Y. Herskovitz
Y. Herskovitz Israel News Photo: (file)

Yitzchak Herskovitz, 78, has won a critical battle in his 16-year legal struggle to regain control of his property from Arab squatters in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem District Court ruled in his favor that the contested property, in southern Jerusalem’s Givat HaMatos neighborhood, in fact belongs to him.

Herskovitz must now begin the complex process of having the illegal trespassers removed from the site. The date specified for the eviction is August 5, and it appears clear that the police will have to be involved, and/or that the squatters will appeal the ruling yet again.

Video: The story of the 16-year struggle of Herskovitz to regain his Jerusalem land

“In the current climate of tensions surrounding the hesitation to destroy illegal Arab structures and evacuate Arab squatters,” said a source close to the case, “it is hard to be optimistic that this case will end very soon."

The Case Began in 1993

The saga began in 1993, when Herskovitz filed suit in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court against an Arab clan, the Tsalah family, who was living on his land near the Beit Tsafafa and Gilo neighborhoods of Jerusalem. After more than a decade, Herskovitz won the case; the Arabs appealed the ruling and lost again, and the squatters were to have been evicted. 

But the Arabs then took the initiative, and sued Herskovitz, claiming ownership of the property and thus delaying the eviction. After 18 months, they abruptly withdrew their case; Herskovitz says this was purely a “stalling maneuver.” 

A month or two later, before the police had a chance to carry out the eviction orders, the third trial in the series began, with the Arabs once again filing an ownership suit in the District Court. That trial finally ended in April of this year, and its final ruling has now been handed down: victory for Herskovitz.

Police Delay

“One of the things that bothers me,” the feisty and colorful Herskovitz told Israel National News, “is that the police, by stalling and not carrying out the eviction orders at various opportunities, enabled this whole thing to be dragged out for so long. For instance, in 2008, they could have evicted the Arab squatters, in accordance with court order, but did not – and instead asked for an extension of a few months!”

Expedition Request Worked

Several weeks ago, Herskovitz filed a request to expedite the final ruling.  He wrote that at the “ripe young age” of 78, and not in the best of health, and after 16 years of what he calls “legal shenanigans by those who stole my property,” he deserves to have the ruling hurried up. 

Herskovitz further wrote that the squatters “withdrew their original court suit only in order to re-file it again later, for the purpose of dragging out the process for many years. This was carried out in bad faith and with bad intentions, and expresses their lack of respect to the judicial process. They knowingly and frequently perjured themselves, out of scorn to the court and to my rights, and sensing that they are immune to punishment.”

The request concludes by asking for expedition of the final ruling, "lest I miss the opportunity to use and enjoy my property forever.”

The request appears to have done the job, as the ruling need not have been issued before April of next year. 

At the same time, Herskovitz is attempting to collect on a previous ruling that was handed down in his favor – a requirement that the squatters pay him rent while the case is being processed. The squatters have not paid for seven months, however, Herskowitz said.