Tel Aviv's Givat Amal Neighborhood Rooted in Era of War of Independence

53 people were evicted from the historic working-class neighborhood on Monday.

Givat Amal in Tel Aviv, December 29, 2014.
Givat Amal in Tel Aviv, December 29, 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Monday’s eviction of 53 people from Tel Aviv’s Givat Amal neighborhood is rooted in developments stretching back to the era of the War of Independence.

Before 1948, the area was an Arab village called Jamussein, whose residents fled during the war. Adjacent to it were hundreds of acres of land owned by the Abramowitz family, most of which was sold off over the years.

The state moved dozens of Jewish families into the abandoned Arab area during the late 1940s and early 1950s and gave the land to the state development authority, which held it until 1961.

In that year the state sold the land to B.P. Housing Co., which was owned by Bank Hapoalim. The state stipulated, however, that within five years the company would build a neighborhood of 440 apartments and provide each of the families living on the land a home of equal value to the one they would be evacuating.

But B.P. held the land for decades without building on it and the state never forced it to build. Nor did the state take back the land, which it had the right to do.

In 1988, B.P. sold the land to the Dankner family and Amtash Investments, and in the early 2000s the land ended up in the hands of Yitzhak Tshuva, who acquired Dankner Investments.

Tshuva now holds 75 percent of the compound through his Elad Israel Residence Ltd., and he has the right to build four apartment buildings.

The rest of the land is still owned by the Abramowitz family, which sold some of its rights to the Kozhinov family. The Tel Aviv Municipality owns 12 percent.

Through the years, many of the original families remained on the land, expanding into dozens of households who built additional units and expanded old ones, paying no rent and having no need to buy homes elsewhere.

As the developers sought to launch the construction process, the residents began fighting them in court, but years of legal wrangling ended with the Supreme Court ruling that the residents had no rights to the properties and need not be compensated.

Nevertheless, compensation offers were made. On his section of the land, Tshuva settled with many of the families for a total 60 million shekels ($15.4 million).

For a time the Abramowitz family appeared ready to sell its land to a buyer’s group organized by developer Inbal Or, who got as far as signing an 80 million shekel compensation agreement with residents.

But she did not exercise her option on the land, and the new owners, the Kozhinovs, set tougher terms. If anyone received compensation, they said, it would be the original families who settled there in 1948, not the households of their dozens of descendants.

“In the 1950s families came here and settled in what all the examinations show were small housing units,” said Aviv Tasa, a lawyer for the Kozhinov family. “Whoever came afterward simply piggybacked on them.”

“Suddenly you see that from those small housing units sprang construction of hundreds of square meters,” said Tasa. “Children aged 25 to 30 are now claiming, ‘we were born here, so we deserve an apartment.’ ...They don’t deserve compensation and what they are doing today is playing on the media, saying the developers don’t want to compensate them.”

Tasa said that in fact the Kozhinovs offered to pay the rent of the parent families for the rest of their lives, “But every time we came close to reaching figures, the children intervene, seeking inheritance rights and apartments for themselves.”

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