Would you like an apartment?  One that you own?  No landlord, no rent.  Maybe a mortgage, but not an extreme one.  A place that belongs to you, and that you can pass down to your children?

Or forget an apartment.  How about a house?  What we call a “villa” here in Israel.  A free standing house, with a yard.  With a community of free standing houses all around.  Maybe even a cul-de-sac, if that’s what you want.

America is covered with neighborhoods like that.  Why don’t we have them in Israel?  Why is it so hard to become a homeowner?

I grew up in Chicago, and there’s a Chicago suburb called Hoffman Estates.  Where did Hoffman Estates come from?  In 1954, a farmer sold his 160 acre farm to developers Sam and Jack Hoffman, who built hundreds of houses on half-acre lots.  That’s a bit over 2,000 square meters, enough for a decent sized house and a yard.  In 1959, with a population of 8,000, the residents voted to incorporate as the Village of Hoffman Estates.

So why doesn’t this happen here in Israel?  Sure, we have developers, and sure, they build homes.  But the vast majority of these homes are apartment buildings, and an apartment of 100 square meters tends to cost between one and 4 million shekels.  Far outside the means of most Israelis.  You could fit 20 of those apartments, side by side, on one of the half-acre lots in Hoffman Estates.

We live in cramped homes, homes that we don’t even own, paying rent month after month, with no real prospect of ever owning a home of our own.

Why?

Population density map of Israel as of the end of 2001, prepared by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.

Population density map of Israel as of the end of 2001, prepared by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. (click on the image to see it full sized)

Take a look at a map of Israel.  Tel Aviv is a hive.  Jerusalem and a few other places are almost as densely populated.  Most of the rest of the country is sparsely populated.  Why?

Almost all of the buildable land in Israel, 93% of the total, is under the ownership of the Israel Lands Authority.  The state.  They release this land only grudgingly, and subject to high taxes.  This artificial shortage of land has caused the price of land to skyrocket.

Once a developer has purchased land to build on, the planning and approval processes necessary in order even to start building residences of any kind are so convoluted and cumbersome that it takes years — yes, years — for a proposed construction project to yield homes.

And all of this is ignoring Judea and Samaria.  The heartland of the Jewish People.  The land where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived.  The land of David and Solomon and all the kings of Judah and Israel.  Building there is a whole other nightmare, requiring the permission of both the Prime Minister and the IDF.

In 1954, in the outskirts of Chicago, a farmer sold 647,500 square meters of land to two developers, and 5 years later, there were 8,000 people living in spacious villas on that land.  It sounds like a fairy tale, but it was real.  And it can be real here in Israel.

JNF donation box

JNF donation box, as seen in synagogues and Hebrew schools and Sunday schools throughout America.

The Zehut Party, led by its chairman Moshe Feiglin, is determined to see that land released to the public.

If you grew up in America, you will remember these blue boxes for donations to the Jewish National Fund.  That fund was meant to buy land in our homeland.  It was not meant to provide a store of land for the government to sit on while land prices shoot up beyond the means of people actually living in Israel.  That land belongs to us, the people, and it must be released.

As some of you may know, I am running for the Zehut Party list for the next Knesset elections.  The Zehut primaries will take place in a month, on September 12.  Any Zehut member who has signed up for party membership by August 20 will be able to vote in these primaries.  Membership is easy, and membership is inexpensive.  Only 66 shekels a year for an individual.  That’s five and a half shekels a month.  Less than a bottle of water.  And only 99 shekels for a couple, which means that your spouse pays half price.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to go to the Zehut sign-up page and become a member.  The Zehut Party will not only release our land and eliminate most of the pointless and restrictive regulations which stand in the way of us building homes on that land, but will champion the cause of freedom in this country.  Freedom from a burdensome bureaucracy that makes the prospect of having to deal with any government office something to dread.  Freedom to educate your children as you see fit.  Freedom to set up a small business without first traversing seven circles of bureaucratic hell.

You deserve a home of your own.  Stop settling for the same old politicians and the same old system.  It’s time for a change, and the Zehut Party is your key to that change.

Shabbat Shalom.
____________________________

This is the third in a series of posts I’m doing on the Zehut party.  The first two can be found here:

As I mentioned in those posts, I speak as a founding member of the Zehut Party, and now a candidate for the Zehut Party primaries, to be held next month, but not as an official representative of the party. Any errors are mine alone.

If you’d like to contact me directly with questions or comments, you can do so by writing to me at Lisa4Zehut@starways.net, or you can check out my recent campaign mailing here.