An organization known as Buy A Piece Of Israel is working to secure one of the most rare and valuable commodities in Israel for Jewish buyers -- privately owned real estate.
“Only seven percent of all land in Israel is privately owned,” Joel Yosef Busner, founder and director of the organization, tells Israel National News. The rest, he explains, is held by either the government or the JNF, or -- in Judea and Samaria -- a mix of government-owned, privately owned, claimed by Arab residents of the area, and some Jewish-owned.
Buying private land for the novice can seem complicated. “We help buyers through the taxes, the registration, and the purchase of the property itself.” According to him, the organization also serves to put new buyers in touch with potential developers or contractors who can build on their land and to help minimize the inflated prices that have become notorious in Israel’s real estate market.
“We’ll walk away from a purchase if the seller is getting too greedy. We don’t like to, but part of the vision is to help our buyers get a fair price.” Busner, himself a long-time immigrant, says that price gouging in the Israeli market tends to particularly target immigrants and foreign Jewish investors, to the point where certain countermeasures become necessary.
“I will occasionally have a native Israeli make contact with sellers or their agents and give directions ‘behind the scenes’,” Busner admits. “When sellers hear that an Israeli is on the phone, they try fewer tricks than if they hear a foreign accent.”
A current project the organization is working on is marketing housing lots in the Galilee region. “We have parcels as small as half a dunam, although some are as large as several dunams,” Busner says. A dunam is a measurement of one thousand square meters. “When we move to take a parcel of land like this, it ensures that it will go to Jewish owners directly instead of being bought up by a larger developer or taken over by Arabs.” A similar project is underway in the northern Galilee region, where Buy A Piece Of Israel maintains, and works to expand, significant plots of Jewish-owned farmland.
Land ownership and the preference for Jewish owners has been a highly charged topic in Israel for some time, and even now, it remains a delicate matter. Minister Orit Strock and MK Matan Kahana both drew criticism for suggesting that Israel should work to promote Jewish land ownership. Busner, however, says that he prefers to work directly in the middle of the real estate market and not spend time lobbying politicians.
“When we first started, I tried to make all kinds of connections,” he says. “We tried to be in touch with politicians and public figures. Now, though, it’s become clear that the best way to do this is as a straightforward matter of business, to buy the land fully and privately.”
“We’re bringing back the pioneering spirit from before Israel was established,” he adds, “As well as numerous commandments from the Bible that can only be kept by actually buying a piece of Israel.”
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