JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
A clash was averted today between police and several score poverty families encamped on State-owned land outside Jerusalem. The squatters dismantled their tent city voluntarily after Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem convinced their leaders that he would do his utmost to alleviate their housing problems.
Kollek, who just returned from a fund raising visit to the U.S., took charge of the crisis which had developed in his absence as 1000 Jerusalem policemen and border police, armed with truncheons and shields, surrounded the site awaiting orders to remove the tent dwellers by force. Earlier, the Supreme Court withdrew an injunction it had issued yesterday forbidding the government to order a forcible evacuation.
The families, Oriental Jews from Jerusalem slum neighborhoods, erected the tent city on unused land last week to protest the government’s failure to alleviate the housing shortage. Efforts by Premier Menachem Begin, Housing Minister David Levy and others to negotiate a compromise failed. Housing Ministry officials were adamant in their refusal to give the squatters preferential treatment. They argued that to do so would discriminate against other people who are urgently in need of housing but do not take the law into their own hands.
Kollek promised to intervene with the Ministry to help the group set up a cooperative housing community on State or municipality owned land elsewhere in the Jerusalem region. He said he would personally consult with the city engineer on a suitable site.
The Mayor insisted that the government was responsible for the situation because it had raised people’s hopes by its election campaign promises and then failed to deliver. It was largely the votes of impoverished Oriental Jews which propelled Begin’s Likud coalition into office in the 1977 elections.