Huddled together to take shelter from the steady rain under a makeshift tent next to the Prime Minister’s Residence Tuesday afternoon, members of families facing imminent eviction from their longtime Givat Amal homes commenced a hunger strike.
Once a strategically placed community, it was established by the government during the War of Independence to safeguard the borders on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Three generations of Jews belonging to more than 100 families have inhabited the modest village turned neighborhood since 1947.
“These families were put there to protect Israel from Arabs,” said Idan Pink, an activist taking part in the hunger strike. “Now a private developer is creating an enormous residential building of 1,200 units and is forcing the remaining 130 families to leave without paying them a dime.”
The developer in question, Yitzhak Tshuva, is a well known business magnate who owns the majority of Israel’s natural gas reservoirs. In addition, he owns a number of properties around the world, and he bought the land in Givat Amal from the government in 1987 to transform it into a high-end residential complex.
Tshuva was granted rights to the land under the stipulation that he would compensate the families forced to leave their homes and provide them with alternate housing upon construction of his building.
Although Tshuva agreed to the terms of the arrangement, he has since reneged on the deal because the families, who were never given formal ownership of the homes – although granted the right to live there – cannot produce the official ownership papers.
As a result, 13 families are set to be evicted in the next 30 days, while the remaining 117 are still fighting in pending court cases.
Rivka Chailovski, 65, who was born in the home she is being forced to leave with no alternative or compensation, attended the hunger strike with her 11-year-old granddaughter Maya, who was also born there.
“We are considered intruders in our own home,” said Rivka, as she sat beside her granddaughter and a number of supporters. “Yitzhak Tshuva is a pig who only sees dollars. He doesn’t care about people – he wants to send us to the street with nothing.”
Chailovski, who was growing increasingly faint from not eating, said she will not consume food until the court overturns the verdict against her.
“We are waiting for the police to throw us out onto the street,” she said. “We have a knife to our throats, and it will end with a lot of blood.”
Asked if she was frightened by the eviction, Maya held back tears.
“Yes, I’m very nervous because I don’t know where I will be living,” she said. “I like living in Givat Amal.
I have a garden and it makes me happy.”
Referring to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s rhetoric about compensating Jews who will be displaced in pending negotiated land swaps, Pink said families like the Chailovski’s deserve the same rights and dignity.
“These families were moved there by the government because of the situation in 1947 to help protect the state, and now they’ll be refugees,” Pink said. “It shows that the people who need the compensation are not getting it.”
Tshuva could not be reached for comment.