Palestinians evicted from eastern Jerusalem homes, Jews move in

Jewish families moved into two homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood following the eviction of its Palestinian residents.

The families who moved into the homes on Thursday in Beit Hanina, a well-off Arab neighborhood in the northern quadrant of eastern Jerusalem, are the first Jewish residential presence in the neighborhood.

An Israeli court ruled recently that Jews had legally purchased the properties.

Fourteen members of the Natshe family had lived in the two homes. Some were evicted from one of the homes on Wednesday. The home next door had been evacuated several weeks ago; police were required to remove the residents and their property on Wednesday, according to reports.

The settler-run Israel Land Fund took over the fight for the properties from a man who said he purchased the homes more than three decades ago. The properties also were owned by Jews before 1948, according to the fund. The organization plans to establish a Jewish enclave of 50 apartments in the Arab neighborhood.

United Nations humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard said Thursday in a statement that the “Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease.”

Some see Beit Hanina becoming like the Shimon Hatzadik enclave in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah, which must be protected by private security and has touched off several controversies. In that case as well, a court ruled in favor of Jewish ownership and three Palestinian families were evicted.

Jewish settlers evicted from Hebron home

Jewish settlers were evicted from a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron without incident.

Israeli security forces on Wednesday evacuated the Jewish families from the home they had entered a week ago. The evacuation reportedly took only a few moments.

The evacuation was carried out on the orders of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“I will continue to act in order to maintain the rule of law and democracy while guaranteeing the authority of the State over its citizens,” Barak said in a statement following the evacuation.

“Any request to acquire the relevant buying permit or any other transactions will be dealt with professionally and impartially, as is the practice. However, we cannot allow a situation where unlawful actions are taken to determine or dictate ad-hoc facts to the authorities.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top government ministers including Barak and Benny Begin had decided that the settlers would be removed from the home by April 26 if they could not prove that they had legally purchased and moved into the house. The Israeli officials’ meeting occurred hours after a mid-afternoon deadline for the settlers to leave the home passed with no consequences.

The eviction order issued Monday afternoon by the Israeli military’s Civil Administration said the settlers’ presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.

That evening, Netanyahu asked Barak for a delay of the eviction until the settlers had an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house. Armed with documents that say they purchased the home from its Arab owner, the Jewish families entered the home in the middle of the night on March 28.

Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.

Evicted, Angry and Worried

There is no place like home, and no one knows it better than the former Jewish settlers of the Gaza Strip. Evicted from their beachside villages on the shores of the lapping Mediterranean Sea, they are living this week out of hotel rooms, high school dormitories or in refugee-like tent camps.

Late last week, post-eviction, Ruth Etzion found herself wandering the streets of the Samaria settlement of Ofra, the home of her in-laws. Walking under tall pine trees in an almost trance-like state, Etzion, her husband Yaacov, and their three children reside in a two-room dormitory “suite” in the local religious girls school. It’s a step down from their two-story home on the sandy streets of the isolated Gush Katif settlement of Morag.

But Etzion was content in some ways. For her, moving into the girls’ school in August brought closure. Exactly four years ago that is where she and Yaacov got married.

“We are trying to recover from our expulsion,” Etzion said, as her blonde haired, blue-eyed toddler Shira wailed in the background. “What they did to us was horrible and brutal.”

By “brutal” she meant mostly the insult of the eviction itself, with its psychological and economic toll. She did not say that any soldiers or police physically or verbally abused family members.

For now Etzion is trying to regroup and keep her family united. The Ofra high school is the perfect place to do just that, with local residents arranging free Shabbat meals, afternoon children activities and a free babysitting service for the 20 displaced Morag families.

The scars of the evacuation are far from disappearing, she said. On Monday, Etzion told her 3-year-old son Yoav to finish eating dinner, because she needed to clear the table.

“Ima,” Yoav asked. “Are they now coming to evacuate the table?”

But stories like Etzion’s are already a blur of the recent past for most Israelis. The army completed the disengagement on Tuesday with the evacuation of two settlements in northern Samaria: Homesh and Sa-Nur.

Attention has now returned to the question of whether Sharon’s disengagement plan will, in the end, benefit the Jewish state.

On Tuesday, veteran settler leader Benny Katzover milled around the burning streets of Homesh watching the destruction of a dream. A pioneer in the Gush Emunim settlement movement, Katzover was one of the first to establish a modern Jewish outpost in Hebron. He later became head of the Samaria Regional Council, where he literally helped to build settlements with his bare hands.

A short, bearded religious man, Katzover sucked hard on a cigarette as he watched security forces break through a home surrounded by barbed wire. The soldiers were being pounded with eggs, paint and pickles by the entrenched anti-disengagement activists. Homesh looked like a war zone on Tuesday with close to 1,000 anti-disengagement activists barricading themselves inside abandoned settler homes to put up a last fight against their planned expulsion.

But although passions ran high, pickles can only make so much headway against military gear and professionally trained officers, especially ones who would, under other circumstances, rather be sharing the pickles with their adversaries over dinner — or using the paint to help spruce up settlers’ homes.

And, indeed, when settlers are lobbing pickles instead of grenades, it’s a sign that there are limits to this last stand against disengagement. That doesn’t make the settlers any less angry.

