The old marketing slogan that there is no such thing as bad publicity
seems to have proven itself true last month when, on February 25, close
to 250 Teaneck and surrounding community residents came to Congregation
Bnai Yeshurun to hear Yesha leaders discuss the benefits of home
ownership in communities in Judea and Samaria.
For weeks before the event, the real estate fair was publicized in
several Jewish newspapers. It was also part of widely distributed email
notices sent by, among others, the virulently anti-Israel "New Jersey
Solidarity—Activists for the Liberation of Palestine."
"While the Zionist State of Israel uses violent means to prevent
Palestinian refugees from returning to Palestine, ‘Amana—The Settlement
Movement’ will host a real estate fair in New Jersey to recruit more
colonizers to illegally occupy Palestinian land in the West Bank," said
Without mentioning the fact that, according to Palestinian Authority
and Jordanian law, selling land to a Jew is a crime punishable by death
and that, in Israel, Arabs are as free as anyone else to purchase
property, NJ Solidarity stressed that "the Zionist State of Israel uses
weapons, terror, and even its courts to maintain a system of apartheid
which discriminates against Palestinians."
NJ Solidarity decided that, because the "people’s struggle in the US"
had resulted in laws to prevent discrimination in realty sales, the
event in Teaneck "represents the epitome of housing discrimination of a
sort that is absolutely illegal within the US."
NJ Solidarity asked its supporters to call on Teaneck Mayor Elie Y
Kats and Teaneck Municipal Manager Helene Fall, as well as the NJ
Department of Civil Rights, "to condemn this apartheid, discriminatory
sale of stolen land in Teaneck."
The group also asked for letters to the editor of local newspapers
expressing "outrage at this apartheid land sale and the pressing need
for justice" and attendance at a protest, which was held outside Bnai
Yeshurun on the day of the real estate fair.
As a result, about 20 noisy protesters, carrying signs such as "Stop
the Racist War on Arabs and Muslims," some decorated with Jewish stars,
gathered outside Bnai Yeshurun, while more than ten times that number
poured past them to hear a seminar led by representatives of Amana,
Israel’s oldest and largest organization that develops and helps Jews
purchase land in Judea and Samaria.
Inside the shul, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, spiritual leader of Bnai
Yeshurun and president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County,
publicly thanked the protesters who, he said, had quadrupled publicity
for the event.
The seminar featured Aliza Herbst, project manager of Amana and a
spokesperson for Pinchas Wallerstein, chairman of the Binyamin Regional
Council, and Alon Farbstein, executive director of Binyanei Bar Amana.
Amana and Binyanei Bar Amana, a Ramat Eshkol-based for-profit
construction company, have embarked on a project to urge American Jews
to invest in Israel’s future by strengthening Yesha’s communities and
purchasing homes there.
Mrs. Herbst called the turnout at Bnai Yeshurun "amazing."
"We weren’t sure what to expect, whether only an embarrassed rabbi
would show up, but the turnout and the enthusiasm were great," she said.
Sales and Mortgages
Amana is looking for people—individuals or groups—who will purchase
new homes in 12 small- and mid-sized communities throughout Yesha that
will then be rented to families who have been on long waiting lists and
are eager to move to Judea and Samaria. The buyer will choose the
community, and Amana is prepared to arrange the financing as well as
maintain the home and collect the rent.
The price of homes range from $93,000 to $165,000, depending on the
size and location. Monthly rents owners can expect to realize range from
$250 to $400, which, according to Mrs. Herbst, will cover all expenses,
including the mortgage. Bank Igud is offering 20-year mortgages of up to
65 percent of the cost of the property at an annual interest rate of 5
According to Amana, the investments may be financially profitable. At
the very least, said Mrs. Herbst, they are "insured, protected, and 100
percent legal in the US and Israel."
When the buyer wants to sell the home, Amana, with three months
notice, will have the house vacated and made ready for sale. Amana will
also help if the buyer wishes to give the home to a designated relative
or acquaintance or even to move in himself.
"The plan is devised in such a way as to return the initial
investment through rent and provide a modest profit should the home be
sold, while the owner is giving a young family the historic opportunity
to live in and strengthen Yesha," said Mrs. Herbst.
The communities Amana is promoting include Kiryat Arba, Shilo, Karnei
Shomron, and Sussia. Seven of the communities are outside Israel’s
security fence, which means they are outside the settlement blocs that
the current left-wing government expects to retain if there is ever a
final-status peace agreement with the Palestinians.
According to Mrs. Herbst, even in these communities, all existing
homes are full. Unless more are built, there is no possibility of
accepting new young couples or families.
"If we don’t find a solution now, we will create our own population
freeze, which may, in turn, begin a phenomenon unknown before in Yesha:
families leaving our communities," she said.
