A long-running dispute over who benefits from property taxes in the Kiryat Shmona industrial zone has been resolved - and will see the municipality's coffers swell by NIS 1 million annually. The move is a step toward patching up a historic resentment between outlying towns and neighboring kibbutzim.
The industrial zone on Kiryat Shmona's outskirts does not belong to the municipality but rather to the Upper Galilee regional council, which benefits from the property taxes paid by the factories there. A week ago, the two authorities decided to split the tax monies evenly in part of the industrial zone - thereby bringing to an end a conflict between development towns in outlying areas of the country and kibbutzim.
For years, many inhabitants of Kiryat Shmona and its leaders viewed the flow of property tax monies to the Upper Galilee regional council as support for their claim that kibbutzim get preferential treatment.
The agreement was formulated on the basis of recommendations of an investigative committee for boundaries on behalf of the Interior Ministry, which discussed the issue two and half months ago.
The dispute over the industrial zone is another ember in the smoldering hostility that flamed highest in the 1970s and the start of the 1980s. Prime Minister Menachem Begin spoke scornfully at that time about the swimming pool at Kibbutz Menara and described the kibbutzniks as insensitive hedonists.
Now, 30 years later, things have changed. Kiryat Shmona boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool while some of the nearby kibbutzim are having trouble maintaining their pools; and kibbutzniks from Kfar Blum and Lehavot Habashan star in the Ironi Kiryat Shmona soccer team, which is topping the Premier League.
Two years ago, Kiryat Shmona's Mayor Rabbi Nissim Malka and the head of the Upper Galilee regional council, Aharon Valency, agreed the two authorities should cooperate, in order to "bring down the wall that separated us," in Malka's words.
Two weeks ago, representatives from Kiryat Shmona and the Upper Galilee kibbutzim completed a first round of meetings, which have been going on since the agreement was signed. Participants discussed ideas for cooperation and ways of implementing them. Among the ideas were recycling, joint waste treatment and the establishment of a regional youth leadership.
"After so many years of dispute, we are beginning to make connections that will lead us to joint success," said Malka. "I believe that together with the residents we will succeed in formulating a long-term plan that will improve the quality of life in the region and make new residents want to join us."
Following the meetings it was decided to cooperate in areas of the environment, culture, education and development. In the near future, plans will be formulated from which a comprehensive proposal for the region will grow.
According to Hagit Naali-Joseph, a town planner involved in the process, "The subjects that came up at the meetings underlined the authorities' need for cooperation and for regional thinking that advances the area and the quality of life."
According to Valency, "The meetings and the dialogue between the residents of the kibbutzim and the residents of Kiryat Shmona are the thing that can change the disputes and the harsh memories. Together we will succeed in transforming the Upper Galilee into an attractive pearl."
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