High Court rejects evacuee petition

Ruling in response to Gaza evacuees' petition for Kassam-safe housing.

karmiya resettled 298.88 (photo credit: Rafael D. Frenkel [file])
karmiya resettled 298.88
(photo credit: Rafael D. Frenkel [file])
Since a Kassam wounded four of her neighbors in the modular homes in Kibbutz Karimya in February, Gaza evacuee Rima Weinshelbaum has lived in a hotel room with her husband and three small children, too terrified to return home. On Wednesday, hopes that the state would provide alternative housing were dashed when the High Court of Justice rejected a petition for alternative housing filed by her family and 22 other families with the help of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel. "I don't know what will happen now," Weinshelbaum told The Jerusalem Post. Even before the decision, she awoke every morning expecting to hear that the state was kicking her out of the room in Kfar Nofesh in Ashkelon. She is among 56 families who opted to move to modular housing built by the government in Kibbutz Karmiya until her permanent home in Telme Yafe could be completed. When they arrived there after spending time in an Ashkelon hotel, they discovered that the homes were not protected against Kassams and that security rooms promised by the government had not been built. They remained in the new homes despite their fears until a February Kassam attack wounded four people, including a small baby. Since then, Weinshelbeum has paid rent and taxes on the Karmiya homes but has been too scared to move back. Instead, she and her family have lived in the single room in Ashkelon. There isn't much space, "but at least we're safe," she said. Her attorney, Eliav Mantel, said the problem lies in the type of contract signed between the families, the state and the Kibbutz. Instead of giving each family the two years of rental money promised under the Disengagement Implementation Bill, it handed that money to the Kibbutz as a lump sum. The kibbutz then built modular homes on its property for some 56 Gaza evacuee families. Thus, Mantel said, the rental funds had already been spent. The High Court of Justice rejected the petition by noting that their request was outside the purview of the Disengagement Implementation Bill, which allowed for extenuating circumstances under which families housed as a group, such as those in Karmiya, could move from housing options they had chosen of their own accord. It also noted that they were no different than any other families in the area who also lived under the threat of Kassam attacks. Weinshelbaum responded that, unlike other families in the area, who lived in permanent buildings that in many cases were protected against Kassam attacks, she lived in a modular house that would collapse if a Kassam fell on it. Weinshelbaum added that she and the other families in the group didn't want to go to Karmiya. They would have preferred other areas, but this was the only place available where they could live together as a group. In attacking the decision, Mantel said there were many things the state did not consider when moving 8,500 people out of Gaza last summer. The court's job, he added, was to act as a watch-guard for these people. "Otherwise they have no legal recourse." Legal Forum attorney Yossi Fuchs said he found it outrageous that the state didn't believe it had a responsibility to offer the evacuees housing that was protected against Kassams. However, Disengagement Authority spokesman Haim Altman said that ever since the attack, 10 security rooms had been built near the modular homes and that the state was in the process of providing one for each house. He added that many of the families have remained in Karmiya. Weinshelbaum said that the security rooms that did exist were far from the houses, and that the ones close to them have been under construction for two months. "I couldn't make it to the rooms fast enough. They are too far away," said Weinshelbaum. She would only feel safe moving back once a room was completed near her house. "I saw how the Kassam destroyed that house in February and I saw how the baby was wounded. I don't want that to happen to us," she said.