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Even Adverse Publicity Helped Teaneck Shul Sell Homes in Yesha: Real Estate Fair a Success

 By Susan Rosenbluth, Editor
The Jewish Voice and Opinion
Englewood, NJ 07631

March 2007

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 NJ Solidarity.

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."

Discrimination?

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.

Large Turnout

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 percent.

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.

A Solution

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.

Growth

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.

Protected Investment

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."

Success

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 estate fair.

Norman and Roza Chideckel, dual citizens of Israel and the US, are seriously considering purchasing a home, seeing it, they said, as an "excellent opportunity."

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.

Reasonable Cost

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.

An Opportunity

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.

An Illusion

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," he said.

More Fairs

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 alon@amana.org.il or nurit@amana.org.il

Rabbi Pruzansky said he was happy to lend his name and support to the Amana project.

"The State of Israel was given to the Jewish people by G-d in a covenant well-known to all of mankind. We have every right to develop the land that was given to us, and to live, grow, and enjoy the gift of Israel. The West Bank is a contrived political term. We call Judea and Samaria ‘Israel,’" said Rabbi Pruzansky.

The Jewish Voice and Opinion is a politically conservative Jewish publication which present news and feature articles not generally available elsewhere in the Jewish or secular media. Articles may be reprinted in their entirety with attribution.

 

 

 

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