A family in Mitzpe Kramim. (screenshot) screenshot
Mitzpe Kramim

A Jewish town in Samaria earned a major legal victory on Wednesday when Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against pro-Palestinian litigants trying to demolish the village.

By Ebin Sandler, United with Israel

With pristine views of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, Mitzpe Kramim sits perched on cliffs above the Bika, the Hebrew term for the stretch of land separating Israel from its neighbor to the east, Jordan.

Around 40 Jewish families live in Mitzpe Kramim, their modern stone homes built on streets surrounding the synagogue and playground in the center of town.

Located about 45 minutes from Jerusalem, this vibrant, Torah-focused community counts among its residents professionals, farmers, and teachers, many of whom grew up in the Binaymin Region of Samaria. The town shares a supermarket and other amenities with a larger community called Kochav Hashachar, which houses 400 families.

The towns attract tourists from around the world, who hike the trails of Har HaKuba and take tours of a local organic soap company called Adva, established to provide employment opportunities for people with special needs.

Despite Mitzpe Kramim being established over two decades ago, with the permission of the Israeli government, the Supreme Court has entertained litigation for years attempting to expel the town’s inhabitants.

In 1999, residents legally acquired the land from the relevant authorities, which held themselves out as possessing the right to transfer the area that became Mitzpe Kramim. Ten years later, a left-wing legal organization assisted a group of Palestinians who claimed they owned the land, filing a case before the High Court of Justice to try to expel the families from their homes.

Mitzpe Kramim responded with a suit in the Jerusalem District Court arguing that their community is protected by a government regulation designed to shield those who acquire land in good faith, even if the seller was in error with regard to its right to transfer the property.

That theory had received support from then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who said it applied to communities in Judea and Samaria, a region that had been excluded from the rule’s application.

In August 2018, Judge Arnon Darel of the Jerusalem District Court ruled in a separate but related case in favor of Mitzpe Kramim residents.

Notwithstanding that decision, the cases continued to be appealed.

A Victory for ‘The Rule of Law’

In 2020, a three-judge High Court panel held 2-to-1 that the standard for “good faith” had not been met by Mitzpe Kramim, which would thus be destroyed.

Residents appealed and a larger seven-judge High Court panel ruled on Wednesday that the market regulation rule can be applied, which would mean that Mitzpe Kramim meets the good faith standard, ultimately prohibiting its demolition.

The Yesha Council hailed the decision for ending “years of judicial torture, years of left-wing organizations wasting the state’s resources,” reported Israeli media.

The precedent-setting ruling could help other Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria under legal attack in the Israeli judicial system. Indeed, forced evacuations of communities in Judea and Samaria remain an issue for Jewish Israelis, some of whom find themselves being forced out of the homes they spent years living in.

“We innocently and honestly invested the bulk of our savings in a home in the heartland of Israel, and we were mortified to find out that the authorities had abandoned us and put our families and lives into a state of flux and limbo,” said Shlomo Zwickler, a practicing Israeli attorney and resident of Kochav Hashachar whose home was initially affected by the High Court case against Mitzpe Kramim.

When the 2018 decision was handed down, Zwickler said “it reinvigorate[d] the rule of law for innocent well-meaning people who operate in good faith and simply want to live their lives in their ancestral homeland.”

He also reflected on the hard work, development, and financial resources Mitzpe Kramim residents invested in their community and the profound sense of disappointment and betrayal that followed when the government attempted to rezone the land on which their homes had been built, transforming their houses into illegal structures.

With thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria facing a predicament similar to that of Mitzpe Kramim, the High Court ruling this week could have a major impact on the future of a number of communities in Judea and Samaria.

Following the news of the ruling, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted a video call with several residents of the town, which celebrated the legal victory on Wednesday night.



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