On March 30, Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, Israel, addressed members of the Riverdale and New Rochelle communities. Sandwiched between his participation as a panelist at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and the annual dinner of the National Council of Young Israel, Mayor Revivi spent Shabbat Shemini in Riverdale and visited Westchester after Shabbat.
The program held at the Young Israel of New Rochelle was titled “Building Bridges, not Fences: Efrat: a Co-existence Case Study.” He began with a description of Efrat’s growth over the past four decades. Currently, the city is home to a population of 12,000. In 2013, Efrat benefitted from the balancing of conflicting policies of Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett. Mayor Revivi said, “Every time there was a prisoner release by Livni, Bennett would approve hundreds of building permits.” These new homes will grow the city to nearly 20,000 residents. Since the city was first planned, the original target population has been 30,000.
The expanded city has just recently started the new construction after a lengthy legal battle in the Israeli Supreme Court, including 11 distinct court actions, and after fully vetting the properties as state land, without any questions of other ownership.
The municipality is actually not surrounded by a complete fence. Mayor Revivi stated, “Coordination and cooperation with our Arab neighbors achieves security,” he continued, “Our neighbors are not interested in BDS. Over 1,000 of their workers actively participate in the construction of Efrat.”
Once, Israel’s Channel 10 News invited the mayor to an interview in their studio on the subject. He brought an Arab neighbor along, whose response against BDS consumed the interview. This laborer admitted that he preferred earning quadruple wages and being paid regularly with social benefits. The following day, the laborer was summoned by the Palestinian Authority. He told his interrogators that he would be happy not to work in the Jewish city, if the PA could guarantee him the same wages and social benefits for working in Bethlehem. They could not assure him of this and he was released. “The majority of our neighbors want to live in peace,” declared the mayor.
Revivi then described the panel discussion he joined, titled “Catch 67,” which was held last Monday at the AIPAC Policy Conference. He said, “I opened with a statement that some people were awakened this morning by an alarm clock, some just got up on their own. In Israel today, a family was awakened by a missile shot at their home, intended to destroy it. The home was not in Judea and Samaria, not over the Green Line and didn’t belong to settlers. It was in central Israel in so called undisputed areas.”
Responding to audience questions about educating the young and the media, Mayor Revivi explained that pointing out the obvious truth and presenting a timeline of the conflict in local history is very helpful. An international media organization once interviewed him about the water crisis in Bethlehem. His response was broadcast from his City Hall office following several Arab accusers. The graphic showing his office fish tank did not help the case. Revivi told the reporter, “I offered Bethlehem to connect their sewer system with the water treatment plant in Efrat. Apparently, they refused to allow their sewage to mix with our sewage, and declined the offer.”
He concluded the session in New Rochelle by reminding attendees that the total land mass of Jewish settlements in Judea and Shomron represents barely 2 percent of the entire region. Revivi highlighted this fact, as it negates any argument supporting land swap in exchange for peace.
Mayor Revivi is serving his third five-year term leading the growing Judean city just outside Jerusalem and over the “Green Line” south of Bethlehem. A native Israeli, he is fully fluent in English, having lived as a child for three years in Englewood, New Jersey, and another three years in the United Kingdom, during his parents’ tours of duty representing the Jewish Agency abroad. As mayor, he has been repeatedly selected to meet with hundreds of delegations visiting Israel from many different constituencies. Additionally, he has been asked by the Israeli government to mentor new mayors as they enter office.
By Judy Berger