Arieh King started the Israel Land Fund (ILF) in 2007 to help Jews purchase real estate in Israel as a way to keep the Jewish state Jewish.
The idea for the fund was born when King realized “a need to disrupt the purchase of Jewish owned land in Israel by hostile, non-Jewish and enemy sources,” the fund’s website states.
“More and more Arabs and non-Jews are living and owning land all over Israel, from west Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and beyond,” the ILF claims.
King, 38, was in Toronto last week to speak to the Jewish community and spread his message that it is essential for Jews in the Diaspora to begin owning land in Israel.
His grandparents made aliyah from Toronto and he was born on Kibbutz Alumim in the northwestern Negev just outside the Gaza Strip.
In a recent interview from Israel, just prior to his arrival, King said he wanted to make people understand that there is an ongoing concerted effort by Arab nations to purchase land in Israel via their agents – westernized Arabs holding U.S., British, and other passports – to erode the Jewishness of Israel on what he calls the “silent front” of land encroachment.
“It’s about education. Many people who purchase land, whether in the Galil or east Jerusalem, end up feeling a sense of ownership of Israel and they come visit… and are proud they have the property,” he said.
He noted that much of the purchasing being done now is by haredim and “Orthodox Zionists.”
Rather than approach the haredim in Zionist terms, King said, the fund uses halachic arguments.
“You can be the biggest rabbi, but if you don’t own actual ground, a field, an olive grove… you cannot keep shmittah [the commandment to leave the land fallow every seven years],” he said. Once this point was made, King said, there was a lot more interest in what he was doing.
While the haredim who buy land may not be motivated by Zionism, the purchase is still in line with the fund’s overall mission to keep Israel Jewish, he said.
But there’s a catch. Not just any Jew can buy property through the Israel Land Fund.
Any prospective purchaser is vetted by King to ensure that the new landowner will actively manage the parcel of land so that it cannot be claimed by Arab squatters over time, something that has happened before.
“We would connect the buyer with either a Jewish farmer or a property manager to help maintain and work the property. Nobody can buy and then just leave it” untended, King said.
He said in the last five years, the ILF has helped broker land purchases for increasing numbers of Diaspora Jews, but he would not disclose the amounts.
King said he’s visited Toronto about five times and realizes that there are “big Zionist” communities in Canada that could help his cause.
“I believe if they were exposed to the needs of Israel [through the ILF] they would become more involved,” he said. “Canadian Jews may be more quiet than Americans, but they’re no less committed to the future of Judea and Samaria.”
For more information, go to www.israellandfund.com