An unjust eviction in East Jerusalem

By Hannah Fishman

The Sumarins are a Palestinian family living in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They have spent the past thirty years fighting to remain in their home– a fight that recently intensified. Two weeks ago the Sumarin family was given a final notice to vacate their home–a home housing a family of twelve, including five children, a pregnant woman and a grandfather on dialysis. The Israeli government is tied to this eviction in ways that are troubling. They have used something called the Absentee Property Law to claim ownership of the Sumarin’s home. Unfortunately, the case of the Sumarins is not unique—this same law is used to seize Palestinian homes throughout East Jerusalem, as documented by Israeli and international organizations. The stipulations of the law are not applied to Jews. But an even more surprising culprit here is an organization that has a special place in the minds and hearts of many Jewish-Americans. Involved in the eviction of the Sumarin family is a well known organization called the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Known for planting millions of trees throughout Israel, it is also the primary land trust for the country. For generations, the JNF has been an important organization through which Jews around the world have supported the growth of Israel as a Jewish homeland. This is a legacy that we celebrate. We know that without the JNF, Israel would not be what it is today. The JNF has a policy of not operating over the green line—and East Jerusalem is over the green line. Technically the Sumarian home is being handed over to an organization called Himnuta, which will then turn it over to the ELAD Foundation, which operates the City of David tourist site. One hundred percent of Himnuta’s shares are owned by Jewish National Fund and the JNF’s CFO is also Himnuta’s executive. In short, JNF appears to have created Himnuta to do business across the Green Line, while the JNF retains its good standing in our hearts and minds. Just a few days ago, the JNF/Himnuta announced that they will postpone the eviction (originally planned for Monday, November 28) to a later date. The announcement came after the organization Rabbis for Human Rights launched a campaign to keep the Sumarins in their home. Due to widespread international support, political pressure prompted the JNF to announce a postponement—a move that acknowledged the fact that they were in fact responsible for the Sumarin home. We want to encourage the JNF to revert back to its original policy of not operating over the Green Line. An important step should be to turn the lease over to the family that lives in this home. J Street U Macalester, along with J Street U chapters across the nation, hopes that this eviction will not just be delayed, but canceled all together. As a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, we want to ensure that we engage with our history and our connection to Israel in ways consonant with our values. Moreover, these policies undermine the possibility of a two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel. We believe that it is important that the JNF builds upon its legacy by supporting Israel’s future rather than jeopardizing it by supporting settlement beyond the Green Line. We ask for your support in advocating for a total cancellation of the Sumarin’s eviction. We hope to increase international pressure in order to make the eviction a politically unfeasible move. To show your support of the Sumarin family, please visit the Rabbis for Human Rights website at to find instructions on how to contact JNF representatives. If you would like to find out ways to be involved in these issues on campus, please email [email protected] or attend our meetings on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. in the campus center.