Beit El residents battle to save their homes

30 ‘Ulpana’ apartments due to be demolished in April

By
December 9, 2011 00:59

Beit El resident Yifat Abduram 311. (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)

Yifat Abudram wants to understand how the state could threaten to knock down her home next April, when it gave her a NIS 90,000 grant to buy the ground floor apartment 11 years ago.

Her home is one of 30 endangered apartments located at the outskirts of the Beit El settlement, in an area nicknamed the "Ulpana."

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A court battle over the fate of the five small stone apartment buildings — which each house six families — has gone on since 2008. But most residents knew nothing about it until the late summer or early fall.

Abudram, a mother of five, is expecting to give birth to her sixth child this month. She first knew there was a problem when she read about it in the newspaper.

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“I was in shock,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday as she sat in her living room, next to a bookshelf filled with religious texts.

“I have cried a lot,” she said.

But she has not stood silent. For months she and her neighbors have led a pitched political campaign to save their homes.

On Thursday, they hosted a representative from the Prime Minister’s Office and MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu). But scores of other politicians, including ministers, have visited.

She joked that the battle has been good for her housekeeping. She has painted and cleaned to keep up with the sudden blitz of guests.

According to settlers, the land was purchased in 2000 from Palestinians and most of the homes were completed between 2002 and 2008.

But already in 2005, the neighborhood was included in a report on unauthorized outposts submitted to the government by private attorney Talia Sasson.

Sasson classified it as an outpost called Pisgat Yaakov or Jabel Artis, that was first established in 1995, outside the boundaries of Beit El. She said it was built without any permits on private Palestinian property. But, she said, it did receive NIS 4.5 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry.

In 2008, Yesh Din ­ Volunteer for Human Rights filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against the homes on behalf of two Palestinians, Mahbouba Muhammad Sa’id Yasin and Harbi Ibrahim Mustafa Mustafa. The state has accepted the Palestinians’ claim of ownership.

But settlers argue that the matter has never been adjudicated in court. This fall, they turned to the Jerusalem District Court to seek a ruling on the land’s status.

But Abudram, who bought a property lot in 2000, said that she has plenty of paper work to show that she is a “law-abiding citizen,” including a bank mortgage.

She smiled as she spoke, but she often has nightmares. Her fear was made more acute by the IDF’s demolition of three homes at the nearby Migron outpost in September.

She has imagined soldiers dragging her out of the house, as she desperately tries to stop them by gripping the sofa.

Even worse, she said, she imagined them throwing all the religious books on the floor.

Abudram’s neighbor Michal Kitay, who is pregnant with her second child, has had similar nightmares.

“It is really scary to think they are suddenly going to come in the middle of the night and take our stuff out,” she said as her daughter squirmed on her lap.

She and her husband, Baruch, who are originally from Australia, came to Beit El two years ago.

They were drawn to the spiritual aspect of the place. Here the patriarch Jacob once slept and dreamed that angels were ascending and descending a ladder.

Michal heard of the court case from her neighbors while Baruch was performing reserve duty up North.

“She called me up worried,” Baruch said and added that he dismissed her fears. He thought his wife had confused their apartment with some caravan somewhere else.

It turns out she was right, he said.

“I came out of reserve duty on the Hermon, where I was freezing cold. I left my daughter and my wife at home. I wanted to give to Israel, and the same government that sent me [to the Syrian border] is now saying, ‘no, you cannot live here,’ Baruch said.

For Didi Dikstein, the pending demolition of his home is the third blow leveled against him by the state and the Palestinians.

Almost 10 years ago, his parents and young brother were killed near Hebron in a drive-by shooting by a Palestinian terrorist. Their photos hang on his living room wall.

In October, that Palestinian was released as part of the exchange with Hamas to secure the freedom of captive soldier Gilad Schalit.

Now, the state wants to destroy the home where he has lived with his wife and two small children for more than three years.

It’s true, Dikstein said, that his family’s situation is simpler than some of his neighbors; he rents.

But that does not mean he can walk away, he said.

“This is not just my personal story,” Dikstein said.

He recalled an incident from 1996, that occurred after Etta Tzur, 48, and her son Ephraim, 12, were killed by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian as they drove west of Beit El.

Binyamin Netanyahu, who was prime minister then as well, came to Beit El where they were buried and pledged that a neighborhood would be built to avenge their deaths, Dikstein said.

“My parents gave their lives for this country,” he said.

Now he wants to help make sure that people can live in it with dignity, Dikstein said.


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