Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Shevat 5766 - February 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











High Court Forces Housing Ministry to Sell Lots in Ramat Beit Shemesh to Chareidim

by Betzalel Kahn

Following a legal battle stretching nearly five years, the High Court determined that the decision by the Housing Ministry's Tenders Committee to annul the tender for build it yourself plots of land in the Shachar neighborhood located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel merely because the winners were chareidi, was illegal. The High Court ordered the State to set a timetable to allow the winners to realize their signed purchase agreements by the end of 2006, and thereby rejected the State's appeal of the previous decision by the district court. The case was discussed in detail about a year ago in the issue of parshas Mikeitz 5765 of Yated.

The development is viewed as a significant legal achievement, since the City of Beit Shemesh had begun to advance a proposal to alter the building plans for the nearby residential neighborhood in a manner that would make them unsuitable for the chareidi sector.

The chareidi tender winners, who will now be able to realize their purchase options and move into their new homes within three years, plan to sue the State for monetary damages they suffered as a result of the illegal annulment of the tender.

Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, slated to include over 2,000 housing units, was originally intended for the general population. One hundred and fifty-eight offers, including dozens by chareidi families, were submitted when a tender was issued for 103 build-it-yourself land units located at the edge of the neighborhood. The majority of these chareidi families won lots, taking housing officials and interested parties — who had intended to market the neighborhood to secular buyers in order to create a buffer zone between the chareidi neighborhoods and neighborhoods slated for future construction — completely by surprise. They cancelled the contracts.

A decision by the Attorney General at the time to support this cancellation, infuriated the chareidi tender winners, who then decided to petition the Jerusalem District Court for Administrative Matters, claiming that the retroactive annulment of the tender and the signed contracts was clearly illegal, unjust, based on ulterior motives and in contradiction to the principle of equality.

At first the Court rejected the petition, saying that the annulment was actually legal, and arguing that the remaining lots would not be saleable in the foreseeable future since "a neighborhood whose residents are few and whose development continues over an extended period of time deters the public from leasing the housing units."

The petitioners then took the case to the High Court. A bench headed by Court President Justice Aharon Barak determined that the annulment of the contracts was indeed illegal and returned the case to the District Court for further deliberation.

Following months of hearings, Judge Yehudit Tzur handed down a ruling one year ago, concurring that the tender was annulled illegally and that the State must set a timetable to execute the original contracts.

Her ruling included a decision in principle upholding the right of a chareidi individual to purchase an apartment in a neighborhood designated for the general population even though, on the other hand, a chareidi community does retain the right "to preserve its culture and protect it from outsiders who do not want to integrate themselves."

Following this decision the State filed a High Court appeal claiming that although the State cannot shun its obligation to fulfill valid contractual agreements, carrying out the tender would cause the national treasury enormous monetary damage.

In recent High Court hearings presided over by Justices Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran the justices recommended that the State's council withdraw its appeal. When the State refused, the justices instructed the sides to reach a compromise solution, which carries the power of a court ruling. The compromise declared the Housing Ministry's appeal null and void, but one modification was added: the State has until the end of 2006 to carry out the purchase agreements.

Jurists say that based on certain hints during the course of the court proceedings, the tender winners think they can successfully sue the State for damages (mortgage payments, rent payments, etc.) accrued since the tender submission date over five years ago.

Now, following the High Court's decision in the precedent- setting case, the way has been paved for the construction of a chareidi neighborhood consisting of thousands of units in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, and numerous other chareidi families are also expected to purchase homes in the adjacent area slated for future construction.


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