Palestinian Family Ordered to Share East Jerusalem Home With Israelis

Authorities expected to force Palestinian family to evacuate house after 11-year court battle leans in favor of American millionaire and settler patron.

Right-wing Israelis are expected to move into a room in an East Jerusalem Palestinian family's home on Monday, after a court sided with their claim.

The Hamdallah family and American millionaire and settler patron Irving Moskowitz have been fighting an 11-year court battle over the home. Now, authorities are expected to force the Hamdallahs to evacuate a room and their yard to make way for Israelis, who are likely to encumber their neighbors' day-to-day routine.

East Jerusalem family
Michal Fattal

The yard leads to the home's entrance.

The Hamdallah home abuts Ma'aleh Zeitim, an enclave of 100 Jewish families encircled by a wall deep in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Ras al-Amud. Nearby, a construction project that includes 14 housing units for Jewish families in what was once the West Bank police headquarters is nearly done.

The home and Ma'aleh Zeitim are on land that was purchased by Moskowitz in 1990. The American acquired the property from Chabad and the Volhynia Hassidic dynasty, who proved they owned the land before 1948.

The Palestinian family has lived in the area since 1952. Through his representatives and emissaries in Israel, Moskowitz has waged a multi-year legal battle to evict the family.

In 2005, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Palestinian family was legally obligated to evacuate parts of the home built after 1989. They would keep older parts of the home due to the statute of limitations on Moskowitz's claims.

Eitan Geva, an attorney who represents Moskowitz, convinced the bailiff's office that this includes one bedroom and the front yard.

The Palestinian family's attorney, Shlomo Lecker, argued that the bailiff had wrongly determined which parts should be evacuated, and said that the Palestinians had already emptied out a chicken coop and a storage shed that the court deemed belonged to Moskowitz.

Nonetheless, the bailiff set this Monday as the date for the evacuation.

Sixteen Palestinians live in the disputed home. A couple and a child live in the bedroom that the court ordered vacated.

"Three people live in this room," said Khaled Hamdallah, a family member. "We don't know what to do. I don't even care anymore. I feel like dying. They want to throw us out completely. The police is with them, the judges are with them. So what's the point?"

"The settlers used a trick," said Lecker. "Geva submitted an affidavit [to the bailiff] that does not match the court's ruling. They will evacuate the room and bring in a family and two armed guard. I think [the settlers] want to make their lives hell until they finally are forced to leave."

"There are no disputes regarding the property that needs to be vacated, save from those in Mr. Lecker's imagination," said Geva. "There is a clear aerial photo in which the building that needs to be evacuated is marked. The family can enter the home unhindered by way of a walkway in the area deemed off limits by the statute of limitations."