The Road Map plan, devised in 2003 by the US, the UN, the European
Union, and Russia, required the Israeli government to stop funding any
new building in Judea and Samaria, even in already-existing communities
in which building is legal.
Last year, the left-wing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
discontinued subsidies that reduced the cost of new homes in Judea and
Samaria by $20,000 or more for buyers. This has forced supporters of
development in those areas to find private funds.
According to the far left-wing Americans for Peace Now, which favors
destruction of all Jewish communities over the Green Line, thousands of
new homes are going up in Judea and Samaria. The group says 268,000
Israelis are now living in Yesha communities, a five percent increase
from last year, making it the fastest growing region in Israel and
proving Mrs. Herbst’s point that more homes are wanted and needed.
At Bnai Yeshurun, several attendees asked Mrs. Herbst what would
happen to their investments if the Yesha communities Amana is promoting
are ever dismantled in an action similar to former Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon’s Disengagement Plan, which, in 2005, forced 10,000 Jews from
their homes, businesses, schools, and communities in Gush Katif, Gaza,
and four smaller communities in northern Samaria.
While she clearly found even the prospect of such an occurrence
repugnant, Mrs. Herbst said, in any case, home buyers would be covered
financially. When the Jewish Gaza communities were dismantled, the
former Jewish residents were entitled to compensation packages for their
homes amounting to roughly $1,000 per square meter, approximately the
cost of the homes Amana is promoting, if buyers do not customize them.
Calling the security fence "a political monument," Mrs. Herbst said,
"It is clear that many see the wall as representing the future
boundaries of Israel, but there have always been doomsayers."
While Mrs. Herbst said her group, which is eventually hoping to sell
1,000 homes, would have considered the Teaneck event a success if even
one were sold, found Amana had done much better than that. Almost ten
sales are expected from people who attended the Bnai Yeshurun real
Norman and Roza Chideckel, dual citizens of Israel and the US, are
seriously considering purchasing a home, seeing it, they said, as an
Hoping Israel would not repeat "mistakes" such as the disengagement,
Mr. Chideckel said, "It is very important to keep building the Land of
Israel despite the position the current Israeli government is taking."
Mrs. Chideckel, an attorney and real estate agent, said she
appreciated the opportunity to help young families, and to do something
for her own future. "When we eventually return to live in Israel, we
will have a home waiting for us," she said.
Asked if safety would be a concern, she said, no. "We would be safer
there than we are in Teaneck," she said.
Lee Weinblatt, who already owns an apartment in Jerusalem, said he
was impressed by the reasonable cost of the properties being offered.
"The prices are so low, you can purchase one of these houses for less
than the down payment necessary to buy a house in Teaneck," he said.
Jack Fogash, 60, agreed, saying the reasonable cost prompted him to
consider purchasing two of the homes being offered. He said it would be
a sound investment as well as an act of charity by providing a place for
young Jews, who could not afford their own homes, to live at a
relatively low rent.
Although he is considering relocating to Israel when he retires, Mr.
Fogash said he would probably live in Jerusalem.
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and his wife, Shani, said they
intended to purchase through Amana. Mr. Hikind said the project is "an
opportunity for American Jews to put their money where their mouth is."
"American Jews who are committed and passionate about Israel always
ask me: ‘What can I do in concrete terms to help Israel?’ This is an
amazing opportunity to do just that, to own a piece of property in the
Land of Israel and to give an opportunity for a young family to live
there," he said.
Like Mrs. Herbst and Mr. Farbstein, Rabbi Pruzansky said he was very
pleased with the way the event had gone. He said he and his membership
had been proud to "continue expanding support to the State of Israel" by
hosting the housing fair.
Rabbi Pruzansky pointed out that, over the years, Bnai Yeshurun has
been recognized for its underwriting of parks, schools, hospitals and
numerous other programs that sustain the Jewish state.
"The vast majority of our members travel to Israel frequently, have
friends and family members living there, and support Israel in many
ways. By hosting this housing fair, we took yet another step in this
process by encouraging our members to buy land and housing. It is very
consistent with our commitment to the Jewish state, and we are very
proud to have been able to host this event," he said.
An outspoken critic of the Disengagement Plan, Rabbi Pruzansky is
also opposed to Israel’s one-sided concessions as part of the Road Map,
especially while the Palestinians have not complied with any of the
requirements that the plan imposed on them.
"Peace is an illusion and it won’t happen in my or my children’s
lifetime—unless Moshiach comes. Every concession the Israeli government
makes is a sign of weakness, and the enemy takes advantage of weakness,"
In the weeks before Passover, Amana, which also held a successful
real estate fair at the Young Israel of Hillcrest, Queens, is scheduled
to present this project in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Los Angeles,
Cleveland, and Toronto.
For more information, the toll-free number is 1-866-278-5144. The
email addresses to contact are