Evelyn Haies, an American Jew, has filed suit in New York against former tourism
minister Benny Elon, over ownership of a building in Bethlehem.
served Elon with papers immediately prior to the start of the Passover holiday,
The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Haies, who runs the nonprofit Rachel’s
Children Reclamation Fund (RCRF), has been locked in a legal battle with Elon
and several other prominent settlement figures for the better part of a decade
over the ownership of a building – Beit Hamakolet – immediately adjacent to
Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.
Beit Hamakolet is the only structure, aside
from Rachel’s Tomb, under Jewish control in Bethlehem. Situated only meters past
the tomb in a fortified corridor made of high concrete walls and guard towers,
the connected buildings making up the Beit Hamakolet complex have been a source
of contention since their purchase from three Palestinian brothers in
There are two groups that can be found currently using the
building, a group of women affiliated with the New Jersey-based RCRF and the
students of Bnei Rachel, a satellite school of Elon’s Beit Orot yeshiva on the
Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
“RCRF and Haies contributed more than
$500,000 through the US companies,” according to Haies’s lawyer Mitchell
“RCRF and Ms. Haies allege that the directors have
abdicated their responsibility and permitted Benny Elon to seize control of the
Bnei Beit Rachel site and frustrate the mission of RCRF and the purpose for
which the site was purchased.”
Additionally, Shapiro noted in a
statement, “The lawsuit alleges that the original purchase monies were forwarded
by Americans Friends of Beit Orot to two Israeli trustees... who purchased the
land on which the building site sits and fraudulently registered it for
themselves. The trustees failed to deliver title to the rightful owners of the
property and instead attempted to extract money or use of the site for
Elon, Shapiro alleged, “had previously reached side deals
with the deposed trustees, who still hold title to the site today, and an
arbitrator who had been appointed to resolve the outstanding disputes with the
trustees in order to establish and preserve his own control over the
Haies and her husband Jay, an attorney based in the United
States, claim that they put up the bulk of the funding for the purchase of the
property and that they were defrauded. Current and past representatives of Beit
Orot, such as Chaim Silberstein – who is also named in the New York suit –
however, claim that the Haieses do not have a claim of ownership and that they
are attempting to take over the property for their own ends.
and the other figures involved in the matter have been locked in litigation for
years, with multiple suits filed in Israeli courts.
The suit was filed in
New York’s Kings County on March 20.
According to allegations contained
in the court filing, the individual defendants, including Elon and Silberstein,
“knowingly breached their fiduciary obligations to the defendant corporations
and... Haies... as part of an ongoing fraud to knowingly and intentionally
divert funds paid... to acquire the combined properties and to wrongfully
inhibit [Haies’s] access and use” of the properties.
Beit Hamakolet was
purchased in three transactions, each of which was conducted by another
corporation, each incorporated in New York for the purposes of the
Haies is the majority owner of one of the corporations and a
minority shareholder in the other two. The complex nature of the purchase has
made it difficult to unravel precisely who owns what and has complicated the
picture of ownership.
Explaining why she decided to file suit in the US,
Haies stated that “every time we get anywhere in the Israeli courts, there is
another delay and another proposal to settle the case that gives the original
Israeli trustees money for services they didn’t provide and Benny Elon control
of the property.”
Speaking with the Post in 2012, Silberstein said that
he “put this deal” to buy the house from its Palestinian owners “together about
ten years ago. I brought in Evelyn as an investor to the project. Altogether
there are about 30 owners of this property.”
However, he continued, while
she is the “largest single owner... she is not a majority owner. This is the
first very important fact that you need to know because for many years she has
claimed that it is her property exclusively and that is a lie.”
noted at the time that Haies “refused to acknowledge that she had partners” and
that she believes that she should have full title to the property and is
attempting to usurp it from her “partners.”
Haies, he asserted, as never
been “not willing to recognize that it is not exclusively hers.”
can’t take the fact that she is not the only owner of the property. She tried to
destroy and kick out everybody that she doesn’t like. That’s the core of the
whole problem, Evelyn Haies,” Silberstein said.
Following the filing of
the New York lawsuit, Silberstein told the Post that Haies had “filed a suit
against half the world” and that he was “not particularly concerned about
“From what I saw,” he said, “the vast majority of what [she is
claiming] is certainly not the truth and I feel sorry that she has to be brought
to such desperate measures and waste money that donors give to her for Kever
when she could be doing good things.”
expressed pity for Haies.
In the past, he said, she raised a lot of money
for Rachel’s Tomb and did a lot of good but “since then she didn’t do anything
good for Kever Rachel. Nothing.”
“She is a very bad lady and she's doing
good things,” the former minister stated.
He said that he was “sorry”
that he had not known her before “they asked her for a donation. If I knew her I
never would have asked her or [given] any encouragement to someone to ask from
“She has something like ten or fifteen court [cases] here and she
lost almost all of them but she is continuing and continuing,” Elon said,
telling the Post that at the time of the sale he “wasn’t involved.”
was in the Knesset at the time,” he said.
Elon called involving Haies in
the purchase of the property a “big mistake,” and said that forming three
corporations to effect the purchase was the cause of the ongoing legal
“According to the structure, it’s not just a
But, she was only one out of hundreds because many others
gave,” he said, calling her lawsuit a “desecration of God’s name.”