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Shabbat Yom Kippur 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: New Buildings Blocking View part II

(based on ruling 71074 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) are a group of residents who built together apartment buildings in a yishuv a few years ago. Now, the board of the yishuv (=def) is in the midst of building buildings for new residents across from pl’s buildings in a manner that pl believe will significantly take away from their view (even though the new buildings are down the slope of a hillside). Pl claim that def promised, while marketing the project, that pl’s view would always be protected, which def denies. Def also argues that the purchase contract states that the contract erases any previous understanding between the sides and that pl obligated themselves not to protest further building plans. Pl also claim that def may not build because a certain planning approval (taba) was not received yet. Several months ago, pl planned to challenge municipally def’s building plans. At a meeting between the sides, an agreement was written (but not signed) stating that the wall of the new building’s roof would be no higher than the level of the garden of the lowest set of pl’s apartments. Pl claims that they were misinformed when they made that agreement and that, in any case, the rooftop solar heating apparatuses will extend beyond the aforementioned level.      


Ruling: We will take a look at the extent to which damaging one’s view is generally halachically significant.

The gemara (Bava Batra 7a) posits that one may build on his property even if takes away from the view of his neighbor as long as he leaves four amot (app., six feet) for space and light (see Tosafot ad loc.). The Maharalbach says that while it is forbidden to cause damage to one’s neighbor by seeing into his neighbor’s property, preventing a neighbor from enjoying a view by building in one’s own property is permitted.

While def cited the ruling of a contemporary beit din which applied these classical sources directly, we consider this a mistake. First, the law in Israel is that one may not build without a building permit, and government officials require much more than 6 ft. separation between buildings and do consider matters such as damaging someone’s view before giving a permit. The same gemara cited assumes that people have a real preference of having significant space and view in their homes, and it is the right and responsibility of a society to make rules that fit the situation of their times, as the Maharalbach himself mentions.

That being said, even after “adjusting” halacha for the increased need for air space and view, it is not accepted to prevent all compromising of a neighbor’s view. If we did so, then one who built a home before others could prevent the inhabitation of the area by others, which is certainly not what society wants, and certainly not in Eretz Yisrael.

Next time we will return to applying matters to our situation where agreements were made.

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