September 20, 2012–Thai kickboxing lessons for children at 65 shekels ($17) per month; zoology lessons at NIS 45 shekels ($12) per month; ballet lessons at NIS 60 shekels ($15) per month; Pilates for women at 55 shekels ($14) per month. These are not prices from a decade ago, nor is this a price list in Eritrea — this is Israel, 2012. These prices aren’t subsidized by the state or a any private donor, they are simply the product of foresight and efficient public conduct.
The name Har Bracha may sound familiar in the political context: There was a clash there between the Defense Ministry and the head of the hesder yeshiva (which incorporates mandatory military service with Torah studies) over encouragement to refuse military orders, which consequently cost the yeshiva its place in the program.
I recently visited Har Bracha, a small, sweet community on Mount Gerizim, adjacent to the fascinating Samarian community and overlooking a heavenly view. What I found there was an economy that exquisitely cracked the code. Take the issue of housing. The community’s leaders eschewed greedy developers and initiated its own housing projects: They figured the precise amount that young couples could afford in monthly mortgage payments, multiplied that sum by a certain number of months and years, and wrote up their own proposals, which they submitted to local developers. The proposal stipulated that the developers build dozens of units without exceeding the agreed sum.
The result: The pricing equation tipped in favor of the consumer, rather than the developer, and housing prices in Har Bracha are 40 percent lower than anywhere else in Samaria, and much cheaper than anywhere else in Israel. By saving management costs and doing away with middle men, and without a dime from the government, the community has attracted dozens of new families just this year…Read More>>