The CEO of real estate developer Yitzhak Tshuva’s firm on Wednesday disputed claims by hunger-striking residents protesting their eviction from their Givat Amal homes to make way for a residential complex. CEO Ronen Jaffa said the evictions were ordered by the Supreme Court.
Givat Amal was established in 1947 by the government to safeguard the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Three generations of Jews from hundreds of families have since inhabited the modest neighborhood without acquiring official ownership rights.
Although the hunger strikers contend that they are the rightful owners and were told by the government that they would be compensated for leaving their homes, Jaffa said their ownership claims are patently false.
The claims “are not only inaccurate, they’re far from the truth,” said Jaffa by telephone on Wednesday. “In a conclusive ruling by the Supreme Court, those families were found to be intruders who invaded private land. And the court’s verdict was that they have to vacate the properties without being compensated.”
According to Jaffa, the decision followed 20 years of legal wrangling with residents, supported by documentation presented to the court by the Israel Lands Administration.
“The court rulings dealing with these so-called facts were found not to be true,” he said. “This has nothing to do with Yitzhak Tshuva.”
Still, Jaffa said, despite the court’s decision that the 130 families do not have ownership rights and should not be indemnified, Tshuva has generously compensated 13 families.
“These families were given a ruling by the Supreme Court that they should not be compensated, but we still paid them,” he said. “We could have forced them out, but negotiated with them instead.”
Asked why some families have been compensated but not the vast majority, Jaffa said the remaining families living in the neighborhood are attempting to blackmail Tshuva for millions of shekels.
“Even though they have no legal rights to the properties, they’re now trying to ask for enormous amounts of money in order to blackmail us,” he said. “But again, the court ruled that they never owned the properties; it was more like a lease. Legally they are not entitled to anything.”
Moreover, Jaffa claims that many of the families who moved to Givat Amal went on to build additional properties for their growing families without government approval.
While Jaffa claims that Tshuva has attempted to settle with the families for a reasonable sum instead of enforcing the court eviction order, he said Tshuva was left with no alternative.
However, according to hunger- striker Rivka Chailovski, 65, who was born in the home she is being forced to vacate with no compensation, Tshuva was granted rights to the land under the stipulation that he compensate the displaced families, or provide them with alternative housing.
“We are considered intruders in our own home now,” said Chailovski. “We are waiting for the police to throw us out onto the street.”
Activist Idan Pink, who does not live in Givat Amal but is participating in the hunger strike, said the families being evicted should be treated fairly and with far greater respect.
“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’s just not right.”
As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, 13 of the families are to be evicted in the next 30 days – including Chailovski and her 11-yearold granddaughter – while the remaining 117 are appealing the decision.