Israeli police began the evacuation of homes in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Kfar Shalem on Monday to make way for the construction of a metropolitan light rail. The evictions follows a protracted legal battle that the 12 remaining families say has failed to secure adequate compensation for them.
Most families in the southern neighborhood have agreed to leave, but 12 have refused under the current compensation terms. Police forces have been deployed in the area since the early morning to carry out their eviction.
According to municipality estimates, Kfar Shalem comprises some 600 to 800 landholding households. These are the descendants of 400 Jewish families who, at the end of Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence were sent by the state to settle on the site of the depopulated village of Salameh, in order to prevent the original Palestinian residents from returning to their homes. The vast majority of them are Mizrahi, or Jewish immigrants from Middle Eastern countries.
Similar to Givat Amal in Tel Aviv's north, the state refrained from standardizing ownership of the land, which enabled it to avoid developing the infrastructure there.
The court-ordered eviction plan stipulates that every person or members of their nuclear family who appear in the population census conducted in the neighborhood in 1975 shall be eligible for compensation, as well as third-generation descendants of the neighborhood’s original residents, who are eligible for reduced compensation. The maximum amount of compensation – 1.7 million shekels ($540,000) – will go to original residents or their family members who have at least three children.
The municipal transit authority, which is responsible for the light rail project, has argued that the evacuated families are not entitled to compensation at all.
Yossi and Hava Levy, among the families facing imminent removal from their homes, are entitled to the maximum amount of compensation according to the outline, as well as 4,400 shekels in monthly rental assistance for two years.
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The Levy couple, who are both in their 70s and living with a disability, say the amount will not be enough for them to find an accessible home. "What accessible apartment will you find for that amount?" their daughter, Sarah, said, "How are they invading? The Ministry of Housing was the one that approved the ramp they use to access their home."
The decision to evacuate and rebuild Kfar Shalem was actually made as far back as the 1960s, but various attempts to advance the evictions have come to naught. The number of evictions that have actually occurred since then is minimal.
In 2014, the Halamish company, which is responsible for the eviction of the Kfar Shalem families and payment of compensation, put the eviction issue back on the agenda. Since then, the effort has been led by the Israel Land Authority. The eviction plan was only finally approved last August, signed off by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin.