By Dana Weiler-Polack Nov.09, 2009
Obtaining public housing in Israel is no easy task. Now it appears that obtaining public housing when one spouse is a resident of the territories is impossible, thanks to the policy whereby mixed families are completely ineligible for public housing, regardless of their financial situation.
R., a 29-year-old resident of Lod and mother of four, got married seven years ago to A., a Tul Karm resident, whose entry into Israel was prevented due to the Citizenship Law. Every two months, A. receives a four-day entry permit into Israel to visit his family. R. lives in the four-room apartment of her ailing mother, where her two older brothers also live. She is responsible for supporting the household, and gets by on a guaranteed income allowance of NIS 2,574 and a child allowance of NIS 850.
Given her financial situation, R. approached the Housing and Construction Ministry in June 2008. After many months and numerous phone calls that went unanswered, R. contacted the ministry again in February 2009. At that time the ministry said she did meet the criteria, but added that her request was rejected because she "is married to a spouse who is not an Israeli citizen and does not reside in Israel."
At the same time, R. was granted a rent subsidy of NIS 1,044 per month, insufficient to cover the cost of renting and maintaining an apartment. In March 2009, R. appealed the ministry's decision, which was again rejected for the same reason.
In August, R. appealed to the court for administrative affairs in Tel Aviv through the auspices of the Sanegor Kehilati (a volunteer organization which promotes the rights of the Bedouin population) and Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, whereby she filed a motion requesting a temporary injunction directing the ministry to explain its policy which bars R. from obtaining public housing.
According to the organizations, which receive dozens of requests on this matter, the ministry ignores the right of female Israeli citizens to receive public housing when they are married to a spouse who is not Israeli – a practice contrary to the ministry's procedures and court rulings.
"The policy of government ministries toward women married to residents of the territories is a discriminatory policy that prevents women and children from exercising rights they are entitled to by law," says Sigalit Givon-Fadida, director of Sanegor Kehilati in Lod.
The Housing and Construction Ministry issued the following statement: "According to the ministry's guidelines, when one spouse is not a resident of Israel, the ministry does not approve an apartment in public housing, as this is a permanent solution. This issue is pending in court. An administrative petition was recently filed against the ministry, which will present its response in the framework of its response to the petition. As an exception, a ministry committee approved the eligibility of R. for a rent subsidy of NIS 1,170. R. is not using this subsidy for reasons she is keeping to herself. The Housing and Construction Ministry handles these groups sensitively and within the framework of the rules, and therefore approves rent subsidies through the efforts of the exceptions committees."