JERUSALEM (Jun. 8)
Thirty Hebrew University students, most of them majoring in social work, seized an empty apartment in the fashionable Talpiot quarter that the Housing Ministry had reserved for new immigrants and turned it over yesterday to a family of 11 which has been living in a one-and-a-half room flat. The Ministry took no immediate steps to evict the family of Mordechai Reuven. But it refuses to deal with their problem until they vacate. Reuven said he would move if he had a formal promise from the authorities to help him enlarge his present home in the Katamon quarter. Reuven, a municipal employe, earns $245 a month. Three of his children are presently in a hospital with illnesses he says they contracted as a result of their cramped living quarters. His eight-year-old daughter, Shula, is suffering from rheumatic fever and a heart condition. The incident reflects a problem of serious proportions in which large families at or near the poverty level have inadequate housing while the government allocates superior housing to immigrants with smaller families arriving mainly from the Soviet Union and Western countries. The situation has given rise to deep resentments which exploded ten days ago in the rioting of Jerusalem slum youths who style themselves Black Panthers. To alleviate the situation, the Housing Ministry announced last week that 13,000 hew flats planned for immigrants during the next five years would be assigned to large families instead. The Ministry also promised substantial low interest loans to enable poor families to enlarge their quarters.
The students acted following an appearance by the Reuven family last month at the Wise Auditorium of the Hebrew University to describe their problem. The oldest of the Reuven children is 15. Reuven said he was reluctant to go along with the seizure of the Talpiot apartment but decided that he had no choice after government and municipal officials said they could not help him. He said he got that response to letters he sent to Deputy Premier Yigal Allon, Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem and the Housing Ministry. The Talpiot apartment is newly built. Yesterday afternoon the students broke the lock and moved in several beds, candles, a carpet and supper for the Reuven children. In an unrelated case arising from the acute housing problem in Jerusalem, a crowd of about 80 including Black Panthers, demonstrated yesterday in the Yemin Moshe quarter. The demonstration was organized by Eddie Malka, a Panther leader, who claimed that two years ago officials convinced him to leave his flat because the building was about to be demolished to make way for a public park. Malka received $15,750 in compensation, a sum with which he could have bought a superior flat. But he claims he was cheated because the building was not destroyed but was “given” to a “wealthy American family.” He claims he was treated “rudely” and “dishonestly” by the authorities because he is not Ashkenazi–a Western Jew. An official of the East Jerusalem Development Authority which took over the building denied Malka’s charges. He said four Ashkenazi families were evacuated from the building on equal terms.