Israel's High Court to Decide Fate of Historic Kibbutz Dining Hall

Darchei Noam seeks to build a yeshiva on the site, but kibbutz residents and preservation experts oppose the plan.

The fate of the historic dining hall on Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha will be decided by the High Court of Justice, after an organization seeking to build a yeshiva on the site petitioned the court against the Interior Ministry’s refusal to let it do so.

For almost a decade, the Darchei Noam organization has sought to raze the dining hall, designed by architect Arieh Sharon, and build a yeshiva in its stead, but kibbutz residents and preservation experts oppose the plan. Meanwhile, the building’s condition has been deteriorating, and parts have already been demolished.

Built in 1939, the Bauhaus building was one of the biggest kibbutz dining halls of its era. Preservation experts have long believed it should be preserved, and the city of Petah Tikva, in whose jurisdiction it lies, declared it a preservation site in 2002.

But in 2003, the city allocated the site to Darchei Noam, which owns the neighboring lot. The decision wasn’t opened for public comment before being finalized, and it was submitted to the Interior Ministry for approval, as required, only three years later.

In 2007, the organization began building on the site, despite not having obtained the necessary permits. In the process, it demolished almost a third of the dining hall, until the destruction was halted by preservation activists. A year later, the ministry ruled against the allocation to Darchei Noam on the grounds that the group had violated the building code.

For the next three years, Darchei Noam submitted repeated proposals to Petah Tikva’s preservation department. In 2010, it finally came up with a plan the city approved, which included preserving the dining hall with municipal funding. It then reapplied to the Interior Ministry, but the latter again rejected the allocation.

In response, Petah Tikva canceled the plot’s allocation to Darchei Noam and instead gave it another plot nearby. The city also built a yeshiva building on the new site for the group, and converted an existing school building to Torah study as well.

Nevertheless, in 2012, the city asked the ministry to approve giving Darchei Noam the original plot as well. For the third time, the ministry refused. Darchei Noam then petitioned the High Court.

Neither Darchei Noam nor its attorneys could be reached for comment by press time. The city and the ministry said they would give their responses in court.