The View From Heftziba-hit Modi'in Ilit Is One of Stoicism

"What good does all this anger directed at Boaz Yona do? What good will it do to protest?" That was the question Meir Goldblatt, of the Matatiyahu Mizrach neighborhood in Modi'in Ilit, asked when he heard Heftziba CEO Boaz Yona had been extradited to Israel. Goldblatt, 28, a father of two, was among the first people to break into the apartments in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood the night Heftziba's collapse was reported; he says Yona's extradition is in no way the talk of the neighborhood.

Neighbor Shmuel Kamil is a well-spoken representative of Matatiyahu Mizrach's home buyers, who conducted negotiations with Solel Boneh, the company that was Heftziba's partner in the Matatiyahu Mizrach project, and the Bank of Jerusalem, which provided mortgages to allow them to take legal possession of their homes.

"People are not angry at Yona at all," Kamil agrees with Goldblatt. Yona did not directly steal their money and committed no "serious offenses."

"It's not that I'm defending him. His behavior did lead to the fall of the company. But we have nothing personal against him.

"There are dozens of people besides him who cheated innocent buyers," Kamil says, reeling off a list including real estate agents, bank clerks, company representatives who sold apartments without guarantees. "Aren't they to blame?" he says.

The fate of the ultra-Orthodox home buyers in Matatiyahu Mizrach was much worse than other home buyers hit by Heftziba: Construction there was frozen for five years after Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice that Modi'in Ilit had not received building permits and that its land was owned by Palestinians.

The High Court eventually ruled that only a small part of the construction was illegal, but until they broke into the homes, young couples with no means, whose parents had paid for their apartments, had to pay their rent. When Heftziba fell, it was another blow.

Kamil said people had to pay about NIS 100,000 above and beyond the price of the apartment, and they were not reimbursed for the rent they paid.

Goldblatt's apartment building, at the edge of the neighborhood, still looks like a construction site. The neighbors have hooked up illegally to electricity and the stairwell is perpetually dark.

Goldblatt say the neighbors pray every day that no tragedy befall them because of the illegal hook-up.

If he is angry at anyone, Goldblatt says, it is at Peace Now, not Yona. "Unfortunately, embezzlement didn't start with Heftziba. There is no prime minister or minister that has not been suspect. That's the way of the world," Goldblatt concludes.