a septuagenarian formerly of Los Angeles and now of Kiryat Arba in Judea, bought property in southern Jerusalem in 1992.  He has never been able to take possession of it, however, because of Arab squatters living there. 

The police have turned down the most recent court order to evict the Arabs because of riots they expect will result.  They promise to carry it out within several weeks - or several months.

Though the feisty and colorful Mr. Herskovitz has legal title to the property, located near the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Gilo (Jewish) and Beit Tsafafa (Arab), a clan of Arab squatters says it is theirs. Their claims have alternated between "we received it when the original owner defaulted on a loan" and "we bought it from him."

Jewish People Could Lose Sovereignty
Meanwhile, the Arab squatters continue to live, rent-free, on the property Herskovitz bought 16 years ago but has still not merited to move into.  He is not giving up the fight, though: "I have interests here - but the Jewish People have an even greater interest in this case.  If the courts do not enforce this order, it is very likely that this entire area will simply become Arab.  When you lose the ability to enforce the law, you lose sovereignty - and the Jewish People are in danger of having that happen right here, in Jerusalem!"

Courts Rule in Herskovitz's Favor
In 2004, after handwriting and document experts testified that the Arabs' documents were fraudulent, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled in Herskovitz's favor.  The Arab clan appealed the ruling in the Jerusalem District Court, which also ultimately ruled in Herskovitz's favor.  The squatters then tried another tactic, and in 2006, they sued for ownership of the property. The court has not yet ruled on this claim - but has given a hint of its position by issuing an interim order for the squatters to post bond and pay past rent, or else face eviction.

Arabs Didn't Pay, Court OKs Eviction, Police Say Not Now
The Arabs did not pay rent or post the bond, and the District Court ruled, once again, that they can be evicted.  Herskovitz, in accordance with accepted procedure, applied to the police to carry out the eviction order - but the police turned him down. 

Adv. Yaakov Golbert, representing Herskovitz's interests in the foreclosure and reclamation of the party, told IsraelNationalNews what happened: "A police lawyer called me yesterday [Tuesday], and said that the police simply don't have the manpower for the job.  They're afraid of riots, and soon [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice is coming to the region, and soon it will be Ramadan, etc. etc.  But she promised over and over that for sure before the High Holidays [nearly six weeks from now -ed.], they will do it."

Police Ask for Long Delay
The lawyer was actually more generous than an official police letter to the court.  The letter stated, "The eviction is a very sensitive, on behalf of a Jew living in Hevron [sic; he actually lives in Kiryat Arba - ed.], and the property is located in [an Arab neighborhood].  It should also be noted that the eviction was set for approximately a week before the onset of the Ramadan month... In my estimation, the [police] deployment for the eviction will be very intensive, because of the expectation of riots after the eviction - and it will lead into the Ramadan fasts. Similarly, it will involve the deployment of many policemen on the day on which U.S. Secretary Rice is expected, which will make it very difficult... Based on this, we ask for a flexible eviction order beginning from Oct. 5, 2008 until Feb. 1, 2009."

"Not only are they refusing to do it now," an astounded Herskovitz said, "but they even want to put it off for several months!  ... And how can the police lawyer make a promise [to Golbert] that they will do it before Rosh HaShanah, when the days before Rosh HaShanah are still in the month of Ramadan?!  How can I believe them?"

Asked if he has any recourse against the police position, Golbert said, "Most unfortunately, no.  If the police explain that they can't carry it out, then the court will believe them, and that's that."

Possibly Herskovitz's latest suit against the police will get them to change their mind.

Herskovitz sees it differently. "The police are simply bucking a court order," he said. "They have made this into a soap opera and a circus. I would like to believe them when they say they will do it in a month - but it's very hard for me to do so because of how they have stalled and pushed this off so many times in the past, and because of what they are 'promising' now."