Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Betzedek Files Appeal Regarding Allotment Committees at Local Authorities

By Betzalel Kahn

Betzedek has filed an urgent High Court appeal regarding the composition of the Allotment Committees at the local authorities, whose task is to make recommendations on how to allot buildings and lots, primarily for the needs of the chareidi public.

Two and a half months ago Betzedek submitted a protest to the Interior Ministry regarding the committee composition, but the Interior Ministry failed to respond. Betzedek then filed the court appeal in light of the absurd situation in which local authority lands are parceled by illegal committees and based on irrelevant considerations.

The appeal seeks to oppose a directive by the Interior Ministry's Director-General instructing all local authorities to set up new Allotment Committees in such a way that excludes elected officials, instead bringing in authority workers alone who are not always guided by the pure public interest since they are employees whose boss is the local council head (mayor).

The local Allotment Committee finds vacant lots designated for public needs, assesses the needs of the public in the area surrounding each lot and allocates the land or building for public purposes as it sees fit. Government institutions and supported bodies (including government-religious) generally receive property without having to go through a committee since they are generally included in the original planning process, whereas the chareidi public, whose institutions are not among the government institutions, must submit requests and receive recommendations from these committees. This is how land and buildings for chareidi schools, batei knesses, mikvo'os — all the basic religious services — are allocated in chareidi and religious neighborhoods.

In 2001 the government determined that every locating committee must be comprised of five members: three local authority members (councilmen), the legal advisor and the accountant. Several months ago the Interior Ministry Director- General announced a new directive, replacing the elected council members, who constituted the majority of the committee under the old system, with the local authority engineer, the director-general of the authority, and the employee in charge of assets. These workers are subject to the head of the local authority (mayor), who is generally not from the chareidi public. As a result one individual — the mayor — effectively makes the decisions and imposes his opinion on the entire council.

In the appeal, Betzedek Director Attorney Mordechai Green describes in detail how improper decisions by these committees can lead to the construction of institutions not suited to the local environs, which has happened at several of the country's local authorities and as a result irreversible, insufferable damage has been caused to the local population.

The legal section of the appeal points to the Interior Ministry Director-General's lack of authority to issue this directive and the fact the directive stands in total contradiction to fixed guidelines in municipal regulations on the composition of council committees. Betzedek claims that government intervention in local government must be kept to a minimum and should be reserved for very special cases.

This claim is based on a legal precedent from a High Court ruling, including a recent ruling made by a bench of seven judges who determined that Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Zonenfeld and Chaim Falk must be reinstated to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee in accordance with the Mayor's demand and against the opinion of the Interior Minister and the Attorney General.

Betzedek also decries the trampling of democratic values by removing the members of the local authority from the decision- making process. According to the procedure that has come into practice the officials determine the policies, thwarting the voting public's desire to lead the lifestyle they choose. This has the potential to cause the public irreparable harm since in setting policy, determinations are made of the public's real needs in every location, what reserves are essential for future plans, etc. and every slanted decision in these matter can harm the community for years to come, and even alter its character, the composition of the population and its spiritual institutions.

The appeal asks the High Court to issue an interim order to maintain the original formulation for the composition of the Allotment Committees prior to the Interior Ministry's illegal directive. Ex post facto it was found the very act of uncovering the attempt to take over did not succeed in thwarting continuing illegal activity of this sort and therefore Betzedek was left with no alternative other than to file the appeal to the Court.


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