Good news is especially precious in a period of dense darkness and stark human evil like the one we are experiencing now in Israel. The Sumarin family in Silwan, in East Jerusalem, has won the right to live in their own home.
That sentence might sound tautological, but it is far from that. As you may have read in an earlier post on this blog, for thirty-years the Sumarins lived with the nightmare of imminent eviction, driven by the ruthless settlers’ organization El’ad and the Jewish National Fund, who used all the means at their disposal to take possession of the house. Several times the lower Israeli courts found in favor of the settlers, on the transparently specious grounds that the original owners of the property were living abroad– thus turning them into absentee landowners whose property can be appropriated by the State; this despite the fact that the family was living in the home uninterruptedly since it was built long ago. The Israeli law on absentee property is one of the most unjust, indeed criminal and discriminatory laws ever enacted in this country.
The case of the Sumarins was finally decided this week by the High Court of Justice, the last judicial resort in Israel. The family has won its truly remarkable struggle. We share their joy and congratulate them — above all, the courageous matriarch Amal — on their perseverance and faith that justice would eventually be done. Great thanks go to all the human-rights activists and organizations, among them the many international groups in the Sumarin Coalition, including Rebuilding Alliance, in the United States, and, in Israel, Rav Arik Ascherman of Torat Tzedek. Rav Arik stood by the Sumarin family through all these years, never losing hope even in moments when the future looked very grim. This is a victory for decency and humanity, a gift to one large family among the many who have lost or are facing the loss of their homes and lands in Jerusalem and throughout the occupied West Bank.
Here, too, is a fresh example of how the High Court of Justice can, at times, play a decisive and positive role, despite its mostly dismal record on Palestinian issues. As you all know, the mass protests in Israel over the last 13 weeks are largely focused on saving the independence of the High Court, and also of the lower courts, from Netanyahu’s attempt to politicize the system, and thereby destroy it and replace it with a dictatorship. It is possible that the current large-scale non-violent movement of civil disobedience, in Gandhian style, helped the judges to rule in favor of the Sumarins.
This is also a festive gift to all of us on the eve of Passover, the feast of freedom.
Peg and David