Atzmon Haggai Frid
The Galilee community of Atzmon. Photo by Haggai Frid
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While the Knesset may not be in a rush to pass a bill on the powers of cooperative communities' admission committees, fearing criticism and a battle in the High Court of Justice, some of these communities are still rewriting admission regulations in order to "preserve their Jewish and Zionist character."

Community members who oppose such changes to the regulations say they are designed to keep Arabs from joining.

Last month Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin prevented MKs from voting on the law, hoping to soften its provisions ahead of voting in the legislature. Critics say the bill, if passed, could allow admission committees to discriminate not only against Arabs, but also against single-parent families, same-sex couples or new immigrants.

Rivlin intervened after receiving negative feedback about the bill from various parties, including figures in Jewish communities abroad, the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Democracy Institute.

Haaretz obtained a draft proposal for new guidelines for Atzmon, in the Misgav Regional Council, which describes the communal settlement's "multigenerational and variegated communal life that upholds Zionist values and seeks to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence."

The document also notes that the values of the community are "based on tolerance, human dignity and reciprocal relations among members, who pursue a communal lifestyle in an independent, democratic and voluntary manner."

These guidelines were scheduled to be put to a vote at a members' meeting to be held today and tomorrow, but yesterday, in the wake of widespread opposition from Atzmon members, it was decided to postpone the vote and reopen the subject to debate.

In October 2007, the High Court issued a temporary injunction ordering that a plot of land in the communal settlement of Rakefet be set aside for an Israeli Arab couple who had previously been denied entry into the community due to "lack of suitability." The couple, residents of Sakhnin, said they were denied residency in the community because they are Arab. The Adalah human rights organization is representing them in the High Court, which ordered that the plot be held for them until a final judgment is rendered.

Haaretz has learned that the High Court has scheduled a hearing on the matter for December 26.

In June 2009, Haaretz exposed plans to change the communal bylaws of Manof and Yuvalim to make "loyalty to the Zionist vision" a condition for admission. In November of that year, another Misgav community - Mitzpeh Aviv - approved new bylaws stressing, for the first time, its Jewish and Zionist character.

Last month, when Rivlin took action to soften the wording of the bill before submitting it to the Knesset, it was met with anger from some political figures. Members of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee said Rivlin had no right to go over their heads after he had refused to attend the meetings at which they discussed the bill.

"The speaker is trying to create an option that bypasses the committee and formulate a new draft for the bill, even though it has already been drafted on the basis of existing standards," a committee member said. "The committee has held more than 10 meetings to which Rivlin was invited but did not take part."