The Jerusalem family at risk of losing their home – and how we can help

The Sumarin Family

Anna Roiser writes in Times of Israel, May 24 2020:

Last Friday, we celebrated Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the day in 1967 when the Jewish people regained access to our holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. This Friday, we celebrate Shavuot, and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.

Hillel famously identified the Torah’s essence as “what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour”. Yet in the holy city of Jerusalem, our behaviour to our East Jerusalem neighbours has failed to live up to this ideal.

This year, due to coronavirus, we are spending both Jerusalem day and Shavuot in our homes. During lockdown our homes have represented safety, security and comfort, more than ever before.  But the Sumarin family, who live in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, has spent the last few weeks knowing that their home may shortly be taken from them.

The organisation working to evict the Sumarin family is the Jewish National Fund, or JNF. Many of us are familiar with the JNF from their charity boxes, or through their certificates for trees planted in Israel. Ownership of the Sumarin family home was transferred to the JNF under the Absentee Property Law.

The Absentee Property Law was passed in 1950, to take over the land that had belonged to Palestinian refugees. After Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, the Absentee Property Law applied there. The terms of the Absentee Property Law are very broad, meaning a lot of East Jerusalem property became “absentee” property. In particular, property owned by people living in the West Bank, or in countries such Jordan and Syria, became absentee property, even if their families were living there. Once a property is declared to be absentee property,  ownership of it is transferred to the state. No compensation is payable in these circumstances.

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