The Shaulian family home after the start of construction this week.
The Shaulian family home after the start of construction this week. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size
related tags

Miriam Shaulian has been trapped in her house in downtown Jerusalem for three days now, and there's no telling when she'll be able to get out. Moreover, her husband, Avraham, and two daughters are stuck outside, unable to get in.

The problem began when the Malibu, Ltd. construction company began to build on the lot next door to the Shaulians. On Monday it erected a perimeter fence around the construction site that comes right up to their doorway, blocking any entrance or exit. Since all their windows have bars, the only way to exit is to climb over a high wall on the other side of the house. Since Miriam is pregnant, she cannot do that.

The Shaulians have been living in the one-story stone house on Shamai Street for almost 20 years. The house is divided in two; Avraham's parents, who are protected tenants, live in one half and Mirian and Avraham in the other.

Malibu is not trying to force them out. But it does have rights to the adjacent lot, where it plans to put up a high-rise building, and the border of that lot abuts the Shaulians' home.

For many years the Shaulians treated the lot like their backyard, but courts have repeatedly affirmed that they are in fact trespassers, and that they'd eventually have to remove the stairs leading up to their house, as well as a bathroom that was jutting out into Malibu's lot. In this case, the Jerusalem District Court refused to force Malibu to arrange a passage for the Shaulians, because that would violate the firm's property rights.

When Malibu started to bulldoze the area on Monday, after the girls went to school, Avraham tried to resist, but he was arrested and ordered not to approach the house for the entire day. Within a few hours, the door was blocked by the fence. Avraham has been sleeping at a neighbor's and the children are with relatives.

On Tuesday, Avraham was back in Jerusalem District Court but Judge Aryeh Romanoff sent both sides to "utilize all efforts to negotiate," and did not set a deadline.

Malibu said that courts have ruled three different times that the Shaulians have no rights on its lot, even for a passageway. Nevertheless, it said it had gone beyond the call of duty and offered the Shaulians NIS 75,000 to help them move elsewhere, but that they "decided to continue to try to extort us, contravening the legal rulings, with their most recent demand being NIS 1.5 million."