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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sara 5781

P'ninat Mishpat: Compensating for a Governmentally Destroyed House part II

(based on ruling 75040 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) built a private house in a yishuv (=def), with def’s financial assistance. Due to political considerations, authorities indicated they planned to destroy this and some other houses. Pl argues that def must compensate them (3,000 NIS per square meter plus a new plot to build on) for the following reasons: Def committed to paying all of the families whose houses would be destroyed; def forced pl to not publicly protest the demolition, which prevented pl from obtaining broad support. Def counters that they never promised but only hoped that they would be able to compensate; it has proven beyond def’s means. Also, since pl openly threatened fighting the enforcement of the court order, which settlement experts said would jeopardize support for def, and def had to take pl to beit din and thereafter still complicated matters with some level of protest, they do not deserve compensation. Even if their peers, who followed the rules, get some compensation (mainly from a donor), pl should not. 

 

Ruling: [Last time we saw that def was not obligated based on their stated desire to help residents whose homes were destroyed or for making pl suspend protest of the move.]

 The decisions of a community such as def are required to be based on the principle of equality. If def will go through with compensating most of the owners of destroyed homes, they cannot exclude pl from that without just cause (see Shut Maharashdam, Yoreh Deah 117; Tuvei Ha’ir 17:4). It is not fair to pl to make his ability to receive compensation dependent on the opinion of a specific donor. Although some people in the yishuv are now annoyed with pl, since def has been unable to demonstrate that pl caused damage with his actions, they cannot exclude him. So, if def wants to back out of their hope to compensate, they may, but it must be on equal terms.

If the donor will donate directly and not through def, pl has no claims in this regard on def. However, def should make efforts to convince the donor that pl is also deserving.

The fact that pl originally did not comply with def’s requests and had to be taken to beit din in order to work out what actions he may take should not be held against him. First of all, def was at fault for not telling pl in a timely manner of the authorities’ final plan to destroy the home. At beit din, the two sides came to a joint agreement as to how pl would act. While def might have preferred full compliance, since there is no clear indication that pl did not follow what was decided, there is no room for denying him any rights that the others are receiving.

In summary, while def is not required to compensate any of the families, pl may not be excluded from what others receive.

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