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The Municipal Society focusing on village expansion

Thursday 10 January 2008

Growing a village requires infinite care. Municipal Board chair Eyas Shbeta some of the processes in which the board is currently involved.

It has been about a year since NSWAS created separate administrative bodies for the agudah (the Municipal Society) and amutah (the educational association): the two main components of the village administration. The Municipal Society is responsible for matters concerning the community, while the Educational Association is responsible for the educational activities of the School for Peace, The Children’s Educational System and the Pluralistic Spiritual Centre. The division has its advantages, but effective coordination between the governing committees of the Society and the Association is sometimes challenging, so we continue in a process of trial and error.

The day-to-day details of the Municipal Society’s work are difficult to sum up in this brief report. A major recent focus has been on issues relating to the village’s new ownership of its land, in order to clear some of the remaining obstacles before our expansion plan.

In 1999, in an amicable settlement with the Latrun Abbey, the latter agreed to scrap the old lease contract and transfer ownership of half of the leased land to NSWAS. The remaining half was returned to the Abbey. However, NSWAS has yet to acquire the deed, due to long and complex legal processes. Our Regional Council (equivalent to a county government) demanded heavy taxes for the transfer of ownership. But, with good legal counsel, we found that these taxes are negotiable. At the time of writing, it appears that we are about to reach the end of the process and to receive the deed.

The land issues that we must address include two main questions: the implications of the land’s new status for existing village members, and how the village will expand to include a large number of new families. Expansion of the village has taken a top priority as we have noticed that we are not getting any younger and that much of the strength and stability of our projects depend upon the dynamism of village residents. New people bring new skills and fresh enthusiasm that are essential to the future of our activities.

Once ownership is legally finalized, we can begin to implement a number of serious changes. The village has officially decided to offer members a choice between leasing or renting their family plots. In order to decide upon the cost of the lease, we agreed to establish an outside committee consisting of a professional appraiser and two Knesset members, Hana Sweid and Haim Oron, who are experienced in land issues. It remains to be decided how the lease will be paid and what will be done with the money collected.

In order to enable families to lease their plots of land, we must introduce far-reaching changes in the charter of the Municipal Society. Changing a charter is not a simple matter and this is also likely to involve considerable discussion. Continued expansion of the community depends upon most of these decisions. In the meantime, the screening committee recommended 22 families who will be the first to build on the new plots that are available for development. These families have all been accepted in principle. Their candidacy will be finalized once we can offer them a place to build a house. A total of 90 new plots will be developed. We are also dealing with many other questions, such as preparation and infrastructure of the plots. It is considerably cheaper to do all of the development at once with a single contractor than to develop the land in stages, so we are examining ways to go about this work.

In other developments, we introduced an organizational change that gives the Hotel manager responsibility for all other “income-generating facilities”, i.e. the swimming pool and the auditorium. Naturally the pool will still have its own manager, but administration will be coordinated under a single management, enabling the village to offer its facilities for a variety of events in a more effective manner.

The responsibilities of the Municipal Society also include the work of the Hotel and the Youth Club. These branches have been reported upon separately.


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