For the second time in the past few weeks, Zivit Avivi has been forced to terminate a tenancy agreement for her apartment in the northern town of Shlomi after the local council rejected her potential lodgers.
About two months ago, the tenants were a family of Sudanese refugees staying in Israel
legally. This time it was a young couple, former members of the Southern Lebanon Army, who had already signed a contract and paid rent.
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Avivi's husband took the signed contract to the local council offices in order to connect the apartment to the water supply, but the payment office workers immediately telephoned the council head, who instructed them not to connect the flat. The new tenants were forced to cancel the agreement and leave the community.
The rumor on the new lodgers also reached the neighbors at the apartment building, who sent a letter to Mayor Gabi Naaman, demanding that he prevent SLA member from settling in the community.
Several weeks ago, when the flat was rented to the Sudanese family, Naaman also prevented the connection of the apartment to the water supply, saying that he preferred bringing a strong and well-based population to Shlomi.
It should be noted that the parents in both families, the Sudanese and the Lebanese, have decent jobs and their children are part of the educational system.
The Sudanese family (Photo: Doron Golan)
"I tried to explain that this is a lovely, pleasant and quiet couple," said Zivit Avivi. "Beyond the financial matter, there is the human element that people must not be disqualified based on their religion, race or nationality."
Shlomi's Opposition Chairman Yigal Ziskind said in response, "This is a first-class scandal. The law does not grant an authority or council head the mandate to choose who will live in the community and who won't. There is no admission board in Shlomi, and Naaman is not authorized to act as one."
No members of 'underprivileged classes'
Mayor Naaman does not hide his stance against non-Jewish residents in Shlomi.
"Zivit asked to rent her apartment to an SLA family," he said. "As far as I know, the building's tenant strongly objected and she terminated the contract. I definitely support the tenants and appreciate their desire to maintain Shlomi's status as a Jewish community and not to turn it into a binational community."
As for his refusal to connect the apartment to the water supply, Naaman stressed, "I gave an order in the past, and I stand behind it these days as well, not to change names in contracts when the residents are not Jewish or are members of what we call 'the underprivileged classes'.
"The goal is to prevent a situation in which the tenants get into lots of debts which they will not be able to pay in the future. The vast majority of Shlomi's residents support my stand. I don't want Shlomi to turn into another Akko or Ma'alot."
Rosa Gonzales, who lives in the building in question, said that the fact that the couple was non-Jewish had nothing to do with the neighbors' objection. "We are angry at the apartment owner for not consulting us before signing a tenancy agreement."