Sumarin family Silwan - Michal Fattal - 15112011
Members of the Sumarin family in their Silwan home on Monday. Photo by Michal Fattal
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A 12-member Palestinian family has been ordered to vacate its house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan within two weeks.

The party behind the eviction is Himnuta, a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund, which has been trying to get the Sumarin family to leave since 1991. Himnuta claims the house where the Sumarins are living actually belongs to it.

The custodian general confiscated the house from its original owner under the Abandoned Property Law about two decades ago and transferred it to the Development Authority, a state agency. Not long afterward, in the early 1990s, the Development Authority made a deal with Himnuta under which Himnuta received Palestinian land and houses in Silwan in exchange for land near Wadi Ara that the JNF transferred to the state.

Shortly after obtaining these houses, Himnuta leased most of them to Elad, a group engaged in settling Jews in East Jerusalem that also runs the nearby City of David national park. Left-wing activists and Palestinian residents of the neighborhood believe the Sumarin house will also eventually be transferred to Elad, since it is located right at the entrance to the City of David.

Several of the surrounding houses are owned by Elad and have been populated with Jews, and the lawyers who represented Himnuta in the Sumarin case have also represented Elad in many similar cases.

There have been various legal proceedings over the Sumarin house, which produced verdicts both for and against the family. Finally, in 2005, Himnuta filed suit to evict the Sumarins.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court accepted the suit in January 2006, apparently due mainly to negligence by the family's attorney, which never filed a defense brief. The court ordered the Sumarins to vacate the house and pay Himnuta NIS 1 million in compensation.

For several years thereafter, Himnuta took no further action. But about two months ago, it applied to the Bailiff's Office and obtained an eviction order from this agency. The order requires the Sumarins to leave by November 28 or face forcible eviction. Meanwhile, the amount of compensation they owe Himnuta has grown to NIS 2 million.

On Sunday, agents from the Bailiff's Office came to the house with a police escort to seek information from the family. "They asked how many rooms there are, where the back door is and who lives in the house," said Ahmed Sumarin, 28.

Another family member said that one of visitors added, "In another two weeks, there will be a mezuzah here."

"I don't know what to do if they come with force," said Ahmed Sumarin. "This is our home. My grandfather still lives here. Where will we go? If they take your home away, you can only go onto the street."

On Tuesday, the family's new attorney, Muhammad Dahleh, plans to file a request to annul the verdict. "This whole proceeding was mistaken," he said. "Had a defense brief been filed, it would have been possible to do a lot."

The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement, which has been helping the family, said that Himnuta's "eagerness to throw people out of their home in the service of the settlers is another expression of the current government's thuggish rule. We'll continue to suffer from the destructiveness of this racist policy until the public rises up against a government that sabotages our future."

 קראו כתבה זו בעברית: לראשונה זה חמש שנים: משפחה פלסטינית תפונה מביתה בסילוואן