Police evicted the final 32 families from Tel Aviv’s Givat Amal Bet neighborhood on Monday, after 60 years of legal battles and even though no agreement was reached with residents regarding alternative housing and compensation.
Most of the families agreed to leave in advance. Another two families left on their own once the police arrived, and three families were forcefully evicted. In the afternoon, two elderly women who had refused to leave home were evicted.
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Some of the residents of the working-class neighborhood had barricaded themselves in their homes.
One of the elderly women, Levana Ratzabi, told Haaretz by phone, “I don’t intend to leave. Anyone who said otherwise is lying. I’m sitting with a female officer next to me, they’re trying to convince me to leave, but on their terms. They’re very nice, but I’m not leaving.”
She was ultimately evicted by force, with the media and her family blocked from watching. Police claimed that Ratzabi had not wanted to be photographed, even though Ratzabi herself repeatedly said she did indeed want to be photographed.
The eviction order for the 32 families took effect Sunday.
Over the past few weeks, 17 members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition, including six ministers, signed letters urging authorities to delay the evictions in order to pave the way for an agreement granting further compensation for residents. However, they were stymied by bureaucracy and fear of setting a precedent.
“Instead of walking out with their heads held high, we’re seeing humiliating evictions without the appropriate compensation,” said MK Gaby Lasky. She vowed that the families would ultimately be compensated.
An extensive police contingent was stationed along the main road bordering the neighborhood, which serves as a major access point into Tel Aviv from the Ayalon Highway and Ramat Gan, as well as throughout the neighboring Bavli neighborhood to the north.
Yarkon District police commander David Filo explained that the massive deployment was there to prevent injury.
Activists were on site to support the residents when the evictions began. Many had spent the previous night there, hanging posters and spray-painting homes with slogans including “we won’t give up in the war for our home” and “Mapai [Israel’s first ruling party] started, Likud continued, what will the government of change do?”
Police officers initially told journalists covering the eviction to stand in a fenced area, and later told them to leave, forcefully pushing them.
The families originally moved to Givat Amal from Jaffa and Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhoods due to fighting in south Tel Aviv during the War of Independence. The land had previously been part of an Arab village. They were hailed as “pioneers” along what was then Tel Aviv’s northern border, and David Ben-Gurion himself promised they could remain at the site.
In the 1950s the village’s land was transferred to the Israel Land Authority via the Absentee Property Law, and the residents requested to buy the land. Yet unlike residents on the other half of the former village’s land to the south, in Tel Aviv’s Tzameret neighborhood, the families in Givat Amal never received a response.
The ILA ultimately sold the land in 1961, without the residents’ knowledge, launching a 60-year legal battle. The land was bought and sold several times over the ensuing decades. The conflict escalated in 2005, after a massive development project was approved for the area. It was eventually tripled in size to include seven luxury apartment towers.
At the beginning of 2020, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that the residents living on the neighborhood’s 11 remaining plots must vacate their homes. In exchange, they were to receive 42 million shekels ($13.5 million) in compensation from the developer, Elad Israel Residence, which is owned by billionaire businessman Yitzhak Tshuva — far less per family than the cost of even a modest apartment in the area.
Last April, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality sold its rights to 120 apartments in two planned towers in Givat Amal to the real estate companies Hagag Group, Y.H. Dimri and the developer Daniel Tsarfati for a total of 365 million shekels.
Hagag Group and Y.H. Dimri also bought land from the Elad Israel Residence. Despite the change in ownership, Tshuva was responsible for the evictions under a 2014 agreement he signed with the Tel Aviv municipality.
All the families are of Middle Eastern or North African origin. Over the years, they and their supporters have argued that racism plays a role in their mistreatment.
While many residents left the neighborhood over the years, those who remained vowed to barricade themselves in their homes. “The land is being stolen from us – that’s the whole story,” said Roi Yehud, who lived with his wife and children on a plot with other relatives.
“They delayed the [eviction] orders three times. We thought it was because they were working on a solution. In the end, there can always be a solution,” he told Haaretz.