Text size

The High Court of Justice will hold another hearing today on a petition demanding that admissions committees that rule on who can buy houses in small communities be outlawed.

The petition was filed three years ago by Fatana and Ahmed Zabidat of Sakhnin, who were rejected by the admissions committee of the Galilee community of Rakefet. It was prepared by Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and has since been joined by several other organizations.

Fatana and Ahmed are both architects who graduated with honors from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and then won scholarships to study in Italy. After marrying in the summer of 2006, they applied to live in Rakefet, part of the Misgav Regional Council.

In their application, they explained that they wanted a small town with good services and plenty of space, where they could build their dream house based on their own design and eventually raise children. But the admissions committee - comprised of the deputy head of the Misgav council, a Jewish Agency representative and a Rakefet resident - rejected them, saying a professional evaluation had concluded that they would not fit in socially. The Zabidats then petitioned the High Court.

In October 2010, the court issued a show-cause order, indicating that it views the petition as having merit. It also ordered the Israel Lands Administration and Rakefet to reserve a plot for the Zabidats in case it ultimately finds in their favor.

But the case could be affected by a bill now making its way through the Knesset that would authorize 48 small towns to continue operating admissions committees. Though such committees have existed for decades, they have until now never been formally sanctioned by law. Currently, some form of vetting exists in 695 communities, located in regional councils that control about 80 percent of the state's land.

In March 2010, the ILA announced that it planned to revise the rules for allocating land in such communities. But in practice, the new rules differ little from the old ones.