Protesters in Sheikh Jarrah
Protesters in Sheikh JarrahIsrael news photo: Yossi Blum Halevy

The Supreme Court has upheld previous verdicts ruling that the Shamasna family of the Shimon Hatzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood of Jerusalem must leave the home the family has been renting for decades, and return it to its Jewish owners.

However, the court expressed sorrow at its own verdict – and gave the Shamasnas 18 months to leave the property.

The home in question originally belonged to Jewish man Chaim Ben-Soleimani Yanai. The neighborhood fell to Jordan during the War of Independence, and from 1948 to 1967 the home was rented to Arab families. Elderly members of the Shamasna family claim to have begun renting the property in 1964, although an attorney representing the owners disputes that and has insisted that the Shamasnas actually moved in much later.

In 1967 the Israeli Trustee’s Office took charge of administering the property, along with other properties that were formerly Jewish-owned.

Several years ago Yannai’s descendants sought to restore the property to their family. The Shamasna family argued that the home is now rightfully theirs, due to their lengthy stay in the property and the repairs that have been done during that time.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court and District Court both ruled in favor of the Jewish owners, finding that under the circumstances, members of the Shamasna family were not protected tenants.

Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel wrote, “It’s true that a person should not be easily evicted from his home, particularly when the person in question is elderly and has lived in the property for many years. For that reason, we repeatedly tried to bring the two sides to a compromise that would allow the petitioner (Ayoub Shamasna) to continue to live in the property to the end of his days. To our sorrow, our suggestion was not accepted by either side, so we must issue a verdict.”

“It seems that the conclusions which lower courts reached were based on the evidence displayed before them, and that the petitioner did not prove that he is eligible for protected tenant status under either his agreement… or the repairs he claims to have done,” Arbel continued.

Lower courts gave Ayoub Shamasna a significant period of time, far more than required by law, to evacuate the property, she noted. Arbel went on to give Shamasna another 18 months.