“Sharon has established an expulsion machine,” Katzover said under the scorching August sun. “By surrendering to the Palestinian terror he has placed the entire Jewish settlement enterprise in danger.”

Katzover’s views resonate with a vast majority of the Israeli rightwing, which openly worries that Disengagement 2006 is just around the corner. With defense officials predicting that Palestinians will renew terror attacks against Israel, Katzover and thousands of others are wondering what Israel really got out of disengagement.

“Every settlement that is not behind the West Bank security fence is in danger of destruction,” said Yossi Zilber, a settler from the tranquil community of Peduel, in Samaria. Pointing to the nearby Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin, Zilber shrugs his shoulders, wondering aloud what Sharon was thinking.

“Instead of protecting us, he is expelling us,” the 31-year-old father of four said. “After we leave northern Samaria it is only a matter of time before rockets begin falling in Kfar Saba. And then what will we do? Leave Tel Aviv?”

But the settlers also will be part of another looming challenge — reunifying the Israeli people. If disengagement did one thing, Etzion said, from her dormitory suite in Ofra, it alienated settlers and their supporters from many other Israelis.

Knesset Member Uri Ariel faced off last week with Maj. Gen. Yisrael Ziv, head of the military’s operations division, in one of the Gaza Strip settlements. It was a sign of the growing rift between the right-wing religious Zionist movement, the Israel Defense Forces and those who back each, inside and outside of government.

“How many Jews have you expelled today,” Ariel shouted at Ziv as security forces got to work pulling people out of houses. “You should be embarrassed.”

In a manner that seemed out of character for a senior military officers, Ziv yelled back: “On the contrary, it is you who should be embarrassed.”

Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev, who was in charge of the evacuation, talked this week of curing the division in the nation.

“For now the rift is out there,” he said, as security forces wrapped up the peaceful evacuation of the Gaza settlement of Katif on Sunday. “But it is only temporary and we will reunite together again, like most things in life do, similar to the birth of a child after which everything eventually comes together.”


Eviction of Jew and Non-Jew Going to Trial

A federal court trial, alleging that the Orthodox Jewish owners of a Pico-Robertson building evicted a tenant because he shared his apartment with a non-Jew, is scheduled to open in Los Angeles next week.

The suit by Lawrence “Chaim” Stein alleges that he was evicted in 2004 by the board of Torat Hayim, a nonprofit that is best known for its Pico-Robertson school and synagogue, but that also manages a handful of apartments.

Stein’s central piece of evidence in the suit is a voice mail left on his phone answering machine by Michael Braum, one of the suit’s defendants and the pro bono manager of the apartment in the 8800 block of Alcott Street.

“I can’t believe you rented to a goy,” says the voice on the tape, which Braum has acknowledged as his in a deposition.

“Two days after that, we get an eviction notice,” Stein said.

Rejecting tenants based on religion is illegal. Braum noted in an interview that Torah Hayim’s tenants include non-Jews. He insisted that the issue was not religion, but that Stein unilaterally changed terms of the lease.

The eviction was later overturned in court. However, by that time, Stein had found another apartment, and his old quarters had been rented to someone else.

In the federal suit, Stein is seeking compensatory damages “in an amount according to proof,” and punitive damages up to three times the amount of actual damages.

Stein; his wife, Balan, and their four children, were living in a two-bedroom unit when Torat Hayim bought the building in 2000. According to Braum’s deposition, Torat Hayim acquired the building primarily as income property and secondarily to provide housing for the needy.

The rental income helps support Torat Hayim’s synagogue, private school and other services to the Iranian Jewish community.

Stein, a computer analyst, said he decided to let a non-Jewish friend, Marc Hutson-Montroy, move in with him after Stein’s purchase of a house in Las Vegas depleted his income. According to Stein’s attorneys, Braum showed up at the property on Sept. 15, 2003, and found Hutson-Montroy.

Braum acknowledged in the deposition that he asked Hutson-Montroy if he was Jewish. Braum told The Journal that he couldn’t believe that an Orthodox Jew would room with a non-Jew.

“If he brings in one McDonald’s sandwich, Stein cannot eat there anymore,” Braum said, referring to kosher dietary restrictions.

On Sept. 25, 2003, Braum’s message on Stein’s answering machine referred to Hutson-Montroy three times as a “goy.”

“Are you there? Are you moved out? Why? What kind of benefit do you get in giving this apartment to a goy?” Braum asked in the message, which Stein saved.

Days later, the eviction notice arrived.

Braum maintained in the interview that his use of the word “goy” was not meant as an insult.

It was his understanding, he said, that Stein was living there with his wife and children.

“Nobody had called. Nobody gave me the key,” Braum said.

It’s standard practice, he noted, for apartment owners to forbid subleases and to require new tenants to fill out an application form.

The suit is not the first run-in between Stein and Torat Hayim. Another dispute was settled by a rabbinical court in 2002.

In the 2002 case, Braum blamed a mold problem in the apartment on the overflow of a washer-dryer draining into a toilet. Stein blamed it on poor building maintenance.

That matter was settled in a rabbinical court, which ordered a $3,000 payment to Stein for having to “live in uninhabitable conditions” for three months, Stein said.