Who founded Kochav Yair?

While there are several claimants, it all comes back, as things often do, to Ariel Sharon.

yaacov maman 88 (photo credit: )
yaacov maman 88
(photo credit: )
While there are several claimants, all with legitimate evidence that they started it, it all comes back, as things often do, to Ariel Sharon. In 1976 he visited South Africa, and Solly Sachs, as a leading member of the Zionist Federation, met and spoke with him. "We told him we wanted a town for South Africans to be able to run their own life," he recalls. "Sharon said we should come and see him, and a few months later we came on a mission and he took us to what looked like a pile of rocks. 'If you want it you can have it,' he said." At that time he was agriculture minister and later housing minister. The first families moved into temporary housing in 1981, but 1986 is officially celebrated as the founding of the town. "Initially, there were 120 South African families who signed up for what was to become Kochav Yair," says Sachs. "The price for a home was $91,000. Then, in the second stage, it jumped to nearly double and many South Africans dropped out. Then Mickey Eitan of Young Herut took over the running of the project. Another group joined made up of people from the Defense Ministry." At the beginning the town was top-heavy with army personnel, and it still has many top brass living there. Ehud Barak left for a more prestigious address, but lived there during his term as prime minister. Shaul Mofaz, Gideon Ezra and Uzi Dayan all call Kochav Yair home. Jonathan Rimon, who became mayor, was a high-ranking army officer who made it in spite of his American accent. "In the early days no one had a phone except the security people," recalls Sachs. "So if anyone did have a phone, you knew instantly that he was either regular army or secret service." According to Rosalind Harari, it wasn't always positive having so many army personnel around. "They threw their weight around in the school, and there were discipline problems from kids who would say: 'Do you know who my father is?' And if they addressed the parents, it was always political." The third group associated with starting the town was a collection of religious people under the guidance of the late Prof. Motti Bar-Lev, which goes some way to explaining the large religious segment. The location of the town appealed to everyone. It established a Jewish presence in a predominantly Arab area but was not in the territories. Kochav Yair is within the Green Line - but only just.