Jul 26, 2011

Bet Shemesh Joins Tent Protest

Bet Shemesh is going to be joining the "tent protest" regarding the lack of housing, and the high cost of housing.

This afternoon at 5:00 PM a "tent city" will be established at the promenade near the memorial to the soldiers on the left side on the way up towards Old Bet Shemesh.

The goal of this protest is not to topple the government or just create noise. The goal is to bring to attention of the national media and population that, as opposed to most other places in the country, there is actually massive construction planned for the hills of Bet Shemesh and this is an opportunity to provide inexpensive housing for young couples, especially for the children of Old Bet Shemesh. However, as of now, all of the construction is planned for one specific population and not the general population.

the Bet Shemesh tent protest is being organized by Moti Cohen, a city councilman who has changed direction 180 degrees and completely opposes Mayor Moshe Abutbol in every possible way, after originally being one of his strongest supporters in the elections 2.5 years ago. Along with Cohen, Shalom Lerner is also one of the organizers of the tent protest.

I spoke with Shalom Lerner and asked what it is about. Lerner told me, as it says above in text I paraphrased from their email distribution, that Bet Shemesh is lookign at massive amounts of construction, but it is being designated for only one sector. The residents of "Old Bet Shemesh" are suffering with the rest of the country with a lack of housing, affordable or not, for their children. Bet Shemesh should be building for everyone. there is so much land here, so much construction going on, that Bet Shemesh can be a [partial] solution to the crisis for everyone, and not just using it to narrowly help a single group. (these are my words explaining his position. any errors or inaccuracies in transmission are mine, though this is what I understood from him).

I asked about the fact that he is joining what has turned out to be a left-wing protest, and helping strengthen it might boomerang. Lerner's response was that he is making it clear what our intentions are for protesting, and they are different than the intentions of the general protest. Along with that, it is not our problem if t causes Netanyahu to fall - Netanyahu's seat is not our concern - affordable housing is. We have our work to do, and Netanyahu has his.

I only realized later, after I spoke with him (and did not feel like bothering him any more), that i should have asked that technically he is a member of the Likud (due to various parties merging prior to the last elections, I don't remember all the details offhand), and Lerner even ran on the Likud national list.

So, theoretically, he should probably be coordinating such moves with the Likud, and he probably should be concerned with Netanyahu, or Likud leadership, wishes and dictates. I don't know if this will boomerang against him or not. Maybe the Likud gives free reign, but I cannot imagine it will endear him on anyone in the Likud if he helps make trouble for them. Just because he intends it to be different than the general protest does not mean the media will portray it the way he intends it.

I do not support the tent protest. I don't like the general tent protest, and I think the local bet Shemesh version is going to be a bad idea. It is also too hot, especially in bet Shemesh. I dont see how people are going to sit in a tent for the next few days or weeks in temperatures that are peaking in the range of 37-38 degrees centigrade (98-100 Farenheit), but that is besides the point. i think it is politically a bad idea to support this protest.

There is absolutely nothing limiting the purchases of homes in the new construction in the hills of Bet Shemesh to haredim alone. If Old Bet Shemesh people want housing for their kids in this area, they are more than welcome to put together groups of buyers (so that it is not individuals settling in the middle of what will end up being hostile neighbors) and buy up projects that are being built. nothing is stopping them except "fear of the haredim". Get over it and buy your apartments.


