Preventing Evictions in East Jerusalem

4 May 2023

After more than thirty years, the Sumarin family prevailed in its legal battle against Keren Kayemet LeYisrael—Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and Elad’s efforts to have them evicted from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. The three-judge panel of Israel’s Supreme Court overruled the Jerusalem District Court which had ruled that the 18 members of the Sumarin family must leave their home so that it could be occupied by Jewish settlers. The judges also ordered the Heimanuta organization, which works to expel Palestinians from their homes, to pay NIS 20,000 ($5,500) in legal costs. 

NIF grantees and partners Ir Amim, Torat Tzedek, Peace Now, T’ruah, and especially Free Jerusalem provided support to the Sumarin family in their legal battle and public campaign. In addition to the legal assistance, the support included demonstrations, educational tours, and lobbying diplomats.

Elad, a state-supported settler organization masquerading as an archaeological organization, claimed that the Sumarins should be evicted because the property was in the City of David Archeological National Park, and the right-wing organization tried to prove that the family were absentee landlords even though they currently live there.

Justice Daphne Barak-Erev wrote in her ruling, “The property was once declared as absentee without any basis in law, since the owner was without a doubt a resident of Jerusalem at the time of the initial declaration.”

The Sumarins’ lawyer Waseem Dakwar described the ruling as “precedent-setting and just.” He added that “the decision includes criticism of how the authorities behaved on this matter and in their declaration of the Sumarin home as absentee property, despite the fact that Musa Sumarin is a resident of Jerusalem. This demonstrates the importance of the Supreme Court as the last bastion for every resident and citizen of the country.”

The legal battle began in the late 1980s, when the Sumarins won their case against their eviction in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court in 1991. However, KKL-JNF appealed and continued its efforts to evict the Palestinian family and eventually won a case in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court in 2017, which was subsequently upheld by the Jerusalem District Court.