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Jessica Buxbaum for Jerusalem Story

Personal Story

Elderly Palestinians Are Expelled from Old City Home after Decades of Struggle


After four and a half decades of legal battles and harassment, the Ghayth-Sub Laban family has been forced out of its home in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City early in the morning of July 11, 2023.

Looking out her window toward the golden dome of al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinian Nura Ghayth reflected on the home in which she was born when we visited the family the month before their expulsion.

“The house is not a stack of stones,” Ghayth said. “It’s memories. It’s connection.”

Ghayth, 68, and her husband, Mustafa Sub Laban, 72, were expelled from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on July 11. As reported by Haaretz: “At about 6 AM a large police force blocked off the whole area and about 20 police officers broke into the house and extracted the last resident, Mustafa Sub Laban, a man in his 70s, who had remained in the home together with six Israeli left-wing activists. His wife Nora Gheith Sub Laban had lived with him there too but was hospitalized on Monday evening.”1

After 45 years of court battles with the state and settler groups, the Israeli Supreme Court terminated the couple’s protected tenancy status in 2022 and ruled they vacate the property by March 15, 2023. When the family refused to go, the Israeli Enforcement and Collection Authority delivered an eviction order in May, demanding they leave by June 11.2

Palestinian Nura Ghayth describes how Israeli officials and settlers waged a decades-long campaign to force her out of her Old City Jerusalem birth home.

Palestinian Nura Ghayth, flanked by her sons, speaks to diplomats and reporters in her Old City home, just days before she expects to be expelled from it.


Jessica Buxbaum for Jerusalem Story

Harassed by the State and Settlers

This story begins during the period when the Old City and the rest of the West Bank was under Jordanian control, between 1948 and 1967. The family began renting the apartment in 1953 from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property, established to handle alleged Jewish-owned properties seized after the 1948 War. (Jews, Muslims, and Christians had lived together in the city of Jerusalem for centuries, but Jewish nationalism, which claimed Palestine for a Jewish state, disrupted this norm, and nearly 75,000 Palestinians were displaced from Jerusalem and banned from ever returning (see The West Side Story).)

Through this mechanism, the family gained protected tenancy status. When Israel annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem following the 1967 War, their property was transferred to Israel’s General Custodian.

The General Custodian began threatening the family with eviction in 1975, stating they owed significantly larger amounts of rent than their contract entails. With the help of a lawyer, the family circumvented government demands for higher rent and continued paying the original amount stipulated in their rental agreement.

In 2010, the custodian handed responsibility of the property to an endowment for Jews coming from Galicia, a region in southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. The Galicia trust evolved from Atara L’yoshna, a consortium of settler groups established in 1979 with the aim of transforming the Old City’s Muslim Quarter into a Jewish-only settlement.3 Ateret Cohanim, the infamous settler group responsible for displacing Palestinians across Jerusalem, originated from Atara L’yoshna.

Using Israel’s 1970 Legal and Administrative Law, a discriminatory piece of legislation allowing only Jews to “reclaim” properties lost before 1948, the Galicia endowment had secured ownership of the Ghayth-Sub Laban home (see How Israel Applies the Absentees’ Property Law to Confiscate Palestinian Property in Jerusalem). Within a few months, the family was yet again faced with threats of eviction, this time from settlers.

Video The Takeover of Part of the Rifka El-Kurd Family Home in Sheikh Jarrah

What does a forcible home expulsion actually entail? 

Words of resistance in Hebrew, Arabic, and English read “Palestine will be free,” and “This is our home” in the Ghayth-Sub Laban home.

Words of resistance in Hebrew, Arabic, and English read “Palestine will be free,” and “This is our home” in the Ghayth-Sub Laban home.