  1. IndependentVoterJuly 26, 2011 11:24 AM

    I agree with the Post.
    1) First of all, governmental intervention in markets never works. It may be populist and buy votes but govt intervention will backfire and will cause more problems over the long run (black markets, corruption, shortages of the regulated product or service, etc). Examples - Rent control is a failure; Govt housing projects are known as failure.
    2) Why is everyone entitled to buy housing "immediately." Why are people who are discharged from the Military service "entitled" to apartments at age 22 ?? Olim chadashim - ? Young people just married - ? When I was younger, I knew it would take more time to buy something. You work hard and you save and you buy. What is this lunacy about "everyone" entitled to buy - that is one of the reasons of the sub prime mess meltdown in the States. Shall we emulate our American friends who are close to (if not already in) national bankruptcy due to govt spending projects.
    3) IMO, after following his career and being a former nearby neighbor, Lerner is a classic politician. His primary interest is self interest inasmuch he looks out for himself and his buddies. I personally voted for Abutbul over Lerner in the prior election. In my opinion, anyone was better than Lerner. His current nonsense about everyone needing "massive govt help" is clearly designed to pander to voters and/or fears of charedim. Like the Post says: everyone can buy in the new projects. Govt handouts (oops I mean spending) never work and Lerner's call to join the protests should be seen for the pathetic populist rhetoric it is.

  2. rafi saying that anyone can buy an apartment in the new neighborhood doesn't tell the whole picture. if the neighborhood is being planned for dati'im than the apartment building structure is different. similarly the size of the planned apartments, the space allowed for parking, parks, schools, everything. all this is kal vchomer for charedim

  3. "Lerner is a classic politician"

    And Abutbol isn't?

    Abutbol believes in entitlement for his constituency at the expense of everyone else.

    "What is this lunacy about "everyone" entitled to buy"

    Why are so many in our city "entitled" to large arnona discounts at the expense of people who work, pay taxes, etc?

    Do you really think everyone can buy in the new places? If you know how these tenders work there will be little to no opportunity for the "infidels" to buy into RBS Gimmel.

  4. Rafi you are totally unrealistic to think that the sephardi crowd from old Bet Shemesh can practically buy apartments in Gimmel.

    You saw how non-datiim fled from the "mixed" neighborhood (as it was initially designated) of RBS Aleph ten years ago??

  5. Independent - I voted Lerner thinking he would be better. I am not convinced he would have been. To his credit, he is doing what any opposition would: fight in every way possible.
    Also, I think Abutbol is as bad as any other mayor, including the previous one, and knew he would be.

    one more thing, great comment. I would add, one more thing I dont get, is why they think the government must subsidize their living in one of the most expensive places in the country. You cant afford it, move elsewhere.

  6. ben, anon and david - I am against building neighborhoods for haredim, and I am against building neighborhoods for ashkenazim, sfardim, hassidim, secular, DL, or anything else.

    Build a a variety in one neighborhood and they will come, each buyign the apartment that fits his style requirements and price abilities.

    naive? perhaps. Ariel Attias said not too long ago that he has become convinced that haredim and secular cannot live together, and separate neighborhoods should be built for each. I disagree with that concept.

    Furthermore, even if true, in RBS that is only correct regarding future neighborhoods of RBS daled, hey, etc. in Gimmel, at least Gimmel 1, the houses are larger, and were plannned for a mix of people. They could easily get groups together and buy out sections of RBS C. Future neighborhoods would be determined based on reality. If the secular/traditional are seen to be moving to RBS en masse, the haredim might not move here en masse. Maybe it would end up more of a mix.

  7. IndependentVoterJuly 26, 2011 4:11 PM

    I agree with Rafi's initial Post and with the second one as well (re: subsidies)
    Look, to anyone who thinks the "government" is able to "solve" problems check out any inner US city and look at all the signs from the hand out mentality of the 60s and 70s... welfare stubs, ghetto housing projects, abandoned privately owned apartment buildings wasted spending on absurd projects, etc.
    Look at the US big entitlement programs, welfare, social security, food stamps, section 8 housing subsidies and the results are...14 Trilion debt and a wrecked economy. nearly 10% unemployment. Want to follow the US example?
    The reason for the housing "crisis" and its not a crisis - its high prices due to a booming economy its all supply and demand. Let the free market work. Govt involvement will only make things worse although it will make the people who are on the receiving end of the goodies "happy" temporarily.
    Israel has
    -Record low unemployment
    -A strong currency
    -record high forex (80 billion USD)
    Like Rafi says, if you cannot buy in a specific area move elsewhere.
    Should NYC protest because they cannot afford Park Avenue or Trump Tower? Boy, I am going to protest because I cannot buy in Buchman Modiin where houses sell for 3.5 million NIS. All I can get is a lousy 2.5 million NIS "no fair"??!!!
    Its lunacy for people to protest because they cannot afford Tel Aviv. Move to a less expensive area. Also, and my point is unrebutted, there is no reason why EVERYONE is entitled to immediately buy property.
    Oh and dear anonymous how are you accuse Abutbol of giving out large arnona discounts. I am not saying I agree or disagree with the law but if the law entitles someone to a discount you want Abutbol to violate the law and not give it? Its not his law its national law.
    If you are accusing him of handing out illegal discounts - Where is your proof of this slanderous statement? How do you know this is true...oh because someone "told" you...? And IF true, maybe these people get discounts from before Abutbol - you know yo cant blame him for everything. Really, no wonder you are in favor of the protests so everyone can get "cheap" govt housing.

