Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yam Erez Takes On Community Vetting Committees מתנגדת לועדות קליטה

Well, folks, I warned you here when it was “only” Arabs who want to live in all-Jewish communities that civil rights are just around the bend! Now an “undesirable Jew” wants in, and the High Court has given the ILA 60 days to explain why vetting committees for communities occupying state land should be permissible.

The Hebrew Talkbacks (90 responses) are roughly 50-50 in favor / against (I submitted two “pro” responses, nos. 89 and 90). The opposing responses seemed to be mostly in the category of, “Why shouldn’t a community get to decide who joins?”, clearly deriving from a century-old mindset of overwhelmingly communal-style settlement that’s even reflected in the Hebrew language, which takes special care to specify an entity known as ישוב קהילתי yishuv kehilatì, or “community settlement”*, as Hebrew-speakers have a hard time conceiving of a planned community being an ordinary bedroom community wherein nothing officially ties the residents together other than their common ZIP code.

It’s also reflected in the designation ישוב בודד yishuv bodèd [individually-owned settlement] labeling what everywhere else on the planet is known as a [family] farm or homestead, which we foreign-born wouldn’t bother specifying that it belongs to a single, nuclear family or individual(s).

In this particular case, the psychological assessment of the applicant (now the plaintiff in the case) described him as perceiving the move to the community in question as a refuge from his challenges. And that’s undesirable because…?

In regard to my own case, that of a kibbutz member, I understand that in its legal status as an income-sharing community, a kibbutz is exempt from the High Court ruling. As I wrote in one of my talkbacks to the article, I’m waiting for someone to challenge this state of affairs as well. We too occupy state-owned land; therefore, does the fact that we’re income sharing have any bearing on whether we have the right to restrict a citizen from living here (which is not the same, by the way, as accepting hizzer as a member).

My thoughts are wandering now: Are whites allowed to reside on Indian reservations? What constitutes an Indian / a white? Hmmm…

*I would normally translate ישוב yishuv as “community”, but couldn’t go as far as to translate ישוב קהילתי yishuv kehilatì as “community community”; and it’s not a communal community, because there’s no income-sharing element as there is in a moshav or kibbutz.


  1. Possibly the key phrase is "state land." Do the inhabitants rent the land? If so, they have some rights to limit others as would an owner of the land. Why should the State provide land rent-free to individuals or kibbutzim? Are the former collectives which are now in name only still treated as if they are as before?

  2. Steve wrote:
    Interesting piece. I'm definitely for disbanding these committees. We didn't like the all-white communities in Maryland and Forest Hills, so why should we tolerate them here?

    As for the Reservations, I have no idea, but that's one place where I would not object to restrictions. First of all, they're not state-owned land - they're the place we white people forced them to go when we disenfranchised them from their ancestral lands. Secondly, they tend to be god-awful places with poor education and infrastructure, so I doubt there's much of a white demand. I wouldn't be surprised if Indians would actually let a white person crazy enough to want to live on a reservation to move in, as long as that person lived by the rules governing the reservation.

  3. I enjoyed this column. An interesting dilemma, thoug I do favor the rights of communities to decide who can live therein. State ownership of land is, in general, a fiction. The land belongs to the people who live thereon, and if the law allows a group of people to form into an *agudah* and purchase 49-year leases on state-owned land, pay development costs, etc., then they should have a right to do what they want with it, though the state can decide to exercise eminent domain and / or regulate activities that impact beyond boundaries (limit or fine polluters, etc.).

    This is a classic issue wherein using the courts to force minority views on the majority is probably a huge mistake for society and only achieves backlash. The issue in my mind is not about rights to live on land owned by the State, but rather the extent to which the people in a community think that cultural integration (as distinguished from socio-economic integration) is a desirable thing.

    For example, I think *davka* that communities with a high degree of socio-economic integration / interaction yet cultural homogeneity may be far more desirable than so-called cultural diversity.

    If the courts require people to sell houses to "the other", the communities will not really be integrated - they will discriminate economically, as only a person wealthy enough to buy a house and meet the standard of living will be able to live there. So next you will have people coming to court claiming discrimination and demanding that prices of homes be regulated so that everyone can afford them or that capital gains from the sale of homes be shared (actually this has happened).

    Gated communities such as yours with both socio-economic and cultural homogeneity...I'll leave that to the next person's judgment.

    More importantly, I read your talkback and the Hebrew expression - "כיליון עיניים" is spelled with a chaf, not a kuf [the contributor has been thanked for the spelling correction. Unfortunately there's no way to correct the talkback - Y.E.]