By Shmuel Sackett
A lot of articles have been written about the recent hot topic called: New construction in Yehuda and Shomron. People want to know whether or not Israel is building enough and the conflicting reports can make one crazy. So, what’s the truth?
Since I do not want to bore you with numbers, allow me to answer the question directly: NO! Israel is not building nearly enough in Yehuda and Shomron. With Israel’s population growth – Baruch Hashem! – the need for apartments and homes are staggering. Cranes can be seen busy at work in massive building projects in Ra’anana, Bet Shemesh, Afula and Netanya but very little action has been going on elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Ra’anana or Netanya and I get excited by all those buildings, but let’s face it… how many Israelis can afford $600,000 for a 2 bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor of a building? For half that price – no exaggeration – you can buy a fully detached home in a beautiful community near Bet El or Kiryat Arba. And guess what? When thousands of new homes will be built in these communities, the prices in Bet Shemesh will quickly drop as well! It’s literally a win-win situation, so why isn’t this happening?
Before I answer that, allow me to explain that the problem is not just in Yesha (Yehuda and Shomron). There’s not enough building going on in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan or the Jordan Valley. People say that this is because contractors simply want to build “where the money is”. I have no doubt that in many cases this is true and I have no problem with builders who want to profit as much as they can. The truth, however, is that this applies to just a small handful of building companies who specialize in the luxury market. I personally know many contractors who would love to build all over the country but are simply prevented from doing so. While preparing to write this article, I spoke to several people to get the facts on the ground. Allow me to quote just two of them. When asked about building in Gush Etzion, a good friend told me the following; “Building? Where is there building? I live in Elazar and all I see is the Israeli government looking to tear down Jewish homes!” He went on to tell me that “there are 15 homes, right now, in Elazar, which the government is threatening to demolish. The only building we see in the Gush is in Efrat. Baruch Hashem that area is booming but why only there? The fact that 95% of the homes being built in Efrat are pre-sold proves that there’s a market for this area. We should be building thousands, not just hundreds of new homes!”
The next person I spoke to lives in Maale Adumim, the second largest city in Yesha – home to 43,000 people! He blew my mind when he told me that in the last few years, this city closed 12, yes, 12 kindergartens! Do you know why a city closes kindergartens? Because if there’s no building going on, no new, young families move in and the population starts getting older. I couldn’t believe what he told me. Maale Adumim closing kindergartens? And not just one but twelve! I had nothing to say. So now, back to our simple question: Why? Why is there very little building going on in these areas? It would be great for the country, help solve the “bottleneck” problem in the center and be a wonderful answer to the prayers of young families who would finally own a home. The answer to this question is simply one word: Leadership.
Building in Yehuda and Shomron requires courage since it is not politically correct. The same applies with the Golan, the Jordan Valley and even many areas in the Galilee and the Negev. The UN will quickly condemn construction projects in “the disputed territories”, even though they are not disputed at all since they have belonged to the Jewish Nation for the last 4,000 years! Building in the Negev may harm relations with the Bedouins, even though the Bedouins have illegally squatted on Jewish land for decades. And the Golan Heights? Who knows what will be with that… maybe one day we will give it to Assad? (Heaven forbid!)
Being a leader in Israel is tough and I’ll be the first to admit it. Besides the usual pressure from opposition groups and the media, Israeli leaders are under a microscope with every action they take. The EU jumps on every move and so does the UN. Jewish students in university campuses across the globe feel the wrath of a very hostile world who ignore 99% of the world’s human rights violations but pounce on a simple decision by the Israeli government to build 24 houses in Ofra. I know it’s not easy and this is why we need the one – and only – thing which will succeed against these forces of evil; Leadership in Israel by people with tremendous Emunah in Hashem! We need leaders who are deeply connected to our Father and King and trust His every move. Think about it. What gave Moshe the strength to enter Pharaoh’s palace time and again, threatening him with plagues? What gave King David the strength to fight Goliath? Or the tiny Maccabees to battle the mighty Greeks? These great leaders relied on Hashem. They knew they were doing the right thing and therefore they feared no mortal being. Today, we don’t have anyone even close to those heroes but nevertheless, we need to learn from their example and implement it into our lives. Building in our homeland is not something the world has the right to comment on and our leaders must stand tall and proud, and with great conviction, and respectfully say this to anyone who even raises an eyebrow regarding this issue.
The Jewish land belongs to the Jewish nation and we will build, settle and farm every inch of it! We will populate it with families young and old. We will bring life to all parts of Israel and we will fill the land with laughter, happiness and holiness! Yes, dear world, we will build so many homes until every Jew has a place to come to when they are ready. So to answer the original question all I have to say is this: To Build, or not to Build? In Israel, that’s not the question!