With the upcoming Mayoral elections in full swing, I took a few minutes to speak with my current Mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi, who is also a current candidate in the Efrat elections, to discuss many of the things that are important to me and I am sure to many of you.
Oded Revivi: Originally from Jerusalem, I moved to Efrat in 1994. As a young couple, we saw that we couldn’t afford the housing prices in Jerusalem so we decided to move here to live and raise our family. I have been functioning as the Mayor of Efrat for the last 5 years.
Devora Mason: I can really relate since when I began my search for a home and a community to raise my kids, one of the things that attracted me to Efrat was affordability, proximity to Jerusalem, a high level education system, full social services and a wonderful community. It is not surprising to me that so many families choose Efrat.
What is your Mayoral slogan?
Oded Revivi: “Oded Revivi is good for Efrat.”
Would you vote for yourself?
Yes, I would because I know what I have accomplished in my role as Mayor of Efrat and I know what I plan to accomplish for Efrat in the upcoming years.
What has been done in terms of education for the kids of Efrat at all the different age levels?
Elementary schools in Efrat receive equal funding from the Ministry of Education whereas the Council of Efrat is merely the distributing arm for the funds to be distributed accordingly. Keep in mind that the Amutah of Orot Etzion has more funds donated and are able to provide more building projects and facilities than Aseh Chayil.
That being said, the Efrat Council does provide the funding for the extra classroom assistants and for the support staff in the schools not to mention that they did submit special requests over the past years to receive funding for some necessary renovations in the schools due to unsafe or problematic construction. These renovations include:
- The installation of air conditioning units in all of the kindergartens.
- Within the next 3 years all of the schools will be air-conditioned with heat/AC pumps
- Orot Etzion boys school had the acoustic ceiling replaced since it was deemed unsafe and in disrepair.
- Orot Etzion girls school had issues with the safety standards of their current windows and they were replaced with sliding windows that meet the proper safety standards.
- Aseh Chayil required the building of more classrooms to accommodate the growing number of kids.
The curriculum has been enriched with extra music classes, Ganim with the new Merkaz Kasum granting the kids 4 meetings a year as well as the grade 1 kids having their parents participate in 2 out of 3 of their programs.
There is a program for gifted kids once a week where they can receive extracurricular enrichment. The special needs kids are being looked after including providing the necessary functional support for kids with hearing disabilities etc. within the classrooms.
What about the high school Kids?
The Efrat Council has instituted a “positive response program” for high school kids. This means that in conjunction with the Education department, every single child is required to receive at least one positive response from the regional high schools so that they are guaranteed a placement in a high school and no child will be left untended.
Which high-schools does your jurisdiction include?
Our jurisdiction includes the boys Bnei Akiva Yeshiva Orot Yehuda, Derech Avot and Neveh Shmuel and the girls have the two options of Neveh Chana and Oriyah. Orot Yehuda was a private school that was bought and made public using 17 million NIS of government funds to build and support a new and current infrastructure.
I know kids who this past year did not receive a positive response, are you sure this program is in effect?
Please tell me who they are and I will look into it immediately. This is not something that should have happened and it distresses me to hear it.
The issue of security? What are we paying for and why do we need a private security company in Efrat?
The security of the Yeshuv is the responsibility of Efrat to provide. The security department is considered one of the leading ones in the country. We want to make sure that there is peace and security at nights when residents are asleep in their homes; That there is a minimal number of break-ins. The security system stops invaders at a distance of at the very least 500 meters and there are few car thefts and minimal amounts of theft in general so we know we are doing a good job not to mention that the crime rate in Efrat is considered next to nil compared to other communities. We are always trying to make improvements.
What are your plans for the aging community? We are all getting older, not younger and so are our parents. What if we want to have a support system for our parents in Efrat, what is being done to further that goal?
One of the goals for the upcoming term is to continue to build on our already developing infrastructure for the 65+ age group. The old Ezra youth group building in the Rimon neighborhood has been renovated to provide a club for the elderly. Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) has also donated 3.5 million NIS to build a daytime club for the elderly as well as 300,000 NIS for the purpose of a moadon (club) for dementia sufferers.
What about tax breaks for Efrat residents?
Tax related issues are out of the hands of the regional mayor. There is a committee that deals with these issues overall. The council does try to provide assistance to families and individuals in need and to make sure that the Revacha (Social Services) department is aware of any and all residents and their needs.
What is the breakdown of religious vs. secular population in Efrat?
There is approximately a divide of 90% religious to 10% secular residency. It is important to mention that this is a demographic that developed independently of the Efrat Council since there is no acceptance committee for residency eligibility in Efrat.
The building projects are selling independently to all eligible buyers and although Rav Riskin would like to see a more visible secular presence in the city, it is what it is. There has been a demand for a more liberal educational institution to allow for greater pluralism and liberalism in the education system and only time will tell how this will develop further.
What was the purpose of Bibi’s recent visit to Efrat?
Bibi was aware of the fact that many of his ministers had visited Efrat, and there was pressure on him to visit too. His visit was a conclusion of a series of meetings between his government and the Efrat regional council granting permits for the building of 998 housing units in Efrat, 540 which are in the process of being built already. Considering that no permits were given for 12 years prior, this was quite a substantial statement on the government’s part. The visit was a statement to show support for his decision making. I would also like to mention that before he left he gave us a check to cover the installation of an air-conditioning system in the gym where we held his welcoming ceremony.
The park on my street, used by hundreds of kids weekly, in the Zayit neighborhood is neglected and dirty, whereas other parks, less frequented seem to have been renovated and maintained. What are the criteria that the Efrat Council uses to decide where to fix up a park and where to leave it as is?
We have an engineer from the parks department who examines the parks and assesses them based on the safety guidelines of the parks and recreations standards. It is not related to how old the park is or how many people are using it. The main issue is safety. For example, there was a park on Yehuda Hamacabi that was relatively new but deemed unsafe. It was changed completely. But I will look into the park you are mentioning and see if there needs to be any changes made there.
How can I be assured transparency regarding all of the Efrat Council’s activities and spending?
The last 5 years of council meetings, meeting protocols, decisions, managers and departments are all available for viewing on the Efrat council website. There is a place for suggestions and we have created a protocol for dealing with issues efficiently which includes a flow chart of response time, protocol, workers required, time frame, follow up report and summary. We have instituted fake samples of cases that needed attending to, to see if the flow chart is accurate and efficient.
Going forward, are there any departments in the Efrat Council that you feel need more attention?
All of the departments need to be attended to according to their specific issues. The social services department lacked efficient forms of communication and we have been working on setting up the proper infrastructure for this. Engineering needs more manpower for the upcoming expansions. Education is expanding as the number of students expands as well. The Parks department is mostly dealing with maintenance, not future building.
Are there any plans to build an industrial zone in Efrat in order to bring in further funds for use in maintaining and expanding Efrat’s growing infrastructure?
There are a few commercial areas within Efrat and zoning for more to follow, but more than that is not going to happen because the zoning for Efrat was based on a majority of residential areas with a few commercial centers. We can’t change zoning plans that already exists.
What are your short term/long term goals for Efrat in the upcoming years?
- Prepare the city for absorption of another 998 families
- Set up programs for the 18-30 age group
- Introduce programs for Senior Citizens
- Establish the agricultural school on the Eitam
- I would love to create more affordable housing.
- Build a commercial area across from Orot Etzion girl’s school.
- Have more educational institutions, larger facilities
- More businesses opening up in commercial areas
- Resolve the political issues of ownership of land