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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court on Thursday urged the government to provide substitute housing for 21 former Gaza Strip families who abandoned their mobile homes in Kibbutz Karmiya after they were shelled by terrorists, but the state insisted it could not help because it would be unfair to other residents of the Gaza Strip periphery.
The court was hearing the families' request for an interim injunction obliging the state to pay for their housing until a permanent solution for their safety was found.
The state has already decided to subsidize construction by Kibbutz Karmiya of 50 security rooms, each of which will be linked to one of the mobile homes in the neighborhood. However, it refuses to pay for alternative housing for the families in the interim, until the security rooms are completed.
"The contractor has already started to build the security rooms," said attorney Orit Koren, of the State Attorney's Office. "He has run into a problem because of the uncooperativeness of some of the residents. We do not consider it our obligation to supply alternative housing for them."
Koren argued that according to the Disengagement Implementation Law, the state was not obliged to find either temporary or permanent housing for the Jewish evacuees from the Gaza Strip settlements.
According to the petitioners' lawyer, Eliav Mantel, the state is dragging its feet. "We have 21 families totaling more than 100 people with no place to sleep," he told the court.
According to Mantel, the state's decision to subsidize each security room to the tune of NIS 50,000, for a total expenditure of NIS 2.5 million, was a "scandal." Instead of paying that sum to the kibbutzim, the state could have used the money to subsidize the housing fees for the families who left Kibbutz Karmiya. Mantel added that there were 17 empty mobile homes in Nitzan, north of Ashkelon. The homes are beyond Kassam missile range and could be given to the petitioners, or most of them, he said.
Tamar Polat, who addressed the court on behalf of the families, said they had been promised by the Disengagement Authority (Sela) that each mobile home would have a security room. "Had we known that there would not be, we would never have agreed to move there," she said.
The families were given two years worth of rent by the state to tide them over until they found permanent housing. They paid this money to the kibbutz to rent the mobilehome neighborhood. According to the agreement between the kibbutz and the government, the kibbutz was obliged to build security rooms within four years. But because of the threat to the residents, the government told the kibbutz to build them immediately, and, in return, gave them the NIS 2.5m. subsidy.
In the meantime, until the permanent security rooms are built, the government has supplied 10 security rooms on wheels for the 50 families.
Polat said that the families left Karmiya after enduring a month of Kassam attacks. "The distance from my home to the security room was 64 meters," she told the court. "I had to run that distance in 15 seconds at the most with two children in my arms. We slept on top of the children to protect them. It reminded me of stories of the Holocaust."
Time and again, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Justice Edna Arbel tried to persuade the state to help the families. "These people have undergone a trauma," Barak told Koren, referring to the disengagement plan and the loss of their original homes. "The question is, can we solve their problem?"
Koren said that the state would help the families on an individual basis if they had special problems. But it refused to help them as a group for fear that it would open a Pandora's box of demands for help from other families, not only Gaza evacuees but also permanent residents of the Gaza periphery who face the same threat of Kassam rockets.
Barak said the court would take the matter under consideration and hand down its decision later.