  8. Independent - the nly part of it, i think, that is not completely accurate is in the sense that it is not a true free market. when the government controls the land, and does not sell it off, but retains it only selling small amounts for high prices, it is no longer completely free market.
    with the cottage cheese, i believe in free market setting prices. but when government bans imports and sets certain price limitations, it is no longer a true free market.

    Abutbol has nothing to do with the arnona discounts. If someone by law has a 80 or 90 percent discount coming to them, I see no reason they should not take it.

  9. regarding arnona, the only issue is if the mayor is trying to attract more people who will be getting 90% discounts rather than more people who will be paying full arnona. Abutbol does not control arnona discounts, but if he actively is trying to bring only people who get discounts, that is in a certain sense putting the city in financial difficulties.

  10. The issue with abutbol is not handing our discounts..no one has said that. What he is trying to do is recoup money by assessing others for more money.

    The pikidim that are going out to measure pergalos, etc. are under his directive to bring in more arnona from the paying citizens and NOT from those getting the 90% discounts.

  11. If those who have money to build extensions dont bother to pay for permits and get the proper ishrim before they do their construction than they deserve to get fined by the city. Laws are to be enforced not ignored.

  12. I am all for giving breaks to young couples post-army. They have given 3hard years of their life to serve their country, and at age 21 (or older if they did Hesder) they are only just starting their 'working' life. However, instead of getting a job and a salary, like everyone else in the western world, they are just starting to get a degree at university. They may not start earning a proper wage for another 3 or more years.
    Often by this age they are starting to settle and raise a family. I think that they deserve some help to get started on the housing ladder. They have earned this 'entitlement'.

  13. anonymous - I think you misunderstood his point. the complaint was regarding a recent re-measuring of homes that was done in parts of Bet Shemesh using a very inaccurate system or measuring external walls by gps, and thus estimating internal sizes. this caused recalculations of arnona based on new measurements to include stairwells, machsanim, porches and gardens and the like to be charged at full rates of living quarters instead of lower or no rates of machsanim, porches, stairwells, etc.
    It caused a big ruckus in bet Shemesh where they were threatening a strike, until the mayor gave in and said he would re-evaluate the legality of it.

  14. rw - The government gives assistance to all sorts of groups it wants to help, and the group you describe is definitely a worthy one, in any system in which the government is providing such assistance..

  15. Before Lerner comments that he doesn't really care if Netannyahu falls he should remember that the right wing brought down Shamir's government in 1992 and we all know what happened after that. Do you trust Tzipi Livni as next prime minister?

  16. Rafi G - There is absolutely nothing limiting the purchases of homes in the new construction in the hills of Bet Shemesh to haredim alone.

    Nothing official, but lots of things practical.

    The fact is that the main purpose of that new construction is to bring more Charedim into Bet Shemesh. And one reason for doing that is to bring in enough new Charedi voters such that they will control the city council come next election (or worst case the one after that). And once the city council is Charedi controlled, Bet Shemesh will then "officially" be a Charedi city.

    Charedim like to carefully control their environment so they don't have to be exposed to things like people driving on shabbat, or women dressing less modestly than they require. And that's part of why they like to have their own cities whenever possible.


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