Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Court Issues Cease Order Against Housing Ministry
by Betzalel Kahn

An appeal has been filed at the Court for Administrative Affairs of Jerusalem demanding that the Ministry of Housing and Construction cancel the decision of the Tender Committee against the Israel Land Administration which retroactively canceled a tender for the acquisition of lands for "do-it- yourself" building (Bnei Beisecha) in the Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel Shachar neighborhood.

As reported by Yated Ne'eman, the Shachar neighborhood, to be built under the Bnei Beisecha program, was planned to include more than 2000 dwelling units and was originally targeted for the general public. Scores of chareidi families participated in the tender because of the attractive conditions offered, and the proximity of the neighborhood to existing chareidi communities. Many chareidim won in the tender, surprising the local council and other parties.

As a result, top ranking officials in the Building and Construction Ministry asked the Attorney General for an opinion allowing them to invalidate the tender. The Attorney General determined it was indeed possible to make an exception in this case and to cancel the tender.

The decision of the Attorney General was in light of the claim of the director of the Housing Ministry, that since not all of the apartments in the neighborhoods already allocated as religious and chareidi in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef have been sold, if another such neighborhood is built in the Shachar area, many of the apartments in the older neighborhoods will not be sold, causing a financial loss to their contractors. In addition, an influx of chareidim into the Shachar neighborhood would cause secular families who had purchased homes there to move away, and they would be unable to sell their apartments to the general public.

The Attorney General's decision aroused considerable anger among the many winners in the tender. Sixteen of the winners decided to appeal to the court in Jerusalem through Attorney Rabbi Mordechai Green, an expert in land and contract law. In his appeal, Rabbi Green argued that the ex post facto cancellation of the tender was illegal: perpetrated out of external considerations and a general undermining of all of the rules of justice, sound procedure and principles of equality. The appeal stated that the only purpose of the cancellation was, "to discriminate against Torah observant Jews as opposed to other citizens, when the Housing Ministry, for its own reasons, decided not to enable chareidim to build do-it-yourself homes, while discriminating against them and setting them apart from other residents of the State in an offensive and inappropriate manner.

"The true basis of the decision of the Tender Committee is to prevent mitzvah- observant Jews from winning in the tender. This basis is inappropriate, offensive, and constitutes an undermining of the principle of equality. Its purpose, which is to create a chareidi-free area is, regretfully, reminiscent of decisions by regimes in other countries during dark eras," the appeal further states. The petitioners also claim that, "the reasons given by the various elements for cancellation of the tender are partially false (such as the one stating that `contracts still hadn't been signed'). Some of them were made on the basis of claims which were not verified."

The petitioners also claim that, "the decision of the Tender Committee deciding to cancel the tender is null and void, and lacks any validity, since the factual data presented to the committee by the Director of the Housing Ministry was inadequate, incorrect and unverified. In addition, the Committee made the decision before a panel without a quorum and different from the composition of the original committee."

The petitioners are demanding that the agreements that have already been signed between the Israel Land Administration and purchasers of the land be honored. The claim that some of the winners in the tender already paid hundreds of thousands of shekels to the Administration proves that the intention of the Housing Ministry was to continue with procedures, and that the decision of the Tender Committee, accepted with the backing of the Attorney General at the request of the Director General of the Housing Committee, was made only after it had been made clear that the majority of the winners in the tender were Torah observant.

The petitioners also demand the issue of a conditional order against the Attorney General, with the demand that he show the petitioners his original statement of opinion on the issue of cancellation of the tender. They also demand that the court determine whether the Attorney General erred when he advised the Housing Ministry that they may invalidate the tender, and that his advice was given on the basis of erroneous information.

The Court for Administrative Issues has decided to issue an order preventing the Housing Ministry and the Israel Land Administration from offering the land in the Shachar neighborhood in any new tender until a decision with respect to the petitions is made.

The following is the reaction of the spokesman of the Housing Ministry: "Since the issue is under judicial review, we will convey our reaction to the court."


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