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June 06, 2003 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-06

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Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:

The Neighborly Way

Dry Bones

t was intended to be a temporary lender
for home buyers and renovators in older
Jewish neighborhoods of south Oakland
County, but it kept busy for 17 years.
There's still a demand for the interest-free
incentive loans, but to lesser degrees in recent
years as the neighborhoods stabilized.
Still, we wonder if younger Jewish families,
with newer home choices to the north and
west, will continue to embrace Oak Park and
Southfield, two long-settled Jewish areas, now
that Neighborhood Project, the lending agency,
is no more.
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit started the Neighborhood
Project in 1986 to allay fears that
Jews would leave the two historically
and religiously significant Jewish
cities. The hope was to entice Jews of every age
bracket — especially growing families — to live
Over its impressive 17-year run, the
Neighborhood Project closed 1,202 loans for
houses and 153 loans for renovations — an
average of 80 a year. The loans totaled $7.5 mil-
lion; only 2 percent are delinquent. By any
standard, the Neighborhood Project did what it
set out to do: stabilize north Oak Park and east
Southfield as vibrant Jewish areas with rising
property values. At least a third of the home
buyers were Orthodox, but Jews of all back-


grounds live in the area harmoniously.
Loans were its reason for being, but the
Neighborhood Project also sponsored events to
reinforce the notion that Jews of diverse back-
grounds coming together make a neighborhood
vital, not just a cluster of buildings.
Synagogues representing all the major streams
of Judaism join day schools and the Jewish
Community Center as area anchors. Other
places to learn join Jewish stores, services and
restaurants as important signposts.
The Neighborhood Project was funded by
Federation's financial arm, the United Jewish
Foundation, and managed by the Hebrew Free
Loan Association. HFLA will manage
$1.2 million in outstanding Project-
awarded loans.
Without fuss; the Neighborhood
Project cast an inviting glow over its target
areas. Only 30 new loans were expected this
year, though. With success chasing the original
need, the question now becomes how to natu-
rally sustain the stability. By stepping back,
Federation hopes to find the answer.
We applaud Federation's confidence that
north Oak Park and east Southfield will thrive
as Jewish enclaves. Still, Federation bears the
burden of reviving loan incentives and expand-
ing the Hebrew Free Loan cash pool should the
fragile stability that resonates in those areas
today start to erode in the future.


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Ruling The Palestinians

n the haste to do something, almost any-
thing, that looks like progress toward stabi-
lizing the Middle East, the Western powers
and the United Nations are pushing to get
Israel to agree to a Palestinian state with some ill-
defined borders and almost all the other major
bones of contention left unresolved.
But the worst failure of this road map
is that it pays virtually no attention to
the question of how this Palestine-to-be
might be governed.
The road map Quartet — the U.S., Russia, the
European Union and the U.N. — talk about the
emergence of a representative democracy in this
imagined Palestine, a government of civil law and
transparent processes that will be somehow a
reflection of the Israeli system. But they neglect to
spell out any credible process by which this system
is supposed to emerge.
Granted, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will
eventually be sidelined, either by increasing infir-
mity or the external pressures for apparent
progress. He will go off to Paris to live on the bil-
lion or so he has looted over the last two decades.
Who will succeed him?

Surely not Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister
forced into place by the West without a shred of
political backing. Abbas may be doing all the right
things according to his Quartet supporters, who
have joined Israeli leaders in seemingly overlook-
ing his history of Holocaust denial as possibly
some impediment to his getting along
famously with the Jewish state. But he
has yet to demonstrate any ability to
operate independently of Arafat on the
most crucial issue of reining in the terrorists.
As America is finding to its dismay in Iraq, it is
much easier to talk about democracy emerging
than to actually have it happen. A post-Arafat
Palestine — particularly one that is worth fighting
over because it will be the recipient of substantial
and lootable foreign aid — is most likely to see
years of struggle between the factions that Arafat
has for so long played off against each other.
And none of them will rise triumphant because
they embrace a meaningful democracy.
It is important to remember who the bulk of the
West Bank and Gaza Palestinians are. Their par-
ents, who left Israel in 1948, were not the well-
educated, affluent leaders; those families went off


to Lebanon and Syria and Jordan where they
could continue to live decently. Instead, most of
the Palestinians are the sons and daughters of
peasants with little sophistication about the world
or political process. They are most easily led by
the locals they know best, like their mosque's
imam, or by the rabble-rousers of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
who tell them that their woes are all the fault of
The next leader of this Palestine will be the
strongest of the strong-arm men, a figure who
could easily and distressingly resemble a Saddam
Hussein. He will certainly control his own well-
armed militia; the only thing that will curb him
will be the state's lack of readily exploitable
resources, like oil, that could be sold for more
Prime Minister. Ariel Sharon is correct in saying
that it is not in Israel's long-term interest to rule
over 3.5 million Palestinians. But somebody is
going to do the job and we should not be sur-
prised if it turns out that the "new" government of
the "new" state proves as shortsighted and corrupt
as the present one. H


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