A do-it-yourself neighborhood

The planning and sustainability of Nayot could set a good example for other areas.

cleaning (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If ever those responsible for stimulating aliya from the West and keeping olim in Israel were to visit Nayot, the "Anglo Saxon" garden neighborhood of Jerusalem, they might discover the proper way to win immigrants and influence newcomers. Nayot is not simply pleasing to the eye, it is an object lesson in how to plan and build comfortable housing for Westerners without it costing the government or the Jewish Agency a penny. After the founding committee members decided to erect the housing project on land leased from the Jewish National Fund, they discovered that they lacked more than half the necessary funds. Then they had an inspiration: Why not turn to purchasers of Israel Bonds in the US and persuade them to invest their bonds, which were sitting idle in safe deposit boxes, in the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) mortgage fund? They could be used as collateral for the bank, which would extend credit to AACI. And so it was done. American Zionists were only too happy to help others settle in Israel. The bonds would be repaid, with even a slightly higher rate of interest, and everyone would benefit. Within a few years after the completion of the 62 units, the money was returned to the lenders. We on the committee realized early on that those who intended to live in the housing projects should be the ones who planned it, so we sat with the architect and together planned the eight buildings. The contract with the builder stipulated the final price, which could under no circumstances be exceeded. The builder was paid for his materials in advance to protect against any price increases. As each stage of construction was completed, he was paid for the work. The last installment was paid when we moved in. Special mention should be made of Werner Loval and Prof. Louis Guttman, who were the prime movers behind the project. Since Nayot's establishment in 1961, only one family has emigrated - and this during a period when at times emigration reached 70 percent. Nayot proved that the best way to absorb and retain immigrants was to keep them together, at least during the first difficult years, in circumstances not too different from those to which they had been accustomed. A pity that this lesson was not learned by the government, the Jewish Agency and even the AACI which, after the success of Nayot, for some mysterious reason failed to continue with the magic formula. It is still not too late to apply the lesson learned. Today, as is the case with many neighborhoods, Nayot's populace is growing old. We were approaching middle age when we moved in. Not a few have since retired. How to adapt Nayot to this new way of life is a challenge to the residents. Plans are going forward for a closed-circuit television to be run on a non-profit basis by the residents. Members are talking about converting an unused structure into a health clinic, sauna and social center. Nayot is willing to share its expertise with others for whom a neighborhood of their own seems to be a fading dream. Too many are complaining without lifting a finger to do anything. Nayot has proven that one should not curse the darkness but light a candle.