Court: Project Cannot Sell Homes to Religious Jews Only

Marks second decision against religious developer, which was fined earlier for anti-Mizrahi ad

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The developer of a new housing development cannot limit sales to religious Jews alone, the Jerusalem District Court ruled Wednesday.

The court partially accepted a petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and ruled against the developer B’emunah, which is building the Kehilat Karmei Gat project in Kiryat Gat. The project had been marketed exclusively to national-religious Jews.

B’emunah must sell to all buyers, in keeping with the conditions of the Israel Land Authority tender that it won, ruled the court.

“I am issuing a declarative ruling stating that the company must continue selling homes in the project to all who want them, as it committed to do in keeping with the tender terms,” wrote judge Nava Ben Or. She slapped the developer with 10,000 shekels ($2,700) in court costs.

However, she did not call on the ILA tenders board to hit B’emunah with an additional fine, as the ACRI had called for.

The company was already fined after airing an ad that insultingly stereotyped Mizrahi Jews for the project in November 2015.

The ad, which raised a storm at the time, depicted a “normative” national-religious family. Other actors portrayed Mizrahi Jews in a pejorative way. The ILA tenders board fined the company 323,000 shekels for the ad, but declined to revoke the company’s rights to the plot so as not to hurt the 93 home buyers who had already signed on.

The ILA published its tender at the end of 2014 to build 1,471 apartments in the Karmei Gat neighborhood. After the tender was published, B’emunah began publishing plans for a purchasing group for the national-religious community under the slogans, “The national-religious complex of Karmei Gat” and “The srugim have a new home,” referring to the knitted kippas typically worn by the men.

A purchasing group is a group of home buyers who bid jointly on a plot of land to build apartments there together, instead of buying apartments from a developer. The process, generally organized by companies, can be cheaper than buying from a developer, but has its own risks.

The ACRI filed its petition before the tender process ended, noting that the tender required that the homes be available to all. The tender ended in July 2015, but the announcement of the winner was delayed by the ACRI’s claims against B’emunah. The winners were announced that November, and included a purchasing group organized by B’emunah. The group won the rights to land on which to build 285 apartments.

The latest ACRI petition was filed after the anti-Mizrahi ad aired. It called on the ILA tenders board to fine B’emunah for discrimination and the court to rule that the company’s marketing policy was a violation of the tender terms. The state argued in response that while the tender mandated that developers must sell to all, it does not restrict advertising that targets specific groups, and that there were a few secular Jewish buyers in the project.

B’emunah argued in its defense that home sales should be considered a fait accompli, as 244 of the 340 homes were already sold – mostly to national-religious buyers. It added that it had not violated the tender terms, and stated that national-religious Jews should be allowed to live according to the their communal lifestyles.

The judge accepted the state’s arguments that the tender had not placed limits on advertising, but accepted the ACRI’s call for a statement against discriminatory home sales.

The ACRI praised the judge’s ruling.

B’emunah also declared the ruling a victory,