Jessica Buxbaum for Jerusalem Story

The trust is managed by Hevron 33 Street LLC, a private overseas company. Little is known about the company except that it is owned by Eli Attal. The Ghayth-Sub Laban family claims Attal is responsible for administering the evictions. He’s also behind other expulsion efforts against Palestinians throughout Jerusalem.4 Attal declined to comment for Jerusalem Story, writing that he does not give press interviews.5

Under Attal’s administration—he has been acting on behalf of the endowment—the family has not been allowed to renovate their apartment. Plaster is peeling off the walls. The family was forced to remove an air-conditioning unit they installed because of a court order deeming their apartment as part of an historical building. Yet their Jewish neighbors next door still have their air conditioner in place. Harassment from the courts and various arms of the settlers and the Israeli government have been nearly constant.6

The Final Lawsuit

Aviezer Shapira, Joshua Heller, and Avraham Avishai Zinwirth are the endowment’s trustees and plaintiffs in the eviction cases against the Ghayth-Sub Laban family, with Attal acting as their representative. Over the years, the Galicia trust has repeatedly tried evicting the family. They monitored the family’s electricity usage, stating that the low amount meant they were not full-time residents. Attal even installed a camera in a neighbor’s window to track how often the family enters the home. “It’s not just an attack on the house. It’s an attack on every single aspect of our life,” their son, Rafat Sub Laban, said of the endowment’s tactics.

“It’s not just an attack on the house. It’s an attack on every single aspect of our life.”

Rafat Sub Laban

By 2016, the Israeli High Court accepted the trust’s claims that the family had abandoned their home, therefore violating the terms of their protected tenancy. In a declared compromise, the court ruled Ghayth and Sub Laban could remain in the home for another 10 years as protected tenants—but their children could not.7 The two sons and their families were stripped of their third-generation protected tenant status. Meanwhile, settlers moved in above and next door, encroaching upon the couple’s living space and making them feel unsafe.

Yet again in 2019, the endowment filed another eviction lawsuit against the family, claiming Ghayth’s prolonged absence from the home due to health complications violates the family’s protected tenancy. The lower courts ruled in favor of the settlers, and the Supreme Court denied the family’s appeal, leading to the impending June day when the family expects to be forcibly expelled.

Rafat Sub Laban described his parents’ pending eviction as part of a systematic policy enacted against all Palestinians. Whether through evictions, demolitions, or other means of land confiscation, the goal is the same.

“This is part of a plan to take control of as much Palestinian land and [as many] homes as possible, whether it’s in East Jerusalem or in the West Bank, with as few Palestinians as possible,” Rafat Sub Laban said.

Now that the family has exhausted all legal avenues, the only way the eviction can be stopped is through state intervention. However, Amy Cohen, the executive director of Jerusalem-focused nonprofit Ir Amim, emphasized that constantly using external pressure to stop Palestinians from being displaced is not a sustainable solution.

“Engagement can cause a temporary freeze, but unless there’s a shift in actual policy with regard to the use of this discriminatory law to grant only Jews the ability to reclaim assets in East Jerusalem, then, of course, this is bound to happen again,” Cohen told Jerusalem Story.

Personal Story Living with the Ever-Present Threat of Expulsion

After 30 years of loving care, Samira’s home and garden convey serenity, but she stands to lose it all if Israel expels her from her home.

In the cracked and chipped walls of her apartment, Ghayth feels the soul of her parents and siblings who have passed on. In any other place, she would feel alone but here, hugged by the memories of her heritage, she describes a sense of belonging. “It’s like awaiting a death sentence,” she said of the approaching expulsion deadline at the time, equating losing her childhood home to losing her whole life. “[The settlers] are taking my past, my present, and my future.”

“[The settlers] are taking my past, my present, and my future.”

Nura Ghayth

Timeline of the measures Israel has taken to force the Ghayth-Sub Labans from their family home in Jerusalem's Old City

Timeline of the measures Israel has taken to force the Ghayth-Sub Labans from their family home in Jerusalem's Old City


Jerusalem Story



Michael Dumper, “Israeli Settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 4 (1992). 


For example, Attal was instrumental in forcing out the Abu Assab family. See Nir Hasson, “Clashes Erupt during Eviction of Palestinian Family from East Jerusalem Home,” Haaretz, February 19, 2019.


WhatsApp message from Eli Attal to author, June 6, 2023.


Ir Amim Newsletter, “High Court Panel Rules in Gaith-Sub Laban Eviction Case,” Altro, December 21, 2016.

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